Billy Graham – The Temptations of Christ
Now, tonight, I want to talk about the temptations of Christ. I want you to turn with me to the fourth chapter of the book of Matthew and starting with the first verse. These words. I want to talk about the temptations of Jesus tonight.
“Then was Jesus led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And when the tempter came to him, he said, ‘Since you’re the Son of God command that these stones be made bread’, but Jesus answered and said, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeded out of the mouth of God”. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and saith unto him, ‘Since you’re the Son of God, cast yourself down for it is written, “He shall give his angels charge concerning you and in their hands they shall bear you up lest at anytime you dash your foot against a stone”.’ Jesus said unto him, ‘It is written again, “Thou shall not tempt The Lord Thy God”.’ Again, the devil taketh him up into a high mountain and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them and saith unto him, ‘All these will I give you if you’ll fall down and worship me.’ Then said Jesus unto him, ‘Get thee hence, Satan; for it is written, “Thou shalt worship The Lord Thy God and Him only shalt thou serve”.’ Then the devil leaveth him and behold angels came and ministered to him”.
Yes, Jesus Christ was tempted. The Bible says he was tempted in all points like as we are yet without sin. He’s the only one in the history of the world including Adam and Eve, that ever resisted the devil completely and entirely, was the Lord Jesus Christ. Why? Because he had no sin within him. There was nothing the devil could appeal to him inside of him because he was sinless. You and I have the seed of sin in us. We’re born in sin. David said, “In sin did my mother conceive me”. And the Bible says, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God”. And the word sin means that we’ve broken the laws of God. We’ve broken the moral laws of God. And we’re all in that category.
And then in Ephesians, the sixth chapter and the 12th verse, we read these words, talking about you and me. ‘For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, “but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places”. Now much of the New Testament has to do with spiritual warfare. And no one is exempt from this conflict. God has no place for a spiritual pacifist because the Bible teaches that the Christian life is not a religious playground. It’s not a sports field. The word against stands out five times in Ephesians chapter six. We’re told that it’s not against flesh and blood, but against four things. Principalities, powers, world rulers, spiritual host, and there are a spiritual host. There is a devil. There are demons.
In II Corinthians 2:11 we’re told not to be ignorant of the devil lest Satan should get an advantage of us, for we are not ignorant of his devices. We’re to know the enemy. In 1 Peter 5:8, the Bible says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour”. The devil is walking about seeking whom he can devour. Now, some of the names that are given to Satan and the devil and the tempter in the Bible are, of course, Satan, the deceiver, a liar, a murderer, an accuser, the prince and power of the air, the prince of this world, the god of this age, the destroyer, the evil one, Beelzebub. All of those names are given to a person that we call Satan. Now, the Bible speaks of his wiles, his devices, his snares. The Bible warns that he beguiles, he seduces, he opposes, he resists, he deceives, he sows tares, he hinders, he buffets, he tempts, he persecutes, he blasphemes.
Now people have a caricature of the devil set forth in the works of Dante and Milton. These are wonderful portraits, but they are theologically false. That’s not the picture of the devil in the Bible. Satan does not have horns. He does not have hooves. He does not have a spike tail. Now the devil tries to make us think that he’s in hell, but he’s never been to hell. And when he gets there, he’s not going to be the head of hell. He’s not going to run it. He’ll be the chief victim. He’s called the god of this age, the prince of this world and the prince of the air. In Matthew 25:41, it speaks of his angels. Many people ask, “Where did the devil come from”? According to Isaiah 14, he apparently revolted against God. He was the greatest and the most beautiful of all of God’s created creatures.
And for some unknown, mysterious reason, way back in the eons of time, he led a revolt against God and he was thrown out of heaven and landed on this planet. And he has been fighting God’s purposes ever since. And one of God’s purposes was to populate this planet with people that would love God and serve God and obey God. And ever since that time, the devil has been active in trying to gain this planet and gain the people that God put here. I don’t understand it all. The apostle Paul called it the mystery of iniquity. There are many things about it that we cannot explain, and I’m not going to try to speculate, but Christ was subject to the temptations of the devil.
In Hebrews 4:15, “He was in all points, tempted like as we are, yet without sin”. And in Hebrews 2:18, it says, “In that he himself had suffered being tempted, he is able to help them that are tempted”. Now let us study and see how Jesus met the temptation of the devil as a pattern for how we too can meet his temptations. Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit, after his baptism, down into the wilderness. That’s an area between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. That is a wild and terrible place. I’ve been there and seen it. And Jesus was in that terrible wilderness, 40 days and 40 nights. And he had nothing to eat. He was thinking and he was praying, But Jesus was also obedient to the will of God. He was filled with the Holy Spirit. He spent his time in prayer. He had a total knowledge of the scriptures. And at that moment, when he was hungry and tired from the sun, the heat and all the wilderness, the tempter came.
He had no human companion. Jesus was alone in that wilderness. He could not share it. Other conflicts, you can march shoulder to shoulder, but all secondary things are swept aside. You have to meet the tempter alone. They are three temptations and he always uses the same three. He used them with Jesus. He used them with Eve, Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. He used them on you the same way. He doesn’t vary. They are the same things. First is the lust of the flesh. Secondly, there’s the lust of the eye. And third, there’s the pride of life. Now, the first time that he came to Jesus to tempt him, he tempted him to turn stones into bread. He appealed to his physical appetite. This was the lust of the flesh.
Now Jesus was hungry at the end of 40 days. And the devil knows when to come. He comes at the opportune moment. He comes to one of the strongest appetites that we have, which is hunger. Thirst may be number one. And many people will throw off all the refinements of civilization like two mothers of Samaria in the Old Testament. They devoured; they ate their babies when they were so hungry. Devil, the devil points to the round stones and says, “If you’re the Son of God,” or “Since you’re the Son of God”. He recognized He was the Son of God, because that word if should be translated since. “Since you are the Son of God command that these stones be made into bread”.
Now the very mention of bread must have made the famished body of Jesus leap with desire. Jesus was in the perfect will of God. He was going according to God’s plan and God’s purpose. No accidents could happen to Him. He was on His way to the cross to die for the salvation of the world, to rise again. He was in God’s perfect plan and God’s perfect will. Now the devil is coming along and saying, “Now you can do something like this, and you can not only feed yourself, but you can feed the world. You can become the bread Messiah. The whole world will believe on you, if you feed all the hungry people”. God had planned for him to be hungry because God was also testing and God had created the need, but he made no provision to meet the need. And the devil says, “Since God has made no provision for you, act on your own initiative”.
The craving was legitimate, but Satan suggested satisfying it in an unlawful way. And you can feed the hungry. And isn’t it interesting that when Jesus died, He said, “I finished the work the Father sent me to do”. But when he died, there were many people that he hadn’t healed and thousands of people that were still hungry. He came for another purpose. Oh yes, He feeds the hungry. He’s interested in the hungry and the homeless. And we as Christians in obedience to Him should do all we can for them. But there is something very much deeper. And that deeper thing is the cross, the redemption of Christ and the resurrection, because without the cross and the resurrection, there could be no salvation of your soul.
Now, the second temptation that the devil gave Jesus took him up on the pinnacle of the temple, which is the highest point in all the area. And you could look 600 feet down on the valley of Jehoshaphat. Jerusalem was the center of Jewish life at that time. And the pinnacle was the most awe-inspiring place of the temple. And the devil said to him, “Since you are the son of God, why don’t you cast yourself down, for it’s written in the Bible, ‘He shall give his angels charge concerning you and, in their hands, they shall bear thee up, lest at any time you dash your foot against the stone'”.
The devil uses scripture. The devil can quote scripture, but he misquoted it. He was quoting Psalm 91: 11-12, but he left out one of the most important parts of that passage. It says, “For He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways”. He left that out. Notice the subtlety of Satan. You don’t have to cast yourself down, but this is an opportunity for a venture of faith, the heroic. Now he, he tempted Eve in the same way, the pride of life will make you wise so that you will become as gods. The angels would catch him. Dazzle the multitudes, put on a big show, put on a big spectacular. The whole world will be watching. And instead of taking the long, hard road of teaching and preaching and persecution and healing and dying, you can do it all in one great moment in which the angels will be seen coming and catching you and everybody will believe.
God’s plan was that He’d go to the cross. It had been planned. It had been predicted in the prophets that He would go to the cross and die for our sins. And if He hadn’t done that, none of us could have been saved. And Jesus answered again, “It is written”. He used that three times. “It is written”. It’s important to know the word of God. And when Satan comes with his temptation, you quote a verse of scripture. That’s one thing he can’t stand. It’s the sword of the Spirit. It’s your one weapon that you can use. “It is written, ‘Thou shall not tempt the Lord Thy God.'” Now, how do we tempt God? We tempt Him when we leave the appointed course of obedience to go the path of evil and temptation and expect to be delivered. There are many people that go on doing evil after evil, after evil, after evil and they expect God to rescue them. It’d be like playing with a rattlesnake.
And then the third temptation was the temptation of ambition. The devil now uses his trump card. No other person in history had ever resisted this one. He strips off his disguise. He takes Christ to a high mountain and shows him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to him, all this power, all these kingdoms, all these nations, all these riches, all this glory, I will give you, if you will worship me. Just bow your knee a few minutes, bow your head to me and it’ll all be yours. In a moment of time, the splendor, the sovereignty, the power, the pomp, the dazzling power of Nineveh and Babylon and Persia, and Greece, and Egypt and Rome and France and Germany and Italy, China and India and America, and the Soviet Union passed before Jesus. He could have had it all. Forever.
You say, “Did the devil have the power to offer him that”? Jesus didn’t say he didn’t. He has tremendous power. He’s the prince of this world. He’s the prince and power of the air. He’s the god of this world. Now, Christ had already been promised all the kingdoms of this world, but only by suffering on the cross. He’s going to get them. He’s going to be the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and He will rule the world in that future day when we’ll all be in God’s kingdom, if we know Christ. But Satan’s pride would be forever satisfied if only Jesus Christ, God’s Son, would bow to him. This is the most craven, crawling picture of what Satan really is. He hungers for glory and for worship. You’re never more like the devil than when you want credit for what you do. What about you? Is that like you?
The Psalmist had predicted, quoting God, “I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance”. The devil promised Christ all of it if he would bow his knee to him. If men will but serve him, he will give you fame and honor and wealth and position, but he gets many of you cheaper than that. He gets you so cheap. People today will stifle their conscience, murder their principle, compromise with evil in order to secure what they desire. Satan says for a moment, bowing of the head and that money will be yours. That office will be yours. That political prize will be yours. That position will be yours. That fame will be yours. That business will be yours. That sexual satisfaction will be yours. That central pleasure will be yours. If you just bow to me. And how many people do it?
“What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and lose his own soul”? Suppose you gained it all but lost your soul that is eternal. What have you gained? You’ve lost in this world and you’ve lost in the world to come. Now, how did Christ gain the victory? Let’s summarize a moment because it’ll help you. When you have to face the tempter when you go home tonight or tomorrow at the office or in the school or wherever you are. The temptation to cheat. The temptation to take a drug. The temptation to take a short cut that’s wrong. The temptation to tell a lie. First, by obedience to the will of God. You just say, “Lord, I will obey you, but I need your help”. Because none of us can live the Christian life alone. We just can’t do it.
It’s the Holy Spirit that He gives you, to live in you and through you. I cannot live the Christian life. The Holy Spirit must live it through me. And then secondly, by being filled with the Holy Spirit. Have you been filled with the Holy Spirit? And then thirdly, by spending much time in prayer. You don’t have to kneel down every time you pray.
I have a daughter that thinks you have to kneel down to pray. And she gets up every morning, real early and prays two hours before the children get up, but on her knees. And if you felt her knees, they’re like leather. And the doctor has already said she’s getting arthritis from it. And I told her, I said, you don’t have to do that. I said, you can pray all the time everywhere as, as she does. But she feels that God has called her to that ministry of prayer and study of the scriptures on her knees every morning. But you can pray all the time. Even right while I preach like this, like I’m doing now, I’m praying. I’m saying, “Lord, help me to say the right thing. Help me to say the thing that will help somebody that is here tonight that needs this message. Because this message is for somebody here tonight, for many people here tonight that need it”.
And then fourthly, you meet the devil by knowing the scriptures. He’s the only person who never surrendered or yielded Himself to the temptation of Satan and He did it by quoting scripture. He said, “It is written”. In James 4:7, it says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you”. I was having a struggle once over a certain thing and I knew Satan was wrestling with me. And I remembered that passage in James, “Resist the devil and he’ll flee from you”. And I was resisting him, but I’d forgotten the first part of the verse, “Submit yourself therefore to God”.
First, you submit yourself to God and say, “Lord, I want to be in your will. You take charge of my life as Lord and Master”. Then when you resist the devil, you have the promise that he’ll flee from you and you can overcome him. And then in Revelation 12:11, it says, “By the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony” they overcame the accuser. And in 1 Peter 5 it says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour, whom resist steadfast in the faith”.
Are you resisting him? Are you submitting to God? First of all, you have to really know Christ. In a world in which the dominant religion is now secularism and the lifestyle is materialism, we need to understand God’s word, so we know how to quote and apply it properly. God doesn’t call us into some place where we get all alone, just as Christians and live that way. It’s a calling to life and society. It’s to live Christ out in the life, in the place where we are. We are to hold belief and behavior together. We relate salvation and ethics in the person of Christ. Do you do that? You receive Christ into your heart. He lives in your heart. Then you go out and apply it in the neighborhood with other ethnic groups or with other people that you should be applying it to. Do you really know Christ yourself?
You say, “Billy, there are times that I think I do. And there are times I’m not sure”. If you have a doubt, why don’t you settle it tonight? Some of you have been baptized and you’ve been confirmed, and you made some promises and others made promises for you, but you’re not sure that you’ve kept them. And you’d like to recommit and rededicate your life to Christ tonight. There are others of you that are just not sure that you’ve ever received Christ really in your heart, But you want to make sure, and you want to be certain that all of your sins are forgiven. That you’re going to heaven. That if you died, you’d go to heaven tonight.
I’m going to ask you to get up out of your seat and come and stand in front of the platform as hundreds of people have come in these last two services. And after you’ve all come, I’m going to say a word to you and have a prayer with you and give you some literature to help you in your Christian life. If you’re with friends or relatives, they’ll wait on you. Or if you’re in a bus, they’ll wait. We’ll only keep you a few moments. Why is it important to come forward publicly? Jesus died on the cross publicly for you. People were sneering, laughing, misunderstanding, but He hung there for you in the will of God. He said, “If you’re not willing to acknowledge me before men, I’ll not acknowledge you before My Father, which is in heaven”.
There’s something about the public commitment that God honors, and you know it yourself. It gives you an assurance. So, you come right now and I’m going to ask that no one leave the stadium now, and everyone in an attitude of prayer, as people are already coming. You get up and come, old and young, whatever background you have, you’ve come and make this certainty tonight, quickly. We’re going to wait on you. trom over here, you may be in the choir and God has been speaking to you, get up and come. You can make that decision to follow Jesus Christ just as these many hundreds are doing here in Rochester, New York. The number on your screen is a number that you can call for spiritual help and for counseling. Call that number right now. It could well be the most important call you’ve ever made.
There are many people, there are many people that have been watching by television, and you can see here in Rochester, New York, many people coming to make their commitment to Christ, to make certain of their relationship to God. You can make that same commitment by receiving Christ now in your heart. Pick up the telephone and call that number that’s on the screen. God bless you and be sure and go to church next weekend.
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