Speaker: Eld Sim Chow Meng
Sermon Title: Fighting Temptation
Scripture Text: Genesis 3:1-6; Matthew 4:1-11
2. Jesus’ Strategies To Overcome Temptation
3. Recovering from The Fall to Temptation
1Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[c]”
7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[d]”
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
In this day and age, we live in a connected world and can get access to any information instantly. For example, nobody needs to remember directions anymore because of GPS. Don’t know how to spell or pronounce a word? Don’t know what it means? Just google it. Simple! Today we are also spoilt for choice where entertainment is concerned: Unlike Channel 5 and Channel 8 programmes which end at 11 pm, you have movies on demand via online streaming services such as Netflix, Disney Plus and many others at any time of the day.
There is a huge amount of choices that we have on hand at any time of the day! Yet, while this easy access to any kind of information means greater efficiency and much more choices, it also means that avenues of temptation are much more accessible.
Back when I was a youth, it was not so easy for youth to access pornographic materials but nowadays, the materials may pop up on your screen unsolicited.
And what about shopping? You can now shop and purchase things with the simple click of a button from the comfort of your sofa at home, easily causing you to spend beyond your means.
And then there’s the world of gaming – while it offers great fun and entertainment, it too holds its own avenues of danger where we can easily be trapped in the cycle of making in-game purchases. Just three weeks ago, Channel News Asia Insider reported that a youth racked up some $20,000 of his parents’ mobile phone bills through the games.
Today is Youth Sunday. As I was preparing this message and doing my research, the thought that kept running through my mind was this – it is so much harder to be a youth today as compared to the time when I was a youth.
While there are various definitions of the age range the word ‘youth’ denotes, most of us would agree that being a youth is a time of great change and transition. It involves the exploration and establishing of our individual identities, trying to navigate the world as one slowly becomes an adult with increasing responsibilities – all of this can really cause anxiety and confusion. And with the growing temptations that we all face nowadays, including our youth, how can we all better navigate this time we have here and not fall easily to temptation?
The Bible offers numerous examples of people of different ages and status who faced temptations; some of them were able to overcome and others who could not. For today, we will spend our time to look at two examples and what we can learn from them.
First, let us take a look Eve’s temptation.
The scene opens with Eve being in the Garden of Eden that God has made for Adam and herself. This garden was a place of abundance that God had made. In the garden, there were many trees that was pleasant to the sight and good for food. (Gen 2:9). Out of all the trees, God mentioned two special trees, “the tree of life” and “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. Adam and Eve were commanded by God not to eat of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because if they do, they shall surely die (Gen 2:16).
In the garden, there was safety, comfort and abundance. This would have been a perfect environment that all of us would wish to have. Yet, we shall see later how Adam and Eve fell into temptation. There is often a mistaken notion that our environment is to be blamed for our tendency to fall into temptations. We blame life for giving us a raw deal, for handing us the short end of the stick. However, here in the garden, Adam and Eve had everything they needed materially, and also spiritually. So Eve’s fall can’t be attributed to the environment.
Let’s take a look at how Satan approached Eve.
1Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You
shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
In verse 1, we read that the tempter, who was Satan, came in the form of a serpent.
Notice how Satan approached Eve. She was alone. She was near the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam was not mentioned anywhere. Was he nearby? Was he faraway? We don’t know. But this thing we know. That the devil is crafty. So instead of approaching Adam, the devil approached Eve. And then when he approached Eve, he asked her a question. He asked this question, “Did God actually say you shall not eat of any tree in the garden?” How did Eve respond to the Satan’s question?
Let’s look at verse 2.
2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”
Now, when you refer back to Genesis 2:16, and you study the two verses closely, you will realise something not right. You will realise that Eve did not quote God’s word accurately. What is wrong? Eve added a phrase and the phrase is “neither shall you touch it”. It is only a phrase, but what was the impact to the verse? Because when we added this phrase, when we read it again, we realise now that Eve has made God’s word now very restrictive and very burdensome. And sometimes, when we think about our youths, they don’t rules, right? So here, Eve added something to God’s word and made it very restrictive.
And what else did Eve do? Eve said that, “You shall not touch the fruit, lest you die”. But in Genesis 2:16, when we read the verse, God said very clearly that “You shall surely die”. There is a difference, right? “You shall surely die”, means that it is a definite thing, that it is 100% you will die. But when you say, “lest you die”, it sounds more like, in case, there is a danger, better don’t. So it sound less serious, the warning becomes much milder, and the consequences, less severe.
So Eve did well, Eve recalled God’s word. But then she didn’t do well because she didn’t quoted God’s word correctly.
Satan, sensing Eve’s doubtful mind, seize the opportunity to further attack God’s word and his character in verses 4 and 5.
4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.
5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
So when you first read these verses superficially, they sound quite similar right? You talk about death, about knowing good and evil, but we know that Satan had a different intention.
Satan tried to deceive Eve by telling her that she will not die. It is a complete opposite from what God said. And to make the temptation sweet, Satan said “You are going to be like God.”
What is the issue here? Eve failed to emphasize the seriousness of the consequences and Satan completely eliminated the consequence with a lie.
Eve at this point would have doubted God that maybe he wasn’t a very good person because God is withholding something good from her. So now Eve would have perceived that she is now lacking something. Her mind was already clouded from the fact that both Adam and she were created in the image of God and so we are different from the animals. And when we are created in the image of God, we have the attributes of God to be able to think, to reason and be creative and they were already perfect but for Eve, it was not good enough.
So, how did Satan make the temptation so appealing? Here is an important point. “For temptation to be appealing, it usually contains some degree of truth”. Which is why sometimes it is hard to separate truth from error.
Now, what Satan promised Eve has some truth, that her eyes would be opened. And indeed, when she took the fruit, her eyes were opened. She realized that she was naked. But before that, she was not ashamed. But after she took the fruit, she realized that she was naked, and she became ashamed.
So Satan was able to tempt Eve by making the lie so attractive, so much so that, if there were any bad consequences, they were of little significance to Eve.
And that is what happen to many of us when we are faced with temptation. We will start to rationalize, we will start to think about the benefits, and that when we look at the consequences, we will feel that it is not such a big risk, and so we decide to submit to temptation.
At this point, Eve mind’s was now completely open to Satan’s manipulation as we shall see in the next verse.
So we read in verse 6:
6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.
At this point, there are no more thoughts about God in Eve’s mind. Satan also did not say anymore. Why? Because Satan knew that he had already won over Eve’s mind. The temptation has taken control of her thoughts and imagination. She imagined what it was going to be like if she ate the fruit. She then entertained the imagination by taking a good look at the fruit. So Satan had already fanned in Eve the flames of lust. What do I mean by the flames of lust?
First, it is a lust of the flesh. So when Eve looked at the fruit, it was good for food and it appealed to her physically. Second, the lust of the eye. It is nice. It is delightful. So she enjoyed looking at it. Third, the pride of life. She started to imagine what it would be like to become like God.
With her thoughts and imagination held captive by lusts, she engaged in the action of sinning by eating the fruit. Then she gave some to Adam, who also ate it. An important lesson for us is this: the influence of temptation is not only limited to ourselves. The influence of sin will also affect others. Eve fell into temptation, Adam also fell into temptation. And when both fell, this single act brought death to all mankind, for all have sinned. (Romans 5:12)
Looking at Eve’s temptation, we can identify five strategies that Satan uses when he tempts us:
Ultimately, what Satan tries to do is to make us become worldly, to put the world as the most important thing in our lives.
So in 1 John 2:16, we read
“For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world” (1 John 2:16).
So we see from Eve’s example, that she seek instant physical gratification to fulfil the lust of the flesh. She could not wait. She must have it. She was fully pre-occupied with it. The lust of the eyes, Eve coveted the fruit and discontented. And for some of us, we become materialistic. And the pride of life. Instead of exalting God, Eve seek to exalt herself.
Let us now look at Jesus’ strategy to overcome temptation.
Eve and Jesus both experience temptation. And the strategies the devil used on Eve, was also used on Jesus but Jesus did not give in to temptation.
Jesus, before he went to the wilderness, he was baptized by John the Baptist, and the Spirt of God descended on Jesus like a dove. A voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with who I am well pleased. The Holy Spirit then led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted for 40 days and 40 nights.
Notice that it is the Holy Spirit leading Jesus to the wilderness to be tempted. Often, people would wonder why the Holy Spirit would do such a thing. Scripture tells us that God always has a purpose for everything that happens in our lives, and sometimes, we may be lead into temptation to test our faith.
In Matthew 4, verse 2, we read that
2 And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry.
3 And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
We see Satan employing the same tactic with Jesus as he did with Eve: he appeared to Jesus at his most vulnerable moment when he became hungry. Such a time is always Satan’s moment—when we are emotionally or physically spent, when we are weary, vulnerable, and least prepared to resist the insidious suggestions he makes.
However, what is different for Jesus as compared to Eve is that He was filled with the Holy Spirit after his baptism by John. Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit is able to do three things for Christians:
So for us to overcome temptation, we will need the Holy Spirit’s help to be victorious in our Christian lives.
How can a Christian be filled with the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is given to us when we accepts Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour. He indwells in every believer. The filling of the Holy Spirit is a process, a journey as we grow in our faith. For the Holy Spirit to fill us, we need to live our faith by reading God’s word and prayer. We know more about God through the Bible and we develop our relationship with God through prayer and obeying His Word. As we surrender our lives to God, and willingly give in to the Holy Spirit to work in our lives, he will fill every part of our lives, controlling and guiding us. The Spirit then empowers us to resist temptations.
Knowing how important the Spirit’s working in our lives is, I have a question for the youth is, are you spending time to read God’s word? Why not also consider reading your Bible together with your YGLs or friends in church? I would like to encourage you to spend some time to read the editorial written by Sister Wen Wei as she shares her reflection and experience reading the Bible with her youth and how she and her youth have grown from the experience.
Let’s now look at Jesus’ first temptation. Satan used the same strategy as he did with Eve by casting doubts on God’s word and God’s sincerity.
Satan said, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread”. But Jesus replied Satan, “It is written”. Where is it written? The Old Testament.
“It is written, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'” (verse 4)
We know that the Bible is the Old Testament and New Testament together. There may be some churches which would just take part of the Bible, maybe only the New Testament and said that only the New Testament is relevant. The Old Testament is not so important. But over here, we know that Jesus quoted from the Old Testament to resist temptation.
I would like to encourage you to research where verse 4 came from. Read Deuteronomy 8:2-4 to get the full meaning of the verse. Jesus knew what he was talking about. Satan also knew. The bottom line is this, “When you are face with temptation, do you trust God?”. “Will you depend on him for your needs?” Can we say like one of the hymn writer who wrote, “Take the world, but give me Jesus, for in the cross, my trust shall be”.
Jesus trusted God. He rather depended on God for sustenance. He knew he needed food, he was hungry, but he chose to depend on God to sustain him.
Satan doesn’t give up easily. He tempted Jesus a second time. This time he quoted scripture. Since Jesus quoted scripture, Satan also quoted scripture. So in verse 5, we read
5 Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple,
6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you’;
and ‘on their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'”
When we read these verses, it sounded right. God promises us protection. So it is a good verse. But when we look at the original verses that comes from Psalm 91, a phrase is missing which is “to guard you in all your ways”.
The original meaning is that the angels will guard Jesus to obey and follow God’s will and his ways. The promise was never given for protection of angels for things that are outright sinful or forbidden like trying to endanger one’s lives by throwing oneself from a height.
Again, Jesus resisted Satan by quoting Scripture a second time.
7 Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, “You shall not put the lord your God to the test.'”
Jesus knew that to test God is to doubt God. To doubt God is to distrust Him. And to distrust Him is sin. And Satan wanted exactly that to make Jesus sin!
Satan does not give up easily. He tempted Jesus a third time by appealing to the lust of the eyes.
8 Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; 9 and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.”
This is a lie and an empty promise because we know that everything belongs to God and Satan is able to do things only because God allowed him to. Just like when we looked at Job. When Satan wanted to put Job in trouble, when he wanted to send trials to Job, Satan had to ask God for permission. So when Satan showed Jesus the world and said, “I can give this all to you”, we know was a lie and an empty promise.
And so, Jesus quoted Scripture, but this time there is a difference. We noticed that Jesus told Satan, “Be gone”, if it is written “You shall worship the lord your God, and serve him only.'”
Jesus came to do God’s will. He came so that he could save the world by dying on the cross. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45). However, Satan tried to give Jesus the world without Calvary and the Cross. He tempted Jesus that the world could be his without the need of him sacrificing his life. But Jesus knew what the Father’s will was and he chose to obey God.
Jesus told Satan, “Be gone”. And one of the strategy is to flee from temptation. So if the temptation don’t go away, I go away from the temptation.
Three weeks ago, we had a message on “The prodigal son”. The prodigal son wanted to live life his own way. He thought he would get something better in the world away from his father. So he took his share of the fortune, went away to enjoy himself and had the good life. In the end, he spent everything and was broke. His so-called friends left him. He had to work in a pigsty. Then he realised that he was looking in the wrong place all along for fulfilment and meaning in life. Before he left his father, he had all he needed but he wasn’t able to appreciate and be contented with them. Then he came to his senses and he went back to his father. When he gazed into the world, he lost everything. But when he looked towards his father, he gained back everything. So let us not be tempted by Satan’s lies, but look to God and trust in His promises.
Jesus showed us that we need to know and understand God’s word so that we can understand the whole counsel of God correctly. Only when we know the Word of God well are we able to discern truth from error. We need to know our Bible well so that we do not take one verse out of its context.
Just this week, I saw a video of an interview that was conducted by RT America with a reverend from a Methodist church regarding the acceptance of same sex marriages. The reverend quoted Scripture and pointed out that Jesus commanded Christians to love our neighbours as ourselves. So on that basis, we should not be critical about same sex marriage. On the other hand, the Bible in Genesis 2:23 and 24 instructs us that when God designed a family unit, he created man and women and both of them shall become one flesh. He did not create man out of man. A marriage therefore is a physical and spiritual union ordained by God in which a man and a woman becomes one
So now that we know we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit, know God’s word very well and trust in the Word to overcome temptations, will we be able to stand firm all the time? Of course not! Despite our best efforts, we will fall into temptation. Temptations may come from the devil or from the desires of the flesh as our sinful nature is still in us. The Apostle Paul shared with us his struggle in Romans 7:19. “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. “And in Romans 7:24, he exclaimed, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
But we need not be discouraged when we do succumb to temptation. Remember Jesus who as a man, he had successfully overcome Satan’s temptation. He knows the challenges we may face. And God has left us words of encouragement in Hebrews 11 so that we know failure is not final. (P)
Let us turn to Hebrew 11. This chapter records for us the heroes of faith. Look at verse 32. We see Samson and David in the list. In Judges 16, Samson fell in love with a Philistine prostitute who eventually tricked him and revealed the secret of his strength, which was his long hair. He was captured and blinded. Eventually God gave Samson back his strength and he killed a large number of Philistines. We read of King David’s adultery and murder in 2 Samuel 11. God forgave him and David was able to live to a good old age.
Let us also recall the Apostle Peter who denied Christ three times. Jesus restored him so that he was able to continue living his faith and complete God’s work. And the women whom the Scribes and the Pharisees wanted to stone to kill her for her adultery. Jesus after rescuing her, told her, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on, sin now more. All these examples displayed God’s inexhaustible grace.
Do you feel that you have lost your faith or that you are unworthy because of a sin in your life? I urge you to return to God. Because God is merciful, he will never reject you. In John 6:37, Jesus gave us his promise, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”
So we learnt today that Jesus resisted temptation with the filling of the Holy Spirit, by using God’s word to resist temptation and prayer. Trails and temptations will come to us, it may not be easy, but there is a blessing for each one of us when we put our trust in Jesus. After Satan left Jesus, we read in Matthew 4:11, the angels came to minster to Jesus. Just as the angels came to minister to Jesus, God will minister to us when we put our trust and faith in God. After this, Jesus began his ministry and gave one of the greatest sermon in the Bible, the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus was victorious, he lived a victorious life for God because he did not give in to temptation. I pray that all of us would also experience a victorious Christian life. May these words encourage us.