Text: Matthew 4:1-11,

Theme: Learning from Jesus’ wilderness experience how to say no to temptation

Introductory Remarks:
We live in a world filled with many temptations. I don’t know of any place on the face of the earth where we can go to be free from them. Temptation is something that is common to everyone. No one, not even Jesus was exempt from them. “Jesus was tempted in all pints like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). The Apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthian believers about their battles with temptation said, “But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience”(1 Cor. 10:13  NLT). When Jesus said “In this world you shall have trouble” (John 16:33), He could have also said it about temptation. The truth is that as long as we’re in this world we will continuously be facing an external enemy (the world and its lure), and internal enemy (the flesh and its carnal desires), and an infernal enemy (the devil and his enticing suggestions) –all presenting us with temptations that demand a response. How we respond to those temptations will determine whether they become stumbling stones to our spiritual defeat or stepping stones to spiritual growth and victory in our Christian walk. In this lesson, as we look at the way our Lord Jesus handled the temptations Satan put before Him, we are going to learn how we too can follow His example and be triumphant over temptation.

Why Jesus Was Tempted

A.  The word used for Jesus’ temptation in Matthew 4:1 is the Greek word “Pierazo” which means to tempt – to solicit – to seduce – to entice a person to do evil. Please note that while it was the Spirit that led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted – it was not the Holy Spirit that did the tempting – Satan did that. Please note that while it was the Spirit that led Jesus into the wildernessto be tempted – it was not the Holy Spirit that did the tempting – Satan did that.

The Scripture declares God does not tempt us. “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil; neither tempteth He any man” (James 1:13).

Kenneth Wuest in his Expanded Translation of the New Testament renders Matthew 4:1 to read “Then was Jesus led up into the uninhabited region for the purpose of being put to the test of the devil – that test being in the form of a solicitation to do evil.”

It is important that we understand that the wilderness testing of Jesus was not to prove something about Him to the Father, but to prove something about Jesus to the devil.

Jesus had already gotten the Father’s approval at His water baptism. The Father had said, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).

In His wilderness temptation, Jesus would prove His superiority over the devil. He would not heed to the voice of the tempter as the first Adam had done under similar temptations. What the first Adam lost with his “yes” to Satan’s temptations, the second Adam would eventually regain with His “no”.

There were three purposes God had in mind for allowing Jesus to be tempted by Satan.

For the purpose of Identification. Way before the throne – it was necessary for Him to be tempted in all points as we are so He would understand the warfare that goes on in our minds when tempted. Christ know from personal experience what we are going through mentally and emotionally during times of temptation because He endured the same temptations. Hebrews 4: 14-16 (Wuest Translations)…“for we do not have a High Priest who is not able to enter experientally into a fellow feeling with our infirmities, but one who has been tempted in all points like as we are – without win. Let us be coming therefore with boldness to the throne of Grace, in order that we may procure mercy and find grace for seasonable help.” Hebrews 2:18 (Wuest Translation)…“For in that He suffered, having Himself been tempted and put to the test, He is able to run to the cry of those who are being tempted and put to the test and bring them aid.” Christ is the perfect “Sympathizer” because He can identify with and feel for any persons circumstances.

For the purpose of illumination. In the Old Testament, Satan operated in the shadows. Very few references were made about him. But we know he was busy at work just the same. In the New Testament, God suddenly shines the spotlight on him and he is seen for what he really is -” the thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy” (John10:10).The event in the wilderness exposed Satan and brought him into the light where we could see him at work.

For the purpose of information. Jesus was tempted by Satan so He could expose the enemy’s tactics to us in order to show us the way to victory over our enemy. When temptation comes to us, we have the same resources at our disposal that Jesus used when He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness. Christ triumphantly overcame temptation by doing three things.

  1. He spent time alone with God.
  2. He made sure He was being led by the Spirit of God.
  3. He relied upon the Scriptures as a weapon to be used.

How Jesus Was Tempted

The devil knows human nature

  • He knows when to tempt a person
  • He know what to tempt a person with.
  • He knows where to tempt a person.
  • He’ll tempt us in the wilderness experiences of life when we’re feeling alone and without.
  • He’ll tempt us in the valley experiences of life when we’re suffering severe moments of weakness both physically and spiritually.
  • He’ll tempt us on the mountain top experiences of life when we’re confident that we’ve got everything under control.

The devil tempted Jesus to do three things.

  1. To prove who He was by using His power for personal reasons (verses 2-4).
  2. To reveal who He was by doing the spectacular (verses 5-7).
  3. To surrender who He was by compromise (verse 11).

The First Temptation

To use His authority as the Son of God for personal purposes. There was no other time in Christ’s earthly life when He was more susceptible to temptation than He was in the wilderness. He was weak physically from not having eaten for forty days and nights. He was probably drained emotionally from His prolonged time in prayer. If ever there was a time to tempt Jesus  – this was the time and Satan knew it.

The devil tempted Jesus to use His power as the Son of God to create bread to satisfy His hunger. Satan tried to entice Jesus to use His power for His own personal gain. For all of us there is always the temptation to be guarded against of using selfishly and for personal gain, whatever powers, giftings, and abilities God has given to us to use in Kingdom work.

The way we use God given abilities and giftings is an indication of whose will we are trying to accomplish. Jesus refused to use His power and authority as the Son of God for His own gratification and pleasure. Notice Satan did not say pray to your Father that He would turn the stones into bread, but you command it to be done. He infers that  the Heavenly Father had forsaken Jesus so Jesus would have to fend for Himself. Satan wants to draw us from our dependency on God and lean on our own self-sufficiency. Jesus refused to comply with Satan’s request. He would not command the stones to be made bread. Not because He could not (because soon after this Jesus used His power to turn water into wine), but Jesus would not.

I suggest three reasons:

1.To do so would show He distrusted His Father’s care of Him.

2. To do so would take the management of His life out of the Father’s hands and into His own. Jesus believed that as the Father had led Him into the wilderness, so the Father could take care of His needs in the wilderness just as He did Israel’s in their wilderness experience.

3, To do so would have let Satan determine Jesus’ course of action – not the Holy Spirit’s. The devil would have Him distrust His Father’s love and care in a time of great need. That is what Israel did in their wilderness journey when they were in want. They asked, “Is the Lord among us? Can He furnish a table in the wilderness? Can He give bread?”  The answers to those three questions is: He was – He can – He did.

God gave Israel manna to eat. It was not bread out of the earth, but bread out of heaven. It was sent by the command of God. God does not have to use natural bread to sustain man, but anything He appoints and orders will maintain man as well as bread. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Luke 4:4). God has just sustained Jesus for forty days without bread. He had done the same for Moses and Elijah. He sustained Israel with bread from heaven, angel’s food. Another time He sustained Elijah with bread sent miraculously by ravens, and another time with the widow’s meal miraculously multiplied. Therefore, Christ did not have to take matters into His own hand and turn stones into bread. He had only to wait for Jehovah-Jireh (the Lord will provide) to meet His need. Jesus trusted His Heavenly Father to supply His daily bread.

Later, He would teach His disciples to do the same. He taught them to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” He also told them “Take no thought what you shall eat or drink, for your Heavenly Father knows you have need of all these things” (Matt. 6:31-32). Clear lessons are seen in this temptation. Temptation often attacks us in an area of desperate need. There is a right way and a wrong way to meet that need. There is God’s way and our way. It matters to God which way we choose. God’s power is to be used as the Spirit directs  – not us. To satisfy a legitimate need in an illegitimate way is never right. Satan will tell us, “the end justifies the means.” Temptations are to be resisted by using the Word of God against it. The believer must study and learn the Word of God in order to use it to withstand the tempter (Psa 119:9,11; Col 3:16; 2 Tim 2:15).

The Second Temptation

To presume upon the Father’s power and protection. Christ was tempted to put God the Father to the test. He was to jump off the towering pinnacle of the temple and let God send His angels to catch Him in mid-air and lower Him gently to the ground. Christ was tempted to attract attention by doing the spectacular.

The spectacular was always what every would be leader in Jesus day promised. Theudas led people out to the Jordan River promising to part the waters with a word from his lips. A famous Egyptian Pretender had promised that with a word he would lay flat the walls of Jerusalem. Simon Magus, so it is said, had promised to fly through the air and perished in the attempt.

Every morning a priest stood on top of the roof of the temple with a trumpet in hand waiting for the flush of dawn across the hills of Hebron. At first dawn light he sounded the trumpet to tell people that the hour of morning sacrifice had come. Why should not Jesus stand there and jump right down into the temple court to be caught in His fall by angels? The worshippers at the temple, seeing such a spectacular display would immediately accept and proclaim Him to be the Son of God and follow Him. The devil, quoting from Psalm 91:11,12 was challenging Jesus to put God to the test again. Would God really be true to His Word and do what He said He would do?

God is not to be tested or tried, but God is to be trusted. His will and His Word are to be trusted and obeyed because we honor who He is and not because He passes some test we put Him through. God’s protection and promises are not to be presumed upon or taken advantage of. Psalm 91 describes the safety and security that can be expected by those who dwell under the shadow of the Almighty The child of God has the protection of God in the will of God. If what we do is out of the will of God, He is not obligated to protect us. There is no Scriptural basis for anyone to deliberately put themselves into a threatening situation recklessly and needlessly and then presume that God is honor-bound to rescue them from it. But many believers do just that.

Churches which practice snake handling and poison drinking constantly put God and His Word to such a test. Tragically, many die as a result. Christ was already satisfied that God was His Father, and took care of Him, and gave His angels charge concerning Him. Jesus did not need to put His Father to testing to see if it were true. He believed God. He would not act presumptuously. Satan frequently uses the Word of God to tempt us.

The devil can and does quote Scripture, but he can also misquote it. If you compare Satan’s quote of Matthew 4:6 with Psalm 91:11 you will discover he purposely left out the phrase “in all Thy ways.” If we go out of our way (a way not of God’s leading) we forfeit the promise of divine protection. Satan knew this so he omitted this phrase. Satan twists certain passages of Scripture and omits others in an effort to cause us to misinterpret the Word of God. Every cult that uses the Bible does this in presenting their false teaching.

We need to beware of taking the promises of God out of context  and claiming promises when we have not met the conditions. We must be careful to interpret any verse of Scripture in its entirety and in light of what the rest of the Scripture states. The Word of God is a weapon that will enable us to defeat Satan anytime, every time and all the time if we will use it in faith.

When Satan tempted Jesus to test God’s promised protection, Jesus told him, “It is written”  and again, “thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” What does it mean Scripturally to tempt God (to put Him to a test)? It means to place yourself needlessly in a threatening position and expect God to miraculously save you. It also means to take hold of some Bible promise and misapply it and try to force God to make good on it.  

The Third Temptation

Satan tempted Jesus to compromise His mission  and ministry. He was tempted to secure the crown without paying the price of the cross. He was tempted to choose another way to obtain the Kingdoms of this world instead of God’s way. He was offered the Sovereign leadership of the world if He would do one thing; fall down and worship Satan.

He was tempted to compromise His life and His loyalty. He was tempted to switch loyalties. We need to understand that in life – not all compromise is wrong. There are times when compromise is permissible amongst ourselves, but compromise should never be considered when it has to do with the Will, the Word, and the Ways of God. What would Jesus surrender to this temptation mean? It would mean that Jesus would allow the world of mankind to remain corruptible and dying without hope of eternal life in God.

It would mean that Jesus would allow the world to continue as it is; to allow the devil to continue to work within the world to frustrate God’s plan of the ages – including redemption of mankind. It means Christ would have secured the Kingdoms of this world through compromise and not God’s power. In the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah, it was foretold that in God’s timing, He would be the ruler over all the Kingdoms of this world. “Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion, I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, this is my son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession”  (Psalm 2: 6-8).

Jesus was aware of these prophecies and promises. He was keenly aware of the purpose of His coming. He knew He had not come to reign over the nations of the world at this time. It would come later in God’s perfect timing. To have accepted Satan’s offer would have been going against the known will of God for His life. This temptation was a Satanic shortcut that was offered Jesus. Satan was saying to Jesus, “I can give you the same thing God offers you but I can give it to you an easier way.”

Notice – Satan’s shortcuts throughout the temptations of Jesus.

  • a.  First Satan tempted Christ to live for the physical and not the spiritual.
  • b.  Secondly, he tempted Him to live by chance and not by faith.
  • c.  Thirdly, he tempted Him to live for the temporary and not the permanent.

Satan’s methods have not changed through the years. He used this attack upon Adam and Eve and he uses it on us today. Tragically, some people are buying into what Satan offers and are sacrificing the eternal on the altar of the temporal. Satan’s strategy in the third temptation. It comes as a surprise to some people that Satan is interested in worship. It was the issue of worship that caused Satan to fall. He wanted to be exalted higher than God and to be worshiped and served as God (Isaiah 14:12-14). Satan tempted Christ to worship him because he knew if Christ would do so, He would soon be serving him. That is why Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:13 as an answer. “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.”

Did you notice that Satan in tempting Jesus did not say one thing about serving him, but the truth is that whatever you worship will become your master. Not only do we serve what we worship, but we will also begin to make sacrifices for what we serve. Ask yourself, “For what (whom) am I sacrificing?” We make sacrifices for what is important to us.

The devil offers us a “quick” and “easy” road to what we desire. But the truth is that easy can become our enemy. Satan’s easy ways (shortcuts) always prove in the end to be very hard and the consequences heavy. Jesus resisted this temptation the only way He could. He defeated Satan in this temptation by once again using the Word of God against him.

Notice that after Jesus resisted this third temptation, Satan left Jesus alone for awhile and angels then came and ministered to Him (verse 11). The gospel of Luke concludes this third temptation with “Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until and opportune time” (Luke 4:13). When it states that “the devil departed from Him” the Greek wording is much more blunt. It says Satan “stood off.” This battle was over, but Satan had not given up. This verse reveals that the devil will always be lurking in the shadows, watching and waiting for the next vulnerable moment when he can spring into action.

Here’s three truths we need to remember about Satan as the tempter.
a.  When you are weak expect a major assault from the devil.
b.  When you resist be ready for a different approach from him.
c.  When he leaves count on another attack by him. He’s not done with you yet.


There are several things we need to remember from this lesson in order to be triumphant over temptation

God does not tempt man but does allow man to be tempted to prove and demonstrate his faith.
God allows temptation to strengthen and prepare him for greater responsibilities in the Kingdom as he gains the victory over temptations.
God uses temptation to demonstrate the mercy, grace, and power of God in a human life during times of temptations.

We need to know that the power of Satan is a limited power. He can only tempt us. He cannot force a person to sin. He could not force Jesus to make stones into bread or jump off the temple pinnacle or fall down and worship him. Neither can Satan make us sin. The choice is ours in every temptation. There is always a way of escape out of temptation. God knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation. “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 of escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Cor. 10:13).

The devil, though he is an enemy to all Saints, is a conquered enemy. The Captain of our salvation has defeated and disarmed him. We resist the devil in the strength of Christ’ victory. “Submit yourself therefore unto God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).  “And having spoiled principalities and powers, He (Jesus) made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it”  (Col. 2:15).

We need to live with God moment by moment, genuinely living in constant communion with Him as Jesus did during His 40 day fast and prayer time. We need to live in God’s Word; to know His promises in order to claim and appropriate and use them as they were meant to be. The Word of God believed in our heart and spoken in faith from our lips to the tempter is a weapon he cannot stand against. Believing, speaking and acting on the Word of God will not only make us free, but it will keep us free.

Learn this Book.
It is the revelation of the heart of God.
Love this Book.
It is the revelation of the will of God.
Live this Book.

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