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The Temptation of the Lord Jesus (4)

W Gustafson, Hatboro, Pennsylvania

It gives us an example to follow in meeting the temptations of the Devil

None of us is impeccable as the Lord Jesus was but, even so, there are encouragements for us to overcome as He did. He did not overcome Satan by a release of divine power, but rather as a dependent man. He fought temptation in the field of our humanity, sin apart, and triumphed with weapons available to every child of God. He overcame by three things: the will of God, the Word of God, and the fear of God.

We will not be immune from temptation even if we are filled with the Spirit, for He was tempted immediately after Luke 4.1. But being characteristically full of the Spirit (which is the same as being characteristically controlled by the Spirit) will help us in each of the three ways by which He overcame.

1 Thessalonians 5.18-19 says, "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit". Wilbur M Smith in his day considered that Matthew Henry penned the greatest devotional commentary ever written. One morning the Lord made 1 Thessalonians 5.18 precious to brother Henry. Guess what happened to him that day!! He was held up and robbed. He thought about his text and wondered how he could thank God in this. He thanked God that he had never been held up before. He thanked God that the thief did not hurt him, and that he did not have much money to give him. And he thanked God that, by the grace of God, he was not doing the robbing!

In Ephesians 6.17 we read of "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God". Since the Greek expression for "word" here is not the usual one, it follows that the "sword of the Spirit" is not the Bible, but what God has used to speak to me from His Scriptures should become in my mouth the "sword of the Spirit". The Spirit of God helped the Lord Jesus in the fear of God (Is 11.1-5).

The Will of God. In all three temptations, especially in the first one, Satan tried to get Christ out of the will of God. The devil questioned the goodness of God even as he did with Eve. Eve succumbed in a garden where she could eat of every tree but one. Christ overcame in a wilderness after being without food for forty days. The Lord's answer showed that His governing motive was to do the will of God. Each of the Lord's three answers is from the book of Deuteronomy, the fifth of the five books of Moses. Like David's one stone that felled the giant of Gath, the book of Deuteronomy is the book of obedience. It records Israel's failures under God's testing.

It has helped some Christians, when the will of God seemed hard, to think about what the will of the God meant to the Lord Jesus. It has made many a trial sweet, and increased appreciation for the devotion of Christ to the will of God (Jn 4.34; 10:17,18; 14.30,31). The Lord only spoke of His love for the Father once (Jn 14.31) but His whole life was a wonderful demonstration of His love for His Father.

It is important whenever we are praying for something personal to submit our will to God's will and pray, "Not my will, but thine, be done". The following verses encourage us to submit our will to God's. "As for God, his way is perfect (Ps 18.30); later in the same Psalm (v.32) we read, "It is God that…maketh my way perfect". "Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart" (Ps 37.4). "The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me" (Ps 138.8). He knows the very best for each of us. "The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him" (Lam 3.24-25). I could not desire anything better for every child of God than to "prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Rom 12.2). There are three conditions (Rom 12.1): a yielded body, a separated life, and a transformed mind.

At a Cleveland, USA, conference the late William Warke's only daughter, Betty Imanson, told me about her Lutheran neighbour lady who she believes is truly born-again. That lady's 12-year-old niece was taken to the hospital critically ill. The lady did not have the privilege of being in an assembly where the priesthood of all believers is allowed to function, as it should. She was used to saying the Lord's model prayer, which she knew by heart. She knew that one phrase in these verses was, "Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven". But she thought to herself, "If I pray that it is like telling God that I don't care what happens to my niece, and I do care". In her dilemma she thought of Betty so she ran over there and told her about her dilemma. Betty wisely counselled her to get back on her knees and ask God, if it were His will, that her niece would get better. She did so and that was the turning point in her niece's recovery. Another girl in the same hospital with the same problem died, but the neighbour's niece lived. Sometimes God waits for us to be submissive to His will before He undertakes for us.

The Word of God. The Lord Jesus did not enter into a dialogue with the devil. He simply quoted the Word of God. That was enough for Him and it should be enough for us. How important it is for us to have the Word of God stored in our hearts and minds so that the Lord can bring it to our remembrance when we need it!

Eve failed regarding the Word of God. She first listened to Satan questioning God's Word. Then she added to the Word of God by saying, "neither shall ye touch it". There is no record that God ever told them that they could not touch it. Last of all, she fell in with the Devil's complete denial of the Word of God. God had said, "Thou shalt surely die". Satan directly contradicted that by saying, "Ye shall not surely die" (Gen 3.3-4).

David too failed regarding the Word of God in the matter of Uriah the Hittite. The first words of rebuke from God through Nathan in 2 Samuel 12.7ff were, "Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight?". Even though David had esteemed God's Word very highly most of his life, probably for weeks before his terrible fall God's Word did not have the place in his heart that it had had for most of his life.

We all need God's Word to stand against the wiles of the devil (Ps 17.4; 37.31; 119.11; Eph 6.17; and 1 Jn 2.14). John Bunyan is probably the first one to put these words in the front of his Bible: "This book will keep me from sin or sin will keep me from this book". Both expressions are true.

The best illustration of the Word of God keeping one from sin is one I heard from the late brother Clay Fite. He was down in the Philadelphia subway when he realized that the smallest paper money that he had was a $10 bill, he had no change and the fare was something like 10 cents. $10 would be worth about $50 now. But it was too late so he handed the woman the $10 bill and she was furious. She locked the turnstile so no one could get through and there were hundreds of people behind him trying to get home from work. She had an eloquent tongue and she cut Mr Fite to pieces for being so stupid as to as to come down into the subway at rush hour with nothing less than a $10 bill. The longer she spoke the smaller Mr Fite felt. When she had thoroughly humiliated him she gave him the change and let him go through. Mr Fite was really hurt! He began to think of what he could tell her when he got back. But, in the meantime a verse of Scripture came to his mind: "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord" (Rom 12.18). So he never told her off and I doubt that she ever knew (at least in this life) how thankful she should be that the Word of God kept him from remonstrating. I am sure he could have done a pretty good job of humiliating her when she had done such a thorough job of humiliating him!

To be continued.


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