Introduction: The first half of Luke 4 has a lot to teach us about dealing with private and public temptations. The Tennessean carried an article this week about the temptations facing educators because of our new technologies. The article said: “The top reason Tennessee educators lost their licenses to teach last year was having sex or other inappropriate contact with their students, and many were texting to strike up the relationships.” In one case, a 27-year-old Tennessee teacher bought a prepaid cell phone and gave it to a student at school. The two exchanged about 1,000 messages over two months, and his license was revoked for three years. An attorney for the Tennessee Board of Education said, “Technology is making it easier to engage in inappropriate communication with students… The number of cases where text messaging has facilitated inappropriate relationships has increased.” This isn’t just true for educators, of course. Our technology is making it easier for all of us to be overwhelmed with temptation. We’re not only tempted to compose inappropriate outgoing content; we’re facing massive amounts of incoming filth. As recently as a year ago, I read that the average age at which a person encounters inappropriate content on the Internet was age eleven; now some studies are saying age eight. This is compounded by the fact that we have a biological predisposition to evil. Our bodies, minds, and souls are interwoven, and all are fallen. It takes an enormous amount of effort to maintain a healthy and a holy life. We can’t do it on our own, but we can learn from Jesus. Luke starts off his account of the ministry of Christ by showing us two great attacks that our Lord faced at the very beginning of His work.
1. Sometimes We Are Attacked in Private—By Our Worst Enemy (Luke 4:1-13). Jesus was bombarded in private by the devil, and sometimes we are, too. In reading this passage, there seems to be an element of the supernatural. When I visualize this, I think of the special effects of movies. Jesus and Lucifer seemed to be able to whisk from scene to scene and from place to place. At one point there are in the desert; then they are at some vantage point where the kingdoms of the world flash before them. And then they’re standing on the pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem. None of this is illogical or impossible, for we’re dealing with a supernatural conflict between a fallen angel and the Son of God. But there are lessons for us when Satan attacks us in private.
First, Rely on the Holy Spirit (3:21-22; 4:1; 4:14; 4:18). Luke says more about the Holy Spirit than any of the other Gospel writers. The phrase “Holy Spirit” occurs 5 times in Matthew; 4 times in Mark; 13 times in Luke; and 3 times in John. The word “Spirit” occurs 19 times in Matthew; 24 times in both Mark and John; and 34 times in Luke. And of course, it was Luke who went on to write the book of the Acts of the Apostles and should probably be called the Acts of the Holy Spirit. The point is that we cannot overcome temptation on our own. We need the indwelling and the fullness of the Holy Spirit. We need to be fully yielded to the Lord Jesus so the Spirit can have free reign in every part of our lives. Jesus Himself, who is fully righteous, can live His righteousness through us as we’re filled with the Holy Spirit.
Second, maintain regular spiritual disciplines. Verse 2 talks about our Lord fasting for, and we can rightly infer that this was a time of prayer for Him. His quoting of Scripture in this passage indicates He was instilling and installing the Word of God in His mind. We need the daily disciplines of prayer and Bible study, and a little fasting doesn’t hurt either. If we wait until the temptation is on us, we’ll fall. We’ve got to remain diligent. This speaks to the importance of a daily Quiet Time.
Third, we have to confront the temptation head-on and to say “No.” Jesus exercised His will power. He said, “No, no, no” to Satan’s three allurements. We have to make up our minds to obey God. The Bible is full of commands and the New Testament full of admonitions, and that implies we have more of a power to choose than we realize. Ephesians 5 is a good example. The fact that Paul issues instructions and commands is predicated on the assumption that we can make the right choices in life.
Fourth, learn and quote Scriptures. Jesus quoted Scripture three times. He had evidently been studying the book of Deuteronomy and had memorized some key texts. (Since He was the God-Man, we don’t always understand the mystical connection between His deity and His humanity. Did He automatically know the entire Old Testament or did He have to study it? We don’t know. But when you read of His ministry, it’s no secret that He knew the Scriptures well and frequently quoted them. So many men have been helped in their struggle with pornography by Job 31:1, in which Job said, “I have made a covenant with my eyes not to look upon a woman with lust.”
Fifth, outlast the temptation. Jesus wore Satan out. Verse 13 says, “When the devil had finished all this temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.” There are some times when we’re more tempted than others, and we just have to persevere through the difficult time. An old hymn says:
Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin;
Each victory will help you some other to win;
Fight manfully onward, dark passions subdue,
Look ever to Jesus, He’ll carry you through.
Ask the Savior to help you,
Comfort, strengthen and keep you;
He is willing to aid you,
He will carry you through.
2. Sometimes We’re Attacked in Public—By Our Best Friends (Luke 4:14-30). In the next paragraph, Jesus returned to His hometown of Nazareth where He had been brought up. These were people He had known all His life, and at first everyone was impressed with His oratory. But then He said something to this effect: “I wish that I could do some miracles here like you’ve heard I’ve done in Capernaum, but you’re like the people of Israel in the days of Elijah and Elisha—so apostate that even Gentiles are more open to God than you are.” That didn’t go over very well, and a riot ensued. They surrounded Jesus and hustled Him toward the precipice of a cliff where they were ready to thrown Him down and stone Him. But then we encounter this interesting little verse: “But He, going through the midst of them, went His way.” He evidently did a miracle after all, although Luke doesn’t present it as a miracle and we’re life wondering about it. He just seemed to walk through them like the Israelites through the Red Sea, and He went His way. When the temptations comes from our fiends, when they entice us to evil, when they provoke us to anger, when they criticize us—we can do the same. We just go through the midst of them and go our way.
Conclusion: From these two stories we can draw some lessons about confronting those private and public temptations that assail us. Be filled with the Spirit; maintain your spiritual disciplines; confront temptation with a determined “No;” learn and use the Scriptures; outlast the temptation; and when surrounded by tests set your eyes forward, walk through the midst of them, and go your way. So… Ask the Savior to help you, Comfort, strengthen, and keep you; He is willing to aid you, He will carry you through.