Matthew 4:1-11

Covenant & Kingdom: Temptation, 28 September 2014

Matthew 4:1-11

Big Idea: Jesus was tempted just like us—and He overcame it as we can by remembering who and Whose we are.


In previous weeks we said the Bible is a big book. It’s actually a library of 66 books. We usually study it verse-by-verse, like looking through a microscope. This series will look at it through a telescope, examining the big idea of the Bible.

Covenant and Kingdom are woven throughout the Scriptures like a
double helix is woven in DNA.

Covenant is a sacred treaty in which two parties become one. In ancient times, this always involved the shedding of blood by an animal to imply consequences for failure to fulfill the agreement.

God made a covenant with Abram, promising blessings to him and his offspring in order for them to bless the world.

Covenant is about relationship. Being. Invitation.
Kingdom is about responsibility. Doing. Challenge.

Life is filled with tension between being and doing, relationship and responsibility, being invited into relationship with God while also being challenged to represent Him and bless the world.

As we look at this idea of challenge, of kingdom, of doing God’s work in the world we are going to look at the most important character in the Bible—Jesus.

The story of the temptation of Jesus is familiar to many. After 40 days of fasting in the wilderness, Jesus refuses satan three times. If you’re like me, you may have thought it was easy for Jesus to stand up to temptation because He was God. However, He set aside the God-stuff when He came to earth in order to truly become one of us, to understand our struggles. In fact, Jesus giving in to temptation and seizing superpowers is exactly what satan wanted.

Jesus is able to represent the Father, the King, well because He understood His identity. He knew who He was.

Satan repeats one phrase: “IF you are the Son of God.” Specifically, he attacks Jesus in three areas:

turn stones into bread
prove God’s protection by jumping from the Temple
worship me and receive the kingdoms of the world

What is your greatest temptation? What is your most common sin? Chances are, you are bombarded by one, two, or all three of these temptations.


Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” (Matthew 4:1-3)

Here we see one of my favorite verses in the Bible. Jesus did not eat for 40 days and was hungry. Surprise!

We all have appetites—for food, love, sleep, purpose…Cravings are not necessarily wrong. In fact, without some—like food—we would die. The issue is how we respond to our desires. It often involves control. We question whether God can be trusted.

Jesus knew God could be trusted and did not seize control in the situation. He was obedient to the Father who called Him into the wilderness for an essential season of prayer prior to selecting twelve disciples. He knew God was good. The Father could be trusted.

What do you crave? Food? Alcohol? A perfect body? Sex? Comfort? Security? Facebook?

There are not all bad, but if they control you, they become your idol, your god.

Perhaps you’ve tried unsuccessfully to rid yourself of addiction. The early church fathers used to say that if you say no to one appetite, you can say no to something else. Dallas Willard said it this way: “Do the things you can so you can do the things you can’t.” Use your will to give up something you can control so God’s Spirit will give you the power over the other.

One example of this is Lent, 40 days of saying no to an appetite to concentrate on your identity as a child of God.

To be honest, addictions can be nasty. It’s not as simple as giving up meat for 40 days in order to destroy all cravings. It’s a step, but others may be necessary, including support groups, accountability, and prayer.

Jesus was tempted, and He responded with Scripture.

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” (Matthew 4:4)

Jesus had spiritual food upon which He was nourished. He knew the truth and it set Him free.


Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “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.’ ” (Matthew 4:5-6)

Now satan gets nasty. He starts misusing the Bible. Don’t miss this! People often flippantly say, “The Bible says…” What is the context? What did it originally mean? What does it mean today? You can’t pick and choose verses any more than you can pick and choose ingredients in a recipe (oops, I forgot the sugar in the cookies!!!).

Our identity must come from somewhere outside of us. We are prone to seek the approval of others. Instead of waiting to hear the Father say, “Well done, My good and faithful servant,” we want to be affirmed now.

Do people think I’m smart?
Do people think I’m pretty or handsome?
Do people think I’m a good parent?
Do people think I’m a good worker?
Do people like me?
Am I popular?

Approval can be an addiction. The crazy thing is often the people we want to affirm us are only temporarily in our lives. We are tempted to base our value on people that won’t even be in our lives in a few years…or maybe months.

What if we lived for an audience of One?

I struggle with this. I want people to like me. I want you to like me! I want to do things that make you happy…so you will like me! I want this sermon to be great so you’ll think I’m a great preacher and pastor! I’ve been tempted to ignore tough passages of the Bible, speaking only about things that will make you feel good.

But ultimately I have to answer to God. He loves me. He accepts me. I’ve been rejected many times by people—and it always hurts. The voice that really matters is the Father’s voice, and Jesus understood that.

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” (Matthew 4:7)

Jesus did not need to impress satan or win his approval. He was confident in His identity as the Son of the Most High God.


Success. It has been one of the most daunting words for me. Defining success has been a decades-long struggle. I want to be successful. I want to make a difference in this world. I want to do great things for God…and sometimes for my own glory!

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:8-9)

What is success? Achieving goals? Knowing and doing what God tells you. Sometimes we are obedient and look like failures. The Bible is filled with such stories, but they continued to believe God is good and faithful.

God calls us to be faithful and obedient which does not always look like success in the eyes of the world that celebrates big, popular, and excellent.

I’m not saying winning or success is necessarily wrong, but it can be if it is the source of our identity. If your success in life is tied to your performance, something’s wrong—and for so many this is the case…especially artists. As an artist, I can say this! If I write a song and you don’t like it, I’m tempted to think you are rejecting me, which is idolatry. Some athletes believe if they don’t win, they are…losers—not in a game, but life. When we seek to win for our glory, we have made ourselves lord rather than God. We’ve worshipped the created rather than the Creator.

I’m a very competitive person. A few years ago on an elder retreat we had some competitive games of doubles ping pong. It was not televised on ESPN, but there were some close games. Unbeknownst to the others, my team was winning every game, and I was quite pleased…until my team lost. I hid it, but I was inappropriately overjoyed during the victories and agonized in the defeat. When we were done, I confessed my hidden sin to the others, exposing my wicked, prideful heart.

Perhaps the most obvious sign of this is the comparison game. Someone recently said all reality TV is designed to either make us feel good about ourselves or bad about ourselves as we compare ourselves to the winners and losers.

I’m probably most insecure about other pastors, especially pastors of large churches that have written books and speak at conferences. A part of me secretly—well, not now!—wants to be a Christian celebrity, be invited to speak in front of large crowds, and “do great things for God.” Do you see the shadow motive? God wants us to be involved in His mission on earth, but He wants us to serve Him rather than the other way around. Our motives are critical, though there is no such thing as completely pure motives!

Would you like a remedy? Try this:
choose to lose.

If an argument is going a certain way―choose not to have the last word. Lose the argument.
Choose relational harmony over winning an argument.
If youʼre playing golf or a board game or basketball―make the point of playing to bless your opponent and donʼt care if you win. Play for fun.
Go above and beyond at work but donʼt let anyone know. Chose to lose the opportunity to get credit for extra work.
Another way you can address this issue is to anonymously give—money, time, expertise. Give without seeking credit or reward. The Father is watching!
The Father was watching Jesus in the wilderness…with approval.

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ ” (Matthew 4:10)

Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. (Matthew 4:11)

We’re not exactly sure what those final five words mean, but they’re pretty cool! Jesus passed the test. His preparation to begin His public ministry was complete, at least the wilderness part. He knew who He was. He had just heard the Father say at His baptism, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22)

Luke’s gospel account of the temptation of Christ ends with these words:

When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time. (Luke 4:13)

Jesus passed this test, but it was hardly the end of temptation. He experienced every day of His life as we do.

So What?

Where you are being tempted. Is it your appetite? Your ambition? Affirmation? What way do you need to intentionally press into your identity as Godʼs child?
Your Daddy loves you. He’s nuts about you! He is so near you. He believes in you. He’s proud of you. Don’t forget Whose you are. You are a King’s kid!
Is there any desire in you for the accolades of men and women around you?

If so, take the words of the Father spoken over Jesus in the gospels and substitute your name for Jesus and allows those words to sink into your heart. 

The desire of approval is the commitment to remove shame. Shame in the world's eyes is removed by acclaim. We long for things that shout down the voice of shame. What is the alternative to acclaim for shame? Allowing the Word of God to speak and give faith.

"You are my son/daughter and I love you and I'm proud of you.” If He said it over Jesus it is true of us. 

“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ (Matthew 6:9-13)

appetite: give us this day our daily bread
affirmation: lead us not into temptation
ambition: Yours is the kingdom, not mine


Ideas for this series taken from book of the same title by Mike Breen and

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