Return to the simplicity that is in Christ Jesus.
Mat 4:4 But He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'
Mat 4:7 Jesus said to him, "It is written again, 'You shall not tempt the LORD your God.
Mat 4:10 Then Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.'
I am sure you have heard hundreds of sermons preached about how our Lord Jesus used the “written” Word to ward off temptations from the devil. We have been encouraged to do the same when we are faced with tough temptations. We are chided, exhorted and taught that we need to know the Word if we are to speak the written Word to the devil, just as our Lord Jesus did.
I still remember a preacher’s message, “How can you say “It is written….when you don’t know what is written!”. I thought it was a great message then. Many a times when I was faced with temptation, I tried to use whatever little I knew was “written”. But often times, in the face of temptation, my mind went blank with regards to scriptures. The written Word was not the strongest thought at that moment, but the struggle between knowing it to be wrong and yet being tempted by the pleasure of sin was real.
I put in a lot of effort in memorising what was written. And I tried hard. Over time I learnt that the strategy doesn’t work. Speaking out the “written Word” doesn’t work. If that were true, then Apostle Paul wouldn’t have had to write Romans 7, in which he explicitly explains how he struggled with temptation. Please stop now for a minute and read Romans 7:8 right through to verse 25. Are you suggesting, Paul did not know what was written? I think not!! He knew the scriptures very well. He was a well educated Pharisee under the leadership of Gamaliel and was full of Pharisaical zeal..
The reality is often times, in the middle of temptations, we sense a power way too strong opposing our will to obey God’s commands.
Galatians 5:17 - The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. NLT
The battle with temptations mentally exhaust us and eventually we give in. Almost instantly accusations follow from the enemy, which we seldom can counteract. Because we are all guilty of course. We find ourselves weak at that moment although you remember what is “written”. Sure, after a little while (maybe a few days for some), we do get back up on our feet, because by then the temptation is gone and we are able to think clearly again. By now we realize, Jesus our Lord has cleansed us from all sin and that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). We begin our fresh walk with the Lord again, until our next temptation. Then the whole cycle continues….True?
So then, what about Matthew 4? We see our Lord Jesus resisting the devil and his temptations using the written Word of God. Are we not to follow His example?
No, we are not! Did I just shock you? Friends, Let me “Re-introduce” our Lord Jesus and the true gospel to you.
Jesus was both fully God and fully man. All mankind has fallen short of the glory of God. There was only one man on earth who was totally, completely, fully sinless and absolutely righteous. That was Jesus, the Son of the Most High God. No one else. He came to earth to pay the ultimate price for the sins of mankind and rescue us all from eternal damnation. To do this, He had to be born of the law (which no man could keep). Hence he was born of Mary, in the natural way, just like man. To be a sinless sacrifice for mankind, He HAD TO keep the written law of God and live His life fulfilling the law. Remember, Jesus said “ I am the fulfilment of the law.” He also said in Mat 5:17 - "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
So, even in the face of temptation, Jesus fulfilled the law, by speaking out “It is written, It is written, It is written….because He knew what was written in the law AND He was the only one who could keep it. No man was/is ever able to abide by the law. Jesus was the only one and remains the only one capable of fulfilling the law.
For example, the law of the land states the speed limit on city roads is 50mph. We know the law. We are tempted to speed, but we are able to refrain and abide by the law. We are capable of refraining from breaking the law. But with the law of God, we are NOT capable of refraining from breaking the law. Only Jesus had that capacity. That’s precisely why He had to come. And He came for one reason, which was to rescue us from the power of sin in our lives. John the Baptist confirmed His purpose by introducing Him to the world saying “Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Jesus did not come to “demonstrate” to us, how to keep the law, but to deliver us from it. As the bible says, we were already dead in our trespasses. Jesus came to breathe new life into us. He didn’t come to make bad people good through behavioural change, but to make dead people alive through transformation.
That is the gospel friends. That’s why it is called Good News. Why? Because we are not condemned anymore for having broken the law. We are forgiven. We are redeemed from the curse of the law. (Galatians 3:13). Our righteousness therefore comes by faith alone. Faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross. Our victory over temptation comes by faith alone. Faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross.
When we are faced with temptation now, we ought not to try and remember what is written, but we ought to remind ourselves that we are now the righteousness of God through Christ’s finished work on the cross. We ought to remind ourselves, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1). We ought to remind ourselves that we are saved not by our good works and will power to stay free from temptation, but by trusting in the finished work of Christ on the cross. We ought to remind ourselves that sin no longer has dominion over us because we are not under law but under grace. We ought to remind ourselves that Christ our Lord has destroyed the power of sin by his death and resurrection. The more we remind ourselves of this, the stronger we get in faith and the weaker sin and temptation gets. And suddenly one day, you realise how petty and inconsequential that very temptation was.
Jesus our Lord knew He was righteous and sinless. That’s why in the story of the woman caught in adultery, He boldly said “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.” He was the only one without sin, in that story. He could have stoned that woman to death as per law, but He didn’t cast the stone. He forgave the woman caught in adultery and told her to sin no more. That’s because He also knew He was taking that woman’s sin upon Himself shortly. Because Jesus knew He was righteous and sinless, He had the confidence and boldness to cast evil spirits out, cast sicknesses out and command healing. They had no hold on Him. That’s why He said in John 14, whoever believes in Him, will do the works He did and even greater things that what He did.
Jhn 14:12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
How is that possible you ask? If we truly believe the gospel message, then we ought to live by faith that we are now sinless just as our Lord was/is. We ought to live by faith, KNOWING that because of Christ’s finished work on the cross, demons and sicknesses have no hold over us. We are sinless and righteous just as Jesus is because of the finished work on the cross. When we really believe that, then we will have the boldness and authority to command demons out and heal the sick. That is the gospel message friends.
Temptations are not overcome by knowing and quoting what is written, but by faith in the finished work of our Lord Jesus . Amen!!
I was radically transformed by the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ back in 1997 in a most unusual way and unusual place. Read my testimony here. Over the years of my walk with God, I have come to realize a few basic truths that have altered my life.