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Discussion Forum : Articles and Sermons : The Three Temptations by Zac Poonen

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 The Three Temptations by Zac Poonen

In Matthew 4:1–11, we read about the temptation of Jesus. The Bible says in Hebrews 4:15 that Jesus “was tempted in every point exactly like us, but did not sin”. Some “clever” Christians seek to analyse this and ask the question. “Could Jesus have sinned or was it impossible for Him to sin?” Some say “He was not able to sin”, while others say, “He was able not to sin”. But we don’t have to get involved in this discussion at all. We find it difficult to analyse the psychology of ordinary men. How then can we analyse the psychology of Jesus? It is enough for us to know that He was tempted just like we are and did not sin. And in that, He is an example for us. We know He was God and we also know that He did not use His abilities as God when He came to earth as a man. God cannot be tempted, but Jesus was tempted. I believe exactly what the Bible says that He was tempted exactly like we are, and did not sin. This is what gives me the faith that I too can overcome as He overcame (Revelation 3:21).

Jesus was tempted by the devil for 40 days (Luke 4:2). He resisted the devil for all those 40 days. What we read here is just the last three temptations. Jesus overcame each temptation with the sword of the Spirit – “It is written.” When the devil saw that Jesus quoted the Word, he also quoted a Scripture and said, “It is written that He will give His angels charge over You. So jump down from the top of the temple” (Matthew 4:6). To that Jesus replied, “It is also written that you shall not tempt the Lord your God” (Matthew 4:7). The whole truth is not found in one Scripture alone but in the whole of the Scriptures – one verse balanced out by another verse. If Satan could quote Scripture to try and lead Jesus into sin, you can be certain that He will quote Scripture to lead you astray as well. And if you don’t know the Scriptures well, you will be led astray. Jesus had a word from Scripture to resist each temptation that Satan brought against Him. It is good to see what was inherent in the temptations Jesus faced, for Satan tempts us in the same way too.

1. Selfishness (Matthew 4:1–4). Turn the stones into bread to satisfy your hunger.
a. Place your physical needs above your spiritual needs. Jesus replied that man has to live by every word that proceeds from God’s mouth and not merely by bread.
b. Use the power God has given you for your own personal gain. Jesus refused to do so. He would use this power to multiply bread for 5000 men later, but never for Himself. Many preachers have fallen a prey to this temptation, by using the power and gift God gave them to make money for themselves.

2. Presumption (Matthew 4:5–7). Jump off the temple-roof and claim God’s promises for protection.
a. Take a step that God has not told you to take – and claim God’s promises. Jesus replied that we should not tempt God by doing risky things. Some foolish Christians when they are sick, won‘t take medicines but expect God to heal them supernaturally. That is not faith but presumption. It is suicide! Medicines are made from God’s creation and we should use them. If there is a staircase coming down from the temple-roof, we should use that and not jump down!! God will not protect us if we jump. If, however, we are in a jungle where medicines are not available, then we can ask God to heal us without medicines, and He will heal us – but not when He has provided medicines.
b. Do something spectacular to show others that you are a man of God. A temptation to seek man’s honour. Jesus refused to do spectacular things and miracles, for man’s honour.

3. Compromise (Matthew 4:8–10). Get the kingdoms of the world and their glory by bowing to Satan.
a. Get a right thing in a wrong way – by an unrighteous shortcut! An unrighteous action amounts to bowing to Satan. Jesus chose the long arduous way of the Cross and refused all short-cuts.
b. Pursue after the glory this world offers – money and honour, position and power (in the world or in the church). Jesus said that only God was to be worshipped, not Satan or money or anything else that he offers. Many preachers seek for a wider ministry by keeping silent about some things (that God wants them to preach about) and thus pleasing everybody. They do get a wider ministry thus – but it is by bowing the knee to Satan.

Satan comes to us in all these ways, just like he came to Jesus. Jesus drove him away with a word of God, and we can drive him away with a word of God too.


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