The Template of Temptation
By Ed Young
October 25, 2015
Temptation is one of the most difficult, and dangerous, issues we face in life. It’s something in life that can lead us down one of two roads. Either we turn from it to discover God’s purpose, or we give into it and find ourselves partnering with the villain.
In this message, Pastor Ed Young takes a look at the most difficult temptation anyone in history ever faced. By looking at how Jesus dealt with – and overcame – temptation, we discover the perfect template for our own lives as well.
Temptation. We all deal with it, don’t we? The ubiquitous nature of temptation. Temptation crosses all socioeconomic lines, all racial lines. It’s everywhere. Temptation. If I asked you this question about temptation, what would your answer be? And don’t blurt this answer out. You can say it to yourself. What is the biggest temptation that you deal with? What is that thing, that area that seems to always be in front of you? That little thing or that big thing that trips you up? Have you got that?
Now I want to ask you another question. What do you do best? This might help you with the answer. Where are you gifted? What sort of comes easy to you, effortless to you? What? What? Because I’ll bet you cash money that you’re tempted around your greatest strength. I’m tempted around my greatest ability. It’s still interesting, isn’t it? For example, if you’re a charming person, God has just given you that charm and people are like, oh man, you’ve got it! We can use that charm for good, for the things of God, or we can use that charm to manipulate, to connive. Maybe you’re a leader. Maybe when you step out people follow. It’s just a God-given thing. Everybody is influential but you have that extra measure of influence. And if you’re not careful you can use that leadership quotient for evil. You can use that on one hand for good, on the other hand you can use that discernment to rip people apart, to belittle them. Wherever you’re strongest is where you’re tempted the most.
Now at this time some of you might be saying, wow. Temptation. This is a doggie downer. Temptation, this is kind of negative. Temptation, wow, this is a serious subject and you’re right. But I want you to think about the positive nature of temptation. That’s right. So often temptation gets a bad rap. Let’s talk about the positive aspect of temptation. Have you ever wondered that? Have you ever thought about that? Temptation is positive? It’s positive because we’re creatures who have a freedom of choice. If we have the opportunity to choose the goodness of good, which is God in Jesus Christ, we also have the opportunity to choose the badness of bad, which is the evil one. With temptation it means, wow, I’ve got freedom. I’m made in the image of God. Love is a choice so when I’m tempted I just say God, thank you for the freedom!
Also, temptation tethers me to humility. Whenever I think, oh yeah, I’ve got it down. I really feel it! I’m walking with the Lord and I’ve done this and I’ve done that. Tempted again? You mean the same area? I’m still susceptible to that? That should drive us to have the spirit of humility. God, you’re so great. God, you’re so awesome. I’m fallen and fallible. Thank you for your mercy. Thank you for your magnificence.
I think it also reveals our real heart, our real heart, our spiritual EKG. Because when you’re tempted, even though we want to love God with all of our heart, the totality of who we are, it shows that we’ve got a ways to go.
I like to… well I don’t like to, but I work out. I almost said I like to work out. I work out at this gym where they have those kettle bells. Have you seen those kettle bells? I call them Hell’s bells. They’re goblets with these handles on them, different weights. And as I started out working, you know, you swing these things. I started and I was doing a certain amount of weight and the more I got my form down I’ve increased and I’ve gotten better, and I can swing more of those Hell’s bells, those kettle bells. When I’m tempted, when I resist the temptation, when I see past the bait to the consequences it makes me stronger. When my form is right it makes me stronger and I better walk with God, a stronger believer.
So often temptation gets a bad rap. Yet temptation is everywhere. It’s no respecter of persons. Everybody is tempted. The Bible says, “when you’re tempted…” Again, think about that area where you’re tempted the most and I’ll bet you it’s the area where you’re gifted the most.
Today I want to go through a template of temptation. If you have your message map you might want to turn to those. A template of temptation. Basically look at the villain, because that’s what I’m talking about. Who is the villain? The villain is the enemy. Who is the villain? The villain is the accuser. Who is the villain? The villain is the tempter. I’m talking about the devil himself. As we look at him we’ve got to understand him, we’ve got to understand his strategy. It’s like God has allowed us to go back into the locker room to do some peering, to do some looking around. We see his strategy. We see his strategy. His strategy is nothing complex. His strategy is nothing new. His strategy is nothing that should surprise us. It’s as old as dirt, the dirt of the Garden.
The temptation of the devil is always about perversion. That’s the first blank in your message map. The villain’s strategy is perversion or it’s perverting. When God has a gift, Satan has a counterfeit. Always. It’s never something original, it’s never something new, it’s never something Picasso-like, no, no, no. It’s as old as dirt. And what blows me away is it still works in my life and in your life as well. So I thought we would expose the villain’s tactics because the villain opposes the hero. The Bible is a book that everyone should understand. One villain: the devil. One hero: Jesus. One message: Jesus saves. Let me say it again. The Bible is very basic. One villain: the devil. One hero: Jesus. One message: Jesus saves. That is what the Bible is about. So with the hero, of course the hero being Jesus, we invite the hero into our heart and we can become heroes to a watching world. Conversely if we turn our back of the hero and we go the way of the villain, we can become a villain to those people who are around us. And I can argue, and this is a whole ‘nother Biblical discussion, whenever we sin it is trafficking, literally, with the devil. Whenever we sin, whenever I sin, I’m worshiping the devil.
Ed, how can you say that? Think about last time. Did you miss last time? Check it out on fellowshipchurch.com. Last time we exposed some of the background of the devil. The devil fights God, man, God, man. It started in the heavenlies. Lucifer tried to usurp God. He had some serious throne issues. Didn’t work. He got kicked out from Heaven to Earth. Then he attacked Adam and Eve. He tried to do through Adam and Eve what he didn’t get done in Heaven, which was he tried to usurp God and become deity. It didn’t work in Heaven, he got kicked out. Yet it worked with Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve usurped God, enthroned themselves, which in essence was enthroning the evil one.
Then the evil one attacked God again. He tried to block the birth, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He fights him tooth and nail. And then from there he’s moved again to man (God-man-God-man). He’s fighting you and he’s fighting me because he wants to take as many people as he can to Hell with him. We need to understand something. Hell is not designed for human beings. Let me say it again. Hell is not designed for human beings.
Hell was designed for the devil and the demons. It’s an eternal lake of fire. Yet people go there. People go to Hell. God does not hurl anybody to Hell. God does not slam dunk anybody to Hell. We choose to go. If you do go to Hell, and statistics will show some of you will go to Hell, if you do go to Hell you have to go against the will of God. So Satan, he fights. He fought God segues to man. Because he messed Adam and Eve around, we have the sin-nature. From man he then goes to God, because he knew the Trinity would be up to something really unbelievable as Jesus lived his life, died this death, rose again, and now he goes after you and me again.
T.S. Let’s talk about the temptation of Jesus, because Jesus was tempted. Fully God, fully man. Jesus was tempted. This is the template. Now obviously we’re not tempted in the same way Jesus was tempted. Jesus, fully God, fully man. Notice here in the temptation Jesus was tempted as a man, and the temptation was around his purpose. The devil, the villain, wanted to get him off his purpose, off of his game. He wanted to keep him from living a sinless life, dying a sacrificial death, and rising again. Thereby thwarting God’s plan.
ILLUS: I’ve always loved snakes. I’ve always loved them. I don’t know why. When I was a kid I really loved snakes. My parents never, ever, ever would let me have a snake. I’m still bitter about that. I need counseling. I just love those things! Mom and dad always said no.
“Mom and dad, please!”
“Mom, I want a snake!”
“No! Son, you’re not gonna have a snake!”
I was in the third grade and we lived in the southeast and someone caught a snake, a big snake. The snake was in a jar with a lid. I looked at the snake and dad was looking at a snake. And the neighborhood kids were looking at the snake. And my girlfriend, Tina Airwood was looking at the snake, yet this is kind of a sad thing. Tina and I broke up about a month later. I threw dog doo-doo in her hair. I didn’t mean to. I was just slinging it around on a rake but it hit her in the face and hair and that was it. So that’s a whole ‘nother story. Tina Airwood. I wonder what she’s doing today. Tina Airwood.
So, we’re looking at this and I was looking at it and my father looked at me and said, “Son, don’t touch the snake. We’re not sure if it’s poisonous or not. Do not.” I said,
“Dad, can we take the jar to our garage?”
“Yes,” he said, “just for a little while. Once I finish supper and come back out we’re gonna kill the snake because it could be poisonous.”
“Dad, it’s not poisonous. I read snake books, I’ve lived on this earth 9 years. I know what a snake looks like. I know what a non-poisonous snake looks like. Dad, don’t!”
“Son, do not touch the snake.”
“I’m not. I’m not. I’m not.” He goes in. I’m looking at that snake. Neighborhood kids are looking at it. Tina Airwood is looking at it.
“That snake’s not poisonous. He’s not! I mean, Dad doesn’t really know. I mean, he’s a preacher. He doesn’t know about snakes. I know about snakes.” I said, “Ben, hand me the yard gloves.”
“Ed, you’re stupid, man. Don’t do it.” That’s my brother.
“Give me the yard gloves.”
“OK, man.” I put the yard gloves on, unscrewed the lid. I could see Tina Airwood going, “My hero!” I looked at that snake, picked this big old thing up and held it up. Kids were like, oh my gosh! This guy! Whoa, he’s got a snake!
“See, I told you! Dad’ll be fine. I’ll bring it inside, show him. This snake is fine. This snake’s not poisonous, it’s not aggressive. No big deal. I’m gonna keep it.” You know, you talk really big, don’t you, when your parents aren’t around. I said,
“Ben, I’m gonna hold this snake bare-handed now.” He says,
“Don’t do it! You’re an idiot!” I said,
“Take the yard glove off.” So he took one of the yard gloves off and as I reached this left hand to grasp this snake right behind the head, whoomp! He jumped on me and bit my hand. Blood spurting. He’s hanging there! Neighborhood kids bolt! Tina Airwood runs back home! Ben runs inside, tells on me. There were some bad consequences.
When you make a pet out of sin. Everything’s OK. I’ll just look at it. You begin to doubt the voice of the father. He doesn’t know about what’s poisonous or not. Does God really know? I mean, does my father really know about reptiles? Heck, no. I’ll just play around with it. I’ll just unscrew the lid and look. Then the peer pressure and I want to be the man! I want to be the… whoomp! It’s touch. The temptation of Jesus, so interesting, so deep. I could talk for hours on it but I’m not. I’ve got 14 minutes left. I’m spurring the horse to the barn. But this is the template of temptation.
First temptation: fast food. Fast food will kill you. It’s horrible for you. I love it but it’s not good for you. After the baptism of Jesus, Jesus was baptized. Thirty years he lived in obscurity. He was baptized and the Father said, “This is my Son, in whom I’m well pleased.” The Holy Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove. He was baptized. He went public from obscurity to going public. Then the Bible says something interesting and I’ve wondered this for a long, long time. It says, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit…” What? You mean the Holy Spirit? Yeah, that’s what it says. He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
Why would the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead, lead Jesus into the wilderness? I’ll tell you why. Matthew is about the kingliness of Jesus. Everything is King. He talks about the ancestry of the King, the arrival of the King, read it in Matthew, the adoration of the King, the announcement of the King, the affirmation of the King. It’s all about the King. It’s all about the King.
Well the Holy Spirit is like, “Hey Villain! Bring your best game because Jesus is going out in the wilderness. After fasting 40 days and 40 nights he’s going on the offensive and he’s gonna show the world that he is the sovereign Savior, the King of kings and the Lord of lords!” That’s what’s going on here. So Jesus was not like on his heels. He was not playing defense! He was offense.
Now I’ve been in that place in Israel where the temptation went down. It is a scary place, a dangerous place. The location, dangerous. The circumstances, dangerous. The snakes, dangerous. The devil, dangerous. After fasting 40 days and 40 nights here’s what the devil does. He plays on what has already played out. What did God say at the baptism? “This is my Son, in whom I’m well pleased” and now he comes to Jesus. He’s famished. The tempter came to him and said,
“If you are the Son of God…” God just said it! If you’re the Son of God. A desire, sprinkle it with a little doubt can lead to devastation. Again, the area was called the devastation. “If you’re the Son of God tell these stones (and the stones look like loaves of bread) to turn into bread.” There’s nothing wrong with being hungry. There’s nothing wrong with food, nothing wrong with carbs, nothing wrong with it. But it was against the Father’s will. The Father’s will was for Jesus to fast. The Father’s will was for him to be tempted like we’ll never, ever get tempted. It wasn’t time for him to eat. So the devil wanted Jesus to use his supernatural powers to turn the stones into bread, thereby passing up the will of God. What is sin? It’s a legitimate desire that we have used in an illegitimate way.
For example, think about sex. Sex is God-given. We’re sexual creatures. It’s great. However, God says, “Use sex the way I want you to use it. Don’t go against my will. No, no. Use it within the context and covenant of marriage. Period.” That’s it. I mean, there’s no, “Well, I really love…” No, God says, “Trust me. It’s for marriage.”
Because remember, remember. Whenever God has a gift, Satan has a counterfeit. The gift of sex. You want to see counterfeit? Look around. Look around. Homosexuality, immorality, pornography, this whole transgender vibe, perversion. Perversion. God has a gift, Satan always has a counterfeit. Always, always, always. We need to understand that. So Jesus wasn’t buying it. He was like, uh-uh. No, no, no.
So he answered, “It is written.” Write it down. It is written. And notice that Jesus was able to rely on the themes as a man. He didn’t use his supernatural powers here. This is a man thing. He’s using the Word of God and the Spirit of God. “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” I’ll say it again. Sin is a legitimate desire used in an illegitimate way. Use the desires. God thought desire up, not the devil! Use the desires God’s way. Here’s the phrase that pays. Are you ready for this one? The villain tempts us to do wrong. God tests us to make us strong. Fast food.
Notice this next one. Fast fame. I can be famous. Talk to young people. What do you want to do? I want to be famous. The devil came to Jesus and was like, “Jesus, you got, like what? Two followers on Instagram? You could have billions. More than Justin Bieber!”
Matthew 4, “Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you’re the Son of God…”
Again, throwing that little doubt in. “Did God really mean no sex until you’re married? Did God really say that homosexuality is committing cosmic treason? Did God really say that? I mean, come on.” A little desire, a little doubt… devastation. Devastation. “If you’re the Son of God throw yourself down.” Man, I could have all these followers.
“It is written…” and here’s what he does. He takes the Scripture out of context. Jump down to this line. A text out of context can become a pretext. What does that mean? OK, he quotes. Satan now is like, OK, Jesus, you want to quote Scripture? I’ll quote Scripture. Satan’s a good theologian. Here’s what he says. He goes,
“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.’”
Jesus, jump down and the angels will catch you like Odell Beckham, Jr. catches a pass. Just everything will be cool. Everybody will be like, “Whoa! Man! Jesus is in town!” People will be saying, like, “Oh my God!” and they’ll be right. That’s the only time you can say ‘oh my God’ and be right. Other than that, you’re cursing.
Satan took this out of context. Psalm 91 doesn’t say that. He left out ‘in all thy ways.’ We follow the Lord in all of our ways, we live under the will of God. He does that. He’s all about that doubt. Just casting that doubt, that question. Go back to the Garden. The first Adam was tempted, right, in paradise. The last Adam, Jesus, was tempted in the wilderness. The first Adam was full. He had everything happening for him in the Garden, the last Adam, Jesus, was hungry. The first Adam sinned and he was cast out of the Garden. The last Adam, Jesus, emerged sinlessly, lived victoriously, died heroically, rose bodily, verified it was the death of death that he has given us the power to be victors through temptation as well.
Just think about this. Fast food. Your desire, my desire. Use that desire in an illegitimate way. It’s a legitimate desire, use it the way you want it used. Fast fame. I’m the man! I’m the girl! And it’s crazy what we’ll sacrifice, right? To be famous, to be recognized, to be in the popular crowd, the good, then you’ll go, whoa! Man, that’s something else!
Hey students, it’s not worth it. It’s not worth it. I talked to one of my teammates a couple of weeks ago from college. All-American, played in the NBA. Now, who in the heck is he? If he walked in here no one would know him. If he walked across the Florida State campus no one would know him. Just a guy in the technology industry with a couple of kids who loves taking photographs. That’s all he is. That quick. So don’t sacrifice who you are on the altar of popularity! No! Make God famous. God’s gonna take care of you, don’t worry about the others.
Here’s the third one: Fast fortune. Fast fortune, fast fortune. The devil took Jesus up to the mountain range and said, “Jesus, hey, bow down and worship me.” You know, it’s all about worship for him. He’s trying to do in your life what he couldn’t get done in Heaven. Worship, right? Worship. He said in Matthew 4:8, “The devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in all of their splendor. ‘All this I will give to you…’” Well, that’s a lie. He doesn’t own them all. Yeah, he’s the god of this world (lower case g), the god of this world system, the prince of the power of the air. But Jesus is the King. The only area that he can operate in is the area that God allows him to operate in. So it’s like, really? “All this I’ll give to you if you’ll bow down in worship.”
So think about the temptation. Here’s Jesus going, well I could just bow the knee. I could forego the gore and get to the glory. That was tempting. He knew what was before him because he came to die, to be mistreated, to be abused. But he’s like, no. Jesus said to him, “Away from me, devil, for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” Jesus had God’s word in his heart.
And then I love this. “Then the devil left him and the angels came to him and ministered to him.” Tended to him. Probably gave him some angel food cake. Then he was able to recalibrate and reboot because it was God’s timing.
Do you see? Temptation says NOW! Does your dad really mean the snake was not poisonous? Did he really say don’t touch the snake? Now! I want to open that jar! Now! I want to hold that snake. Now! I want to impress the people. Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Every temptation, ladies and gentlemen, follows this same simple, effective, basic routine. Fast food, fast fame, fast fortune. Fast food, fast fame, fast fortune.
So what do we do? The devil’s all about perversion. What do we do? The last line. The villain’s defeat is through power. The power of the Spirit of God, (that’s what Jesus relied on, that’s who Jesus relied on), and the power of the Word of God. And we’re to surrender ourselves. Because I want to put the cookies on the shelf where everyone can eat them. We need to surrender ourselves to the Holy Spirit of God each and every day. We need to spend time, if it only be 10 minutes, 12 minutes (I’m ADD. I mean 15 minutes… whaaaa!) in Scripture a day. I hide the word in my heart. It is written. And notice it’s an offensive weapon. The sword of the Spirit. It’s huge.
Isn’t it true that when we miss church for a couple of weeks we’re susceptible, we’re vulnerable to temptations we normally aren’t vulnerable to? Isn’t it true that when we miss that intimate time of communion with God, of hiding his Word in our heart, how susceptible we are to temptation? Isn’t it true? That is why we’ve got to be on our game. That is why we’ve got to surrender. That’s why we’ve got to study and that’s why we’ve got to look at this thing from 30,000 feet and realize the Bible is about one villain, the devil, one hero, Jesus, and one message, Jesus saves! The villain has been defeated! The villain is a loser! The villain is on his way to the lake of fire! God is the God of the Universe! Jesus is our sovereign Savior! He is our Master, our King, the Alpha and Omega. He understand when we’re tempted! He understands when we’re tested! We have a sympathetic Savior! Let’s rely on him, church, and let’s emerge stronger and better as we live for Him, in Jesus’ name.
[Ed leads in closing prayer.]