Forty Days

Lenten Devotional

Read Matthew 4:1-11

At the onset of Jesus' ministry, immediately following God's approval of him and coronation as the Messiah, the Spirit of God led him into the desert to be tempted. 

Jesus was tempted in three ways:

1) "Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, 'If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.'

In this first temptation, Satan wants Jesus to use his supernatural power to supply his physical need for food. But Jesus fought back, using the Word of God--the Sword of the Spirit--saying, It is written: "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God."

2) "Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 'If you are the Son of God," he said, 'throw yourself down. For it is written: 'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'"

In this second temptation, Satan wants Jesus to use his supernatural powers to impress people to follow him. However, miracles were to be a sign of the Messiah's redemption, they were not intended as a sideshow for entertainment! Again, Jesus fought back using the Sword of the Spirit--the Word of God--saying, It is also written: Do not put the Lord your God to the test. 

3) Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. All this I will give you, he said, if you will bow down and worship me.

In this third temptation, Satan wanted Jesus to compromise his ministry, taking on his Kingly role before going through the Valley of Death--suffering on the cross--for humankind. Once again, Jesus fought back using the Word of God--the Sword of the Spirit--saying, Away from me, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.

What exactly are we to learn from Jesus' temptations in the desert?

In each temptation, Jesus resisted Satan by his actions, words, and inner desires, and was able to do so by using the Word of God--the Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). 

In the first temptation, Jesus teaches us to trust God for our daily needs; God is the one who promises to care for us, my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). 

In the second temptation, Jesus teaches us humility. The gifts God has given us are not to be used to show how great we are or what we've accomplished, but to show how great God is and what he can do through a life committed to serving him! Let your light shine . . . to praise the Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).

In the third temptation, Jesus teaches us that following him requires self-denial. If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it (Matthew 16:24-25).

We do not gain heaven's reward without first going through suffering--the Valley of the Shadow of Death. But we do not travel this path alone. Jesus promises to be with us and never leave us: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me (Psalm 23:4). Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).

Lastly, in the forty days Jesus spent in the desert he teaches us that our actions, words, and inner desires are to follow his example. However, without God's indwelling Spirit, we are utterly incapable of living up to this standard. In John 3:3 and following, Jesus told Nicodemus, a Pharisee of the ruling council, a very religious man, that unless he was born again he couldn't understand heavenly ideas---he needed spiritual birth! 

So what are we to do if a Pharisee of Nicodemus' status didn't understand heavenly things? 

The Bible says, it's not up to us! This is the Good News: This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe . . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Romans 3:22-24).

. . . Confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved . . . for, Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:9-13).

Finally, we must be mindful that Satan tempted Jesus at a weak point--he had been fasting for forty days. Satan will also use the circumstances in our lives, when we are weak, to tempt us to trust in something other than God. Therefore, to live victoriously during the forty days of Lent, and throughout the year, we must take care of ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and know the Word of God--using the Sword of the Spirit--to defeat Satan's temptations. 

Copyright 2010 S. A. Keith

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