Testing & Temptation

Home Church Devotional 1/23/2021

These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He became hungry. And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE.'” And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. “Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD AND SERVE HIM ONLY.'” And he led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; for it is written, ‘HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU TO GUARD YOU,’ and, ‘ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.'” And Jesus answered and said to him, “It is said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.'” When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.                                            Luke 4:1-13 (NASB)

When I was in school, I hated to take tests, still do. I am not a test person. Let me do a research project, something I can sink my teeth into, and I will knock it out of the park…but do not ask me to take a test. I will and do fail miserably! But there is a reason for tests, they are a checkpoint to see if we are ready to move on to something deeper, the next step.

TESTING & TEMPTATION in our spiritual life is much the same, to see if we are ready to go deeper. They show us where our weaknesses are and where we need to allow God to work in our lives. They are meant to build our faith, strengthen our trust and build our character.

As we examine the temptation of Jesus, we must ask ourselves one question. “What is the purpose of TESTING & TEMPTATION of the believer?”

The purpose of TESTING & TEMPTATION is to strengthen the believer’s faith; build the believer’s trust and shape the believer’s character.

1). TESTING & TEMPTATION come to all believers in shared or common experiences.

This passage immediately follows the baptism of Jesus and we need to read and understand the first verse of chapter 4; “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness.” Luke 4:1 (NASB) Luke tells us that Jesus is filled with the Holy Spirit and being led by the Holy Spirit throughout His temptation in the wilderness. We must understand that TESTING & TEMPTATION take place under God’s direction and in the case of Jesus, the Greek word for tempted indicates a continual action. For forty days Jesus was tempted, continually, by the devil. This testing took place, not to SEE if Jesus was ready for His ministry, but to SHOW that Jesus was ready for His ministry.

We must also note the final verse of this passage; “When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.” Luke 4:13 (NASB) We only read of three temptations, temptations that are common or shared experiences by all believers, but Luke says that the devil only left AFTER he completed ALL the temptations. Jesus has faced every temptation known to believer’s; He is truly our High Priest who has shared our experiences. He can stand before God and intercede for us because He has been through all that we are going through.

The first testing questions the provisions of God and His care for us. God does not want His Son to die so Satan tempts Jesus to turn stones to bread, the mighty Son of God could surely use His powers to meet this most basic need of life. But this request does not concern power but rather independence. How many times have we been faced with a basic need, whether food or shelter or money for a bill, and we take matters into our own hands and try to solve the issue in our own power, rather than wait in faith on God to work? Independence from God is weakness and leads to failure.

The second testing is an invitation to worship Satan and leave behind loyalty to God. This is an attempt to join the Son with Satan and remove Jesus from His ministry and all that lies ahead. Jesus can choose to join Satan and escape the suffering and rejection for a quick grab at power. How many times have we been caught in a spot that looks really good and will give us what we are seeking in the first place, and it gets us there quicker, easier and without all the hassles of having to earn it properly or wait for God to tell us the time is right? Loyalty to God is the path of suffering and rejection that, in the end, is turned into shared glory with Christ Jesus.

The final temptation involves God’s love for the Son – and us. The vision is at the top of the Temple – probably the Royal Porch – at the southwest corner overlooking a cliff and the Kidron valley some 450 feet below. Satan uses Scripture, Psalm 9:11-12, a passage that promises God’s protection for His own. Surely God will not allow His Son – or us – to suffer! Jesus sees through the ploy and so must we…this twisting of Scripture flies in the face of the rest of Scripture that calls for the Messiah to suffer and those who name His name to be identified in His suffering and death.

The purpose of TESTING & TEMPTATION is to strengthen the believer’s faith; build the believer’s trust and shape the believer’s character.

2). The way we respond to TESTING & TEMPTATION will determine the outcome for the believer.

TESTING & TEMPTATION in life are not necessarily bad, in fact, they may even be sent by God (James 1:2-4). TESTING & TEMPTATION are meant to produce endurance that we might become perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. The real issue is how we react to TESTING & TEMPTATION. The real issue is how we react to our testing. Do you respond by looking to God to guide you through the testing? Do you trust God or put Him to the test? How do you respond to personal struggles in life? Do you get angry? Do you try and take control? Or do you rest in faith? Do you look for God’s hand and ask Him what you are to learn from your testing? It is the response we can control and must be concerned about.

Jesus was tempted by Satan in the most basic of needs – bread; sometimes we feel the need to “feed ourselves” with things we think are basic needs. However, sometimes these “basics” involve a bigger home, more gadgets and toys, more material possessions that to say we are well “fed.” Yet our lives are more than the material things we collect, rather, our lives are defined through our relationship with God, spiritually grounded in knowing Him and serving Him within the context of His will. Our response to testing matters…life is defined by doing the will of God and being fully dependent upon His leading.

We lack trust in God when we grab for power that is not ours for the taking or taking power in a manner in which we are not meant to have it. Satan tempts us to slip into idolatry, using subtle substitutes like our work, our position, our possessions, our family or any number of other things keep us from knowing God. Maybe it’s the “easy button” to grow without the suffering, facing rejection, or the fear of failure; maybe it takes us away from our stand for Jesus or the values of the kingdom of God. Our response to being tested matters…we worship what we love; power, money, things. With worship of God comes service and true service means remaining loyal to God.

We lack trust when we put God to the test in a situation we are facing. “God, if You are with me, this will happen in this way.” Which usually means, “God make this go away and let me come out on top without being hurt.” In other words, we tell God how He should act and care for us, when He sees things we could not even know exist. We control God, rather than following His leading. We also blame God when suffering does come, feeling He has abandoned us, when in fact, He may be trying to get our attention, revealing His way – a better way – or simply asking us to meet Him in the midst of our adversity. Our response to being tested matters…putting God in a “show me” position is a private test of God that shows a lack of faith.

When I was in school, I hated to take tests, still do. I am not a test person. Let me do a research project, something I can sink my teeth into, and I will knock it out of the park…but do not ask me to take a test. I will and do fail miserably! But there is a reason for tests, the are a checkpoint to see if we are ready to move on to something deeper, the next step.

TESTING & TEMPTATION in our spiritual life is much the same, to see if we are ready to go deeper. They show us where are weaknesses are and where we need to allow God to work in our lives. They are meant to build our faith, strengthen our trust and build our character.

Two of these tests directly challenge the sonship of Jesus. “If You are the Son of God…” comes the statement from Satan. You see, he heard the words from heaven at the baptism of Jesus, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well pleased.” This is an attempt to get Jesus to support His sonship and thus create a rebellious Son and sonship. The challenge is the same for you and me, sons and daughters of the King. “If you are the son or daughter of the King…”

Are you ready for the TESTING & TEMPTATION that is sure to come your way? They are coming and they will come often. Jesus was tempted continually for forty days just as we are tempted throughout our lifetime. It is not a matter of if but when and when they come will you show yourself ready? Will you follow the example of Jesus and keep God’s word in your heart? Will you keep the things of God and His kingdom in the forefront of your heart and mind?

If you are to grow spiritually, you can expect testing. If you are to grow spiritually, you need to look to God in the midst of your testing. May our eyes be fixed on Jesus even in the deepest and darkest of temptations, seeking God’s guidance and looking for His hand.

Amen and Amen.

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