Scripture, Temptation, and Self

Posted on 11/04/2018 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.

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TRANSCRIPT: (does not contain everything found in the audio above)

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I will bow down
hail you as king
I will serve you
give you everything

I will lift up
my eyes to your throne
I will trust you
I will trust you alone

I will give you all my worship
I will give you all my praise
You alone I long to worship
You alone are worthy of my praise


When I think about the Lord
how he saved me, how he raised me
How he filled me with the Holy Ghost
He healed me to the uttermost

When I think about the Lord
how he picked me up, turned me around
How he set my feet on solid ground

Makes me want to shout
Hallelujah, thank you Jesus!
Lord you're worthy
of all the glory
and all the honor
and all the praise!


You dance over me
while I am unaware
You sing all around
but I never hear the sound

Lord I'm amazed by You
Lord I'm amazed by You
Lord I'm amazed by You
how you love me

You paint the morning sky
with miracles in mind
My hope will always stand
for you hold me in your hand

How deep (how deep)
How wide (how wide)
How great (how great)
is your love for me

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I'd like to start off today's message by reading from the book of 2nd Timothy, chapter three, verses 16 and 17.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NKJV)

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Of course our word "scripture" simply means writing. But if everything ever written was given by inspiration of God, then God has a lot of explaining to do; instead, in this context, the word "scripture" is referring specifically to the Holy Scriptures.

And in John 10:35, Jesus says the Scripture cannot be broken. The NIV says that it cannot be "set aside." And the original word used there means to break, undo, or dissolve.

What does that mean? Suppose you're referring to some sort of historical writing, and not to the Old Testament; and you tell someone, "That history book cannot be broken, undone, or dissolved." What would that mean? Sounds kind of strange, don't you think? Or maybe it's just me.

Well, let's dig a little deeper.

When Jesus was being tempted by satan in the wilderness, He answered every temptation with Scripture.

Matthew 4:1-11 (NKJV)

1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
2 And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.
3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread."
4 But He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'"
5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple,
6 and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge over you,' and, 'In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.'"
7 Jesus said to him, "It is also written, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'"
8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.
9 And he said to Him, "All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me."
10 Then Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.'"
11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.

Okay. So first of all, this tells us that Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit. He didn't just decide to go there because it seemed like a super spiritual thing to do. He wasn't interested in looking spiritual or building up His righteous ego or His sense of self. The only reason He was there was because that's where God led Him to be.

How many of our choices and actions and activities are because the Spirit is making that choice, doing that action, and partaking of that activity through us? We know that Jesus said He spoke only what He heard the Father speaking, and did only what He saw the Father doing.

This is the level of unending intimacy to which we are being wooed, to which we are being called, into this kind of eternal embrace with God. An embrace so secure that there is no opening for any attachment to thing less than God to sneak in.

And not only do we see that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, but this says that the whole reason the Spirit led Him there was so He could be tempted by the devil.

James 1:14 says, "But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed."

For you and me, we don't need satan himself to tempt us, or even one of the demons who serve him. Instead, our own flesh desires things, and it entices us to entertain those desires, and thus to enter into the realm of sin.

But Jesus didn't have the fallen human nature. The Bible tells us that He was the "Second Adam." The first Adam also did not yet have the flesh, the mind poisoned by the forbidden fruit, when he and Eve stood in front of that tree. And so, satan himself was the voice of temptation there, just as he was the voice of temptation in the wilderness.

And Jesus answered satan as an example to us of how we might answer our flesh as it tempts us to entertain the thought of sin. Am I saying the devil or a demon will never tempt any of us? No, but they generally don't get a chance or have any need to, because we have such close relationships with our flesh.

But regardless of whether the pull on our desires comes from our own carnal mind or from the devil himself, the principle Jesus demonstrated here is still the same.

"It is written."

Yes, it's possible to step out of identification with the carnal mind and to not be pulled by it any longer. But to the other 99 and 99 100ths of us, we generally forget where we end and our flesh begins. And so, with so much flesh still left to crucify, and with our identification so strongly placed into our minds, we deliver to that mind the words of Scripture.

If we were completely in the Spirit, who is also the Word of God, there might be no need, any more than a fish in clean water needs to turn on a water hose to put out a fire.

But Jesus, in the absense of a fallen human nature and the sickness of the fallen human mind, was being tempted directly by satan himself. And, to each temptation, He responded by quoting the Scriptures.

And the first Scripture He quoted layed the foundation for the rest:

"It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'"

Here is Jesus, physically weak from more than a month of eating absolutely no earthly food. And when we eat, we feed more than our heart and muscles and so on; we also feed our brain.

And so it would seem reasonable to suggest that Jesus, being not only fully human but also fully God, would do something so simple as turning a few rocks into bread. That's not a sin, is it? Jesus is, after all, the Word of God, and by God's Word, He created everything: the rocks, the soil in which wheat grows, the water and nutrients that feed it, the ability for man to harvest it and make it into dough, the fire that cooks it, and the body that consumes it. It would then be a trivial thing to make bread. That in itself could not possible be a sin.

And yet, Jesus did not stop following the Spirit after He reached the wilderness. He did not stop doing only what He saw the Father doing. And the Father obviously was not turning stones into bread.

Now this is something that is hard for us to grasp in practical terms. Does this mean we shouldn't eat unless we think God is telling us to eat? Or that we shouldn't put on our socks until God tells us to put them on, and until He tells us what color to wear?

That's the kind of confusion into which this topic throws the human mind. Remember, the mind thinks it is the only thing that can understand and "rightly divide" the Scriptures, so they obviously must be within its reach.

But even if we consider our brain, that analytical part is only about the size of a peanut. There's still a LOT of brain that peanut is insisting we ignore. And I would go a step further than the peanut and suggest we ignore the whole brain altogether.

Jesus said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." Bread feeds the physical body and brain. The Word of God feeds the Life that allows that body to eat. We eat bread to give our body the nutrients that allow it to continue to be a temple of the Life we are. Fair enough. But Jesus was not being directed by his physical vessel. He was, instead, being directed directly by the Word of God.

Which is interesting, consider he IS the Word of God. But we could speculate on THAT point all day long, and it might serve only to entertain our mind and keep us going in circles of earthly reasoning.

The point here is that satan wasn't asking Jesus to break one of the Commandments, or to do anything at all that was, in itself, wrong. Instead, he simply inviting Jesus to eat.


Well, let's take a closer look.

Satan worded his first temptation like this: "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread."

"If you are the Son of God." Satan didn't just suggest that Jesus eat. That's not a sin. Instead, satan said "If you are the Son of God." Jesus knew full well who He was. After all, He was fully in the Spirit, and knew where the Spirit was leading Him to go, or to stay. But satan was suggesting Jesus build an earthly sense of identity around His being the Son of God. And there's an important distinction there.

Most if not all of us here would call ourselves a Christian. All of us who are Believers would almost certainly refer to ourself as a child of God. And that's well and good.

But then the thought comes along, "If you are a Christian..." And I'm not talking about the idea that maybe you AREN'T really God's child. Who knows, maybe satan WAS trying to tempt Jesus with self-doubt. But that just doesn't sound quite right. Your own self image starts melting away when you are dwelling in God's presence. So you don't have to "not doubt" yourself. On the contrary, "self" starts to lose its imagined importance.

Perhaps, instead, satan was attempting to take Jesus' attention out of that place of complete union with God, and into the fallen human practice of building up an image of self. Who you are, as the mind sees it, is a misdirected focus. When you are lost in the presence of God, it is not YOU who is lost there, but your mind-generated self. Your story doesn't matter in that place of Divine union. Your roles and titles and labels don't have any bearing on reality.

And it made no difference what label could be placed on Jesus, whether that was "Son of God," or whatever other self label or self image He could have allowed to lead Him.

And so He spoke the words of Scripture, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." On the level of form, the level of human words, it sounds as though they were both talking about eating physical bread versus reading the Bible. But on the level of spirit, I believe these words just might be pointing to whether we are led by union with God, or by our own sense of who we are and what our carnal minds decide we should or should not do.

"If You are the Son of God," versus letting God's Spirit live life through you. Or as it's worded in Galatians 2:20, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me." It doesn't matter what labels could be placed upon you, or what group it is with which you might have identified; rather, it is You and God. Out of that union, you love God in others. Out of that intimacy with the Life Breather, you are one with the Life He is always breathing into others.

It is His Breath you love. And His Breath is the very scent of Love. How can you be one with God and yet not Love His scent of Love when you smell it in another? It's there in every single body that is alive. God's breath, the breath that is the fragrance of Love, is breathing through every single body you meet. It is only when your eyes are taken from Him and placed upon a separate identity -- Son of God, child of God, Pastor, Deacon, Baptist, Presbyterian, father, mother, student, John, Suzan, and so-on -- it is when your identity is placed in a sense of "me" that you stop seeing and Loving the sweet aroma of Love that is ever being breathed through others.

I didn't plan to go in that direction. But there it is.

Next, the devil took Jesus up to the top of the temple. And he said, "If you are the Son of God." Sound familiar? "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down."

Well that one's a little more obvious. Why would Jesus want to jump off of a tall building? This wasn't a temptation to commit suicide, because satan quoted the Scriptures that say God's angels will take care of you, and they will bear you up lest you dash your food against a stone. So this wasn't a temptation for Him to kill himself. What could this then have been? Why in the world could Jesus have ever in a million years wanted to jump off the temple?

Self. "If you are so-and-so." "If this identity is who you are." You see, "Son of God" is a label. You can know that a label points to some truth behind a role you play. But in the light of the ever-present eternity that is intimate union with God, that doesn't matter. If Jesus had fallen to the temptation to start building a sense of self out of the label "Son of God," then jumping off the temple and having people see Him float safely to the ground would have certainly helped other people to believe in that label as well, would it have not?

When Jesus asked the disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter did not respond by reciting a label, but with a proclamation of that to which the labels "Messiah" and "Son of God" are meant to point. God? Well, yes, but if we were Jesus and had fallen to the temptation of activating the human sickness in our human minds, that too would have become a source of pride. "That's right, I am God." And I'm sure you can feel right now the feeling such a statement, if coming from your own lips, would bring, even if that statement were true.

Now, we could say that, in these temptations, Jesus was faced with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life. And I can see those things in these temptations. Perhaps we will take that angle some day. God isn't limited to teaching us only one thing from only one point of view in ANYTHING that He has inspired to be written.

But the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life are all about me, mine, and what I wish was mine. Which all boil down to "ME." The self produced by the sin-sick mind of fallen man.

And instead of falling into the trap of identification with things, forms, labels, thoughts, and the identification with a self, Jesus used the written Scriptures which cannot be broken, undone, or dissolved, to point to that which has no beginning and no end, and cannot be reduced to the confines of carnal understanding.

We, on the other hand, start off our spiritual journey on the OTHER side of the fence. And so we follow our Lord, through Calvary, to that place He remained during that time of temptation in the wilderness, which is a place of glorious, unbroken union with God.

And finally, when Jesus still had not fallen, satan took Him to a very high mountain where He could see the glory of the kingdoms of the Earth. And then satan promised to give them all to Jesus if He would only bown down and worship him.

My first reaction to this is to think about how incredibly stupid satan was. Really? I mean, Jesus won't worship His own mental identity, so the devil asks Him to practice some satan worship instead?

At this point, talking about the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life would be a whole lot easier. But let's consider something here: the Scriptures tell us that satan appears as an angel of light. It's not as though satan has two choices: either look like a white angel with wings and a harp or a dark red devil with horns, a pitchfork and a pointed tail. Instead, we could suppose that satan can simply appear in whatever form he chooses.

As an angel. As a devil. As Jesus. As Mary. Or as a form that you or I would associate with God. So I don't imagine satan stood there on the mountain holding his pitchfork, surrounded by a dark cloud pierced through by his red glowing eyes, saying, "I am the devil! Forsake the Father God and sell me your soul by worshiping me! I'll even forgo asking you to sacrifice a virgin or a newborn!"

Of course we can only speculate on how things actually happened. But we can know from human experience that we are not only tempted, by satan, by demons, or by our own fleshly mind, to embrace a sense of self, to put that sense of self into a mental idol, and to worship an image or likeness of God, or a teaching about God, or knowledge about God, instead of entering into worship, or intimate union, with God Himself.

And so let's come back to the first verses we read today:

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Doctrine, or teaching. Teaching is important. Why? Is it important because we're adding something to our sense of self? Or because it makes us feel important and as though we've achieved something? Maybe favor with God? Or recognition in the eyes of man?

Or is Biblical teaching important in that it points us to God and lights the path in front of us?

For reproof. Scripture tells us that God disciplines those He loves. When we walk according to the flesh, which is the only time we can walk in sin, God brings us His Love in the form of reproof. It's His way of saying, "Look at where you are. You are in darkness and death. Come back to Light and Life. Come back into my arms."

For correction. We might have drawn wrong conclusions about what the Scriptures say. This is important, not because we're supposed to get it all right if we can hope to make it to heaven, but because, if we're following the wrong directions in ANY journey we take, there's no telling where we might go. So Scripture can show us where we've misunderstood Scripture; and this is important not because of the technical meanings of the words and sentences themselves, but because of that higher-than-mind Life to which the Scriptures are meant to point us.

For instruction in righteousness. How can we know if we are walking in righteousness? By the fruit we produce -- whether righteous actions which come from Righteousness, or ungodly actions and attitudes, which come from Unrighteousness. So the Scriptures help to identify the fruit in our life, and they also point the way to Righteousness, so we can walk in it.

That the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Not so you can complete your self, or add more stuff to your self until that self is big enough and polished enough for you to consider yourself to have arrived; rather, the Scriptures are profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, so that we can remain in that place of unbroken union with God, so we can recognize when we are NOT in that place, and so we will be thoroughly equipped and prepared to produce an abundance of good works, the fruit of a Life lived in the center of the very Presence of God.

Lord God, thank you for speaking to us today through the Scriptures. Thank you for drawing us into your arms today.