Matthew 4:1-11 In the wilderness, Jesus defeated the devil! Lent 1 March 5, 2017
By Pastor Kenneth Mellon, Trinity Lutheran Church and School, Pleasant Valley Rd., West Bend, WI

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
God’s Word to help us fight temptation is written in Matthew 4:1-11
These are Your words heavenly Father. Through them, connect us to Jesus that we may oppose the devil.

Dear Christian Friends,

Today, we’re going to talk about temptations. A temptation is what the devil offers in place of what God freely gives to us. The devil tempts us by making something wrong look so good, that we want it even if we know it will take us away from God’s blessing. Picture being in a hot desert! God has provided an oasis where there is plenty of water and food. Yet, as we look out across the hot desert sand, we see what appear to be attractive places. We decide to leave God’s oasis only to find what we thought was so good was a mirage. And from there we see another mirage and soon we are far away from the oasis and in serious trouble. The devil lures us away by having us take his word over God’s Word or to trust in his ways more than God’s. It’s like he is leading us daily into a deadly wilderness. But God has good news for us!

In the wilderness, Jesus defeated the devil!

Jesus saw through the devil’s schemes. The devil tries to create doubt in our minds through his lies like he did for Adam and Eve. Their perfect world could not have been any better. But, the devil tempted them with a lie that the delicious looking fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was better. He persuaded them that God was depriving them. They could know so much more with the fruit! They fell before the devil and brought all people sin and death. Paradise was turned into a spiritual wilderness!

Right after Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit led Him into the wilderness, where He fasted and prayed for 40 days as a humble man. The devil’s first temptation for Jesus was: “If you are the Son of God, tell stones to become bread.” (v.3) He was trying to make Jesus become dissatisfied with God. It had worked well not only with Adam and Eve, but when Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years and devil got many of the people to rebel against God for what they saw as a lack of care. The second temptation was similar. The devil had taken Jesus to a high point on the temple and said, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.” (v.6) He was saying to Jesus, if you are that important to God, Your Father, surely He will take care of you! Make Him prove that He loves you!

To reinforce the argument, the devil quoted Psalm 91:11 which stated that God will send His angels to protect His children. But he was misquoting it, saying that God’s protection will be there even when we foolishly risk our lives. I think of few Christians today that think that if they have enough faith they will be able to pick up poisonous snakes and not die. Jesus had promised miraculous powers over snakes to some of His disciples when He sent them out on a mission trip. But, He did not give that promise to all Christians of all times. So, snake handlers are tempting God just like the devil wanted Jesus to do.

The third temptation was for Jesus to gain riches and earthly power by worshipping the devil. What boldness! But think of it, God had led Jesus to fast and pray in the wilderness. The devil was tempting Jesus to take an easy way out. All Jesus needed to do was worship the devil and life would be much better!

The devil is always tempting us to compromise our lives, too. God’s Word tells us right from wrong. But, still we sin against God. We put ourselves or others before God. He studies us to see where we are weak. But often, we leave ourselves open for attack. You’d think that we would know how empty the promises of the devil! We read how Adam and Eve got nothing but trouble and death for following the devil. The Children of Israel died in the wilderness because of their rebellion and complaining against God. Even Moses died because he fell into one of the devil’s schemes by getting angry. Life will not be better if we doubt God, and listen to the devil! It will lead to a greater disaster!

Second, Jesus resisted the devil’s schemes. He knew their danger. After being tempted to turn stones to bread, Jesus said, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (v.4) Ironically, by quoting Deuteronomy 8, Jesus not only stopped the devil’s scheme against Him, He quoted Moses’ words to Israel which helped them see how well God had provided for His people in the wilderness! Some believed Moses and stayed faithful to God. When we have sickness, troubles, accidents, or any difficult thing, rather than be led to find fault with God, we trust Jesus’ word that God will provide in His time and way. Thank God, Jesus defeated the devil!

Jesus did not follow the devil’s mis-directions. Even though the devil quoted Psalm 91:11 in telling Jesus to jump, Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”(v.8) He would not endanger His life to make God prove His care. Jesus also knew His Scripture against the devil after being tempted to serve him to gain riches and the power in life. He said, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” (v.10) Jesus always put His Father first. He followed when God led Him to a wilderness to be tempted. Jesus put God first when He humbly was led to the cross. While Jesus suffered on the cross, the devil must have been tempting Him to doubt God or to look for an easier way to save the world. But, Jesus never gave in, even to the point of death. He remained “without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) His victory over the devil gave Him the opportunity to save us from our sins. Jesus offered His perfect life to God in place of all our sinful lives. God had Jesus pay in full by His suffering and death on the cross for the sins of our wandering.

Jesus won an eternal victory for us. He calls us through His Word to share in His victory first by believing in Him so we don’t trust in the devil’s schemes. And, we were given God’s powerful Word to use against the devil. Each time Jesus spoke God’s Word the devil fled. That same Word of God is ours today, if we will read, apply, and memorize it! When the devil tempts us to put money before God, we’ll tell him 1 Timothy 6:10, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” If we are tempted to think or commit a sexually sin, we’ll say: Genesis 39:9 – “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” If the devil tempts us to be controlled by envy or anger like people around us, we will say: Proverbs 1:10, “If sinners entice you, do not give in to them.” and from Acts 5:29 “We must obey God rather than men!” James 4:7 promises, “Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

Because of our sinful nature, we won’t always overcome the devil in life even on the best day when follow God’s Word. But, Jesus remains our help during temptations. Let us call on His name and use His Word when tempted. Call to Him in faith remembering that God has already forgiven us by Jesus’ perfect sacrifice. We are on our way to heaven! So, let no sin from the devil lead us away by a temptation that takes us away from Christ into sin! Christ is the only way to eternal life with God! Trust in Him! Amen.