Monday, May 4, 2009

Tempted to Doubt - Matthew 4 Part 2

[The past few days I've been posting some random notes regarding this necessary detour that God has me on. He's re-routing me a bit in order to re-create me a lot. I'm really being humbled, in a good way right now. Today's note is a bit long but it has been needful to me personally. Four doubting temptations are uncovered in these verses. They are uncovered that we might be aware of them and that we might be made able to deal with them. I pray they will be even half as helpful to you as they have been to me. If so, Soli Deo Gloria!]

“And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” (vs 1-4)

In my last post I looked simply at verse 1. The gist of it: Led by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil. God is sovereign - even in testing. Job's trial begins with God saying "Have you considered my servant Job." Christ's trial begins with "He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness." My testing begins with the ordained wisdom of my Father leading me into a place where I can be refined. Where He leads us we can be certain He will care for us. In that reality there is much comfort!

Today I jump into the first of the three temptations that Christ faced. I'll begin with a reminder from Matthew Henry about Satan's ultimate purpose in tempting our Lord and Savior:

“That which Satan aimed at, in all his temptations, was to bring Christ to sin against God, and so to render Him forever incapable of being a Sacrifice for the sin of others.”

Good news - Satan failed. Christ didn’t sin. He didn't "tank." He stood firm. Christ was the perfect, all-sufficient Sacrifice. He is the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. He is the Lamb who has taken away my sins. He is the victorious, risen King who has crushed Satan fulfilling the promise of Genesis 3:15 - "He shall crush you on the head." He is the Christ through whom I can do all things! Again - what comfort!

Through Christ’s active and passive obedience I am able to walk through this personal temptation and the many more that will come in His strength. I do not walk in my own. Clothed in Christ there is victory. Satan failed to render Christ as an un-useful sacrifice, yet he still seeks to render us as un-useful servants. [Lord God – please have mercy on us and, in Christ, let us be useful for You and for Your Kingdom. ]

Henry points out four things that Satan sought to do in the midst of Christ’s temptation. These are some of the stones he tosses upon our path in order to trip us along the way as well. See if these look and sound familiar to you. They certainly do to me.

1. Satan seeks to have us doubt God’s goodness and care for us. "After he had fasted 40 days and 40 nights, He became hungry."

Satan cunningly came to Christ and took His current circumstances as a catalyst for the temptation he was about to hold forth. Jesus had been fasting for 40 days. He was hungry “and therefore Satan's motion seemed very proper, to turn stones into bread for His necessary support. Want and poverty are a great temptation to discontent and unbelief.” Hear those last 11 words again: "Want and poverty are a great temptation to discontent and unbelief." Beware!!

The devil wants us to doubt God's goodness and care for us. "If He really loved you He wouldn't allow you to go through this." "If He was truly good he wouldn't withold this from you." Thomas Brooks, in his wonderful book "Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices,"narrates this fiery dart in this way: Satan says, “Do you not see how Providence crosses your prayers, and crosses your desires, your tears, your hopes, your endeavours? Surely if God's love were towards you, if His soul did delight and take pleasure in you, He would not deal thus with you.” Satan seeks to make us doubt God's goodness and care based on our circumstances. Seeds of doubt are planted. Get them out of the garden at any cost. Destroy the seeds. Uproot the weeds. The only fruit they will produce will be rotten and deadly.

Beloved, we must remember that in God's economy our desires and dreams may NEED to be crossed for our greater good. God knows best what we need most and He is working ALL things together for our good and for His glory. Things are not always as they seem. Will I view the character of God from the finite perch of my circumstances or will I view all things from the infinite perch of His Word. One of my favorite quotes from dear old Brooks is this:
“As the waters lifted up Noah’s ark nearer heaven, and as all the stones that were about Stephen’s ears did but knock him the closer to Christ, the cornerstone, so all the strange rugged providences that we meet with, they shall raise us nearer heaven, and knock us nearer to Christ, that precious Cornerstone.”
Life is hard, very hard at times. "Want and poverty," doubt and despair, these things may tempt us, yet there is never an excuse for sin - never! Don't listen to the whispers of the enemy who seeks to destroy you by tempting you to doubt the character of your God. Listen to your God "with whom it is impossible to lie"!

There is never a reason to seek "unlawful means" to grant us relief or escape from our unhappy circumstances. I need to be reminded of that. It is so easy to simply want to bail at any cost in order to be freed from current bondage, discomfort and pain. Short-cuts don’t ever lead to pleasant places in God’s economy! Short-cuts lead to dead ends! “Those, therefore who are reduced to straits, have need to double their guard; it is better to starve to death than to live and thrive by sin.” (Matthew Henry)

[LORD God- I would beg you to not let me nor any of your precious saints shortcut our trials under the pretence of necessity. “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” You are faithful Lord - ever faithful! O, help us to see and believe with the eyes of faith, for the eyes of our flesh regularly fail us. You will not push us too far. Let us not fall too short. Please preserve us to endure by Your way of escape and not conjure up our own. At times, my flesh longs to find its own way quickly out of this – yet, at the same time my heart and soul long to not shortcut this trial! Once again I am face to face with the realization of just how absolutely weak and helpless I am and of how real spiritual warfare is. Lord, “let endurance have its perfect result.” Make me to endure, make my friends to endure – MAKE us for we cannot make ourselves!]

2. Satan seeks to have us doubt God’s Word. "If You are the Son of God."

Look at the wicked wiles of our adversary in attempting to tear down and discredit the very Word of the Living and True God. That fiend and foe of all the blood-bought saints desires nothing more than to remove the sword of the Spirit from our hand and render us useless, hopeless, and utterly despondent. He has succeeded for a time with me in that regard, but – by grace through faith I set my face like flint in opposition to His lying schemes.

God declared loudly, boldly, and unmistakably to Christ at His baptism, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” Satan sought to discredit those words and called into question what God has said : “IF you are the Son of God, then…” If, if, if! These are the same blasphemous twistings that he used with Adam and Eve in order to bring all sin and misery into this world – including this sin and misery that I am currently in the middle of. This is how the devil works. Be aware of his schemes.

In the very beginning upon coming to Eve, that crafty and beguiling serpent deviously and deceptively said to her, “Indeed, has God said…” He seeks to have her question the Word of God. Once again, I set my face as flint and shout from the highest mountain and proclaim from the lowest valley "YES God has said and YES Lori will believe the God of truth and not the mortal enemy of God’s elect." Stand with me dear friends in standing up to him and in calling him the liar that he is! The devil is a "murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.... He is a liar and the father of lies" (Jn 8:44). Who will we trust the father of lies or the God who cannot lie?

Beloved, Satan’s greatest scheme is to undermine the Word of God. If we distrust it, if we doubt it then he has won the battle for we are without chart to guide us, without anchor to hold us firm, and without weapon to defend us. Hold fast to your sword dear friends. God's Word is a lamp unto your feet and the light unto your path. Let it shine on your current circumstances. Stand firm and resist the devil's schemes!

3. Satan seeks to have us doubt our adoption in Christ. "If you are the son of God."

Allow me to get really personal. I was adopted, physically, about 40 years ago. My parents went through all of the legal necessities to make me their child. I appreciate their sacrifice. However, four years ago they disowned me. I don't know why - they have been unwilling to talk with me. What I do know is that after 36 years they bailed. They walked out of my life completely. They quit being my parents and cast me aside to be an orphan once again. It would seem that their adoption of me was conditional and they have by their words and actions nullified it.

At times I fear that my thoughts have drifted into a comparison of them with Him. There is NO true comparison. God has adopted me at the cost of His own Son. God does not change. God is holy and without sin. He is not capricious. He is “compassionate and gracious slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindess and truth. [He] keeps lovingkindness for thousands, [He] forgives iniquity, transgression and sin.” (Ex 34). He will "not abandon His people, nor will He forsake His inheritance." (Ps 94:14).

When I find myself doubting whether I am a daughter of the King it is always because, at that moment, I am allowing my own “feelings and thoughts” to be the arbiter of truth. Satan has me doubt my sonship. What greater or more despairing dart could he hurl our way? May God enable us to trust that we are His children based on His declaration not on our discouragements. We were, by nature, children of wrath. Christians, we are, by adoption, children of God.

  • "He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will." (Eph 1:5)

  • "But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying 'Abba! Father!' Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son; and if a son, then an heir." (Gal 4:5-7)

Satan longs to rob us of the assurance of our sonship. Once again he lies - he is only and always lying. Who's voice will we listen to?

4. Satan seeks to have us do things in our own strength rather than rely on our God. "Command that these stones to become bread."

He seeks to have Christ doubt the Father's character, doubt the Father's Word, and doubt that the Father is truly His Father. If he can make us doubt these things then he can make us turn from seeking our Father's hand of help to attempting to provide our own. Notice his challenge to Christ. "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." He surely doesn't encourage Jesus to utter the words of the Lord's prayer - "give us this day our daily bread." He certainly does not encourage Christ with the words of James - "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow." He most assuredly does not point Him, by way of reminder, too the fact that "my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus."

No! Satan hates the truth and His desire is that we would not turn to our Father for help and seek the good gifts that come from Him. Satan desires not that we would ask God for our needs but that we would attempt to seize them by our own force. "Just turn the stones into bread your self. You don't need Him. He doesn't really care. Even if He did care, can He really provide what you want and need? Don't wait around for Him. Do it yourself."

Has he gotten you with this one? I have to confess that he's gotten me. Do you ever struggle with prayer? Are you more likely to hit your knees when there is a need or to hit the ground running in order to try and fix the problem? Which of the two is your immediate, first response? (Both are necessary for while the Bible tells us to pray "give us this day our daily bread" it also reminds us that "if a man will not work neither let him eat.") Both are necessary but action without asking is relying on ourselves rather than on our God.

Dear friends, know that "The devil is for nothing that is humbling, but everything that is assuring” (Matthew Henry). Satan wants us to be proud - yet "pride goeth before a fall." Satan wants us to be independent - yet "in Him we live and move and have our being". Satan wants us to throw off the Creator creature distinction and live as though we were gods. May I challenge us to return briefly to the garden and hear Satan's wicked words:

"Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, 'Indeed has God said, "You shall not eat from any tree of the garden"?' And the woman said to the serpent, 'From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, "You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die."' And the serpent saith to the woman, 'You shall not die!! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God.'"

There it is! Satan's scheme is that we would doubt God's goodness, doubt His word, doubt our sonship and trust in our own wisdom and strength. He would have us be like God. He would have us be a god unto ourselves. He cares not if we worship him, he only cares that we worship not our Maker. Have we fallen for His tricks?

O my God – I would ask that You would humble me. Make me to know and trust Your character and Your providence in my life. Make me to know and love Your Word and let it be my only rule of faith and life. Make me to own my adoption in Christ and walk as is befitting a child of the King. Make me to persevere in prayer and not seek to win this battle in my own strength. I cannot even properly yield the sword of the Spirit without the help of the Spirit and must confess that I have done just that very thing far too many times. Make me to be humble, strip me of my pride. But O, LORD my God, please do so in tender mercy for if You do not I am utterly and completely undone . “A bruised reed He will not break, and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish.” (Is 42) AMEN and AMEN!

Dying to discouraging doubts,


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