Life is filled with trials and temptations. Sometimes we fail. Jesus too was faced with three great temptations that had the potential to ruin it all for everyone, but he succeeded.
To see how presumptuous miracles, wild stunts and selling our soul for prestige are common temptations to us all.
We will look at how temptation can ruin lives with hollow promises, how mass hysteria deludes and how we can learn to be immune to deception.
3 great temptations to ruin it all
In Matthew 4:1-11 the devil tempted Jesus with 3 basic temptations that we all will face in different forms. Unlike Jesus, humanity has given in and it has ruined our lives. Only in Jesus do we have hope of rescue from the evil. The first temptation was to be motivated by satisfying physical needs ahead of satisfying spiritual need guided by the word of God. The second was to misuse the Word of God to manipulate God rather than living by his Word. The third was selling out to the devil in exchange for power and prestige. How many Christians neglect the word of God for physical things? How many read the word of God but twist it to make it say what they want? How many are tempted to do wrong for the sake of money and power?
Are we suspicious when a preacher shouts exciting promises and a kind of hysteria takes over? We should be. Mass hypnosis also occurred at Hitler’s rallies and that certainly was not “anointed preaching.” Satan also made great swelling promises in the Temptation of Christ (Matthew 4:1-11). The hollow promises offered to Jesus included a miracle, a foolish risk and wealth. Sound familiar? Similar promises often come from deceptive sources disguised as good. If the source is not God, the promise is without guarantee. If someone tells us to act presumptuously without examining biblical principles, be very suspicious. We live by every word of God. If someone promises God’s protection in a risky, foolish act, be leery. We ought not tempt God. If someone promises great things for worshiping in strange ways, be cautious. We worship and serve only God.
Mass-hysteria miracles & money
A popular kind of preaching has crowd appeal, but very little of Jesus in it. The teachings of Jesus are overlooked in favor of the mass appeal of miracles, stunts and materialism. The hysteria witnessed is unlike any that Jesus encouraged. When Jesus taught, he challenged people to think. Instead these preachers encourage people to stop thinking, leaving their brains at the door. In reality, thinking people see right through the mass-deception. There is no teaching of what Jesus taught, but selected preaching of only those verses which in isolation seem to support popular preconceived notions. Satan also tried to deceive Jesus into a miracle turning stones into bread, to make foolish decisions disguised as religion and be materialistic. Trite miracles, folly and wealth did not tempt Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11). His miracles, thoughtful wisdom and voluntary poverty were real.
Antidotes to deception
The temptation of Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11) included antidotes to similar religious deception today. What is an antitoxin to deception involving miracles? Rather than performing a presumptuous miracle, Jesus was concerned about feeding on the word of God. Beware of those who place miracles ahead of teaching from the Bible. Beware of those who claim to have a word from God, but do not get it from the Bible. What is an antidote to those misquoting the Bible and tempting us into foolish leaps of faith? An antidote is to know our Bibles well enough to see through such things as cheap stunts disguised as faith but are in reality tempting God. What is an antivenin to deception involving promises of wealth and power? Jesus said to worship God and serve only him not the deception of wealth and power.
Life’s greatest victories
We are all familiar with scenes of great victory where a hero, with tears streaming down the face, is cheered on by a large crowd. Yet many of life’s greatest victories are won far away from the applauding multitude, in the privacy of our own solitude. The Temptation of Christ (Matthew 4:1-11) was such a victory. He was all alone in the wilderness without supporters to cheer him on to victory. It is easy to do the right thing when others are watching, but the real test is when nobody is around. The real victory may not occur when we are at a church service, but during the week when we are all alone. But we are not alone. Just as Jesus overcame temptation, so too by faith in him do we overcome the world (1 John 5:4-5).
Life is filled with trials and temptations. Sometimes the devil tempts us to place material food ahead of spiritual food, or take foolish steps and ask God to bless them, or sell our souls to the devil for power and prestige. The better we know the devil’s tactics, the better we are at saying no.