But, It's So Easy!
The second temptation Jesus faces is the temptation to "test God." A temptation that's a lot easier to fall into than many of us think.
Good morning. David Sorn. Pastor of Renovation Church.
Thanks to Jared Hibma last week for filling in while I was out of town.
We are continuing in our “Hooks” series today, which is a series on temptation.
We are currently studying the three different temptations that Jesus faced at the beginning of his ministry
Last week, Jared talked about the first temptation, and today we are going to look at the second temptation.
These three temptations are not all encompassing of every temptation you will ever face, but they surprisingly cover a lot
And the most important thing is we get to see a prime example of how we should withstand temptation (by watching what Jesus does)
Because that’s how we learn, right?
It’s almost always easier to watch someone do it first than just trying to figure it out yourself
And when we learn something, you want to learn it right the first time.
For example, when I was in 5th grade, we had the option to join band. And in 5th grade, the majority of kids do.
I decided that I wanted to play the Alto Saxophone.
And when I got it, I could barely even get it to make a sound
It was terrible. Listening to kids try and learn an instrument is really not all that different than listening to a dying animal.
I had to have someone teach me. So I did. For school, I took lessons. Every week. My mom had me (accomplished clarinet player) take lessons from another teacher who would play the saxophone w/ me
And so I learned exactly how to play. I learned technique. Proper fingering. Proper timing. Philosophy of music.
And then I practiced. I would sit at home and practice all my lesson books, and then sometimes I would play my Aladdin saxophone book. J
But the point of the story is. I got to watch somebody play and I had it modeled for me exactly how to do it. And I was a pretty good saxophone player. That is…until I got to 9th grade and determined it wasn’t cool anymore…at least to practice anyway.
However, let me give you a different example. When I was in college, I taught myself (key difference) how to play the guitar.
It was all the rage when I was in college. Everybody was trying to learn the guitar.
So I taught myself. I printed off chord sheets online, borrowed my roommates guitar, and started practicing. (Heart of Worship….“When the music….fades”)
And by the time I finished college, I was decent at guitar…but not really. My technique was terrible. My fingering was all wrong, the way I held the guitar—wrong. The way I strummed—wrong.
And on and on, and because I never really had it modeled for me, and no one ever taught me how to do it, so I never really became that great at it.
And learning how to fight temptation is eerily similar.
How would you describe your ability to fight against temptation? Is it more like the saxophone or the guitar in the example?
I feel like for most of us, it’s like the guitar. We’ve really only taught ourselves how to avoid it.
Because I mean, we have to deal with it. Temptation happens every day. Multiple times a day! So you have to do something about it.
But we’re usually just using our own technique. The things we’ve taught ourselves. Things we’ve come up with on our own.
And we tend to be only “ok” at avoiding temptation. Our self-taught techniques only serve us decently well. And even that might be stretching it.
So we must learn from those wiser than us. Part of that comes from being in Christian community with those who’ve maybe walked with Christ a little longer than you.
And a lot of it comes from studying how the Master, Jesus Christ, dealt with temptation.
So Let’s look at the second temptation of Jesus
Just a quick recap…if you weren’t here last week. Jesus is just at the start of his ministry. He has just been baptized and now led out into the desert.
He goes into the desert and then fasts for 40 days.
And then Satan appears and begins to tempt him.
Last week he tempted him to turn stones into bread, and now he’s about to tempt him again. Let’s dive into our passage.
(Matthew 4:5-7) – NIV
5Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6"If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written:
" 'He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'"
7Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"
All right, let’s begin to dissect this some.
The devil takes Jesus to Jerusalem and has him stand on the highest point of the temple (which sat about 450 ft high over the Kidron Valley) and tells Jesus to throw himself down.
Well, you might be thinking…hmm…that doesn’t seem like much of a temptation. I’m usually not tempted to throw myself off a cliff.
Touche. But let me explain. Here’s what the devil was getting at:
He’s actually tempting Jesus with two things at once here.
On the one hand, he’s tempting Jesus to do his ministry the EASY way (by attracting a huge crowd without suffering)
If he jumped & was caught, he would gain a following the wrong way. Not God’s way/path. Not through the way of suffering.
On the other hand, he’s also tempting Jesus to test God’s faithfulness (does God really love you / take care of you)
We’re going to focus on that second part today.
TESTING GOD’s FAITHFULNESS
So let’s look at that part of the temptation: The part of Testing God’s faithfulness
If Jesus were to jump from the temple into the valley so God would rescue him, he would be inappropriately testing his father’s love by trying to manipulate God to save Him.
Satan tells him that it’s fine, and doesn’t the bible say in the Psalms that God will save you (crazy that the devil knows the Bible by the way),
However, he misuses the text from Psalms for his own purposes
Psalm 91 (which he is quoting) does indeed talk about God protecting those who love Him, but when we read ALL of scripture (which is imp.), we see that that’s a principle, not a rule. Sometimes people die early, sometimes God uses suffering.
Yes, often he protects those who love him, but sometimes suffering serves a purpose.
But the devil tells him, don’t worry, God will protect you.
And Jesus’ situation is a little different than ours. Normally his temptations are really similar to us, but this one is slightly unique. Jesus is well aware that he could call on the angels to catch him.
In fact, look at this verse from when Jesus is getting arrested and one of his followers pulls out a sword to defend Jesus
(Matthew 26:52-53) – NIV
52"Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?
Which, by the way is 72,000 angels.
So, he could have done it. He could have jumped down to see if his Father truly loved him and they probably would have caught him.
But Jesus says that would be wrong because that would be to put God to the test.
And once again (just like we saw last week), Jesus answers a temptation with Scripture, with the Bible.
Why does Jesus do this every time? Why does he respond to every temptation with Scripture?
I tend to think that Christians actually overspiritualize this.
We treat Scripture in this scenario like it’s a magic spell.
Please don’t hear me wrong… The Bible is the word of God and it has incredible power.
But the answer to warding off temptation isn’t to make sure you know which spell to throw back at the right time.
The answer to warding off temptation is to have the truth of God, the truth of the Bible, so deeply imbedded in you that you can respond to a situation with truth.
If you don’t know truth, how can you possibly know how to respond. You don’t. But the reality is, we still have to respond.
CNN released a study this week where they took children and gave them a piece of paper with 5 cartoon children. Ranging in gradient scales of skin tone from white to black.
Then they asked the children questions like: “Which one do you think is prettier?” “Which one do you think is smart?” “Which one do you think you would want to be friends with?”
Well, if you ask a 4 year old that question, they’re going to respond. They have “some” information to go on. But they’re most likely to just point at one of the kids.
But, if you ask a 15 year old those same questions… (hopefully, and I mean hopefully), they’ve had enough education, enough truth to say, “Stop asking me these ridiculous questions about race. Skin color has nothing to do with how good a friend someone is.”
But here’s the deal, I feel like most of us react to temptation like a 3 or 4 year old did in that study.
We don’t really know or KNOW enough of God’s word, so when we’re faced with tough temptation, like a little child, we just go with the wind, and choose whatever. Wherever our body or our mouth feels like taking us.
But the goal is to be educated. It’s to study truth. It’s to know it deep down and your soul.
You ever take a comprehensive exam in school?
Like one of those tests where they test you on everything they covered the entire semester?
They’re just terrible tests because they can test you on anything from the entire class.
So you’re left to just study non-stop before the test, hoping you can fill yourself up with so much information that when they ask a random question, you could pull it out of somewhere in your mind
And life and temptation is lot like that. Because life, in a way, is kind of a test. And in this life, you will be tempted, and when you are tempted, the question is, can you pull out the truth.
Do you know enough of God’s truth in your heart to respond in the right way?
Because that’s what Jesus does…He just says, No, that’s not right. That’s not the truth. The truth is, We shouldn’t put God to the test.”
If you’re feeling like maybe you just need some more truth in your life. Maybe you need to just get back in the Bible again. I recommend you pick up one of our Bible pyramids on the way out today (explain)
So, Jesus pulls out this truth from his heart and mind and says, “It is also written. Do not put the Lord Your God to the Test.”
Well, first of all, where did he pull that out from? Where is that from?
It’s a quote from the book of Deuteronomy in the OT
And whenever you see something like this in your Bible, I think it’s always a good idea to look it up and see what the context of the quote is.
And 90% of Bibles that you read, when you come to a verse like this, they’ll have like a bold letter or a bold number next to the quote. And, you can usually look down, and it will tell you where the quote is from in the Bible.
So let’s look at the original verse Jesus is quoting:
(Deuteronomy 6:16-17) – NIV
16 Do not test the LORD your God as you did at Massah. 17 Be sure to keep the commands of the LORD your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you.
OK, so this verse is Moses instructing the Israelites about how to live for God.
But again, we can go deeper here into what Jesus was originally referring to. Because Moses writes: Do not test the Lord your God as you did at Massah. Well, what’s Massah?
When you see things like this when you’re reading, I want to encourage you to look them up. Two easy options:
1) Sometimes Bibles have small concordances in the back and you can just look for Massah
2) Another good resource is a website called Biblegateway.com.
So, let’s see what happened at Massah:
This passage is from the book of Exodus. The Israelites have escaped Pharaoh and Egypt and Moses has led them out into the desert.
God has already performed many miracles for them: the plagues in Egypt, parting the sea, feeding them food from heaven and on and on…and then this happens
(Exodus 17:1-7) – NIV
1 The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 So they quarreled with Moses and said, "Give us water to drink."
Moses replied, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?"
3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, "Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?"
4 Then Moses cried out to the LORD, "What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me." 5 The LORD answered Moses, "Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink." So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, "Is the LORD among us or not?"
God had provided for them EVERY STEP of the way. Even raining down food from heaven.
But they adopt this “testing” attitude. Well, if he really was among us…if he really loved us… he would provide for us. He’d give us water. Moses, go tell him to give us water!”
And that’s exactly what they mean, it’s not like Moses has some water storage somewhere. They’re in the desert.
They simply mean: Moses, tell God if He’s among us and really loves us to get us some water.
Which is precisely the same type of temptation Satan is tempting Jesus with
If God really is among you and really loves you as his chosen one, He will “miraculously provide for you. Now ask Him to prove it!”
HOW WE PUT GOD TO THE TEST
And that is a temptation, the temptation of putting God to the test, that we are to avoid
And it’s EASIER than we think to fall into
Because, if the Israelites who saw more signs and wonders in one year than we will probably see in a lifetime can start asking God to prove himself in certain ways, how much easier is it for us to do the same?
And we do…
Because as you start walking with God for a while, we start to doubt.
And that’s normal. Faith isn’t easy.
But then comes the temptation to test Him.
Because we start to think…
“Could you really love someone like me?”
“Are you really still there God? Really? I mean look at what just happened in my life? And you’re there?”
And then we say, “Prove it!!”
Listen, We can ask God to speak to us to help us to reveal himself…whatever…
But, check your intentions. Because sometimes we’re merely just testing him. Asking Him to prove what He’s already proven.
And listen, testing God, is an EASY temptation. It’s SO EASY to fall into.
“God if you loved me you would fix my addiction!”
“God if you loved me you would heal me right now!”
But to say, “God if you loved me, you” is to put him to the test.
It’s to say… “God, maker of heaven and earth, the following is how you are going to prove yourself to me. Thank You. Sincerely, Me.”
And that’s a temptation the devil wants us to fall into. It’s an easy trap.
It’s seems harmless enough right.
It seems so blurred with just an everyday prayer. Because asking God to prove himself can sometimes sound similar to your everyday Godly prayer request.
But, yet it’s so different. Asking God to restore your marriage is one thing AND asking Him to prove his love for you and prove that He is real by restoring it this very month is quite another.
And so Satan lures us into that easy temptation… We think, Oh God could be glorified in this. Look at how much people would praise Him!
And I’m sure Jesus could have thought the same thing… Think of how many people will praise God if he catches me!
Yet, it’s not our job to put conditions on how God will move.
The temptation to test God is really just a temptation by the evil one to get us to doubt God’s love, control, and presence in our lives.
So we must know God’s truth for our lives. And we must look to Jesus Christ as an example. Not just in his reply to the devil, but in what had just happened before this time.
Because Jesus too is being challenged. He just spent 40 days of fasting in the desert by himself praying.
That’s tough work.
He’s in a vulnerable state.
And in that state he’s challenged by the devil, “Does the Father really still love you? Really? 40 days in the wilderness and He loves you? I doubt He does. Why don’t you just let Him prove it then. Test it out. He’ll catch you. And then you’ll know for sure!”
But Jesus didn’t need to jump
Because He already knew how God really felt about Him
Look at this…let me read you literally the two verses before the temptation starts (from Jesus’ baptism)
(Matthew 3:16-17) – NIV
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."
Jesus knew the truth of God, He knew the truth of God, He knew the TRUTH of God!
And when someone tried to tempt him otherwise, He shot him right down and stuck the truth right in his face.
So know the truth…learn the truth…
And remember the truth…
Because I’m guessing for the vast majority of you here today, at some point or another, you’ve felt in your heart that God loves you too
You know it’s true. Otherwise you probably wouldn’t even be here today.
You know He loves you.
So trust Him. Because He does.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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