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Entries in Testing (1)

Tuesday
Dec062016

Do not Test the Lord Your God

Matthew 4:5-7.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on December 04, 2016.

Today we continue our study of the temptation of Christ that we see in Matthew 4, and look at the second one presented to our Lord.  If the first temptation was to satisfy and sustain yourself with material things, then the second temptation is to promote yourself and make things happen by your own wisdom.  Another way to categorize these three temptation is to use the phrases that are given in 1 John 2:16, “For all that is in the world- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life- is not of the Father, but is of the world.”  The first temptation appealed to the lust of the flesh (make bread for your stomach).  This second one seems to be more about the pride of life.

All of us deal with issues of significance and often desire situations in which we are exalted above our fellow man.  Satan loves to play off of these desires and mislead us into a path of destruction.  For some this path leads them towards religion, but twists it with human pride.  For others the path may lead them away from religion out of a wounded pride.  Either way he wins because there is no other solution for the hearts of mankind than the Creator Himself.  So the first are walled off to Him by the self-delusion that they are acceptable, and the second wall themselves off to Him out of their pain.  May we all learn to lay our pride at the foot of the cross of Jesus and thereby remove from Satan’s arsenal a very powerful, spiritual lever that he loves to employ against us.

 We are tempted by pride

It is often said that Satan fell through pride in his own wisdom and beauty.  Thus it would stand to reason that he would seek to enamor us with his own prideful reasoning.  The Bible does not make it completely clear whether Satan knows he was wrong and is operating out of sheer spite, or whether he still thinks there is a play here where he actually “proves his case” and wins.  Regardless we must expect to be tempted in this area of pride.

We see in verse 5 that the devil takes Jesus up to the highest point of the temple.  It is not really important the mode of this travel, though many can speculate.  The setting is a place that no one may see immediately (while he is being tempted).  But if he listens to the devil there will be a very public spectacle.  How could jumping from of a height that was as much as several hundred feet be tempting?

It starts with being reminded of his relationship with the Father.  The first temptation tries to paint the Father as not taking care of Jesus.  “God doesn’t care about you as much as you think.  Make your own bread.”  However, this temptation does the opposite.  It plays on the pride of such a close relationship with the Father.  “Since you are the Son of God make a public show of God’s love for you.  There is no way He would let you die.”  Of course the devil makes no mention or shows no regard for what the Father’s plan might be.  Jesus loves the Father and has been in a relationship of unity with Him since the beginning.  So He is not only concerned with what the Father wants, but already knows that what Satan suggests is not the plan. 

So what does Satan hope to accomplish?  It is tough to say.  Perhaps he hopes to try and thwart any spiritual help that would come with his own angels, so that Jesus would die.  Clearly he seeks to kill Jesus because of the cross later.  Let’s get one thing clear.  Satan is not interested in promoting Jesus and he could care less about promoting you.  In the end his only aim is to destroy your life.  If he can do that by inflating your pride in your relationship with God, then he will.

Notice that this time Satan backs up his temptation by quoting Scripture.  His first temptation was pushed aside by Jesus reminding him of Scripture.  So he tries to reverse this tactic back on Jesus by quoting some Scripture himself.  One thing is clear in the Bible; the devil always twists the meaning of God’s Word.  He is only capable of abusing Scripture for his own ends, which are contrary to God’s.  An illustration of this can be seen in politics.  Every word of an opponent is generally twisted out of context and used against them by the other side.  Finding a truly, objective treatment of the person is rare.  As Christians we must flee this kind of activity in our own life.  2 Timothy 2:15 says that we must “rightly divide [handle] the word of truth.”  We can see that the devil does not do such a thing but twists the meaning of Psalm 91 by skipping phrases and leaving out the context.  So let’s look at this section of Psalm 91.

Satan quotes from verse 11, skips the second part of it, quotes verse 12, and leaves off verse 13.  It is always important to pay attention to what is left out.  Notice that God’s angels would be commanded to watch over the righteous “to keep you in all your ways.”  The way of a person is a huge theme in the Bible.  In fact the righteous are known by their determination to walk in the “way of the Lord.”  Thus the passage is about a person who is in a trusting relationship with God and living as God has taught us.  When God’s ways are our ways then the devil will find little within us that he can manipulate.  Now verse 12 points out that God’s protection is upon the righteous.  But verse 13 shows why.  We are protected in order to tread upon the lion and the cobra.  Now this is not a passage about handling literal lions and cobras, although God is more than capable of delivering the righteous from such.  There is never a case of people “treading” on lions and cobras in the Bible so that should be your first clue that something deeper is going on here.  The lion and cobra are metaphors for our spiritual enemy, the devil.   1 Peter 5:8 says, “Your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.”  God doesn’t necessarily protect us from ever falling down literally.  But He does offer constant protection so that we may never fall to the schemes of the devil and be devoured by Him.  Similarly, in Revelation 12:9 it says, “So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world.”  The “serpent of old” is an allusion to Genesis 3 and the Fall of Adam and Eve.  Adam and Eve fell before the Serpent (Satan) because they were tricked into distrusting God.  Clearly Satan doesn’t want to quote this part of the passage and highlight that angelic protection is so that we can tread on the devil, not cooperate with his plans.

However, Jesus does not go into Psalm 91 and point these things out to Satan because there is an even greater context to these verses.  All Scripture is context to any one verse.  A very powerful thing about Scripture is that its proper understanding will not contradict any other part.  If it seems to then you know there is an error in your understanding.  So, dig deeper.  Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:16.  Yes, God will protect you along your way.  But we also, must not test Him in this.  Now, God is gracious and many of us have been in times of weak faith and have asked God to give us a sign of his love.  If we do so without the threat of walking away from Him then He sometimes graciously responds.  But, if you lay down something as a test that God must pass or you are walking away, then beware.  Such actions are not born out of a loving relationship with God, but out of selfish love for yourself.  Beware of those who trumpet on Scripture to the detriment of the rest of Scripture.  This is classic cult leader stuff.

We must not put God to the test

So let’s develop that last point that Jesus makes to the devil.  The Holy Spirit had not led Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple; the devil had.  In our own lives it is not always so clear who is leading us.  Thus we must be careful to recognize anything that smacks of trying to force God’s hand, or trying to speed up things.  This is manipulation of the relationship that God wants with us.  Now, a parent loves a child, but would be foolish to allow the child to fall into the habit of trying to manipulate them.  Of course, kids are learning how to love.  They don’t understand such deeper concepts.  It takes a parent who loves them too much to let them get away with it, a parent who disciplines them in such times, in order to help a child grow in love.  Just as your flesh desires material things, so it desires the pride of life: public success, and the accolades of those around us.  Satan plays off of these things.  Yet, Jesus did not operate in such a way as to lift himself up, or try to out think the plan of God.  In fact, Jesus often did the opposite of what self-promoters would do.  Jesus pointed us to the Father and for such a blessing he was crucified.  That was to be his public moment of demonstrating the love of the Father.

But it goes deeper than just crass manipulation.  We cannot force God to demonstrate His love as we dictate.  When a person lays down an ultimatum to God, “either you do this or I walk,” we step out onto shaky ground.  God in His grace does work with our weakness.  Gideon was given a sign by God.  Yet, we must always have as our foundation, “Nevertheless, Thy will be done.”  In fact, God gave the greatest demonstration of love possible when He gave His One and Only Son to become a man and do for us what we could not do for ourselves.  All this is so that whosoever would believe on Jesus would have everlasting life instead of perishing.  It is easy for us to do this to one another.  We can be angry and made that someone didn’t show their love in a particular way.  We can even do the politician thing and twist everything that they do or say into “not love.”  But when we act this way we actually destroy the very love that is being given to us.  Too many people say, “If God would only do such and such, then I would know that He exists and that He cares about me.”  The problem is that you are trying to control God and refusing to deal with the countless ways that He has demonstrated His love for you.  So we can push aside 1,000 ways of love and complain that we did not receive a particular 1.  This is folly and not the path of love.  Love is a discovery of the uniqueness of another and how we can uniquely love them back.  How can we demand more than that?  Love doesn’t dictate how another person loves.  Rather, it receives it freely and with Joy.

Do not Test audio