Silencing The Tempter
Notes of the second of three messages on temptation.
We considered last month the tremendous scope of the temptation of our Lord—not an area that touches us that has not first touched Him, and been overthrown by Him. Therefore He has the answer to every battle any of us ever have to fight.
Now we are to think of the way in which He silenced the tempter; how He hurled back every fiery dart, and emerged from the conflict utterly victorious. I believe that the devil would have avoided that encounter if he could. It is not the record of Satan driving Christ into a tight corner and then attacking Him. No! Here is Jesus in the fulness of the Holy Spirit, led by the Spirit, driven by the Spirit into the wilderness, there to rout out the devil, track him down, expose him and compel him to fight.
The devil challenged our first parents in a garden. Christ challenged Satan in the wilderness. This is heaven’s counter-attack. Satan ruined Adam and the whole human race with him, but here is Christ out to spoil and rob the devil of his prey and include a new race of blood-bought men in His victory. This is not a question of the Lord caught in an emergency or His back to the wall, but it is Satan exposed for what he is, and forced to a battle he knew he must lose, and obliged to withdraw vanquished.
Just as in the Scope of the Temptation, every area that touches us was covered, so in Silencing the Tempter, every victory He won is for us in union with Him, for it was for us the battle was fought and won. He would never have needed to fight it but for that. Observe how Satan began by saying, “If (or since) thou be the Son of God…” See what is Christ’s first word in reply: “Man shall not live by bread alone…” Jesus stands His ground as a man, not as God. He takes this victory in His manhood. He calls no angel to assist Him, and exercises no divine power.
One day as God, He will destroy this man of sin with the breath of His mouth, but not in the wilderness. It will not be until redemption is accomplished, and man can be saved. He did not say, “I, the Son of God, dismiss thee,” as this must be victory as man for man.
O loving wisdom of our God
When all was sin and shame,
A second Adam to the fight
And to the rescue came.
O wisest love! That flesh and blood
Which did in Adam fail,
Should strive afresh against the foe
Should strive and should prevail.
Satan said “Son of God”; Jesus said “man.” If Satan could have provoked Him from that position, he would have won the victory. Jesus declined to make use of any power not available to Him as a man to win this victory, therefore He won the battle in a way possible to every one of us in His strength and silenced the accuser. How was this done?—in the realm of the Body, the Spirit, and Service.
I. The Word Of God For The Body (Matthew 4:4)
“It is written that man shall not live by bread alone.” Here is His answer to the temptation to satisfy a physical craving out of God’s will. You notice no reference to our Lord praying at that moment—there was no time for prayer. Sometimes the pressure of Satan is so sudden and terrific that there is no possibility of prayer. But there is no need to fear defeat if you have known what prayer is beforehand. Because of that there is an immediate resource to the Word—“It is written.” A life steeped in prayer is always ready for the devil with an answer from the Word. There is no deliverance from the dart of the enemy apart from the Sword of the Spirit.
Here is Christ, drawing a circle around Himself as it were, and standing within it declares: “what God’s will permits I will do. What it makes no provision for I will do without.” God’s will only permits what God’s Word declares. Worn, weak, and hungry, He says: “I take my victory over you in my circumstances, not outside of them.”
Man does not live by bread alone. Ultimately the man who does that will die. But man lives by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God—he lives by the will of God. The man who lives on bread alone will perish. The man who lives by the will of God will live forever. We do not live by what goes into our mouths—we die by that. We live by what proceeds out of the mouth of God.
So the Lord Jesus says: “however desperate be the hunger, my Father knows and will provide. I am here by the will of God because the Holy Spirit brought me here. Here I stay to hunger—to die if He wills—but never to sin. I choose deliberately to hunger within His will rather than attempt to be satisfied out of it. If there is a choice between sustaining spiritual life and feeding the physical, then the physical must give way to the spiritual.”
So Jesus reveals that He intends us to be more than animal and to understand that submission to the will of God, as revealed in the Word of God, is the secret of satisfaction—“My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me and to finish His work.” “He that cometh to Me shall never hunger.” You may hunger in your circumstances, but stand and you will be satisfied in Christ. It is safer to be hungry in His will than temporarily satisfied out of it.
So the attack on bodily craving is hurled back by the Word of God and a refusal to satisfy any appetite outside His will. That victory is for you and for me. Stand in the will of God and refuse to move out of it. He knows the hunger—it is not an accident, but it is your proving ground. Do not talk about guidance contrary to what the Word of God reveals. Remember: to satisfy or attempt to satisfy out of His will is death! To live in His will is to abide forever.—the Word of God.
II. The Will Of God In My Spirit (Matthew 4:7)
“Thou shalt not test the Lord thy God.” Here is His answer to temptation to reveal His trust by something spectacular. The will of God is the battleground in every sphere, and Jesus will no more attempt to live out of the Father’s will in the spiritual than in the physical. Notice how Christ takes the sword of God’s Word out of Satan’s hand—again, “It is written.” He says: “You quote Scripture, but out of its context, using an isolated text. I answer you with this principle, “thou shalt not make trial of the Lord thy God.”
To fling Himself from the temple would not have revealed trust but fear, and a doubt that God could not break through spiritual conditions of the day in His way. It is when you doubt a person that you make experiments to see how far you can trust them. Trust waits—“is still and knows that He is God.”
The devil says do something adventurous and magnificent, attract attention to yourself and so demonstrate your confidence. Jesus says that this is not faith at all. Trust will never make an experiment outside of the clearly marked path of God’s will. Jesus says in effect, “The success of my mission is not my concern. My concern is the will of God.”
To attempt the spectacular and to achieve success in the spiritual realm, so as to prove the strength of your faith, is never God’s way. His way is to go to the Cross where the life is not saved by angelic hands, but offered up by wicked hands.
Are you looking for revival? How is it coming? Through men saved from the worship of the spectacular and who say, “Lord, thy will and only thy will for me.” It is good to be passionate and zealous, but passion has to be curbed by patience.
Oh! that the church might dare to go underground. To stop our publicity and our exaggerated reports of blessing. Confess them as sin. Get down on our faces and crucify reputation. And as Habakkuk said long ago, “Tho the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet will I rejoice in the Lord my God, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:17).
Is that your prayer? Then be sure that God, the Holy Spirit, will come down afresh on your life, for that is what God wants. Jesus chose hunger rather than a satisfaction which God chose not to provide. He chose to appear to lack daring rather than to show His fear by testing God. To choose the commonplace of patient waiting is not easy, but when the will of God is involved, it is the way of victory. The Word of God for physical appetite and the Will of God for spiritual trust, and the tempter is silenced.
III. The Cross Of Christ For Service (Matthew 4:10)
Here is Christ’s answer to service out of the will of God: achievement without redemption; a crown without a cross; the offer of the kingdoms in place of the Kingdom. Is Christ going to risk making the greatest power of the universe outside the power of God His friend or His foe? How would you react to that?
Do not launch a full offensive on the devil—better come to terms! Such an enemy would be dangerous. Compromise? Listen to Jesus, “Get thee hence, Satan. I have not come to worship you, but to throw you out. Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and Him only shalt thou serve.” There is no compromise. It is better to hunger and thirst, better the spitting, the crown of thorns, the Cross, the blood than to take the Kingdom your way and there be no redemption for sinners.
Satan asks for a moment’s worship and says nothing about service. Jesus knew that worship must lead to service. To worship Satan would be to serve him and to leave him in control of the kingdoms and to prevent the whole purpose of redemption. Those kingdoms are full of sin and the glory of them is only skin deep and fading.
Jesus refused to serve that way. He moved toward the establishment of a new Kingdom wherein dwelleth righteousness. The devil showed Him fragments, and Jesus chose to redeem and establish one Kingdom, even though the path to the goal must be by the Cross. To escape the Cross would be to miss the goal altogether.
Some people cannot believe that the death of One would save the world, and they place less value on it and His blood than Satan does. He knew the Cross would mean redemption, and that is why He fought it. In the Kingdom which is eternal, there is no room for the devil’s energy. It is the work begun, continued and ended in power of life of the Son of God in you and me that will count.
If we would know this victory, the call is to step out of the entanglements of Satan’s methods and compromise in any aspect of life and service. Do not be lured by them but take the way of the Cross. The only service which will bear on it the unction of the Spirit is that which has the principle of the Cross at the heart of it.
This is what God wants—men and women who have caught the vision of Christ and who see that the only thing that can redeem men from the grip of Satan is deliverance through the Cross. The poor, shoddy, and empty devices of men will perish with the kingdoms, but that which is founded on the blood will last forever.
Is the Cross in your service, preaching, singing, music, testimony, and teaching? Whatever it is, is the principle of Calvary over it all? Only that which has been cleansed by His blood can be anointed by His Spirit.
How perfect was the triumph of Christ in the physical realm, in the spiritual, and in service. He refused to satisfy the physical at the expense of God’s will. He refused to betray His trust in God by doing something which would have only evidenced His doubt. He refused to serve any other than the Lord and commanded the devil to depart. At every point where we have failed, He was victorious. In every weakness of our lives, He was strong, and from henceforth Satan is a conquered foe.
“The devil leaveth Him.” All his guns have been fired, and all his wiles exhausted, and Jesus is unscathed. The silence of Satan is eloquent proof that man in the will of God is unmovable. That victory is for you to share now in relation to your body—the Word of God; in relation to your spirit—the Will of God; in relation to your service—the Cross of Christ. Claim it now—“Get thee hence, Satan.” Not an inch where he is still master. Thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory in all these things.