Friday, May 8, 2009

Again - Matthew 4 part 5

“Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory; and he said to him, ‘All these things will I give You, if You fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Begone Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and serve Him only.’ Then the devil left Him; and behold angels came and began to minister to Him.” (Matthew 4:8-10)

Two "thens" and an "again". This third temptation begins with the word "again." “Again the devil…” He just won’t relent!! Again and again and again. Our enemy doesn’t give up easily. He seeks to wear us out and break us down. Have you ever found yourself in the midst of an "again" where your testing is concerned? I certainly have.

Satan is persistent. The amazing thing is that the one whom he is relentlessly pursuing in Matthew 4 is Christ. Clearly the devil had neither seen nor sensed ANYTHING in Christ that even appeared to be an Achilles’ heel in the midst of these temptations. The devil is dogged in his determination to bring about a fall. We should not be surprised with the “agains” that seem to be continually crossing our paths. Satan knows that we are frail and fragile. We are much, much easier prey than the omnipotent King whom he pursues in these verses.

Christ has blamelessly withstood two attempts of the wicked one. Here comes number three. Henry states, “The worst temptation was reserved for the last. Whatever temptation we have been assaulted by, still we must prepare for worse.” We need God's gracious intervention to make us able to stand firm in the midst of the “agains”. We need His mercy and His strength for we are not Christ. No, we are so weak and are vulnerable to these fainting spells. When you've been through fiery battles, the thought of another one, the thought of a worse one can be terrifying. Lord -Help us to trust You to know best what we need most – even if that includes another “again” – even if that includes a worse “again.”

Here is how the again plays out. "The devil took Him to a very high mountain…” – Obviously the pinnacle of the temple wasn’t a high enough place to make Christ fall so Satan seeks to take Him higher still. Again, the “again” is worse. Our enemy will go to whatever heights or depths he deems necessary to destroy us. Greater pride – falser humility – unfounded guilt – ungrounded security. I cannot trust anything that he says. I can believe nothing that he shows. His perspective is completely skewed. The only safe and sure mountain is Mt. Zion. Lord, help me to see from the heights of your mountain and none other!

The devil took Him to a very high mountain “and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world….” The absolute audacity of our adversary. Stop and think about it. As if he could show anything new or unknown to the Omniscient One! Christ created this world. “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on the earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created by Him and for Him. And he is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Col 1:14-17). Jesus knew what was out there – He made it! Oh, the wonder of Christ as the suffering servant. “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrow He carried.” He put up with all of this foolishness on our behalf. In active obedience He went up on the mountain with the Devil that we would be able to withstand the fiery darts of the Devil.

Satan took our Lord to a very high mountain to show Him all the kingdoms of the world “and their glory…” Here is audacity take two! And their glory? You’ve got to be kidding me – Christ IS their glory. “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever.” (Ro 11:36).

LORD – as I read these words I am reminded how easily we can seek our own glory. Please set our eyes, our minds, our affections on You alone. May your glory be our highest end and chief delight. Humble us and make our love for You greater than our love for any other things. Help mus to seek first your righteousness. Help us to, whatever we do, "to do all things for the glory of God." Make our delight to be in the law of the Lord and make us to meditate in it day and night. Make our “one thing” seeking and knowing You and let us dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of our life. Let us behold the beauty of the Lord and let us meditate in Your temple. Oh my God – this is my heart’s desire for myself and for my friends. Grant it to be so. If the horrible place of "again" will lead us there then praise Your holy name for that difficult place.

The devil takes Christ to the high mountain and once there “he said to Him, 'all these things will I give You…'” What could anyone give to Christ that has not first come from His hand? What could anyone offer to Him that He does not already own? “For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.” (Ps 50:10). Satan is a liar and a deceiver and he desires to trap and trick us with his false words.

Lord – grant us to hear the voice of our Shepherd and not the voice of the wolf who seeks to drag us away. “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (Jm 1:17). “And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Ph 4:19). Where else would I look? What other fount would I seek to drink from? What other bread would I feast upon? MY God shall supply all my needs. MY God is sweeter than the honeycomb. MY God is fairer than all the lilies of the field. “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And beside Thee, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever… The nearness of God is my good; I have made the LORD God my refuge that I may tell of all Thy works!” (Ps 73:25-28.)

Why does Satan toss out these supposedly tantalizing morsels? To drive Christ to the most heinous of sin. "All these things I will give you if You fall down and worship me….” – What a wretched and hideous temptation. Worship him? The horrible pride of our adversary. How he longs to be God and how he longs to have us serve him. Henry says: “What temptation could be more hideous or more black? The best of saints may be tempted to the worst of sins. This is their affliction, but while there is no consent to it, nor approbation of it, it is not their sin.”

Is this not at the heart of the matter of every temptation we face. Our doubting of God will lead to our worshipping of Satan. Perhaps not in a purposeful, planned or even outwardly apparent way, but in a discreet and subtle way. Does the devil care whether we believe in him or not? Not in the least. His greatest desire is that we would forsake the worship of our God and live as practical atheists and therefore be useless in His kingdom.

Do not listen to him. Do not allow your eyes to gaze upon the poisonous morsels he dangles before you. Doubt not what your God has said. Set your face as flint. Be aware of the trap he has tossed before your feet. Have NO other gods before Him – not even the god of my own reason.

LORD – You who own the cattle on a thousand hills – You are the God who owns our minds and our hearts and our wills. Almighty King seize them and subdue them for Your glory alone. Set our thoughts upon You. Cast our thoughts away from him. Let us worship You with wholeheartedness. Let our thoughts dwell upon You. Make us to shout joyfully to the Lord, to serve Him with gladness, to come before Him with joyful singing. Make us to KNOW that the Lord Himself is God; and that it is He who made us and not we ourselves. Make us to KNOW that we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Make us to enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Make us to give thanks and bless His name. For He is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting, and His faithfulness is to all generations.” AMEN.

And what will be the result of this answered prayer? May it be the same result of Christ's faithful response to Satan. Hear the response of our Lord to the prowling lion who seeks our destruction. “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Begone Satan!...” -Satan had attempted to draw Christ to worship him rather than the Father. In both of the previous temptations Jesus answered him with the Word – “It is written.” Here He goes a bit farther and boldly commands Satan to “begone!”

Why? Because there is no playing around with worship. Henry states that Jesus responds with “abhorrence and detestation; Get thee hence, Satan. It appears abominable at the first sight, and therefore is immediately rejected. While Satan tempted Christ to do Himself a mischief, by casting Himself down, though He yielded not, yet He heard it; but now that the temptation flies in the face of God, He cannot bear it; Get thee hence, Satan. It is good to be peremptory in resisting temptation, and to stop our ears to Satan’s charms.” May we see our temptations as abominable and may we be quick to call Satan the spade that he is.

The sin here is great. To be tempted to turn from God, to be tempted to worship anything in God's place (including thinking we are worshipping nothing in His place) is the greatest of blasphemies. It brings meaninglessness to our life for we have abandoned our chief and highest end – to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.

The Lord Jesus boldly told Satan to “begone!” when he pressed our Savior to worship him. In and of ourselves, we do not have the strength to cast off Satan. We don't even have the strength to cast off the lusts of our won hearts. Be reminded from James 1: “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.”) Our only hope in all our temptation is to be in Christ. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Ph 4:13)

Christ, in identical fashion to the other 2 temptations uses to Word of God to fell the enemy of God- “…for it is written…” No magic powers. No omnipotent shows of strength. He unsheathes the Sword of the Spirit. May “it is written” be our mantra.

What was written? “…You shall worship the LORD your God and serve Him only.” – Lord help us and have mercy. As Calvin has said, our hearts are idol factories. We are no better than the Israelites in their captivity. Left to ourselves, we will worship the creature rather than the Creator. There is nothing in any of us that is exempt from this sin. If we think we don't fall into this camp then Satan has already begun to deceive us. Make us worshippers of You. Make us to worship in Spirit and in truth. Make us to smash the asherah in our hearts and minds. Let us not give Your glory to another. Let us not be conformed to this world in thought, word, or deed but let us “be transformed by the renewing of our minds, that we may be able to prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Let us not think more highly of ourselves that we ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” LORD – enable us, conquer us, subdue our renegade thoughts and bring them into subjection to your own. In our weakness give us strength to obey. In our fear give us courage to follow. In our sin give us grace to overcome. O LORD our God – help us to worship and serve You only. AMEN.

The result - “…Then the devil left Him…” – The battle ended. The devil fled. “Resist the devil and he will flee.” “He will yield, if we keep our ground. The devil, though an enemy of all the saints is a conquered enemy. The Captain of our salvation has defeated and disarmed him; we have nothing to do but to pursue the victory.”

In Christ – and nowhere else – we have victory over this vile foe. O God – glue us to Christ. Seal us to Him, hide us in Him, unite us to Him. Apart from Him we are undone. In our own power we are undone. Let us know that we are grafted into the body of Christ.

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit…. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abie in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from me you can do nothing.”
(John 15:1-5)

Christ stood. Satan fled. "And behold, angels came and began to minister to Him.” How beautiful. Make it to be so in our lives. The angels that came and ministered mercy to You, the sinless one, in Your temptation – would you grant that they might minister grace to us, the sinful ones in our own.

Henry says on this final verse, “As there is a world of wicked, malicious spirits that fight against Christ and His church, and all particular believers, so there is a world of holy, blessed spirits engaged and employed for them.” He goes on to say, “Though God may suffer His people to be brought into wants and straits, yet He will take effectual care for their supply, and will rather send angels to feed them, than see them perish.”

I don't know if any of you can empathize, but I feel like I've been living in Matthew 4 recently. I'm not certain, in the things that I'm facing, what is Satan and what is self. But I acknowledge that even if there is an enemy attack that the greatest enemy is my own heart. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications ,thefts, false witness, slanders.” (Mt 15:19). May God the Father, through Christ the Son, and with the sword of the Spirit grant us the grace to slay the dragon within. May He enable and embolden us to fight our own Apollyon. And may He help us to recognize His divine and good sovereignty in whatever we are facing – we are “led up by the Spirit”.

Don't make light of the wiles of the devil. Satan is real and at times we are“to be tempted by the devil.” May God help us to be strong in the midst of the current circumstances of life that might make us more vulnerable to temptation – “after He had fasted 40 days and 40 nights.” May we not doubt His Word – “if you are the Son of God.” May we stand on God's promises and rightly yield the Sword He has given us – “it is written.” Let us seek His face to provide the way of escape and not create our own – “command that these stones be turned into bread.” Let us not put the LORD our God to the test in our trials and arrogantly assume that He will guard us regardless of what we do or of how we respond – “He will give His angels charge concerning You.” Let us recognize that there may and will be “agains." May we not be fearful of what lies ahead and let us not believe the devil’s lies. May God help us to shut our eyes and our minds to the things that he “shows.” May we worship the LORD our God and serve Him only. In Christ, we are enabled to resist the devil and to resist the lusts of our own selfish hearts. As we resist the devil he will flee from us and as he does, may we flee to Christ where we will find peace and rest for our weary sould. Our sin is great, God's grace is greater.

Tempted, tried, and often failing,

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