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Face to Face with the Devil
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Text: Luke 4:1-13

Main Idea: When we come face-to-face with the devil, our strength is to be found in Scripture - in being formed in the story.

I. Introduction
  A. Today we enter the season of Lent – that long, slow journey to the cross.
  B. These seasons of the Christian Year are so helpful in not only telling the story and understanding the deep mysteries of the gospel, but in forming us in the story.
    1. Being formed in the story, as we’ll see in a few minutes, is what we truly need.
  C. So, today we start with a text that forms the basis of the season of Lent – Jesus’ wilderness temptation.
    1. It is both a story that teaches us about Jesus’ historical role as the redeemer of Israel
    2. And also about our own struggles with temptation.
    3. It answers the question, “What kind of Messiah will Jesus be?”
    4. And confronts us with the question, “What kind of disciples will we be?”
  D. In this text, Jesus comes face-to-face with the Devil
    1. He is victorious where others – every other – has failed.
    2. As we consider the call God has placed on each one of our lives, what kind of people will we be?
    3. How will we handle temptations in life – the big and the seemingly small?
    4. As a congregation, how will we respond when the temptations come?
II. Luke 4:1-13
  A. Led by the Spirit in the wilderness
    1. So, here is a man, full of the Holy Spirit, being severely temped by the Devil, not in spite of the Holy Spirit, but it seems, because of the Holy Spirit.
  B. Forty days
    1. Moses (Ex 34:28; Deut 9:9)
    2. Elijah (1 Kings 19:4-8)
      a. Interesting…who will be present on the Mount of Transfiguration in Luke 9?
    3. Israel – 40 years in the wilderness (Deut 8:2-6)
  C. Three temptations
    1. Command this stone to become a loaf of bread
    2. Worship me and I will give you all the kingdoms of this world.
    3. Throw yourself down from the temple and God will save you.
  D. These are three big temptations
    1. To be magical, powerful and spectacular
    2. They are personal, social, political and religious
    3. They are, by all accounts, the big three!
    4. Some have said that all temptations fall into one of these three categories.
  E. The big temptation – If you are the Son of God
    1. He has just come from the waters of baptism in which he heard the voice from heaven say, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.
    2. Now the Devil is say, “If you are the Son of God.”
  F. And this is the real issue facing Jesus:
    1. Is he the true Son of God, or not?
    2. If he is – and he is beginning to sense the depth to which this may be true – he doesn’t need to prove himself to anyone.
    3. More than just being plagued by self-doubt, now Satan has come to him with severe temptation.
      a. On the one hand to question his divine calling – his vocation and purpose
      b. And on the other hand, to take his divine calling into his own hands, to manipulate and control the outcomes.
  G. And so Jesus faces the questions
    1. What does it mean to be the Son of God in this special sense?
    2. What kind of messiahship is he going to pursue?
  H. That is, if his baptism is his anointing – his confirmation as Messiah – the one who will save and redeem Israel and, eventually, become the world’s true Lord.
    1. Then…what kind of Messiah will he be?
    2. What kind of ministry is he going to pursue?
  I. These three temptations and, more importantly, Jesus’ response to them, form his answer to these questions.
  J. So let’s take them one at a time and see where they lead.
III. Bread to Stones
  A. Jesus hasn’t eaten, according to the story, for 40 days (which, in scripture, is shorthand for “a long time!”).
  B. At the terminal end of this long fast, the devil comes to him and says, why don’t you just turn these stones into bread and alleviate your hunger?
    1. I can remember reading this story as a kid and not understanding what was so “horrible” about that.
    2. I mean, if he could do it, what’s the harm.
    3. I would hear this story read and spoken about in church, my stomach growling audibly as the noon hour approached.
    4. And think, after 40 days, the poor man deserves to eat. The least he could do is make one loaf of bread.
  C. But what is this really about?
    1. Trust in God’s provision?
    2. Recalling the 40-year sojourn of Israel in the wilderness when they grumbled for bread every other day.
    3. And even when they had “bread from heaven” refusing to trust God.
  D. How will Jesus choose to be Israel’s Messiah?
    1. Will it be by serving his own needs and avoiding the suffering that lies in front of him?
    2. Or will it be through self-sacrificial love?
  E. Jesus says no to the temptation to be “magical.”
    1. Jesus’ path is not to be a magician, performing tricks on demand, but to bring healing and wholeness to a suffering world.
    2. Most of all, he will not serve himself.
  F. And so, Jesus quotes Deut 8:3
    1. This is the kind of Messiah Jesus will be.
    2. He will not trust in his own strength and power, but in the word of God.
    3. He will not take a shortcut.
    4. He will serve, not be served.
IV. All the Kingdoms of the World
  A. Next, the Devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world
    1. “All this is mine now and I’ll give it to you, if you worship me.”
  B. Power and glory
    1. This is where the whole story is headed anyway, right?
    2. Jesus will receive all power and glory in the universe!
    3. Why not take this little short cut?
      a. Go for it all.
  C. But if you go to Revelation 4 and 5 you’ll read there WHY Jesus receives all glory and power and honor.
    1. On what basis?
  D. Here the Devil is basically dangling in front of Jesus the purpose for which he has come, but with a Satanic little twist.
    1. He has come to bring honor and glory to HIS FATHER.
    2. But here the temptation is to take honor and glory for himself.
    3. How easy to justify
    4. How easy to make that leap
    5. How easy to rationalize when someone says, you’re grabbing after power and glory to say, “But I’m doing it for God. All the glory goes to him!”
  E. This is the temptation to idolatry.
    1. To worship what is NOT GOD as if it were GOD.
    2. This temptation is to replace God with self – power and glory for himself.
  F. Jesus wants to redeem all the kingdoms of the world for the Father but this is not the way to get it done.
  G. In fact, this one thing that the Devil asks is the one thread, if pulled, which will make the entire garment unravel.
    1. It’s easy, from where we sit today, to see that if Jesus were to bow to the Devil, in order to get all the kingdoms of the world, it would be the one thing that would guarantee that he NEVER gets all the kingdoms of the world.
    2. Much more difficult for us to see when its closer to home.
    3. That all our efforts to acquire prestige and glory for ourselves are calculated to destroy us.
  H. And so, with the temptation to idolatry thrust upon him, Jesus again quotes from Deuteronomy – this time 6:13 –
    1. “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”
V. Putting God to the Test
  A. Sensing that he’s not making much progress, the Devil makes his last attempt.
    1. Jesus has been using scripture – specifically Deuteronomy – Israel’s own core narrative – to combat temptation.
    2. So now, the Devil digs into his Bible.
    3. “Two can play this game,” the thinks!
  B. So he takes him up to the top of the temple
    1. This huge, magnificent building
    2. “Throw yourself down from here,” he says, “and the angels will protect you.”
    3. And he quotes Psalm 91 –
      a. He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
  C. But Jesus out duels the Devil again, returning to the wilderness narrative – Deut 6
  D. “Do not put the Lord your God to the test”
      a. As the Israelites did so frequently in the Exodus.
  E. Jesus is not going this route.
  F. He will not resort to cheap tricks to prove to anyone that he is Messiah – God’s chosen Son.
VI. "Until an Opportune Time"
  A. And so the scripture says, “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.”
    1. He’s not done with Jesus
    2. But Jesus has passed a major test.
  B. He has covered the ground that Adam and Israel have covered and where they have failed, Jesus succeeded.
    1. He has demonstrated what God’s true Messiah is like
    2. He has formed, in the crucible of temptation in the wilderness, the shape of the rest of his ministry.
  C. His life will not be focused on manipulating people into believing and following by doing magic tricks.
  D. Trust in God doesn’t mean acting stupidly to force God into making a spectacular rescue.
    1. The power that Jesus already has will shortly be revealed in restoring others to life and wholeness, not for cheap stunts.
  E. NT Wright comments, “His status as God’s son commits him, not to showy prestige, but to the strange path of humility, service and finally death.”
  F. This is the real evidence of his Sonship!
VII. Conclucion
  A. Throughout the narrative there are temptations to shortcuts.
    1. These temptations draw a sharp distinction between God’s way and the world’s way.
    2. Power, prestige and glory for self is the world’s way
    3. Jesus reveals a hidden power – the power that comes when we take the “road less traveled” – the path of humility and sacrificial love and service.
    4. Jesus will manifest the greatest power in the universe as he dies a humiliating death on a Roman cross.
    5. The world does not see this as powerful, but it is the power of God.
  B. The 40 days of Lent are a journey, with Jesus, to that cross.
  C. They are a 40-day journey into the heart of what it means to be a disciple.
  D. If what we’ve looked at this morning is the kind of Messiah that Jesus was and is for Israel and the world,
    1. …then question for us is, “What kind of disciple will I be. What kind of church – or community of disciples, will we be?”
  E. When we come face-to-face with the Devil, after confirming our calling to be disciples
    1. And we are given all kinds of shortcuts and seemingly good things.
    2. And we justify how, “this is compatible with that”
  F. What will we do?
  G. How will we face the Devil?
  H. How will we confront the temptation to be powerful and spectacular?
  I. Jesus confronts the Devil with Scripture!
    1. This is also where we will find our strength.
    2. In the story of God – the story of God’s people and the example of Jesus – we find our orientation – our true North.
  J. But be warned: Satan also knows Scripture and tried to use Scripture to his advantage.
    1. What makes the difference?
    2. Jesus has the advantage for one simple reason.
      a. Satan has a proof-text but Jesus has the story.
      b. Satan has a verse, taken out of context, that he is trying to use to his own advantage.
      c. Jesus knows the story, is living into the story, understands that what Satan is presenting him with is inconsistent with the story.
  K. Friends, when we come face-to-face with the Devil (which happens everyday)
    1. And we are invited to give away our discipleship for a moment of glory or prestige
    2. We need more than a Bible verse in our pocket, we need to know the story.
    3. We need to spend time allowing the story to shape us.
    4. Put simply, rather than having a scripture to use
    5. We need to allow the scripture – the story – to have us and use us.
  L. If we commit ourselves to this path, as Jesus did, we won’t fall prey to the Devil’s temptations to quick glory or selfish ambition.
    1. As a community we won’t be tempted to selfish goals – designed only to preserve an institution or build up our ego.
    2. Jesus was faced with those ego-boosting, self-preservationist options and he said a resounding, “NO!”
  M. I hope you will spend the next 40 or so days in a commitment to deepening your experience of God and connecting to the story of our faith.
  N. It is only in this way that we will be shaped into a community that is capable to withstanding the temptations of the Devil.

Submitted by Ryan J. Bell. Better Sermons © 2005-2007. Click here for usage guidelines.



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