What if future regrets in life could be avoided by improving your ability to recognize temptation? Temptation isn’t a sin, but your response to it might be. In this message, we look back in Matthew 4 to when Jesus walked the earth to learn practical ways to beat temptation.
My name is Josh Thames, and I get to hang out with our Porch team over in Fort Worth. Hello to you guys, specifically. So glad to be in the room with you. Again, my name is Josh. It's so good to be with you guys tonight. Here's something I've learned or that I've noticed in life. There are really just two paths in life. The first path is you go to college. The second path is you ride bulls for a living. Those seem to be the two options everybody has.
Just like many of you, I chose the second one. I chose, "Hey, life is good. I'm going to ride bulls for a living." You laugh, but the funny part is that's real in my life. Legitimately, that's what I decided to do. I looked at high school and said, "I hate school. This is boring. I'm out." I literally bought a minivan, threw my dog Cowboy into it, and off we went. I'm really serious. Off we went, traveling the country, riding bulls for a living.
It was fun. We were making it, going from little county fairs to the little bit bigger arenas. I've been here a few times, been out to Houston a few times. Then there came this point in my life where I met a guy whose name is Jerome Robinson. Jerome Robinson looked at me and said, "Hey, Josh. I want to coach you." Now, that name means nothing to any of you guys, but Jerome Robinson qualified for the NFR, which is like…
Imagine world finals of professional rodeo. Jerome Robinson went there 11 times. He has been inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame. If you guys played basketball, it would be like having Dirk as your coach. That's what we're doing here tonight. So, Jerome Robinson looked at me and said, "I want to be your coach." It was awesome, because he had done all of the things I wanted to do. He had been there. He had done it. I was like, "This is amazing. Now I'm getting coached by one of the greats."
The reason I start there tonight is because, in a similar way, we get to learn from someone who is not one of the greats but the best, the greatest of all time. It's Jesus. We're going to get to see him. He's going to show us how we can beat temptation. Jesus is the undefeated, undisputed champ when it comes to temptation. He has never lost. Temptation: 0; Jesus: 1,000,000. Jesus has never lost. Tonight, we're going to watch and learn from him on how we can resist temptation. There is no better coach than Jesus.
Here's the thing about temptation that I think is really interesting. Most of the time, we don't know we're being tempted until it's too late. What's crazy about this is that we can trace all of the greatest regrets in our lives to temptation. It's a really big deal. I just wrote down some of the thoughts that I know I have had and maybe some of you guys have had that can be traced back to temptation.
How about this one? "How did I end up looking at porn and masturbating again?" "I never thought I would end up with an eating disorder." Or this: "How did I wake up next to a complete stranger…again?" "I always said I would never do drugs." I don't know if you've been there, but here's the crazy part about temptation: if you would look at those moments, if you would remember, if you would see that you someday were going to say that sentence or think that thought, you would have never made the choices that got you there.
It's the crazy thing about temptation. We don't often know that it's happening until it's too late. That's why I'm excited tonight to learn from Jesus on how to beat temptation. If you're just joining us or if you're listening online, we're in a series called Jesus Walks. This is where we're just watching Jesus as he interacted with people here on earth. We're just watching and seeing and learning from the stories of him walking here on earth with us.
Tonight, we're going to see Jesus fights temptation as he interacts with Satan, with the guy whose goal in life, his job description, is to tempt us, to pull us away from everything God wants us to do and to lead us down a path that may look good but, in the end, ends in destruction. We're going to watch the interaction. Here's something I found ironic. David is not here tonight, and it's like, "Hey, Josh is teaching. David, what should he teach on?" "I don't know. The Devil." Great. Thank you. I'm glad to be here teaching about the Devil with you guys tonight.
I just want to paint a little road map where we're going tonight. There are three things we're going to see, three important lessons we can observe, as we watch Jesus face temptation and interact with Satan. We're going to learn what temptation is, what fuels temptation, and then what beats temptation. We're going to be in Matthew 4, in case you're wondering. Before we get there, I want to give you a little bit of context.
Right before this, in Matthew 3, we see Jesus get baptized. It's really the beginning of his ministry. We see him get baptized, and it's really crazy. The Bible literally says the sky opened up and God audibly said, "This is my Son in whom I am well pleased." Right before Jesus runs into temptation and meets Satan, it's like the ultimate spiritual high. He has God himself speak and say, "This is my Son in whom I am well pleased." That gives a little bit of the context before we jump into Matthew, chapter 4.
Matthew 4:1-11: "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil." You may read that and think, "Man, is it God who's tempting him?" or "Does God tempt us?" I just want to say this to clear it up at the beginning: Satan tempts; God tests. Sometimes God allows us to walk into temptation as a part of a test, but God is never the one who tempts us. I just want to clear that up at the beginning if you have that question.
"And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, 'If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.' But he answered, 'It is written, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God."'
Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, 'If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, "He will command his angels concerning you," and "On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone."' Jesus said to him, 'Again it is written, "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test."'
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 I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.' Then Jesus said to him, 'Be gone, Satan! For it is written, "You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve."' Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him."
1._ What is temptation?_ Write this down. This is exactly what it is. I made it as easy to remember and write down as I could. Temptation is the urge to do anything outside of God's will. This sounds really simple, like, "Oh, that's easy to get my hands around. That means I probably won't fall into temptation, because if it's anything outside of God's will, I have a good handle on that now."
Here's the really crazy part: temptation is really hard to see in the moment. Have you been there? It's hard sometimes to recognize, "What's happening right now is I'm being tempted. I'm being tempted to do something outside of God's will." Here's how this worked for Jesus: "And the tempter came and said to him, 'If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.'"
Here's the really crazy thing: often, temptation is like a lie with a little truth to it, or maybe truth with a little bit of a lie to it. Jesus had the power to change these stones into bread, but really, what was happening? Jesus had the urge and the desire for food. Is that wrong? He'd been fasting for 40 days. The guy is hungry. It's a natural urge. What's the big deal? Why is it a big deal that Jesus would turn the stones into bread? He had the power to do it anyway.
Here's why: if Jesus would have used his power to provide the bread for himself, he would have been declaring, "God, I don't believe you're enough, and I don't trust that you are good." In that moment, as he was hungry, Jesus was living inside of his humanity. He was fully God and fully man, and instead of using the power he had as God to turn the stones into bread, he was needing to rely on God, just like he asks you and me to do.
What Satan was tempting him with was, "Man, it's not that big of a deal. You have a natural urge to eat. Just turn the stones into bread." Temptation is hard to see in the moment, because when you hear that, it would have been easy for me… I'm thinking, putting myself in Jesus' shoes, "I guess it's not that big of a deal. I guess I can."
Here's something I thought of. Wouldn't it be a lot easier if every temptation came like the devil on your shoulder and the little angel? Do you guys know what I'm talking about? Do we have any The Emperor's New Groove fans in here? Yes. Me too. It still is one of my favorites. I remember the first time I watched it. My dad was like, "Let's just watch it again," because it was that great.
Anyway, do y'all remember that scene? The little angel guy pops up, and the little devil guy, and he's like, "Oh, I don't know…" This guy is like, "Hey, I'm going to lead you down the path of righteousness," and the little devil guy is like, "I'm going to lead you down the path that rocks." Do y'all remember that? Sometimes I think that would be a lot easier. It wouldn't be so hard to fall into temptation if we just knew right now, "What's happening is the little devil guy, the bad guy, is the guy I'm listening to."
The problem is it's actually not that easy. It comes in little subtle lies. It usually comes by convincing you that something that looks good is going to continue to lead to good. "Man, this isn't going to be that big of a deal. It's just one time." Like, "Weed isn't that big of a deal. Like, one time." Or like, "I'll just have one beer." It's small. It's hard to tell what's happening in the moment. Temptation is hard to see in the moment.
If temptation is the urge to do anything outside of God's will, here's what temptation is not. What I don't want you guys to walk away with is thinking, "Every time I think about something I shouldn't do, I'm in sin." Temptation itself is not sin. When Jesus was being tempted, when Satan was looking at him like, "Hey, fulfill your appetite outside of God's way," he wasn't in sin in that moment. In fact, we can see this.
Hebrews 4:15 says, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." It's not a sin to have a desire or an urge to do something contrary to God's will. Sin occurs when we put action to it. For me, it's like, hey, I'm just scrolling through Instagram, and is it that time I'm hoping I find a bikini pic or will I put my phone down? As soon as I have that thought, will I put my phone down?
It's not the temptation that is the sin, but it's when I decide I'm going to act on it that it becomes sin. So, what did that look like for me or what has that looked like in my life? I wasn't kidding when I told you I rode bulls for a living. That's what I did. What that looked like is every single weekend, I was in a new city. The sin I chose and the things I wanted, an appetite I wanted to fulfill, was my desire for sex and affirmation found in relationships with women.
So here I am in a new city every single weekend. Have you guys ever heard of cleat chasers? We call that something different in the rodeo world. We call them buckle bunnies. There are these girls who show up to the rodeo, and all they want is to hang out with the cowboys who are cool with the buckle bunnies. Here's what that looked like. You laugh, but the temptation I had or the desire I had to satisfy the sex and just affirmation from women… It looked like every time, I was like, "Oh yeah, I'll just find someone new."
Every town was a new relationship or a new girl. Maybe not even a relationship; maybe just one night. I had bought the lie that it would bring me life. Ultimately, what it did is it led to broken relationships and a lot of heartache, especially heartache when I had to sit down and tell my wife about all of those times and all of the little lies, all of the little temptations. "It's just going to be fun this one time. It's not that big of a deal." I had bought in, and it cost me a lot. It left all kinds of heartache and scars in my life that I've had to continue to work through.
So, even though sex is a God-given desire, I chose to fulfill it in a way that is outside God's will. I just want to recap this for you. If you're one of those note-takers… I kind of am, so as I was writing this I was like, "I'm going to make this easy for you guys." Here's a recap. Here's what we've learned about temptation: it's an urge to do anything outside of God's will, it's hard to see, and it's not a sin unless we act on it.
2._ What fuels temptation?_ What is it that's behind temptation? Does it come from nowhere? What is it that fuels it? How do we get to temptation to begin with? It's a lie. Every single temptation you and I face, behind it is a lie. There's a lie there that we are tempted to believe. The lie Satan wants you to believe ultimately is that God is not good, that he's trying to rip you off, that he doesn't want what's good for you; he's just a cosmic killjoy.
He's looking at you and telling you, "Hey, don't do all of the things you do want to do, and do all of the things you don't want to do." That's what Satan is trying to convince us of. If he gets us to believe that, he has us, because then there's no reason we would follow God's way if we don't believe God is good.
Here's why I think it's easy also to believe that lie: because not only does Satan tempt us, but our own desires are in contradiction to God's Word and to God's way. The things that our own hearts want, my own heart wants… I don't naturally go, "Yes. Do you know what I want to do inside of conflict? I want to lean in. You know what? This person hurt me. I should probably go tell them about it." No. I just kind of want to give them the finger and walk away. That's what I want to do.
We don't naturally head toward God's way. I don't naturally. James 1:14 says, "But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire." Satan isn't alone in fueling the temptation. He isn't the only one behind the lies that are fueling all the temptation. Often, we fuel them ourselves.
Here's the thing: these lies you and I face every single day… I want to show you inside of this text how Jesus fought and how there are some he had that are really similar to what you and I have every single day. What Satan was doing was presenting a lie. He was asking Jesus to step into and feed his appetite, feed his desire for approval, and then ultimately authority.
Here's how. When he says, "Hey, Jesus. You're hungry? Why don't you just make these stones into bread," what he's ultimately saying is, "God doesn't care about you, Jesus. He wants you to be hungry. You have the power to turn the rocks into bread." He's appealing to his appetite. Do any of you have appetites that sometimes pull you away from God's way?
He tempts him to live for the approval of men. He says, "Hey, Jesus, I'm going to take you to the top of this temple. You should throw yourself down. You won't get hurt, and because you won't get hurt, everyone is going to approve you. Immediately, people are going to believe in you because you did this." Are any of you ever tempted to live for the approval of others and not for God?
Then we see he appeals to authority. "Jesus, you could have all the authority you want. I'll give you all of the nations of the world." He showed him all of the nations of the world and said, "I can make you the authority of them today if you'll just bow down to me. You can take the shortcut of not having to go to the cross. You can bypass all the pain that's coming if you will just bow to me." It's a lie. Do you see the lie that's fueling the temptation? Jesus did, and he wasn't fooled.
Here's the way I think we are fueling our own temptation. It's hard for me to fight the lie that more money equals more happiness while I'm scrolling on Instagram watching all of my friends on awesome vacations, driving nice cars, while listening to Cardi B talking about all of the diamonds on her neck and all she wants is checks.
I don't know how I'm going to fight that if that's what I'm feeding myself. I'm fueling my own temptation. I'm taking lies and just injecting them into my mind. I'm looking at what everyone else has, and of course it makes me want… "I want what they have." Then what I'm listening to… I'm fueling the lies that are leading me into temptation.
How about this one? I don't know how we expect to resist temptation when the people we call friends promote the lies that fuel our temptation. How many of you have heard this? "It's not that big of a deal. We're just having fun. I mean, God doesn't expect us to be perfect anyway." We ourselves are fueling some of the temptation that's causing all the hurt and heartache in our lives. Stop that. I need to stop that. Look at yourself and just go, "Man, what are these…?"
We can't just look at Satan and believe he's the only one doing this and begin to understand that we, too, are feeding ourselves lies. I remember the people I called friends making fun of me for not sleeping with a girl after I'd trusted Christ and my life had changed. They were like, "Bro, you don't have to have sex with her. You can just mess around a little bit." They were feeding the lie that disobeying God, that going outside of God's way was not that big of a deal.
What that looked like for me is I had to change my circle of friends. I just got to a point where I said, "Man, I can't continue to do this, because you guys are fueling lies that are leading me into temptation that often is leading me into sin, which ultimately hurts and causes heartache in my life." If we're ever going to beat temptation, we need to know and remove all that we can that is fueling it.
Do you guys know what a fire line is? A fire line is when there's a big wildfire happening and all of the firefighters get together. They pick a strip of land where the fire is headed, and they rip out all of the trees and all the brush with chain saws and axes. They get earth movers, and they remove anything that can fuel the fire any more so that when the fire gets there it chokes itself out because there's nothing to burn on. There's no fuel there.
So, while Satan tempts us and while he hates us and he's never going to stop feeding us lies, don't you think that at least we can stop feeding ourselves the lies that are leading us to temptation and then leading us to sin? So, as a recap for this one, what is it that fuels temptation? Lies from Satan and lies from our own desires.
3._ What beats temptation?_ It's rejecting the lie and accepting truth. How did Jesus do this? Every time Satan tempted him, he said this. It's a very simple line. He said, "It is written…" He went to God's Word. He would identify the lie behind the temptation, turn to God's Word, and accept the truth found there. John 8:31 says, "So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, 'If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'"
Lies fuel temptation, truth exposes the lie, and it gives us the ability to beat temptation. We're never going to have the ability to beat temptation if we don't know the truth behind it, if we're not able to identify it. So, for you and me, the way this looks… How do we follow Jesus in temptation? How do we beat the temptation in our lives, and what are the things you and I can do to be able to identify the lie and then fight it with truth? We have to know truth.
We have to know God's Word. We have to know what God's Word says about the lies we are believing. How do we stop buying the lies that are causing us to hurt ourselves and others? How do we keep ourselves from making the same mistakes over and over again? How long will it be before you actually stop looking at porn and doing the things you don't want to do? You reject the lie and you accept the truth.
Here's what I want you to do. This has been really helpful for me. Whatever piece of paper you have, I want you to make a T-chart. Can you do that? I want one side to say, "Lies that I believe," and then on the other, "The truth that combats them." It's going to be really important for you to know, "What are the lies I'm tempted to believe? What are the little things that are being fed to me or I'm feeding myself that I want to believe?"
Then take the time… Spend time in God's Word, knowing it, understanding what it has to say directly to that lie. Then show your friends. Bring people in. Let them know, "Hey, here are the things I want to believe that are easy for me to believe, and then here's what I know God's Word has to say about it." You can't just know truth, friends. We need to accept it. We need to actually accept it. It's not just one thing to know the truth, but you have to accept it and believe it is true.
So, reject the lie, accept the truth, and then invite truth in. We have to love truth and be relentless about knowing and walking in it. This is how we do this. We confess. If you have people in your life who are also wanting to pursue God and wanting to turn away from all of the things that are going to be hurtful that our temptation leads us to, you get in that community, and as you run into life and as temptation hits you, you begin to confess it at a thought level.
Here's what this has looked like in my life. There are men in the room who have gotten this text from me before: "Hey, guys, I'm tired. I'm headed home. No one else is home, and I'm going to be tempted to believe that turning to porn is going to actually satisfy me. Will you guys check in with me? Will you guys ask me about it? Will you ask me about it tomorrow? Will you check in tonight? Maybe will you come over?" You invite truth in.
Temptation is not a sin, but we need friends to help us identify lies, and then we confess failure. Friends, Jesus is the only one who's perfect when it comes to fighting temptation, so there are going to be times in our lives that there's failure, but don't sit in it. Let's not sit in it. When we sit in it, it almost gives it more power.
I don't want to tell people, but let's drag it into the light and tell those in our lives who we love and who love us and just go, "Here it is. Here's what I did. Here's the lie I bought. Help me remind my heart of what God's Word has to say and where life is truly found." We invite truth in by confessing temptation at a thought level and then confessing failure.
In summary, temptation is an urge to do anything outside of God's will, there is a lie behind every temptation, and you combat temptation with God's Word. Here's what I want all of us in this room to walk out of here knowing and understanding and believing: Jesus is the solution to temptation. He is the only person who has ever been undefeated.
Before you roll your eyes and be like, "Yeah, yeah. That's because it's just Jesus. It would be nice to be the Son of God as I'm walking into this temptation," here's what I want you to think about. If Jesus had given in to that temptation, if Jesus had bought that lie, if he hadn't rejected the lie and accepted the truth that, "No, I'm going to follow God's way," then he wouldn't have been able to be our perfect Savior.
The perfect sacrifice as he hung on a cross paying the penalty for our sin wouldn't have been enough, because he no longer would have been perfect. What was at stake in Jesus resisting temptation had everything to do with not just him believing in God but also because he loves you and me. When Jesus rejected temptation, when he resisted that, what it meant was he had to go to the cross. He didn't just get authority immediately.
He had to go to the cross where on the cross he hung, paying the penalty for the sin you and I have committed, and rose again three days later. Every time Jesus resisted temptation, he paid the penalty for when you and I didn't. God's Word says if you and I believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord, that he really is enough, that we don't have to continue living this way… "Jesus, I believe that you are enough." It says we will be saved.
Yes, for all of eternity, but it also says he will send the Holy Spirit to live inside of us who will help enable us to reject the lies and the temptations we're tempted to believe. Every time Jesus was mocked, every time he was whipped, every second he hung on the cross, he was resisting the temptation to make it all end right there, because he could have, but he did it for you and me. He resisted for us so that, today, you and I can resist and by grace through faith we can be saved from the punishment for the sins we deserve. Let me pray for us.
Father, thank you for how big you are. Thanks for how good you are and the fact that you really are for our greatest good. Father, I just ask that you open the eyes of our hearts to recognize that, to recognize that we often want to believe we have it figured out, that we should be the gods of our own lives. Every time temptation hits us and we look at something and choose ultimately to go a way different than yours, that we choose something opposite of what you would want for us, Father, you're not mad at us, but you love us.
I pray for all of my friends in the room tonight, Father. I don't know what they're walking in with, what's going on inside their hearts, Father, but if there's anything there where they're feeling shame about the choices they've made or the things they've done, that they would look to you to be the one who heals them from that, who brings them in and says, "I love you. It's okay. I know. There is a better way." Thank you for Jesus and the example he is in our lives. We love you a lot. In your name I pray, amen.