The third temptation is a temptation of self-exaltation. We are tempted to assert ourselves in the world while we rob God of His worship. The third temptation was an opportunity for Jesus to seize a kingdom and avoid the cross. There is one main truth that I want to urge from this text, namely, that worshiping God is the duty of every human being. The basis of the truth is this: if the very Son of God counts it his duty to obey the command to worship God, then how much more must we count it our duty to obey this command! Another truth of this temptation is to show that power is not to be accepted without careful consideration of the terms. What are we giving up to gain the power, and is it worth it?
It is probably significant that Satan first presented Jesus the “bait” (“all the kingdoms of the world and their glory”) before presenting Him with the compromising stipulation (“if you fall down and worship me”). Jesus quoted the essence of Dt. 6.13 in His response to the devil, which emphasizes the close relationship between worship and service. While Israel had a tendency to chase after false gods (Dt. 6.10-15), Jesus maintained total allegiance to God. Jesus refused to exchange the end-time exaltation by the Father for a right-now exaltation of a snake. We too need to compare our eternal joy that God offers us with the short-term pleasures that the world offers.
Five applications of the Temptation of Jesus that we can apply to our lives
First, the more like Christ we become the more subtle our temptations will become. Jesus was not tempted to murders someone or to steal something. Satan knew that Jesus was too strong for that type of temptation, so he is subtle and even uses scripture to make is sound like it is even Biblical. We just saw this recently with President Obama. He actually used Jesus’ words to defend homosexuality, by appealing to the golden rule.
Why cannot the golden rule be logically applied to Homosexuality in the way that President Obama applied it?
Denny Burk answers this question by saying:
First, it assumes that Paul and Jesus are at odds with one another. This not only undermines the Bible’s teaching on sexual ethics, it also undermines the authority of scripture itself. If the Bible has contradictions in it, then it cannot be the inspired word of God. Christians understand that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). The Bible alone is the inerrant and infallible norm over the Christian conscience. As a Christian, President Obama should affirm scriptural authority rather than undermine it with statements that set Jesus against Paul and that undermine Biblical sexual norms.
Second, neither Matthew nor Jesus intended the Golden Rule to be a permission slip for sin. “Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you” does not nullify the Bible’s clear teaching about marriage and sexuality. The Sermon on the Mount affirms and intensifies Old Testament sexual norms (e.g., Matthew 5:27-30). Moreover, Jesus himself affirms the creation principle that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman (Matt. 19:4-5; cf. Gen. 2:24). To imply that Jesus would have supported gay marriage has no basis in the text of scripture. In fact, Jesus stands against it.
Third, the interpretation of Romans 1:26-27 has been fiercely contested in recent years. But I think candidate Obama was mistaken to conclude from that fact that the passage itself is somehow opaque. Revisionist interpretations of Romans 1:26-27 are a relatively recent phenomenon and are at odds with every interpretation of this text prior to the middle of the twentieth century. If one allows the democracy of the dead to have their say, the “obscure” interpretations are the ones coming from theological liberals who are standing against 2,000 years of the history of interpretation of this passage. As far as biblical sexual norms are concerned, President Obama is standing on the wrong side of history.
Fourth, Christians believe that doing the right thing also happens to be what’s best for our neighbor. In other words, God’s design for marriage is good for us and promotes the public good and human flourishing. Loving our neighbors, therefore, means doing what promotes their good and their flourishing. Gay marriage falls short of that ideal.
Fifth, the president’s reference to Christ’s sacrificial death fundamentally misunderstands what Christ accomplished on the cross. Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf doesn’t just free us from the penalty of sin; it also frees us from the power of sin over our lives. Christ’s death is not just about forgiveness in the past; it’s about power in the present. The apostle Paul says, “our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin” (Rom. 6:6). Those who have truly tasted the forgiveness flowing from Christ’s sacrificial death also taste freedom from the stranglehold of indwelling sin. The President seems not to understand that Christians have died with Christ and that sin is no longer their master (Rom. 6:14). The point of “Christ sacrificing himself” is to free people from sin, not to keep them in bondage to it. Real Christianity doesn’t lead to endorsing what Christ died to free us from.
President Obama’s scriptural defense of gay marriage is not just untenable; it’s also unchristian. Even though this is a contentious issue, the most loving thing to do would be to stand on the authority of scripture and on God’s definition of the good. (Burk, 2012)
Second, Satan will attack us when we are weak and tired and at the peak of our success. Satan knows when we are most vulnerable. Therefore, be alert at all times. Know that you are in a battle and continue to fight, both in good times so that you do not fall and in bad times so that you do not keep yourself in the pit.
Third, we will be tempted to sin by meeting a God given desire in a God forbidden way. The first temptation was a temptation for self-gratification. Jesus was tempted to meet his God given hunger pains in an ungodly way. Likewise, we too will be tempted to meet our God given desire for hunger, thirst, sex, and companionship in ungodly ways. The second temptation was a temptation of self-protection. Jesus was to tempted to meet his God given desire to know that God will always protect him, by putting him to the test. We too will want to know if God is really there and want to really know that we are safe. The third temptation was a temptation of self-exaltation. We all naturally want to be liked. However, Satan will also use that God-given desire to be liked to have you focus on yourself instead of the life you should be living to glorify God instead of yourself.
Fourth, Jesus’ temptation occurs at the beginning of his public ministry as a test of His commitment to the Father’s will. A test is something given to display how well you have mastered something. So if you know the subject you will pass, if you do not your incompetency will be displayed to everyone. Jesus’ encounter with the devil in the wilderness is a source of encouragement and instruction to believers as they battle temptation (Heb. 2:18 & 4:15). Since we know that God is in control in all situations and that we will not be tempted more than we can bear, that he will use us, even in our failures ultimately for our good and for His glory.
Fifth, Jesus uses scripture and His resolve to resist the devil (James 4:7). Therefore, we are also to use scripture when we are tempted. As John Piper says, we are to fight fire with fire. We are to fight the fire of temptation to sin with the overwhelming fire of desiring to love God and to see His face. Therefore, we can conclude by saying that Jesus shows us the path to a faithful walk with God is a life defined by doing God’s will and walking in God’s way, even if it entails suffering and self-denial.
The Ironies of Jesus
- Jesus is hungry but feeds others
- Jesus grows weary but offers others rest
- Jesus is the King Messiah but pays tribute
- Jesus is called the Devil but casts out demons
- Jesus is sold for thirty pieces of silver but gives his life a ransom for many.
- Jesus will not turn stones to bread for himself but gives his own body as bread for the people.
- Satan would have done anything to prevent Jesus from suffering.
Luke gives us three examples of the temptations Satan threw at Jesus. First, in verse 3 he says, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” Then, in verses 5–7 Satan shows him all the kingdoms of the world and says, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours.” Finally, in verses 9–11 Satan took Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple and said, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here; for it is written, ‘He will give his angels charge of you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'”
These temptations are amazingly relevant for American Christianity. Satan skips over adultery, fornication, stealing, lying, murder—those temptations are too obvious. Those are the games that sub-devils play with weak saints. Jesus is no fall guy. When Satan means business with a strong saint, he sticks with religion and he makes the Bible his textbook. See if this does not sound contemporary.
“If you are a child of God, why are you living like a poor-person? If you are a child of the king, why do you not live like a prince? The children of the king do not eat casseroles, they eat steak. The children of the king do not drive second-hand clunkers, they drive new cars. The children of the king do not shop at consignment stores, they shop at the Mall. The children of the king do not throw their lives away in Liberia or Yemen or Ecuador or Japan, living on a shoestring, building no reserves. If you are a child of the king, claim your blessings. God has promised to send his angels to make you healthy, wealthy, and prosperous. Throw yourself into these blessings. The best testimony you can be to your status as an heir of God is to be wealthy and have the best of everything.”
If only we today could see this Health, Wealth, Prosperity “gospel” as a species of Satan’s temptation to Jesus. Satan had one aim in the wilderness: to do whatever he could to keep Jesus from suffering. He was willing to let Jesus have all the glory and authority of a world ruler if he just would not gain it through suffering. He was eager to let Jesus use his divine power if he would just use it to relieve his suffering. He was willing to let all the worshipers in Jerusalem see and acknowledge his divine sonship if only the angels of God would keep Jesus from suffering.
Therefore, as we grow more like Christ, Satan might do anything to prevent you from suffering. We will discuss later that Jesus will say to the disciples that he had to go up to Jerusalem and suffer and be killed, and Peter said, “God forbid, Lord”? Jesus responded to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me” (Matthew 16:23). Satan’s aim in the wilderness was to hinder Jesus from suffering. Because the suffering and death of Jesus meant the final destruction of Satan and the salvation of you and me. And Satan’s aim in this church today is to hinder you from following Jesus when he says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me (in the path of suffering)” (Luke 9:23).
People sometimes ask, if Satan is real, why do we not see more demon possession and exorcisms in America. This is because. Satan holds American Christianity so tightly in the vice-grip of comfort and wealth that he is not about to tip his hand with too much demonic mischief. Satan has us so busy looking at ourselves that he does not have to scare us away from the supernatural because we lives as if it does not exist. What Satan fears most in this church is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that causes us to say with Paul, “I count everything as a waste that I might gain Christ . . . that I might know the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”
Comparison of the Old Testament and Jesus
- Israel 40 years in the wilderness – Jesus days in the wilderness
- Both Israel’s and Jesus’ hunger taught a lesson (Deut 8:3)
- Both spent time in the desert in preparation of their respective tasks.
- Both “Sons” were tested by God’s design to prove obedience and loyalty in preparation for their appointed work.
- The one “son” failed, but pointed to the “Son” who would never fail.
- Israel right after passing through the Red Sea – Jesus right after being baptized in the Jordan River.
- Adam tested with food in the bliss of Eden yet failed – Jesus tested in the hardships of the wilderness yet is triumphant.
1) Christ will be crowned as King.
a) Two thousand years ago…he conquered sin as our Savior.
b) Today…he fights with and for us through his Spirit.
c) One day…he will reign over all as our Sovereign.
2) Satan will be cast down in defeat.
a) The accuser will stand accused.
b) The serpent will be sentenced.
c) The devil will be destroyed.
3) The church will rise up in victory.
a) As children of God in Christ, let’s trust the all-satisfying, all sufficient goodness of our Father!
b) As children of God in Christ, let’s rest in the shelter of our Father ’s unshakeable security!
c) As children of God in Christ, let’s refuse to exchange our end-time exaltation by the Father for a right-now exaltation of a snake!