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Don’t Take the Bait

28 Sep

A man lying on the grass noticed a little plant of sundew when suddenly a tiny fly alighted upon its leaves and tasted one of the tempting glands which grow there.

All at once three crimson-tipped, fingerlike hairs bent over and touched the fly’s wings, holding it fast in a sticky grasp. The fly struggled in vain to get free, but the more it struggled the more hopelessly it became besmeared. It still, however protruded its tongue, feasting as it was being more and more firmly held by additional tentacles. When the captive was entirely at the mercy of the plant, the edges of the leaf folded inwards and formed a closed fist. Two hours later the fly was an empty sucked skin, and the leaf was opening for another unwary visitor.

Goldfish looking to the fishhookHow can we avoid being caught in the trap of temptation? How can we resist the beauty of the lure and the deadly sweetness of sin? How can we gain victory?

Following the pattern of Jesus Christ (Mark 1:12-13 & Matthew 4:1-11), we can gain victory by resisting the devil by the power of the Spirit through the guidance of the Word to accomplish the will of God.

Immediately following his baptism, Jesus is led or driven by the Spirit into the wilderness. The Holy Spirit sent him to the starting line of his earthly ministry. God was initiating the conflict with the adversary.

I find it interesting that “temptation” and “test” are the same word. The meaning is determined by the motives of the one giving the assignment. Satan wants to tempt us and cause us to fail. Like an engineer building a bridge or an aircraft manufacturer using a wind tunnel, God tests us in order to prove how strong we are.

temptationThe first temptation came after Jesus fasted for 40 days. Satan suggested Jesus turn the wilderness stones into a tasty snowflake roll. The devil was saying that bodily appetites have a right to be satisfied. Jesus responded by quoting the Old Testament; doing God’s will is more fulfilling than any piece of bread ever will be.

The second temptation was designed to use power to achieve popularity. Satan suggested Jesus jump off the highest peak of the temple and float down on the arms of angels. While Satan quoted Scripture, he left out a significant portion. Jesus responded by telling him not to test God.

The third temptation was to take a shortcut to achieve God’s plan. Satan offered to give Jesus all the kingdoms of the earth without going to the cross. Jesus could experience Philippians 2:9-11 without dealing with verse 8. There is a time to resist the devil and a time to tell him to take a hike. After resisting him the first two times, Jesus told Satan to leave after the third.

I take away several helpful principles for how to deal with temptation in my life.

God uses tests to prove our character. Temptation in itself is not sin. It all depends on how I respond. If I can stand firm and resist, I will become that much stronger.

Temptation often comes immediately after a victory. Jesus was tempted immediately after his baptism.

Satan will often tempt us on the last thing God taught us. At his baptism, God the Father said, “This is my son.” During his first temptation, Satan began, “If you are the son …”

Satan’s strategy has not changed since the Garden of Eden.

Temptation Genesis 3 Matthew 4 1 John 2:16
Appeal to personal appetite You may eat of any tree (1) You may eat by changing stones to bread (3) The Lust of the Flesh
Appeal to personal gain You will not die (4) You can do a miracle to gain attention (6) The Lust of the Eyes
Appeal to power or glory You will be like God (5) You can have the world’s kingdoms without suffering (8-9) The Pride of Life

Victory comes as we depend on God’s Word. If Jesus gained victory by quoting Scripture, we should seek to memorize and repeat it as well.

Victory comes as we depend on God’s power. If the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness and angels ministered to him after his temptation, what makes me think I can face the enemy by myself?

We are to resist the devil in the power of the Spirit through the guidance of the Word to accomplish the will of God.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on September 28, 2014. It is part of a series in the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

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