Dear Radio Friends,
In the past weeks we have busied ourselves with the temptations of Jesus Christ. These temptations are recorded for us in Matthew 4. If you consult and read that passage, you will find that there the Scriptures tell us of the three temptations that were brought to Jesus by the devil, temptations that were brought to him shortly after He had been baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. That baptism had been the announcement of the beginning of His ministry. Immediately after that baptism He is led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted.
Three great temptations. The first: “Change these stones into bread. The Father has said to You,” said the devil, “that You are His beloved Son, that He loves You. But You don’t have any evidence of that. You need something more than the word of God about that. You have to demonstrate it.”
When that failed, the devil immediately took Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple. And he says from the pinnacle of the temple as it looks down over the cliffs below: “Cast Thyself off. For, the Scriptures have said, He will give His angels charge, He will bear You up in their arms, and You won’t even scratch Your foot upon the stones below.”
Then the last temptation (which we have not yet come to) was when the devil took Jesus to the high mountain and told Him that all the nations that He saw would be His if only Jesus would bow and worship the devil.
As we continue with that second temptation which we began last week, the temptation about casting Himself off the roof of the temple, as we seek to learn the Word of God in this temptation, there are a few things that we need to remember about the whole truth of the temptations of Christ. We must remember, first of all, that these temptations were real. This was not a show, not play-acting. We have the Scripture’s own words for it that He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15). Our Lord was without sin. He was not able to sin. We often say, “Well, if He could not sin, how could He really be tempted?” That is very difficult to grasp. Yet the Scriptures say that He was tempted. It was part of His humiliation, part of His coming into our state and under the guilt of our sins, the sins of all those whom the Father gave to Him out of the decree of gracious election. He entered into our human state entirely. He was rejected. He experienced poverty, hunger, tiredness. And part of our human condition is temptation. So He was tempted. With His holy soul and a full humanity He was confronted with temptation in such a way that we cannot be confronted with it. For He always immediately saw its despicable horror. No, the Lord was not play-acting. These things were very real, so real that the Scriptures say to us that in that He suffered, being tempted, He is able also to comfort, to succor us who are tempted.
Still more. We must remember that these temptations were not simply a breeze for the Lord. He did not coast through them with a mere shrug of His shoulders. So real were these temptations that we have this word of God in Hebrews 5:7, 8: “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” There that Scripture says that Jesus feared. He was aware of the awful sin that was placed before Him by Satan. He saw the implications. And with eyes filled with holy horror, He looked unto His Father. We imagine that it must be easier for Him, and therefore He cannot really understand what we are going through when we are tempted. We say, “How can He know?” But that is not so. He knows the pressures of Satan in a way that we could never have known them. He underwent that temptation in a way that we could never have done so, so that the Scriptures say, “He will with the temptations also provide a way of escape; that we may be able to bear it.”
His temptations were not imaginary. And His temptations were not merely a breeze for Him.
In all of these things our Savior stands before us as our great High Priest, our great Savior, so that when we are tempted, by faith being united to Him, we have in Him not only understanding of these temptations but, in Him, we have that spiritual grace and strength whereby we might stand in the face of our temptations.
We learn from our Savior, once more, as He goes into temptation. We learn not only of His own perfection in the midst of these temptations, but as we observe Him in these temptations we become armed that we might stand also against all temptations.
The second temptation was when the Lord was challenged by the devil to cast Himself from the temple. We saw last week that this was a temptation in which He would actually be tempting God, a temptation in which the devil was saying to Him, “Well, you have told me that You believe the word of God. If You believe the word of God, then why don’t You set up a situation to put that word of God to a test. You need to test the word of God. So devise Your own little test. Bring Yourself into a humanly impossible situation. Deliberately walk in a foolish way. Deliberately set aside what God has revealed about caring for your body. Set that all aside. Set up this test: jump from the pinnacle of the temple. Set up a test to see whether or not the Word of God in Psalm 91, which said that He would give His angels charge over You to keep You and to bear You up, whether that word of God is true.”
Now we saw last week that that was wicked. It was wicked because it was tempting God. It was devising an experiment to see whether or not God’s Word could be trusted. The Savior saw immediately to the heart of that temptation and said, “Man shall not tempt the Lord God.”
There are some lessons that jump out for us today.
The first lesson is this. The Christian must make it his object to know the Bible well. We are surrounded by temptations. They are cunning and they are well crafted and expertly devised. If you are to stand in these temptations, you must know the Scriptures well. Satan will use Scripture. He will tempt you to believe a heresy, that is, a doctrinal error. Satan can prove just about any doctrinal heresy that has ever been imagined with a verse from the Bible – wrenched, pulled out of the unity of all of the Scriptures.
We know that the devil hates Scripture. But we also know that he is able to use the truths of Scripture against each other, especially when he tempts a serious student of the Bible who wants to know the Scriptures. The devil will often tempt him, coming to him with Scripture, and trying with that Scripture to establish a false doctrine, to establish something that is God-dishonoring in his life.
You remember that Satan used Psalm 91. He used that to tempt Jesus. A very beautiful passage of Scripture. The devil knew what Psalm 91 says. Do you? Do you know about Psalm 91? Satan does. Satan could quote it from memory. He did not need to look it up. He knew it. He is a student of the Bible. Oh, yes, he is. He is also a student, we said a couple weeks ago, of human nature. He knows human nature like a book. But he also knows holy Scripture. And he is always sharpening his arrows. He knows the Bible well enough to know how to use it for his own devilish purposes. Yes, he hates the Bible. Yes, he tries to get the Bible banned and burned. He tries to get the Bible made into false translations and paraphrases. Paraphrases of the Bible are not translations of the Bible but simply taking the Scriptures and putting them into man’s words and passing that off as the Bible.
But he is able to use the Scriptures themselves in his temptations against the Christians. Now, of course, he always distorts and misuses it. In Psalm 91:11, which he quoted to Jesus in the effort to get Him to cast Himself from the pinnacle, the devil left out a little phrase. He left out just enough to turn the whole meaning upside down. Did you catch it as you read the passage? “He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.” The words he left out were these: “To keep thee in all thy ways.” The devil did not quote that. “He shall give His angels charge over Thee,” said the devil. Then he left out those words and went on, “They shall bear thee up in their hands….” Satan left out these words: “To keep thee in all thy ways.” Psalm 91 was giving assurance to the servant of God who was walking in the ways of God, in the ways that were determined of God. To such a servant God was giving assurance that He would keep him. To a servant of God who is walking in the ways of God, ways which are pleasing to God, God says, “I will give the angels charge to keep you.”
Now Satan dropped the part about walking in God’s appointed way. And he wants to say to Jesus, “God’s promise to give His angels charge to protect You means that You may walk in any way You choose and still claim this promise of God.” He was trying to say, “Choose the way You want to go. Just let go and let God. And that will show how much You trust in God.” But, you see, that use of the Scripture perverts Scripture. That is not all of the Scripture. Psalm 91 is not saying, “Go off on your own way, do your own thing and God will take care of you.” Psalm 91 does not say or teach that! It teaches this: The righteous man, the servant of the Lord, will receive the assurance of the protection and the care of God by walking in the way of the Lord.
Satan uses the Word, all right, but he omits. Satan uses the Word of God, all right, but he uses it in a way which always has the Scriptures contradicting themselves.
You see, when he wants to tempt a covetous man, then he pulls out Philippians 4:19: “But my God shall supply all your needs according to his riches and glory.” Or, he will use Psalm 37: “The Lord will give you the desires of your heart.” Now, he will say to a person (and he says it right through the church, sometimes even through ministers and pastors in their false preaching), to a person who is covetous: “Didn’t He say that? He said He will give you all the desires of your heart. Now you desire that new house, don’t you? You desire that nice new car? You desire that woman for a wife? Well, the Lord said that He will give you the desires of your heart. Just trust Him and lay hold of it by faith, claim it by faith, and it will be yours. And if you don’t get it, it’s because you don’t really believe God, do you?” You see, that is the strategy of Satan. That is exactly what he was trying to do to the Lord.
And that is commonly done today in the church world. A preacher stands up and says, “The Scriptures mean that if you ask in the name of Jesus Christ for anything, and you believe it hard enough, you’ll get it. Because God said it, didn’t He? He said He will give you whatever you desire. So demand of God health. Demand of Him wealth, happiness. Claim it. And if you don’t receive it,” they say to you, “it’s because you don’t have faith.” Now that is not the preaching of God’s Word. That is not the preaching of Christ crucified. That is the same message that the devil brought to Jesus. That is utterly false. Do not be deceived by it! Do not be deceived by the apparent glitter and piety of it. There is nothing pious, godly, or holy about that type of idea being circulated in the Christian church. Do not pervert the Word of God. Woe be to preachers, who call themselves servants of Christ, who so twist and pervert the Word of God. The Word of God is precious. But the Word of God may not be made to say whatever a person wants it to say.
You must know the Word of God. You must know the Word of God around its own theme, which is the glory and sovereignty of God. Then you will not be shaken by every new doctrine. That is the theme of the Scripture: the glory and sovereignty of God.
We live in the day of the Internet. There are all sorts of ideas, all kinds of documents floating around. Men and women, also in Reformed churches, discover things that they never heard about, and now they think that they have some new truth. They have an idea that the pastor never figured out. And they begin to propagate it in the church. It is an old heresy, no doubt, because the Scriptures say there is nothing new under the sun. These are old heresies resurrected. And when such people are told, “What you are propagating now in the church is simply an old heresy that the church in the past dealt with and condemned, and because it was so important the church made a statement about it in the creeds,” they will not listen to that because they have their proof texts and they become very proud. Then they say to the leaders of the church: “You guys just haven’t caught on yet. You don’t have the Spirit. We have the Spirit.”
People of God, we must have sound understanding of the Word of God. That sound understanding of the Word of God is the Scriptures in their entirety, the Scriptures from their own theme of the sovereignty of God, and the Scriptures as they have been understood by the church, led by the Holy Spirit down through the ages as the church also sets forth that truth in the Christian creeds.
You say, “I’m not really a student of the Bible. I just want a practical life. I find it very hard to read.” Child of God, you need God’s Word in order to stand against temptation. You must take the whole armor of God. Do not have this mentality: that there is nothing worth knowing in the Bible unless it makes you feel good, so you go through the Bible looking for things that make you feel good. And you say, “This is very practical, this applies to my life; but that’s doctrinal and I can’t really understand that, so I’m not going to pay attention to that.” Do not do that. Come as a child. Come in faith. Be a member of a sound, biblical church which has a creed which tells you what it believes from the Word of God, up front, tells you right up front what it believes. Test that with the Word of God. And constantly be storing away in your mind knowledge. Be a student of the holy Scriptures. Get to know what they mean. If you say that it is OK to be naïve, you do not need to know the Word of God, the devil will use that against you.
The second thing I want to point out today is, once more, how wicked it is to tempt God, how wicked it is to create circumstances designed to see if He is going to be faithful to His Word or not – to say, “Well, the will of God determines when I die. And I know that I won’t die a moment before He has determined and not a moment after. So, I’ll drive like a maniac.” That is to tempt God. That is not pious. That is awful – a blasphemy against God!
You expect God, then, to work above ordinary means. That is what you are saying. What you are saying is, “Lord, if You are there and You expect me to believe that You are really there, then You had better work through extra-ordinary means. The Word of God isn’t good enough. You had better show me that You really care for me, that You are really powerful. To show me that You are really powerful, here’s the conditions that I lay down. And if You respond, Lord, to these conditions, then we will really know that You are a mighty and powerful God.” That is blasphemy!
The Lord has said that He will provide for the needs of our family. That is true. But do not take that Word of God and say, “I don’t like my job. And even though I don’t have any other prospect, I’ll just quit and trust the Lord on a venture of faith.”
When you come to a trying circumstance, that is not an opportunity to demand from God to prove Himself to you. Rather, it is the time that you are to trust in God. Walking in His way, doing His will – in that way you will be assured that He is with you to care for you.
Oh, I know the response. The response will be this: “Oh, Pastor Haak, you don’t believe that God is able to control the car and keep you safe. You don’t believe that He can provide for your family even as He rained down manna upon Israel. You don’t have much faith.” My answer is this: “I know that God protects me when I am in my car and in my house and at all times. I know that. But I know that He has called me, before His face, to provide for my family and to exercise caution and to walk in His ways. And it is sin to blackmail God, to try to get Him into a situation where He has to do something for us to prove Himself to us.”
At the root of this is unbelief. That may seem strange. But at the root of this really is unbelief. It is to insult God.
Hear the Word of God, and get it straight! God is the law-maker. All that He does He does to please Himself. God will not be brought into testings that you devise. You do not lay down the terms whereby His faithfulness is proven. He does not submit to your experiments to establish His faithfulness and power. He is God. He calls you to obey Him, to walk in His ways. And as you walk in His ways, to receive from Him this assurance, He will care for you and keep you.
May God bless His Word to our souls.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word. And we pray for its blessing now upon us in this day, through Jesus Christ, Amen.