Date: 3 Apr 2022 Sermon Text: Luke 4:1-13 Speaker: Pastor Daniel Tan
A blessed Sunday to all. We are glad that the new Safe Management Measures allows us to sing with our masks on. Looking forward to having all of us fill the hall here in Henderson with our praises to God.
Last Sunday, God’s Word was so relevantly given to us together with the very personal sharing of Rev Daniel Gan. We were reminded from 2 Cor 1, that God’s comfort is with us in all our afflictions. Not some but all our afflictions. And that there is a purpose in our afflictions – it was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.
We were also reminded that God has called us as a faith community to share one another’s burdens. For when we do, Gal 6:2 says we are fulfilling the law of Christ.
Thus, if reliance on God is vital to carrying us through our trials and tribulations, we want to make sure that God is reliable. That Jesus our Saviour can be trusted and depended upon.
Today, through the 13 verses of Luke chapter 4, we will see how reliable the Son of God is. How through every trial and temptation, Jesus our Lord and Savour has successfully overcome and emerged victorious.
In my preparation for today’s sermon, I was reminded of the Netflix series Squid Game. Not sure how many of you are familiar with it?
Squid Game was released worldwide on September 2021, to critical acclaim and international attention. It is Netflix's most-watched series, becoming the top-viewed program in 94 countries and attracting more than 142 million member households.
This South Korean series revolves around a contest where 456 players, all of whom are in deep financial debt risk their lives to play a series of deadly children's games for the chance to win a 45.6 billion Korean Won prize. The characters in the episodes, portray how people would respond when stripped down to their most basic of human needs.
Now, most of us can do the easy and right things and look good to those around us. But that is until we have to choose whether or not to compromise when our own well-being is endangered.
To add to the temptation, for these 456 players, for every player eliminated (killed) in the competition, the pool of money grows by a hundred million won. After each death all the remaining players see physical cash being topped up in this gigantic piggy bank.
To add to the tension and to fuel the base human greed, there is a cruel catch. The characters have to choose, stay in the game for a chance to win this 45.6 billion won (with the possibility of being killed) or if the majority wants, they can end and walk away from the game. But the catch is that if the remaining majority choose to end the game, they don’t get to share the existing prize money. Instead, the prize pool would be split up and go to the deceased players’ families.
So, with much irony, one participant remarks “If we stop right now, that only helps the ones who are dead,”. No one is forcing them to play on, but they are compelled because of the greed for the grand prize.
The producers have attempted to use this as a metaphor for the extreme competitive rat race which society is running. We do all it takes, to get ahead of our colleagues, sometimes killing ourselves in the process and all for fame, money and power.
An apt summary, of the struggles we face in society and also that of the 3 temptations of Jesus in Luke 4, is found in 1 Jn.
16 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. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. — 1 Jn 2:16-17
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
The context leading up to Jesus’ temptation by Satan is the baptism of Jesus. Jesus who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirt, had the endorsement of the Holy Spirit at his baptism and how in chapter 4, full of the Holy Spirit was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness for 40 days to be tempted.
The presence of the Holy Spirit to lead, to strength and to encourage was every present in our Lord Jesus Christ. And it is significant to note that it is the Holy Spirit who led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted.
At the baptism, God the Father says, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’ Yet the Holy Spirit led Jesus to be tempted. So, it was God who allowed His beloved Son to face severe temptation.
As we have learnt from 2 Cor 1 last week about afflictions, can we learn from Luke 4 that God can shake us by allow us to face temptations. We can be in the centre of God’s will, doing all that God has purposed for us and there, in that sweet spot, we will yet experience our temptations.
Did you see Denzel Washington’s advice to Will Smith at the recent Oscars? ‘At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you’.
Can the principle of 2 Cor 1:9 also apply here. That God in His providence will allow temptation so that we are driven not to rely on ourselves but instead to thrust ourselves fully upon Jesus.
Remember when we went through the genealogy, we understood that Jesus is the 2nd Adam and the better one. Through the temptation Jesus shows us why he is the better Adam. He will demonstrate why He has received the commendation from God – You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.
Luke 4 brings us back to Genesis 3. Now in Gen 3, the first Adam was in a beautiful garden where there was no sin. Jesus in contrast is in the wilderness, in a world filled with sin. Yet Adam in the most perfect of environment did fall into sin. Jesus on the other hand, in the most hostile of environment, did not sin.
The first Adam was not fasting for 40 days when Satan came to him and Eve with the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But Jesus had no food for 40 days. So, we reference at our sermon on Luke 3 and:
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. — Rom 5:18
By putting the baptism and genealogy of Jesus together with the temptation, Luke helps us to see the stark contrast between the first Adam and the second Adam. And how much more credible and dependable is Jesus the 2nd Adam. It helps us to further appreciate why God the Father is well pleased with Jesus.
Before we begin to look specifically at the 3 temptations. We want to also note the significance of the 40 days that Jesus was tested in the wilderness.
According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, a year for each day, you shall bear your iniquity forty years, and you shall know my displeasure.’ — Num 14:34
The 40 days of Jesus’ temptation is a representative of the 40 years that Israel wandered in the wilderness because of their disobedience to God. Jesus represents the True Israel.
And this link is further strengthened when we (1) put Psalm 106 alongside Luke 4 and (2) also note that everything that Jesus replied came from Deuteronomy - which has its context in the 40 years of Israel’s wilderness wanderings.
“It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone”
3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” 4 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’ ” — Lk 4:3-4
In this first temptation, Satan wanted Jesus to turn stone to bread, not to prove that He is the Son of God by performing a miracle. Satan knows that Jesus is the Son of God and in the wilderness, there is no one to witness this miracle.
Satan is tempting Jesus about what it means to be the Son of God. Will Jesus as God’s beloved Son, accomplish God’s will by God ordained way? Will Jesus as fully human, give in to his natural desires instead of sticking to God’s chosen path?
Jesus understood the temptation and thus he replied, quoting from Deut 8:3, it is written, man shall not live by bread alone.
And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. — Deut 8:3
14 But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness, and put God to the test in the desert; 15 he gave them what they asked, but sent a wasting disease among them. — Ps 106:14-15
The context of Deut 8 which is reference in Ps 106:14 & 15 is about the episode in Exodus 16. There the people were hungry and grumbled to Moses that God had led them out of Egypt to starve them in the wilderness.
To their grumbling, God told Moses, He will feed them from heaven by sending manna. God sent sufficient for each day in the morning and on the sixth day, sufficient for them to gather for 2 days.
The people of Israel ate the manna forty years, till they came to a habitable land. They ate the manna till they came to the border of the land of Canaan. — Ex 16:35
God faithfully provided for Israel, daily Manna for 40 years till they came to the border of the land of Canaan.
Numbers 11 records, Israel angered the Lord further when they complained that manna was not enough.
4 Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. 6 But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.” — Num 11:4-6
Israel did not trust God to sustain them in the wilderness and then worst, they did not trust God that manna was sufficient for them, they demanded meat.
To the temptation of taking things into your own hands and not following God’s ordained ways, Jesus says, man shall not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. Israel did not survive because of manna, she survived because God said so and God provided the manna.
Satan was tempting Jesus to focus on his human physical need and not on God’s will.
Today, humans continue to put our physical needs or wants and our desires ahead of what is God’s ordained will for our lives. This is a temptation we yield so every readily in our pursuit of self-indulgence.
God’s ordained will is that the marriage bed be kept pure and that the gift of sex is to be enjoyed within the boundaries of marriage. But today, dating Christian couples struggle with the temptation of pre-marital sex. For married Christian couples the struggle is with the temptation of staying faithful and not divorcing. Today, in the Christian circles, there is a push to even reconsider what constitutes a couple. Must it always be 1 male and 1 female?
And so we justify, our physical ‘needs’ have to be met, our ‘desires’ have to be fulfilled, even though it means walking outside of God’s ordained will. If manna was to only be collected on 6 days, because the 7th day was the Sabbath, do we seek today to climb off the rat race treadmill once a week so that we can spend the day worshipping God? Do we trust God enough that He will provide sufficiently in the 6 days for all 7 days? Are we tempted to think that only we can fulfil our needs? Jesus overcame this temptation so that in His strength, we too can overcome.
“It is written, you shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve”
5 And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6 and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’ ” — Lk 4:5-8
In this second temptation, Satan tempted Jesus with being able to grasp all the world’s glory, power and fame. And to achieve all this through by-passing God’s will of the cross.
It’s interesting that Jesus does not refute that Satan is able to give him the kingdoms of the world. If Satan did not have the power, then it would not be any temptation to Jesus. It is thus true that if you sell your soul to the devil, he is able to give you the material things of this world.
Jesus’ response however is that personal glory is not His aim, God’s glory is what is most important. Obedience to God’s will and His ways are what is key. You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve. Jesus quotes from Deut 6.
13 It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. 14 You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— 15 for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God—lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth. — Deut 6:13:15
Here is the temptation of idolatry, of putting anything before and in place of God.
As we read Ps 106 alongside Luke 4, we come to v19 and 20 and there we are reminded of the golden calf that Aaron and the people made while Moses was away meeting with God.
19 They made a calf in Horeb and worshiped a metal image. 20 They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass. — Ps 106:19-20
What did God give Moses then? It was the 10 commandments and the first is ‘you shall not have other gods before me’.
Last year we went through 1 & 2 Kings, we know how idolatrous the people of Israel were.
I suppose we could use King David’s adultery as an example of the 1st temptation. And we could use King Solomon as an example of the 2nd temptation. Solomon’s foreign wives led him astray to worship foreign gods. Something that so displeased God that God raised adversaries against Solomon and allowed a split in the kingdom during the time of Solomon’s son.
Besides Squid Game, if we want to understand the lure of money, sex and power, we can watch the movie - The Devil's Advocate. Filmed in 1997 and starring Keanu Reeves as a young lawyer who sells his soul to Al Pacino, a major New York law firm partner who is actually the devil in disguise.
Though the affluence of corporate wealth and power, the young lawyer’s marriage becomes strained. Temptations abound for shady deals and underhanded legal processes just so as to win cases and increase in fame. In the movie, many of Al Pacino’s tempting moves, have echoes of the temptation we see in Luke 4. Sadly, at the end of the show, Keanu Reeves character makes the choice to fully embrace this sinful lifestyle tempted by the sin of vanity.
In Singapore we commonly talk of the 5Cs (Cash, Car, Credit card, Condominium and Country club) as the aspiration of many. I suppose it epitomizes materialism. Have they become idols even for Singapore Christians? With property prices going up, have Condos become even more of a status symbol. With COE’s at an all-time high, are not the ownership of cars becoming more of a status symbol as well?
Country Clubs may not be great investments today, but the hobby of golf is associate with it. Let’s generalize to speak about hobbies then.
Have our hobbies become our idols though the excessive amount of time and money that we spend on them? Has the lure of generating passive income consumed our spare time? Feeding our discontentment and fuelling self-reliance?
Are our heavy investment in hobbies like golf and generating passive income, all for the sole purpose of increasing our Cash and lifting our Careers?
Where our treasure is, there our heart will be.
Idolatry is rampant in materialistic Singapore. Jesus says instead, you shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve. Jesus overcame this temptation so that in His strength, we too can overcome.
“It is said, you shall not put the Lord your God to the test”
9 And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written, “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ 11 and “ ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ” 12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” Luke 4:9-12
Satan begins this temptation by quoting Scripture to Jesus. He quotes from Ps 91:11-12. Jesus is now at the top of the temple. The temple is where the presence of Yahweh is most manifested and in a sense where Jews should feel most protected.
Psalm 91 is about God’s protection upon His anointed. If God can give such promises in the Psalm, how much more would God protect Jesus who is the beloved Son and the Messiah?
Jesus should not suffer anything. The Messiah should be born with a silver spoon and live a life of luxury and ease. God the Father’s plan for the Messiah however, was not a life of earthly bliss but that of servanthood and the sacrifice of the cross.
The devil says, test that God’s ways are really best for you. Test that God’s promises are true, test that He cares and loves you. To that, Jesus quotes from Deut 6:16 – It is said, you shall not put the Lord your God to the test.
16 “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. 17 You shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his testimonies and his statutes, which he has commanded you. — Deut 6:16-17
32 They angered him at the waters of Meribah, and it went ill with Moses on their account, 33 for they made his spirit bitter, and he spoke rashly with his lips. — Ps 106:32-33
The sentence in Deut 6:16 ends with as you tested him at Massah. Both Massah in Deuteronomy and Meribah in Psalms are mentioned in the incident in Exodus 17.
There the Israelite grumbled to Moses that they did not have sufficient water to drink. They were ready to stone Moses. So Moses cried out to God and God gave Moses the ability to strike a rock at Horeb and water gushed out.
Both Deuteronomy 6 and Psalm 106 note that God was very displeased with the Israelites request. It showed their lack of trust in God. They were questioning God’s love and concern for them.
Hebrews 3, elaborates for us what it means to test God by hardening our hearts.
12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. — Heb 3:12-14
Could the circumstances of our lives, cause us to blame God, to be bitter towards Him? Could it be because, despite what Scripture says, we think wrongly, that Christians should not be afflicted, should not be tempted?
May the life of Jesus show us that trials and temptations are par for the course of life. May the Holy Spirit help us see that God indeed loves us, for Scripture tells us, Jesus sacrifice Himself for us at Calvary. And there he won the ultimate victory over sin and death for us.
Could it also be our continued blatant and unrepentant sin that is causing the hardened of our hearts? Have our hearts grown calluses so that there is lesser and lesser sensitivity to the prompting of the Holy Spirit as we read the Bible?
Has the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life, so consumed us that we justify all that we are doing as acceptable? Has Scripture become outdated, irrelevant, and not applicable?
May the warning of Hebrews help us be aware of this 3rd temptation in Luke 4. Let us not put Jesus our Lord to the test. Instead let us hold on to our original confidence firm to the end.
Jesus overcame this temptation so that in His strength, we too can overcome.
Now that we have seen the significance of Jesus’ temptation, may I share some implications which we can consider as we close this sermon.
Firstly, Jesus understands all the temptations we face. As a full human, Jesus faced them in the most intense of environments. He has proven that He is indeed the better Adam. We must take comfort that He has identified with us.
Secondly, Jesus has defeated Satan. He has won against Satan here in Luke 4 and Jesus will complete His victory over Satan at the cross. This means we resist and fight temptation from a point of strength. For Christ has already won the ultimate victory. His Spirit now lives in us and we have the choice, the freedom to choose not to yield to temptation.
We also have God’s grace to catch us when we fall. God can and will restore us. Romans 8 says:
1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. — Rom 8:1-2
Finally, through the account of Luke 4, we see 2 resources that Jesus has given us for every trial and temptation.
Firstly, Jesus shows that in full reliance upon the Holy Spirit, there is strength. Secondly, Jesus shows that full dependence upon Scripture is our defensive shield.
Church, therefore Apostle Paul exhorts us:
11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil ….14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. — Eph 6:11, 14-18
I came across a Christian who shared his thoughts about Squid Game. He said, “as a Christian, it is comforting to know that God has already decided my worth. It is more than 1 billion won. After all, our prize is not the world’s prize. Somehow, in God’s strange economy, my worth is equal to the very life of Jesus Christ, who gave Himself and died on the cross for my sins. A Person has paid the price for our prize.”
May the fact that Jesus overcame all of Satan’s temptations and fulfilled God’s mission for Him at Calvary, provide us proper perspective as we live in the face of temptation daily.