Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The Son’s Temptation

Mark's economy of words is quite amazing. In one verse he depicts what Matthew and Luke take eleven and thirteen verses respectively to describe. Mark used the Greek word "ekballo" (word translated "driveth") which literally means "to cast out…to throw out from within" (cf. Mark 1:34, 39). It indicates the necessity of Christ's temptation. Just as being baptized was part of the Father's plan for the Son so was His wilderness temptation.

The wilderness is a place of lonliness and danger. MacArthur describes it in this manner: "The wilderness of Judea is a hot, barren, and desolate area…an area of yellow sand and crumbling limestone…the hills are like dust heaps, the limestone is blistered and peeling, the rocks are bare and jagged and often the ground sounds hollow. Nowhere in Palestine could Jesus have been more isolated or in less comfort."

Compare Christ's environmental conditions with those of Adam. Adam lived in Eden; a paradise. Adam lived where everything was provided for him, and everything was good. The beasts were not wild but tame and under Adam's dominion. While in that perfect setting Adam fell to Satan's single temptation. The Second Adam was continuously tempted by the enemy in the desolate wilderness "with the wild beasts". He would not yield! "What better proof can there be that spiritual and moral failure are not caused by circumstances but by the character and response of the one who is tempted?"

Mark does not delineate the tests that Christ endured. He does imply that the temptation was continuous. He used a present tense participle, speaking of continuous action during the forty day period. Matthew and Luke record the intense climax and Mark the daily battle.

The word "tempted" simply means "to test". God never tempts (tests) men to do evil. James 1:13 states, "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man [with evil]". Satan, however, does tempt men with evil and to do evil. The devil intended for Christ to sin and disobey. God overruled and used the tempting to display the Son's holiness and worthiness.

That is also God's plan for all His children. Christians cannot be tempted in a way that God cannot use for their good and His glory. That is why James is able to write, "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations" (1:2). God will always use the trials and tests of life to produce good when the test is met in His power, because God's desire is to turn into victory that which Satan intended for failure (Genesis 50:19-20, "Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good.")

Therefore, temptations should be anticipated. The believer must never be naïve enough as to think that he is exempt from testing. Christ had to endure suffering and temptations, and so will those who are in Christ. Constant preparation and continual reliance on God will enable the Christian to gain victory.

Be encouraged, Christian, for Christ was "in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15), and "For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted." (Hebrews 2:18) The Lord endured and was victorious over real temptation, and the believer may also experience victory by resisting the temptation as did Jesus. This means that one must be filled with the Holy Spirit.

  • Romans 8:8-9 – "So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his."
  • John 16:33 – "These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."
  • 1 John 4:4 – "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world."

When Martin Luther was asked how he overcame the Devil, he replied, "Well, when he comes knocking upon the door of my heart, and asks 'Who lives here?' the dear Lord Jesus goes to the door and says, 'Martin Luther used to live here, but he has moved out. Now I live here.'" Satan has no entrance to the Christ filled life.

To resist temptation one must be Christ centered and scripture saturated. In each of the three specific temptations that Matthew and Luke record Christ responded each time with scripture. In the wilderness Christ fleshed out Psalm 119:11, "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee." Sin is unable to dominate the mind that is saturated with God's Word.

Christ has left an example for the believer to follow, as the apostle Peter stated (1 Peter 1:21). There is the example of His baptism.
"Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). As in every area, Christ submitted to and perfectly obeyed the Father. Every person who has trusted Christ as Savior should be scripturally baptized.

The Lord is also the perfect example in resisting temptation. Keep your eyes focused on Christ and His example. Christ has been there before us. He has weathered the worst storm that Satan can offer, and He did it while in the most harsh of environments. That same victory is available to every Christian: "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)

No hurdle focuses on the hurdles as he runs. He would trip and fall if he did. From start to finish the hurdler keeps his eyes on the goal, encountering the hurdles one at a time. Even so, "Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

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