8Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9And he said to Him, “All these I will give You, if You will fall down and worship me.” 10Then Jesus said to him, "Be gone, Satan! For it is written,
‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and Him only shall you serve.’"
11Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to Him.
Remember that Jesus’ entire mission - His reason for being on earth at this point - is to redeem mankind, and restore them to Himself, so that He will one day rule over them in righteousness. The temptation here, then, is a huge short cut. Jesus knows what is to come; He knows how difficult it will be, and He knows the pain He will have to endure. Satan has been granted temporary power on the earth (called the “prince of the power of the air” by Paul in Ephesians 2:2), and is offering to transfer this control to Jesus.
Just reading this temptation, knowing what we know now, we might come away thinking “The temptation was to worship Satan? That one should be easy to resist!” As we think about it, though, this may be the most seductive of the three temptations. Turning stones into bread would have satisfied an acute physical need, and throwing Himself off the pinnacle of the temple would have been just another miracle story. But this - this is a way to take control of the world away from Satan without going through the pain and suffering. For Satan, there is the added benefit of distracting Jesus from His mission, which means an ultimate thwarting of God’s plan to redeem mankind. He’d gladly cede some earthly power now to win the long game in the future.
However, Satan miscalculated in this temptation; Jesus’ mission was not to come to earth to control it, but to redeem it. Power wasn’t the goal; salvation was. Once again, Jesus uses Scripture from Deuteronomy to rebuff this temptation:
13It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by His name you shall swear.
The translation here isn’t quite the same (Deuteronomy’s original language is Hebrew, Matthew’s original language is Greek), but the point is the same, particularly if you consider that this is the point immediately following the one in that famous speech from Moses that starts “Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” (Deuteronomy 6:4). Interestingly, the point after this one is the one about not testing the Lord, that Jesus used to refute Satan during the second temptation. Within this point, though, it is part of a charge from Moses to the Hebrew people that, when they arrive in the land that God has promised them, they are to serve Him alone, and not turn aside to other gods they will find there.
At this point, Satan is 0-3; three temptations have been refuted with three passages of Scripture. Jesus passed this temptation, and angels came and ministered to Him (v. 11). Showing that He still had power over Satan, even on earth and in His weakened state, when Jesus said “Be gone, Satan!”, Satan had to scram.
John, in 1 John 2:15-17, puts everything wrong in the world into three categories: the “lust of the flesh,” the “lust of the eyes,” and the “pride of life.” It is not difficult to see that each of Jesus’ temptations addressed primarily one of these categories. As the author of Hebrews said, “[He] was tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15b) He withstood these temptations through the power of God’s Word. As we’ve seen with the previous two temptations, we must know Scripture if we are going to able to recall it during times of temptation. We must follow Jesus’ example if we are to find success resisting temptation.
This week, let’s look at Ephesians 3:16 (through verse 19).
16[I pray] that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17and that the Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith. [I pray that] you, being rooted and firmly established in love, 18may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and width, height and depth, 19and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
God is omnipotent. If you’ve grown up in church, you’ve probably heard that so much that its meaning is often taken for granted - it’s just one of those three “omni” words you had to learn in Sunday School (the others being omnipresent and omniscient, for those who didn’t grow up going to Sunday School). God has all power, and He has promised to give it to us!
Before Jesus went back to heaven, He promised that He would send the Holy Spirit to help us do the things He wanted us to do.
8"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
So, this means that we already have the power, right? One would think. Check out this video, though.
How often are we, in a spiritual sense, like those people? We’re “stuck on an escalator,” not realizing that we have the power to change the situation we’re in. How do we get out of that cycle? Paul tells us in the remainder of the passage above.
One of our pastor’s favorite things to say is that “victory is not you overcoming sin, it’s Christ overcoming you.” We don’t have to look within for this power - what God commands, God supplies! Look at the last part of verse 17 into verse 18; we should be “grounded in love.” What does that mean? There are a couple of ways to look at it. You could think of it the way a tree is grounded - its roots are in the ground, and it gains its nourishment from the ground. You could also thing of it the way an electrical circuit is grounded - a way for things the circuit can’t handle to be directed away from it, so they do not damage it. God’s perfect love can do both these things - it can be the source of our growth, and our protection.
But it’s not even limited to those two things. Paul prays that the Ephesian church will know the “breadth and width, height and depth” of God’s love. We know in our heads that each of these dimensions is infinite, but do we know it in our hearts? Do we really believe that God’s love and power are infinitely deep? Way back in 1917, Frederick M. Lehman penned the words to the hymn “The Love of God.” Here are verses one and three.
The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
Finally, Paul says that they need to be “filled with all the fullness of God.” To be filled with God, we must empty ourselves of us. The more we cling to our plans, our desires, and the way we think things ought to be, the less room there is in us for God to reveal His plans, His desires, and the way He wants things to be. When we are willing to surrender ourselves to His leading, He can guide us.
If you still feel powerless, perhaps it is because you’re trying to do the wrong thing. As a teenager, I felt a call that my life should be given to full-time Christian service - becoming a pastor was the way I thought it was going to work out. However, I began working during high school, and to save money, I attended a community college once I graduated. I became distracted from my calling, and really struggled. I bounced from job to job, not really feeling contentment in anything. A few years later, I determined that I hadn’t been succeeding at much of anything, although the effort I was putting forth should have been bringing much more success. That’s when it occurred to me - maybe I wasn’t being successful because I wasn’t doing that at which God wanted me to succeed. I decided to go to a Christian university (Bob Jones University) and follow the call I had received, majoring in Youth Ministry.
The first day of classes, I met this really nice lady named Michelle, who became my wife at the end of that school year. Through talking to an Air Force Chaplain recruiter on campus, I decided to check out the Air Force, where I’ve had a successful 11-year-and-still-going career. I’m not a pastor, obviously, and I’m not even working with anything related to the ministry in the Air Force. However, I have used the training I received during that year of college; I’ve been able to study my Bible more effectively, I can put together a sermon or Sunday School lesson if needed, and I’m a Cub Scout leader. But, even if I hadn’t gotten anything else from that year at BJU, the family God has given me with Michelle is an overwhelming blessing.
The above is my testimony (the short version). By no means have I arrived - I still find myself struggling with things, and often I’ll ask myself “why are you struggling with this so much?” Sometimes, the answer is to not try so hard to do it myself, but let go of it and let God work it out. He’s much better at those things than we are!
My prayer for you this week is the same as Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian church. I pray that we will live grounded in love, and that we will be able to shed our impotence in favor of God’s omnipotence, and allow His spirit to overwhelm us.
We know we should study the Bible. But why? When I was growing up, one of the questions they asked every Sunday, right at the start of Sunday School, was “who read their Bible every day last week?” We all wanted to be able to raise our hands; I remember, on the few occasions when I could not, I felt really bad. Back then, it wasn’t for the right reason (it was more that a lot of the other kids had their hands up), but it was the right feeling. Today’s Scripture gives us several great reasons why we should study the Bible.
First, we should study the Bible because It is Inspired by God. (“All Scripture is inspired by God…”) Inspiration literally means “God-breathed”, and is the basis of the Bible’s inerrancy (perfection). God moved through the authors to provide exactly what He wanted to. Revelation 22:18-19, while speaking directly about Revelations, speak a warning that applies to all Bible readers even today…
18I testify to everyone who hears the prophetic words of this book: If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book. 19And if anyone takes away from the words of this prophetic book, God will take away his share of the tree of life and the holy city, written in this book.
Second, we should study the Bible because It teaches us. (“and profitable for teaching…”) Teaching is the act of imparting knowledge. Studying the Bible can increase our knowledge, and help us develop a proper Biblical world view. Being knowledgeable about Biblical principles can help us when we encounter new situations that may not be directly addressed in Scripture.
Third, we should study the Bible because It reproves us. ("…for reproof…") Reproof is “an act or expression of criticism and censure.” (WordNet) The Bible can call us out when we fail to live us to the standards within It.
Fourth, we should study the Bible because It corrects us. ("…for correction…") Correction is “the act of offering an improvement to replace a mistake; setting right.” (WordNet) This flows naturally after reproof, and is really one of the great things about the Bible that a lot of Christians miss. It not only tells us when we do wrong (and what we do wrong), It tells us how to make it right!
Fifth, we should study the Bible because It shows us God’s righteousness. ("…for training in righteousness;") Righteousness is not something we can do on our own; rather, it is given to us (imputed) based on Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. We are declared to have kept the law (something we cannot do on our own) because of Jesus’ ability to keep the law. Training in righteousness helps us live up to the gift we have been given.
Sixth, we should study the Bible because It equips us. (“so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”) A soldier wouldn’t go to war without the proper equipment. The Bible is our main weapon in spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6:17 expresses it this way.
17Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s Word.
The answer is diligence. Reading the Bible every day, as asked by my Sunday School teachers many years ago, is an important part of Bible study. It will also help us interpret It accurately - by acquainting ourselves with the Bible, we will have no reason to be ashamed. This is important, as certain verses can be taken out of context and twisted to support an argument that is not Biblical. For example, a church used Luke 4:7 as it’s theme verse…
7If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.
This sounds like an excellent promise, doesn’t it? There’s only one teensy-weensy problem with this. Let’s read the verse in its context, Luke 4:5-7 (back to the HCSB, although the capitalization gives it away)…
5So he took Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6The Devil said to Him, “I will give You their splendor and all this authority, because it has been given over to me, and I can give it to anyone I want. 7If You, then, will worship me, all will be Yours.”