MY PROGRESS IS EVIDENT TO ALL (2)/ IT IS WRITTEN AND FOREVER REMAINS WRITTEN
During the Sunday service Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled My Progress is evident to all/ It is written and forever remains written. Her main scriptures were taken from the Book of 1 Timothy 4:12-16 and Matthew 4: 1-11. She said that spiritual progress comes from successfully enduring temptations. Selah!
MAY YOUR PROGRESS BE EVIDENT TO ALL
“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Tim 4:12-16)
Prophetic word: We declare that in Christ, we have entered our Promised Land and we our progress is evident to all!
Here we see that spiritual maturity manifests as ‘progress’ that can be seen by others. Progress is defined as a slow forward movement towards a goal, to an improved condition in life, on the path to perfection; it also means to increase knowledge, to develop your skills and gifts so that you can apply them better. It means to advance in life, closer to the place where your dreams are fulfilled. For example, a student makes progress when after taking a B, he now has an A. Later, he finishes his school, and he also becomes a teacher. This is all progress in life. The opposite of progress means to go back, to become worse, to sink, to lose benefits, or to waste away. May we pay the price for godly success!
In the world, the general progress in life is seen mostly thru material gains. You feel that you make progress when you graduate from school, marry, buy a house, and have children. But in the spiritual realm, the progress is measured by greater faith and more authority. It is heard in your voice and seen in your behavior. It is also called fruitfulness, increase or profit. It affects all who see and hear you. A leader in the home or in the church is expected to make progress. The faster the progress, the more God will use you to mentor others. No leader should remain satisfied to stay stationary, comfortable to be in a place of no growth. In that case, the leader loses the respect of his followers. By leader I mean, all believers, husbands, wives, parents, pastors, teachers and all who have a platform to influence others. Progress or lack of it cannot be hidden for long. It will soon be manifested. Honor or dishonor will be the result. Let us be faithful in the secret place. God will reward us openly!
THE PROGRESS OF JOY AND FAITH IN THE GOSPEL
The same word ‘progress’ appears two more times in the Book of Philippians. “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Phil 1:12-14). He also said: “I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless, to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith” (Phil 1:23-25). The word ‘furtherance’ is the same as the word profit or progress. Paul says that his imprisonment has advanced and spread the Gospel to the most unlikely people These are the military officers who guard him in prison, in Rome. Paul rejoices in the spread of the Gospel! He also says that he doesn’t know what to choose; to die and go to heaven or the stay and help them. He says that by staying on earth he will help them to mature as believers, witnessing to the progress of their spiritual life with joy and faith. Lesson: Let us be busy working for the furtherance of the Gospel, for the progress of joy and faith among the brethren!
In his letter to the Philippians Apostle Paul encourages them to stay strong and to rejoice. He is in a prison in Rome, on the death row. But he is not worried. He trusts God for his life and for his death. This is a personal letter from a mentor to his students. It is amazing how the Holy Spirit uses these old words to encourage us today. The believers in Philippi were worried because with Paul in prison, they assumed that the Gospel is blocked from spreading. Paul tells them that nothing can stop the Gospel, which is ‘the power of God unto salvation’ (Rom 1:16). The Gospel is like the crowbar used to lift heavy objects; it is like the handle that the pilot uses to drive the ship. In Greek, the word ‘power’ is ‘dunamis’ from which the word dynamite comes. The Gospel has the power to explode and scatter to pieces every sinful imagination and opposition. Paul said that the military guards assigned to him are now getting converted. Generally, these soldiers are rough men. They are used to kill people. But Paul preached to them and little by little, they believed in Jesus. Study Paul the way he sees God in all circumstances of life. Because He is sure that God is with him even in prison, he does not complain about his life. He does not indulge in self-pity. He is not angry or bitter against God because the preaching of the Gospel landed him in prison. He rejoices in the opportunity to continue serving God. The presence of God with Him is enough to give Paul all the encouragement he needs. These are clear marks of spiritual maturity and progress in the faith. Paul always feels God in his heart and sees Him in his circumstances. This vision is his strength! Like Moses, Paul “endured [steadfastly], as seeing Him who is unseen” (Heb 11:27, AMP). Be careful, once you doubt the love of God towards you, you will backslide. You must trust God even when things are hard, when you do not understand His ways with you.
Two thousand years have passed. Things are different now. But man has not changed. He still battles with anxieties. Life is still difficult. Things have changed but in the Spirit realm, all things are the same. There are still champions and losers. The experience of success and victory over sin and death during the time of the early church, is still available for us now. The same joy we experience now. Paul challenges the believers to live a life fully dedicated to God, to preach the Gospel and endure persecution if it comes their way. This challenge is the same for us today. God gives us strength to evangelize the world. We do so by preaching the Gospel and by living godly lives that shine like stars in the darkness. We must be faithful to God in doctrine and behavior. Then God will use us to save, lead, and mentor others. Any man or woman who is Spirit filled and lives a victorious life is a light to the world. This triumphant life is very attractive. People will come closer to study you. Your testimony is a platform to bring many to Christ. In the early church, the Christians made converts just by being themselves, by being Christians. Their obvious love for Jesus and for one another was magnetic. People became saved by desiring to be like them.
How does Paul encourage the believers? He always directs them to God’s Word. This is a spiritual law: It is by knowing the true doctrine, the spiritual principles of the Bible that you receive encouragement. Paul does not appeal directly to their emptions. That is what entertainment does. It is of the flesh, and it profits nothing. Paul appeals to their spirits and to their minds. They must know and believe God’s law before they receive peace, joy, strength, and wisdom. The reason why so many Christians today live in defeat, are always worried and sad, it is because they do not study the doctrines of the Bible. They read the Bible trying to find some few verses they like, to encourage themselves. They want the blessings without fulfilling the conditions. It does not work that way. That is why Bible studies are so important. It is important to note that the Bible has no hope, no encouragement for the world. The first action an unbeliever must do is to repent of sin and surrender his life to Christ. The Bible reveals the God has a special loving gracious interest toward His children. The promises of God can be fulfilled only in the lives of believers. May we appreciate God and His Word more! May our faith increase until the promises are fulfilled! To the glory of God!
ENDURING TEMPTATIONS LEADS TO EVIDENT PROGRESS
What is temptation? In both Hebrew and Greek, temptation means enticement to commit sin. Enticement is the act of persuading someone to do something or go somewhere, by offering him something he likes. It means to arouse hope and desire for pleasure with the intent to deceive. It means to seduce someone with pleasure to leave the right path of truth and to go into the path of sin, danger, destruction, and death. Practically, temptation manifests as a strong desire to do or to have something that you know it is sinful.
“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren” (James 1:12-16)
God never tempts men to sin!!! God Himself cannot be tempted by the devil. The devil tempted Jesus as a Man, not as God. The devil tempts and God tests. Practically, temptation and testing may feel the same, but there is a difference in motives. Temptation comes that you may sin and become like the devil. Testing comes that you may mature and become like Jesus! God tests His children to purify their faith. He sometimes allows Satan to do the testing. Satan is called ‘The Great Tempter’. His desire is that they disobey God! Temptation is generally external. But the devil weakens man thru internal lust, so that he cooperates with the external temptation. The devil shows the Christian opportunities to commit sin. Temptation is not sin. Choosing the devil’s option during temptation, that is sin. To commit sin the will is involved. The Original sin happened when Adam and Eve believed the lies of the devil and disobeyed God. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus found the disciples tired from sorrow and sleeping. He said: “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt 26:40, 41). The devil takes advantage of the weakness of the flesh to tempt believers. He opens the door of backsliding. If you enter thru that door, you have sinned. If you turn away from it, you have endured the temptation successfully and made progress!
“Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers, and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing…. “Blessed [happy, spiritually prosperous, favored by God] is the man who is steadfast under trial and perseveres when tempted; for when he has passed the test and been approved, he will receive the [victor’s] crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (Jam 1:2-4; 12; AMP). Temptation must be ‘endured’ successfully. In Greek, the word ‘endure’ means to stay under pressure, to remain steadfast and persevere in your faith during the oppressive pain. It means to totally reject devil’s option of backsliding. Temptation is painful. It is like passing thru fire when the fleshly chaff is burnt, and the gold of faith is purified. Successfully enduring temptation is the royal scar of the mature believers. They receive the crown of life. The very opportunity you have to endure temptation should be counted as joy, trusting God for the successful examination. The only other place the crown of life is promised is in the Book of Revelation. Even there, it is connected with successfully enduring temptation. “Fear nothing that you are about to suffer. Be aware that the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested [in your faith], and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful to the point of death [if you must die for your faith], and I will give you the crown [consisting] of life. He who has an ear, let him hear and heed what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes [the world through believing that Jesus is the Son of God] will not be hurt by the second death (the lake of fire)” (Rev 2:10, 11; AMP). Halleluiah!
OLD TESTAMENT TEMPTATIONS
When Abraham was old, God tested him (Genesis 22). This was not a temptation, but a true test of faith given by God. In this story God tells Abraham that he should offer his beloved and only son of promise, Isaac, as a burnt offering. Because he loved Isaac so much, Abraham was tempted to disobey God. But his faith in God was stronger. Abraham obeyed God believing that God has the power to raise Isaac from the dead (Heb 11:19). With the knife in his hand, God stops Abraham from killing his son. God provides a ram to be offered as a substitution sacrifice. Abraham’s faith proved to be genuine. That is why he is called ‘the father of faith’ for both Jews and Gentiles. After passing the test of faith, God promised: “By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son, blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice” (Gen 22:16-18). God reveals Himself as Jehovah Jireh, God the provider. He promises supernatural fruitfulness, protection, and blessings. Lesson: to be mature, faith must pass thru the fire of affliction. God blesses mature proven faith with great spiritual progress and natural prosperity. This manifests as fruitfulness, victory against the enemies and an overflow of blessings to the descendants.
Joseph was tempted by Potiphar’s wife to commit adultery. He refused saying: said: “Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her” (Gen 39:8-10). Joseph saw adultery not as pleasure, but as betrayal against his master who trusted him. He sees it as ‘great wickedness and sin against God’. What was his secret for enduring temptation? Joseph feared God. He took God seriously. He saw himself accountable to God. That is why he was strong and courageous to reject the devil. Old man Job said: “The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28). For standing for God, Joseph was punished with imprisonment. In His time, God vindicated him. He became the prime minister of Egypt. Potiphar became his subordinate. Praise the Lord!
King David was tempted by Satan to number his soldiers. He wanted to put his trust and boast about his great army. This act of pride made God angry, and a plague came over Israel. David fell into this temptation. He repented but many died in that plague (1 Chron 21). Selah!
Daniel’s friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego refused to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s image (Daniel 3). The king said that if they worship the idol they will not be killed. Face to face with death, they refused to bow to the man-made idol. They claimed that Jehovah alone is God. For this defiance they were thrown in the furnace. The Fourth Man, our Lord Jesus Christ, was with them in the fire and saved them. Daniel also chose to be faithful to Jehovah God. He continued to pray even after the edict against prayer was given by King Darius. He was thrown into the lions’ den. But God protected him. His enemies who wanted him dead were killed by the same lions (Daniel 6). Lesson: these brethren successfully endured temptation and were all rewarded with promotion and wealth. They are our examples to follow! Praise the Lord!
THE TEMPTATIONS OF JESUS
“Then Jesus was led by the [Holy] Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After He had gone without food for forty days and forty nights, He became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But Jesus replied, “It is written and forever remains written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took Him into the holy city [Jerusalem] and placed Him on the pinnacle (highest point) of the temple. And he said [mockingly] to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning You [to serve, care for, protect and watch over You]’; and ‘They will lift you up on their hands, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written and forever remains written, ‘You shall not test the Lord your God.’” Again, the devil took Him up on a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory [splendor, magnificence, and excellence] of them; and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written and forever remains written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’” Then the devil left Him; and angels came and ministered to Him [bringing Him food and serving Him]” (Matt 4:1-11; AMP).
Jesus’ temptations are unique to Jesus. But we can learn goldy principles from them. First, we see that Jesus took these temptations seriously. He prepared Himself for the temptation. He went there filled with the Holy Spirit. He came out in the power of the Holy Spirit (Lk 4:14) ready to start His public ministry. Immediately after His baptism in the River Jordan, The Holy Spirit led Him into the wilderness. Between Jordan and Jerusalem, there is the hot and dry Judea Desert. This is where the devil tempted Jesus. For forty days Jesus ate nothing. He became hungry. This proves that He was not only God, but also Man. The devil tempted Him with three questions. Jesus answered with God’s written Word!
To understand this temptation, we must remind ourselves of God’s purpose for His Son. Jesus said that He came ‘to seek and to save that which was lost’ (Lk 19:10). Immediately after His baptism in the River Jordan, Jesus is ready to enter into His public ministry to call people to repentance, so that they enter the Kingdom of God (Matt 4:17). God’s plan for His Son was to preach about God’s Kingdom. He will also do miracles, acts of kindness towards the sick and the suffering and but not for Himself. After three years, Jesus dies on the Cross, on behalf of sinners, as their Substitute. This was God’s will for Him, to walk the painful royal way of the Cross that led to the salvation of many. The Savior must pay for their salvation with His blood. Jesus was obedient to God and His plan for Him even unto death. God the Father resurrects His Son from the grave. Jesus ascends to heaven as God-Man. He is crowned with many crowns, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. His eternal glory is displayed for all to see. All men must bow to Him. He alone is worthy of all worship (Phil 2:5-11). The devil suspects that God’s plan is to make His Son eternally famous. He was jealous. He wants to destroy it. Thru the temptation the devil offers Jesus an alternative way to become famous. Not the plan of the Father which includes Death and resurrection. The devil’s way avoids the Cross. But Jesus rejects the painless plan of the devil. He remains steadfast in His faith trusting God the Father. That is how He became our Savior and Lord! Glory!
1-The First Temptation (to become a Materialistic Savior)
“After He had gone without food for forty days and forty nights, He became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But Jesus replied, “It is written and forever remains written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God” (Matt 4:2-4).
The first temptation is to doubt God’s love. The devil speaks with some truth. That is why temptation is painful and hard to endure! Making bread or eating bread is not a sin. As a Man, Jesus decided to obey only God and not to make decisions by Himself. The devil’s idea is that God does not love Jesus for letting Him suffer hunger. The devil wants Jesus to blame His Father for suffering. He wants to separate God the Father from God the Son. He wanted to cause rebellion and division in the Trinity. That could have caused the universe to disintegrate. The temptation is bigger than we imagine! Lesson: you don’t live because you eat. You live because God sustains you. Once God decides that it is time to die, no food can keep you alive. At the hour of death, you see that food has no power to give life.
After forty days of fasting, Jesus’ body is weak. That is when the devil attacks. He suggests that He should make bread to feed Himself and many others. He suggests that Jesus should become a Bread-making Savior. That will attract all the hungry people to follow Him. The devil says “If You are the Son of God…” The word ‘if’ reveals an attack of doubt upon the identity of Jesus. The Father has just publicly declared that Jesus is His Beloved Son (Matt 3:17). To doubt the voice of the Father will make Jesus a spiritual ‘orphan’. That is sin. Lesson: The devil attacks when you are weak. He attacks with doubts to block your prayers (Jam 1:6-8). The same word ‘if’ in Greek can also be translated as ‘since’. In that case, the devil says: ‘Since (or because) You are the Son of God… use your office and anointing to supply men what they need’. This attack is not with doubt, but to use His power for selfish purposes. Jesus rejects the devil’s option by saying: “It is written and forever remains written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone”. He quotes from the Book of Deuteronomy. “God humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord” (Deut 8:3).
The devil tempts Jesus to make bread that feeds the flesh. But this bread can never satisfy man’s spiritual needs. Man needs The Word of God which is eternal life! Lesson: The flesh is needy, and manifests thru works of darkness. We are commanded to die to the flesh, to make no provision to feed it. “The night is far spent; the day is at hand. Therefore, let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Rom 13:12-14). In Greek the word ‘provision’ means to think in advance how to supply the desires of the flesh. The mind of the Christian is to be inclined towards spiritual things, not things of the flesh. The flesh is like a spoiled child who craves entertainment. Lesson: A little lust, or a little self-pity, spoils much spiritual gain. We need to discipline our minds thru the study of God’s Word, and prayer. The devil reminds you of the desires of the flesh, to attend to them. Keep your eyes on Jesus who rejected that approach. The flesh is never satisfied. Jesus said: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (Jn 6:63). The Word of God and Its promises are not made for the flesh. If Jesus fell to this temptation, He could have become a materialistic Savior. He will feed man with bread and cake. But man in sin still has to get old, die and go to hell. Lesson: The Word of God is Spirit and life. It is designed to feed and strengthen your human spirit and weaken your flesh. You see that the devil’s temptation will only temporarily improve your life. He wants you to ignore death. The so-called ‘Prosperity Gospel’ is dangerous because it uses God’s Word to feed the flesh. Be careful!
2-The Second Temptation (to become a Religious miracle worker Savior)
“Then the devil took Him into the holy city [Jerusalem] and placed Him on the pinnacle (highest point) of the temple. And he said [mockingly] to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning You [to serve, care for, protect and watch over You]’; and ‘They will lift you up on their hands, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written and forever remains written, ‘You shall not test the Lord your God” (Matt 4:5-7)
The devil led Jesus possibly in a vision to stand on the highest point of the temple in Jerusalem. He suggested that in the presence of all the gathered worshippers Jesus should jump from there. The devil assured Jesus that according to God’s Word, God will guard Jesus and He will fall down unharmed. This miracle of salvation from death will amaze all the worshippers and they will follow Jesus. Here Satan tempts Jesus with pride and religious fame. Men will see Jesus as a miracle wonder Man. They will follow Him because they see the miracles and not because they trust His Word. The devil mis-quotes scripture from Psalm 91. He did not quote from the Book of Deuteronomy like Jesus, which is God’s law. He quotes from the ‘softer’ Psalms. In this psalm God promises to protect His obedient and faithful children, those who dwell under His wings. God did not promise to protect anyone who takes Him for granted. The devil tempts Jesus to claim the blessings of obedience even when He disobeys. Jesus calls that approach ‘tempting God’. Jesus again quotes from the Book of Deuteronomy saying: “You shall not tempt the Lord your God as you tempted Him in Massah” (Deut 6:16). To tempt God, it means that you take His grace and kindness for granted. It means to use the promises of God against Him. Lesson: the backsliders try to manipulate God to bless them in their rebellion. But God cannot be deceived!
2-The Third Temptation (to become a Political Savior)
“Again, the devil took Him up on a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory [splendor, magnificence, and excellence] of them; and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written and forever remains written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’” Then the devil left Him; and angels came and ministered to Him [bringing Him food and serving Him]” (Matt 4:8-11; AMP)
This time, the devil offers Jesus the whole world, with its fame, amid all its visible glory and beauty. But this gift is not free. There is a price to pay. Jesus must submit, bow down and worship Satan, the giver. Satan always lusted after worship. He wanted to be ‘like God’ (Isaiah 14:14). If Jesus receives this offer, He will become a political Savior. All men will ‘vote’ for Him and worship Him. For Jesus to become honored by men He has to compromise with Satan. This political fame seems cheap. Jesus does not have to suffer rejection from men. He does not have to die on the Cross. But Jesus refuses the offer. He sternly rejects Satan to go away! The word means to depart and die, to withdraw and disappear. Then Jesus quotes again from the Book of Deuteronomy that says: “You shall fear the Lord your God and serve Him and shall take oaths in His name. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are all around you (for the Lord your God is a jealous God among you), lest the anger of the Lord your God be aroused against you and destroy you from the face of the earth” (Deut 6:13-15). Jesus says that God loves Him and is jealous over Him. To serve idols is to insult God. Jesus rejects political success because it is based on idolatry. Selah!
The third temptation was also designed so that Jesus will doubt God’s plan for Him. God the Father has already promised the nations to Him. He said: “You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Ps 2:7, 8). In the hot desert, hungry and weak, it seems that the devil’s offer is faster than to wait for God to fulfill His own Word. Satan says that the kingdoms have been given to him. This is only a half-truth. He only rules the evil in the nations. His power is limited by God. Why? Because “The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein” (Ps 24:1). Lesson: be patient and wait on God and His promises! Halleluiah!
Finally, the temptation was over! Jesus did not sin! The angels can come to help and feed Jesus. Once He passed the test, Jesus went to Galilee in the power of the Spirit of God. Immediately, He became famous by preaching the Word with authority and driving the demons away (Matt 7:29)! The devil could not take any credit for that fame. This is how He started His public ministry that eventually led to the Cross!
LESSONS FOR US/ HOW TO SUCCESSFULLY ENDURE TEMPTATIONS AND EXPERIENCE SPIRITUAL PROGRESS
Lesson: Temptation is not sin. Falling in the midst of temptation is sin. Fast and pray! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!
Preach the Word! Jesus used the sword of the Spirit, the eternal written Word of God, to defeat Satan! We must do the same! The victory of Jesus over Satan in the wilderness greatly encourages us. His victory here was a sample of what will happen at the Cross. We now know that Jesus is stronger than Satan. Our faith in Jesus and the Word of God must increase!
Lesson: be careful with the people you call friends. You can be kind to all but do not trust all. The devil uses ‘friends’ to temp you to sin. “Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Cor 15:33). For example, there is a Christian woman. The devil comes as a rich unbeliever who wants to marry her. He seems generous and kind. He gives her gifts so that she will marry him. She forgets that after the wedding, she has to submit to her unbelieving husband. He will then take back all the gifts he gave to her. Lesson: The devil gives gifts to tempt believers to sin. Not all gifts should be received. Pray before you receive a gift. Remember how the Gibeonites deceived Joshua and the leaders of Israel (Joshua 9). They are a symbol of Satan. Only God’s gifts can truly bless the receiver. “The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, And He adds no sorrow with it” (PV 10:22). Lesson: reject the sorrow filled prosperity of the devil!
Lesson: salvation is personal. Spiritual progress is personal. Please note that Jesus goes alone to the wilderness to meet the devil. He depends on God alone. There were no disciples or pastors to pray for Him at the hour of temptation. Why did Jesus go alone? It was to identify with sinful man, to become their High Priest and Savior. Jesus lived alone and died alone. He understands every man. “Therefore, it was essential that He had to be made like His brothers (mankind) in every respect, so that He might [by experience] become a merciful and faithful High Priest in things related to God, to make atonement (propitiation) for the people’s sins [thereby wiping away the sin, satisfying divine justice, and providing a way of reconciliation between God and mankind]” (Heb 2:17; AMP). In many countries, the Christians cannot attend churches. The Christians often feel lonely even when they go to church. We trust Jesus who was walked the road of life and death alone. That is why He alone deserves all glory for our salvation! It is also a sign that Jesus is the only Savior. He alone conquered sin, death, and the devil. No man helped Him. No man can share in His glory. Just before His death, Jesus told the disciples: “Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. 33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:32-33). The peace of Christ is a proof of His overcoming the world and Satan, the prince of the world. After the war, there must be peace. For the mature Christian, the peace of Jesus is his companion daily. It is the proof that he has endured the temptation and has won the battle.
Lesson: After his defeat in the wilderness, the devil left Jesus until an opportune time. He used Peter to temp Jesus not to go to the Cross. Immediately Jesus revealed to His disciples that He has to die and resurrect, Peter ‘rebuked’ Him saying: “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matt 16:22-23). Satan will always put the things of men before the things of God. Do not forget! Christianity is Christ. He must always be at the center of our hearts and doctrines. The Bible starts and ends with God! The devil wants to put man in the place of God! Lastly, the devil tempted Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane to do His will and not God’s will which included the Cross. Jesus defeated the devil each time. By His death on the Cross Jesus defeated the devil eternally. He opened the door of salvation for all those who believe!
Lesson: Jesus obeyed God unto death! We must do the same! Disobedience to God’s Word is never an option! Trust God to turn your pain into praise! “In the days of His earthly life, Jesus offered up both [specific] petitions and [urgent] supplications [for that which He needed] with fervent crying and tears to the One who was [always] able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission toward God [His sinlessness and His unfailing determination to do the Father’s will]. Although He was a Son [who had never been disobedient to the Father], He learned [active, special] obedience through what He suffered. And having been made perfect [uniquely equipped and prepared as Savior and retaining His integrity amid opposition], He became the source of eternal salvation [an eternal inheritance] to all those who obey Him, being designated by God as High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek” (Heb 5:7-10; AMP). This is the mystery of the Cross. Jesus always obeyed God the Father. But on earth, He had to learn to obey God as a Man. The lesson of obedience was found in the fire of suffering. The place of temptation was His classroom. On the Cross, with His Blood shed. He graduated from the lesson of obedience unto death. As a Man He became perfect. That is why God the Father exalted Him above all others in the universe (Philippians 2). As a God He did not need to learn obedience. But as a Man, He needed to do that. He is our Savior, Mentor and Lord! Hallelujah!
Lesson: God loves you! God promised genuine godly fame as a reward for obedience (Deut 28:9-14). The devil wants you to forget that. He deceives you saying that God is a harsh master who does not want you to enjoy your life. That is a lie! The devil offers fame and prosperity without the cross, without obedience to God. That fame destroys.
Lesson: Never forget that the devil is God’s enemy and your enemy. Jesus died for sinners. The devil cannot be redeemed. The revelation of Jesus is power for ministry. “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1Jn 3:8)
Lesson: Jesus passed thru temptations to understand you and me. He is now our High Priest in heaven. He hears your prayers. He understands your pains. “For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize and understand our weaknesses and temptations, but One who has been tempted [knowing exactly how it feels to be human] in every respect as we are, yet without [committing any] sin” (Heb 4:15, AMP)
Lesson: Jesus was strong during the temptation because He was without sin. All the temptations were extremal to Him. His heart was pure totally dedicated to God. He said just before the Cross: “I will not speak with you much longer, for the ruler of the world (Satan) is coming. And he has no claim on Me [no power over Me nor anything that he can use against Me]” (Jn 14:30, AMP). We are born sinners. But by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can be free from the lusts of the body and mind! We should desire purity of spirit and body! That purity is strength!
Lesson: God is faithful to help you during temptation! “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor 10:12, 13). God reveals the way of escape only to the humble!
Lesson: Jesus told Peter: “And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren” (Lk 22:31, 32). Once you have successfully passed the testing of temptation, use your wisdom and experience to help others gain the victory!
Lesson: Temptation is seasonal. It has a beginning and an end. When the devil finished tempting Jesus, the angels could come to serve Him!
Lesson: Most of the times temptations come from people close to us, thru your spouse, family and friends. You must learn to separate the human agent from the demon behind him/her.
Lesson: In that wilderness, Jesus rehearsed what will happen at the cross. “For though He (Jesus) was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you” (2 Cor 13:4). That same power of strength found in weakness, by God’s Grace, is ours too! This is the secret of spiritual progress and victory over sin!
We conclude by saying, to experience spiritual progress you have to learn how to say ‘Yes, Sir!’ to King Grace and a categorical ‘No!’ to the devil. These are lessons you learn during temptations. You must humble yourself and submit to God to be able to successfully resist the devil until he flees from you! Then God will ‘lift you up’. Promotion and progress shall be manifest to all! God gives more grace. “Therefore, He says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (Jam 4:6-10). May the Word of God set us free from the bondages of the enemy! To worship God in Spirit and in Truth! Worship the Lord!