“Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry. And the devil said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.’ But Jesus answered him, saying, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’’ Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, ‘All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.’ And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’’ Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. For it is written:
‘He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you,’
‘In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’’
And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’’ Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time. Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region. And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.”
After Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River to take over the sins of mankind, He was tempted by Satan before He began His ministry of preaching the Truth. Satan tempted Him by asking Him if He was really the Savior of mankind and the Son of God, and whether He really believed in God. Through this account, Jesus Christ is teaching us about the temptations that may come in our way—that is, He is teaching us how to overcome the temptation of Satan by showing us how He Himself was also tempted by Satan, and how He overcame it.
Luke 4:1 and on describe the account in which Jesus was tempted by Satan. Put differently, this passage teaches us about the ways in which we are tempted. It’s written here, “Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry.” As it’s said here, conditions were ripe for Jesus to be tempted by Satan. Led by the Spirit into the wilderness, He had not eaten anything for 40 days and was hungry, and it was in this condition that the Devil appeared and tempted Him. How did Satan tempt Him? Satan tempted Jesus when His body was gripped by its instinctive desire to eat, for He had fasted for 40 days.
What Are the Temptations That We Christians May Face?
The temptations that we may face come in the form of shortages. For instance, those who are too poor think that everything will be ok if they have more money. Those who are rich, on the other hand, wish they were famous. Those who lack everything simply wish they could solve their fundamental problem of clothing, food, and housing. Like this, we are tempted when we think we lack something. But most of the problems of our lives are caused by our desire of the flesh.
In times like these Satan appears and says, “I’ll solve this problem of yours, so long as you do my bidding. If you obey me, I’ll take care of your problem.” Today’s Scripture passage shows how the Devil will tempt us like this. The problem, however, is that most people fall into such temptations of Satan. Most people are tested by Satan when the conditions are ideal for them to fall into his temptation, and it is in such a time that they are most vulnerable. However, it is not God’s will for any Christian to depart from Him defeated by Satan’s attack.
After Jesus Christ fasted for 40 days, He was tempted by Satan. The Devil said to Him, “If you are really the Son of God, lift up this stone, turn it into bread and eat it. Are you not the Creator who made the heavens and the earth?” Jesus Christ the Son of God the Father is the Creator who made the universe. So the Devil, knowing this, tempted Jesus by saying, “If you are the Son of God, pick up this stone, turn it into bread and eat it. Try it. Can’t You do this? You’ve created something out of nothing, and so surely this is something You can do very easily. It’s more than possible. There is no reason why You can’t do this. Why do You go hungry and endure the suffering that mere creatures go through when You are the Creator? All You have to do is just pick up the stone, make it into bread, and then eat it. It’s as simple as that.”
Such is the temptation that every righteous person faces. The temptations that we Christians face are all such temptations. Students can find out whether they’ve studied hard or not when they are tested in school. Likewise, Satan tests you on such crucial issues as whether you revere the righteousness of God, believe in Him and follow Him, if you have received the remission of sins by believing in the Word of the water and the Spirit and follow it, are living by faith, and can follow the Lord by faith until the very end. If we were facing the same temptation that Jesus was facing, we would have in fact fallen into it. If you and I had such supernatural power to transform a stone into bread, then we probably wouldn’t even be doing God’s work. Forsaking the righteous work, we would have just enjoyed our power, turning stones into diamonds and bread everywhere. And having no regard for God at all, we would have stood against His righteousness, thinking that no one was greater than us.
So we need to ponder on this issue and find out how we should solve such problems, what the temptations that you and I will face are, and how Satan is temping us right now. And even if we stumble faced with such temptations, with this knowledge we must stand up again firmly by faith. Just as the Bible says even as our outer selves are weak, our inner selves are renewed everyday, we must stand firmly on our faith. We must win our spiritual battle by placing our faith in the Lord. But the Devil hones on such weaknesses of ours and makes them his points of attack.
As Jesus had fasted for 40 days, the Devil tempted Him by saying, “If You are really the Son of God, turn these stones into bread and eat them.” Even now, Satan is looking for every opportunity to tempt us through our weaknesses. He is doing this to you and me alike. So those who fall into this temptation try to find some other means to solve their problems rather than relying on God, thinking, “If I had the power to turn this stone into bread when I was hungry, I would have done so. Why do I have to starve like this and suffer like this? I can take care of my own problems. Although I don’t have the power to any stones into bread, I still have my own means to tackle my own problems.” Satan tries to make us deviate from our faith in God and rely on our own human means—for instance, by finding a job that pays a higher salary or using our own skills. In other words, the Devil tempts us to try to solve our problems with our own worldly means. But Satan doesn’t just try to make us solve our problems on our own, but in doing so he tries to make us stumble and perish forever.
However, my fellow believers, we must realize that even though we are all weak and we all have indispensable needs, we must have the faith to believe that it is God who gives us all blessings. You can realize this if you look at your predecessors of faith. As such, we must solve our problems by faith before God. What is more important: Trying to solve our present problems by any means possible, or believing in the righteousness of God and following it by faith despite our difficult circumstances? We have to decide which one is more important, even if our problems are not solved right away. Will we follow the righteousness of God? Or will we follow someone else promising to address our urgent problems? We must make the right decision on this crossroads. From time to time all of us find ourselves at such a juncture.
What did Jesus say when He faced this kind of temptation? He said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” This is what Jesus said. And if this is what Jesus said, so should we also follow His example. We must think right. No matter how in our flesh we all need money, companionship, fame, or anything else that’s absolutely indispensable, Jesus said that man should not live by bread alone.
Indeed, Christians must have faith in God’s Word of righteousness, they must continue to listen to this Word of God, and they must carry out His righteous work. This means that in addition to our fleshly needs, we also have the need to believe in and follow Jesus Christ in our lives. Although Satan spoke of only one thing, the Lord said that both these two things are indispensable. That man shall not live by bread alone means that although everyone has to eat, if one is a Christian, he must first live by his faith in the Word of the Lord. Although Jesus answered Satan with a simple and terse statement, it is the real solution. That’s why Satan threw up both his hands.
All of us actually come across such issues many times in our lives. You and I both find ourselves grappling with these issues. Although we all need money and other worldly things, and we all are tempted by these things, the real question is whether or not we really cherish God, whether we need God more than these things, whether we can live without Him—in short, whether or not we can do without God if we just solve the problems that are confronting us now. We are facing such a dilemma, and we are facing such a temptation right now. Jesus was not alone to face such a temptation. You and I are also facing this kind of temptation today. That’s why those whose root of faith is not sturdy enough all end up perishing. Those who fail to make the right choice will all perish.
Let me illustrate this with a story. There once was a young Catholic priest who was driving a carriage to his new post with two nuns sitting on both his sides. A young and beautiful nun was sitting on his left side while an aged and fat nun was sitting on his right side. The road to his new post was so rocky that the carriage was rolling from side to side. When the carriage tilted to his left side, he prayed in his mind, “Lord, let Your will be done.” But when the carriage tilted to his right side, the young priest prayed, “Lord, lead me not into temptation.” This story illustrates how some Christians rationalize their own thoughts and follow their circumstances as though they have no choice, all the while praying to the Lord for His will to be done.
Of course, when we look at today’s Scripture passage, we may think that Jesus could solve any and all problems perfectly and had no weakness at all since He is God Himself, and that it was only a matter of course for Him to overcome and defeat all temptations. However, the Lord had His temptation recorded here in the Scripture in order to speak to you and me. So this account here is for our own benefit. The temptation that Jesus faced is your temptation and mine. The problems that Satan attacked are, in short, our problems.
You may say that you are facing no such problems, but that is far from the truth. There is no one who doesn’t face these kinds of temptations. No one in this world is free from temptation. Yet many people think that they don’t struggle with such issues. Even though in reality they are actually struggling even more, they think they are somehow special.
My fellow believers, why do we Christians stumble? It’s because when Christians need something for their flesh, some of them believe that they can have it if they listen to Satan and follow his advice. They do so because they think that they can have what they need if they just make a small compromise. So they give into temptation as though they can’t help it.
But what happens then? Can they really attain what they want? Does Satan ever deliver on his promise? Even though the people of the world promise you to solve your problems, what do they demand in return? Saying that they would solve all your problems and meet all your needs if only you listen to them and do their bidding, they demand one compromise from you—to give up your faith in God and your membership in God’s Church.
My fellow believers, you shouldn’t think that you are doing some great favor by coming to God’s Church and listening to the Word of God and serving Him. It’s all done for yourself. It’s for your own sake that you are leading your life of faith. Yet Satan promises you to answer all your carnal desires if you just stop believing in God and following Him, but is this what really happens? No, of course not! From then on you just end up miserable. Satan uses the things of the flesh as his bait to tempt people, and once they are hooked, he drags them everywhere. He drags them everywhere promising to give them all kinds of attractive things if they do his biding. As a result, they spend their entire lifetime enslaved by the Devil, trying to put some food in their mouths and clinging to their most basic needs, and yet they fail to attain even these wishes only to end up killing themselves or dying of illnesses.
This is the scheme of Satan. When we look at how Satan tempted Jesus, we can see that it’s the people of faith whom the Devil tempts, not those who don’t believe in Jesus. However, those who have set their hearts on God by faith have made up their minds, and they know that they can’t give up on God for anything else regardless of their conditions, whether they are insufficient, meritorious, or gifted. So, when they are tempted, they may be shaken a bit, but they all return to their rightful place. They can then resume their lives of faith and stand up by faith, but those who have not set their hearts on God cannot do this. The problem, however, is that the believers’ hearts are still not refined enough and their understanding and faith are still limited, even though they do believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, know this gospel, realize that they have no sin, and are grateful to God for this. In other words, they have not drawn a clear line in their hearts when it comes to their inner weaknesses and vulnerabilities that are liable to be tempted by Satan.
So countless people have stumbled even while professing to believe in the gospel, and there are many more who will stumble in the future. Such people are prevalent even among pastors, evangelists, and workers. We can discern their hearts when we see them in front of God. You may then wonder how come I don’t try to admonish them when there are so many of them. But even if I speak to them in my sermons, those who will leave—that is, those who have not made up their minds and are instead looking at their own circumstances—will leave in the end. And it is only proper that such people should indeed leave God’s Church.
If we really believe in God and rely on Him, and if we really follow Him by trusting in Him completely like Abraham, then even though we may be shaken for a while when facing such temptations, we will still stand up unwaveringly by faith, and we shine even more radiantly. However, for those who are otherwise, those who have not made up their minds, all that’s required is just time before their true color is eventually revealed, and in time they end up leaving the Church to follow their own desires. This is because they have not dealt with the fundamental issues that must be addressed before God and instead just glossed over them. The point here is not whether we are now facing temptation or not, but where our hearts are set now.
Jesus is God Himself who created the universe. So knowing this, Satan told Him to turn a stone into bread and eat it. Jesus is the Creator of this universe and everything in it. He is the One who created the sun in the sky and all its stars. So if the Lord just commanded any stone to become bread, it would have turned into bread. For instance, there was a time when Jesus fed a great multitude by blessing a single lunchbox that just had two fish and five loaves of barley bread. There was such abundant food that over 5,000 men were fed and there still were 12 baskets of food left over.
Jesus is such a powerful God. He is God Himself who can turn a stone into bread and create anything out of nothing. When He commanded to let there be a great light, a lesser light, and stars in the sky, they all came into existence. Scientists say that even the stars have a lifespan, coming into existence and disappearing, and it is God who does this. When we call His name “Jesus,” we are calling Him our Savior, and when we call Him “Christ,” we are calling Him our God, the King of kings and the Creator who made the universe.
You are now facing many temptations in your life of faith. I, too, am facing them often. However, the people of faith who have made up their minds are refined enough to be able to stand firmly, while those who still have not made up their minds are eventually disqualified halfway and quit following God’s Church, as they themselves give up on their lives of faith rather than relying on the Lord. Why? It’s because even though they think they believe in the Word of God, they compromise with the Devil thinking that it’s okay to yield on just one issue, but they find out that this is not the end of his demands. So they get ashamed of themselves, and like Judas, they end up hanging themselves to perish. Faith in the righteousness of God is absolutely indispensable.
The Lord could overcome all such temptations because He is God Himself, but you and I need to have faith. Faith in Jesus Christ is what saves you. Therefore, your ability to come up with your own clever solutions is not what’s important. Man is lamentably stupid. In other words, human beings have no clue what’s really hidden in Satan’s words. That’s why the Bible says that people are like the beasts that perish. And that’s why everyone must be born again by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, and thereby receive everlasting life.
The key point here is that all of us are facing such temptations. Are you not also facing such temptations? Of course you are. What about our brothers? Are they not tempted? Everyone is facing such temptations. Take our students, for example. If they just study hard in school, they will be approved and commended by their parents and everyone else. However, they are not just living as students, but they are also living as God’s people and His followers, and therefore their first priority must be God. So sometimes they are tempted. As they are tempted by the Devils promises, some of them fall into such temptations and leave the Church. In short, you and I are all tempted.
For both you and me, the most central issue is whether or not we really believe that our Lord is our Savior. Is the Lord Jesus really your Savior and mine? And He is not only our Savior, but also our Shepherd? Do we really have the unwavering faith to believe that the Lord is really holding us steadfast, guiding us, and taking care of us? Those who have this faith can overcome their temptations and stand tall. Yet despite this, if you still continue to face temptations, it’s because you still have not made up your mind completely.
You may say that you’ve faced enough temptations and so you won’t be tempted anymore, but there is no one like this. Everyone is tempted. So whenever you face temptations, you must surrender yourself to the Lord. And you must admit your true self to God and stand up again by faith. There is no other way. Just saying with words that you are following the Lord faithfully now and have fully united with Him is not enough. Because Satan tempts our hearts all the time, we cannot stand before the Lord with our own acts. That’s why we must look into our hearts often and examine ourselves to see, as often as we can, whether we are really standing by faith, whether we are really running by faith, and whether we have really become people of faith. Otherwise we will not only stumble but also leave the Church forever, and that is why we must examine ourselves like this. Isn’t this true, my fellow believers?
Let’s turn to Luke 4:5-7 here: “Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, ‘All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.’”
Here Satan is saying something completely preposterous. After showing the whole world to Jesus, Satan promised that he would give it all to Him if He just bowed before him and surrendered Himself to Satan. This is Satan’s method. Even now, this method hasn’t changed. It’s still the same. Satan tempts the people of faith by promising something in return for doing his bidding. Now as then, the Devil tempts people with the same method, by promising to give them all that they desire if they just surrender to him.
The Devil speaks to those who have not been born again also. He says to everyone, “If you surrender to me and worship me, I will give you everything. I will give you happiness, riches, fame, anything you want. I will satisfy all your fleshly desires.” Some people then fall into this temptation and surrender to Satan, saying to him, “Though I’ve worshiped God until now, I will now serve you as my god.” But the Lord said in verse 8, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” The Lord told us to serve only God and worship Him alone.
How powerful is Satan? He shows us everything all at once and promises to give it all to us if we just surrender to him. What an amazing and powerful enticement is this? Having piled up tons of diamonds, the Devil says to us, “I’ll give them all to you if you just surrender to me. If you just bow before me and actually submit to me, I will give them all to you.” Diamonds are so precious that some people even fight to death over them. If you have a large diamond, it’s more than enough for you to live off for the rest of your life. What will you then do, if the Devil piles up a heap of diamonds up to the pulpit here and promises to give them all to you if you just bow before him and surrender to him? Will you still say to him that you will serve God and worship Him alone? The people of faith will never surrender to Satan even if he promises to give not just this many diamonds but enough diamonds to fill the whole planet. Why? Because they know God and they believe in Him.
They say to the Devil, “To be honest, I need those diamonds. But I can’t forsake God to have them. Besides, even though you say that you will give them to me, you won’t actually deliver on your promise.” My fellow believers, when one capitulates before Satan, the Devil sings a decidedly different tune right away, saying, “When did I promise that? Is something wrong with your ears? Have you gone mad?” The person is then dumbfounded. So he says, “I did what you told me to do because you promised to give them to me.” To his consternation, the Devil then says to him, “Well, that was just a figure of speech.”
This is who Satan really is. That’s what he actually does. We need to ponder on the temptation that Jesus faced and the temptation that Christians are facing, and we need to apply them to us and ruminate on them deeply. Though we can’t consider them fully at this moment, we ought to think about them seriously in our lives. We need to see how our predecessors of faith have lived by faith until now and learn from them. All their temptations are described in today’s Scripture passage. Your predecessors of faith all went through such temptations. I, too, was tempted by the Devil like this, saying to me, “If you just stop serving the gospel of the water and the Spirit, I will send you abroad to study, put you in a high position in our denomination, and give you all this wealth.” Satan tempts us like this always.
But if you give into his temptation, will he really deliver on his promise? Quite the contrary, you will end up impoverished if you listen to the Devil’s words. You will not be able to receive any spiritual blessings. Even though those who have betrayed the righteousness of God and are following the Devil may seem to prosper right now, soon, all their blessings will disappear and only suffering will remain.
My fellow believers, every answer is found in the Word of God. Satan also took Jesus to the top of the Temple and told Him to jump. Jesus then said to him, “You shall not tempt the LORD your God.” After this, the Devil departed from Him until a more opportune time. Why does Satan tempt us even as he knows all about how we must live as those who have received the remission of sins by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit? Why does the Devil tempt us when he knows what will happen if we receive the remission of sins and live with the Lord following the righteousness of God, and he knows very well that if we instead stand against the will of the Lord and reject it, we will drift away from God’s Church and eventually turn into God’s enemies? It is because Satan himself is God’s enemy. God is the One who gives the blessings of Heaven to every faithful, while Satan only brings curses. Do you then still really intend to go through Satan’s temptation to need to know whether it turns out as it is written in the Bible or not?
The Lord said, “You shall not tempt the LORD your God.” And it’s written here that the Devil departed from Him until a more opportune time. Just because a temptation has ended, it doesn’t mean that we are through with it. It will come again at a more opportune time. We will be tempted over the same issue. Whenever we face temptation, we must believe that the Word spoken by the Lord is the Truth. We must ruminate on the following Word and live by faith: “You shall not tempt God; you shall worship God and serve Him alone; and you shall not live by bread alone.” Those who continue to believe in God and follow Him by such refined and strengthened faith will put on the power of the Holy Spirit and be able to carry out God’s work energetically.
However, those who fail to do so will drift away from God and perish. Like the Ethiopian eunuch, they will disappear suddenly. I am not begging you not to disappear from God’s Church or telling you that I hate those who have left the Church. For those who want to leave God’s Church, I’d rather say, “So you are leaving without a word. Good-bye then. You are leaving because you are too weak, but since you’ve chosen your path even as you are fully aware of its end, you are responsible for everything. I’ve said all that should to be said to you.”
At issue here is not those who have already left God’s Church, but those who are here right now. It is about you and me. What will you do when such temptations come your way? Many people have faced spiritual temptations, and many of them have stumbled over them and gone on their own way. Such temptations will continue to haunt you and me, and so what will we do?
My fellow believers, we must stand before the Lord by placing our faith in the righteousness of God. This is not about someone else. It is about you and me. It’s not something that you can agree with just for now while you are listening to my sermon and then forget all about it later. It’s not something that you can just gloss over after hearing it. You must think about it seriously before God, and you must continue to make the right choice and make the decision in your mind.
Some people may then wonder if they have to keep drawing the line of faith time after time when they’ve already gone through such temptations before, but if this is what the Lord is demanding from us again, then we must draw the line again and again. Why? The Lord is saying this to us because there are elements in your heart and mind that are liable to be tempted continuously.
My fellow believers, the Word of God is the Truth, not something that you can just hear once and let it slide by. Even though we are insufficient, we will not perish but live, walking with the Lord by believing in the righteousness of God, doing the work that pleases the Lord, and then we will go to meet Him face to face. All the people of faith will live by faith. But those who betray the Lord halfway will stumble over Satan’s temptation, leave the Church, turn into God’s enemies, and ultimately be destroyed.
I hope and pray that the God who has become our righteousness will keep watch over us. Halleluiah!