If you find this sermon meaningful, please consider supporting this ministry by sending an offering to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.
And I’ll tell you, that’s what we’re going to focus on this morning, and I’m talking about temptations. You see, that’s the second topic in our series, Victory: A New Life Awakens. Last week we spent a little time looking at sin, and in particular, what it is and how Jesus defeated it and how we can claim his victory ourselves.
And this morning, we’re going to do the same sort of thing with temptations. First, we’re going to define it, you know, establish what it is. And then second, we’re going to consider how Jesus overcame the temptations he faced. And third, we’ll look at why his victory might be important to us. Now that’s the plan.
And since these temptations are actually tests, well, speaking for myself, I think my GPA is pretty low. You see, if I’m really honest with myself, I pretty much have to recognize that, an awful lot of the time, I fail the tests, you know, I fall short. And what’s really frustrating is that even when I can see it happening, I still mess it up. In other words, I still succumb to what tempts me; therefore, I still flunk the test. For example, something happens. Some kind of temptation comes up. In other words, I’m looking at something that’s really appealing and enticing but that might also test my character or my relationships or my faith. Of course, often these tests are kind of sneaky, because I’m not always sure I’m actually taking one until it’s already finished and turned in and graded. And so, often, I just do what comes naturally, and I end up with the same grade a friend of mine got in a two-semester United States History class in college, one that he seldom attended because, as we all know, an 11:00 class is just too early. We were studying for the second semester final exam, and I remember, when he opened his text book, it cracked. I’ll never forget the sound. When it comes to a lot of the temptations, a lot of the tests I face, man, I’m not prepared. But you know, even when I am, you know, even when I know it’s coming and think that I have all the answers, some how I still fall short. I still give in. And because of that, I still wind up hoping that the test won’t count against me. As a matter of fact, I can understand how the Apostle Paul felt when he wrote, “The Law has shown me that something in me keeps me from doing what I know is right. With my whole heart I agree with the Law of God. But in every part of me I discover something fighting against my mind, and it makes me a prisoner of sin that controls everything I do. What a miserable person I am. Who will rescue me from this body that is doomed to die?” [Romans 7:21-24, CEV] You see, according to the New Testament, being tempted and being tested, man, they’re actually the same thing. You see, that’s what temptations are all about. And I’ll tell you, since it is, I think we should all be praying that God grades on a curve.
But Paul wrote something else that should give us hope. He wrote, “Even if you think you can stand up to temptation, be careful not to fall. You are tempted in the same way that everyone else is tempted. But God can be trusted not to let you be tempted too much, and he will show you how to escape from your temptations.” [1 Corinthians 10:12-13, CEV] You see, God knows that left to ourselves, we’ll never be able to resist temptations. We’ll never be able to pass the test. And so, when he entered our time and space as Jesus Christ, he did something amazing of us, something he didn’t have to do, but he did anyway. Man, he left us an example, a study guide that can show us how to pass the tests we face. In other words, Jesus Christ shows us how to be victorious over temptations, because that’s exactly what he did. You see, he passed the tests he faced and so can we. And I’ll tell you, he resisted the enticements of the very best tempter of all.
For forty days Jesus was tested by the devil, and during that time he went without eating. When it was all over, he was hungry. The devil said to Jesus, “If you are God’s Son, tell this stone to turn into bread.” Jesus answered, “The Scriptures say, ‘No one can live only on food.’” Then the devil led Jesus up to a high place and quickly showed him all the nations on earth. The devil said, “I will give all this power and glory to you. It has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. Just worship me, and you can have it all.” Jesus answered, “The Scriptures say: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him!’” Finally, the devil took Jesus to Jerusalem and had him stand on top of the temple. The devil said, “If you are God’s Son, jump off. The Scriptures say: ‘God will tell his angels to take care of you. They will catch you in their arms, and you will not hurt your feet on the stones.’” Jesus answered, “The Scriptures also say, ‘Don’t try to test the Lord your God!’” After the devil had finished testing Jesus in every way possible, he left him for a while. [Luke 4:1-13, CEV]Now that’s how Jesus ended up winning a victory over temptations.
And I’ll tell you why that’s important or at least should be important to us right here and now. You see, we can use the example offered by Christ to resist the temptations that we face. And to do that, well, in my opinion, it all comes down to two very clear and simple truths that we can find right here in this story.
Now, do you remember how we started this sermon by talking about how nice and warm it was yesterday and how I was really tempted to cross over to spring and burn the bridge behind me. Well, now I see that not only is the temperature going back down into the 30s, we may be looking at some snow Monday night. May God help us all.
But as it relates to all the other temptations we face, well, I think we have a pretty good idea what they are, they’re like these tests that we’re constantly taking and often failing. But we also know how Jesus won his victory over temptation, and he did it by staring down the tempter himself. And you know, that’s why it should be important for us, because when we claim his example, we not only have a pretty good idea about why temptations are so appealing but we also can understand why the one whom we follow was so successful in his resistance. And I’ll tell you something even better than that, brothers and sisters, we can be successful too.