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Lesson 6: Victory in the Wilderness *

Introduction: If a really important world heavy weight boxing match is scheduled, I try to watch it. I just watched some very exciting football (American football) contests. You probably like to watch contests. What if you had a personal interest in the contest? I'm not talking about betting, I'm talking about you dying if your champion did not win. That is a contest we can watch closely this week! Let's dive into our Bibles and take a ringside seat for three rounds of the most important contest in the history of the universe!

  1. The Wilderness Match - Round One

    1. Read Matthew 3:16-17. How do you think Jesus felt at this moment? (Christians generally remember their baptism as a high point in life. Having your father tell you that He loves you and is pleased with you is another great experience in life.)

    2. Read Matthew 4:1. What Spirit are we talking about? (It must be the Holy Spirit. It is hard to imagine that Jesus would allow an evil spirit to lead Him.)

      1. Isn't this odd activity for the Holy Spirit?

    3. Read James 1:13. James sometimes writes things that make me wonder. Do we have an absolute contradiction between James and Matthew? (In Matthew we have one part of the Trinity leading another part into temptation.)

    4. Read Matthew 4:2-3. What are the elements of this temptation? Break it down if you can. (The first element is to challenge Jesus' power and authority. "If you are the Son of God." "If you can." The second element is an appeal to hunger.)

    5. Read Matthew 4:4. Which of the two elements of the temptation does Jesus answer? Neither, one or both?

      1. Do you understand Jesus' answer? How do you live on words?

    6. Read Deuteronomy 8:2-4. What point is God making in these verses? (We should trust God. God can miraculously speak manna into existence. God can miraculously preserve our clothes. We should humbly trust God to take care of us.)

      1. This is the text that Jesus quoted to respond to Satan. Tell me, to what element of Satan's temptation did Jesus respond? (He responded to both elements. Satan said "I don't think you have the power, prove you do." Jesus responded, "I don't need to exert power because my Father has the power and the desire to take care of My needs." Satan appealed to Jesus' hunger, but Jesus told Satan that God would not let Him die of hunger.)

    7. What do you think about the quality of this temptation? If this is one round of the epic battle between Jesus and Satan, then Satan must have prepared a long time for it. How did Satan do? (Recall that in the first two lessons of this series we decided that sin entered heaven and earth because of a desire (in Satan and Eve) to be like God. We see traces of that in the first element of the temptation, at least as Jesus understands it. Jesus responds that He does not need to use His Godly powers because He trusts God to take care of His needs, just like God gave the people manna. It is interesting that Eve's temptation and Jesus' temptation also involve food - but that seems to be a secondary aspect of things.)

    8. If Satan prepared, do you think that Jesus and the rest of the Trinity prepared for this conflict. What do you think about Satan repackaging an old temptation?

      1. What does that tell you about the kind of temptation that Satan's confederates will bring in your life? (Let's agree that the "hunger/fruit" element of the temptation is like addictions for us. They are troubling for many. But, the big temptation is pride, a desire to be like God.)

        1. What new thoughts do you have about the temptations in your life?

    9. Re-read Matthew 4:1. Have you worked out an answer to the apparent conflict with James? (What if the Holy Spirit was anxious to have this combat? What if the Holy Spirit was convinced that Satan was not that good and not that original? What if the Holy Spirit thought that Satan was unprepared? I speculate that the answer to the apparent conflict is something like that.)

  2. The Wilderness Match - Round Two

    1. Read Matthew 4:5-6. This temptation also seems to have two elements. "If you are the Son of God" did not work before, why would Satan immediately try it again?

      1. What is the second element of this temptation? (It has to do with trusting God. It seems that Satan has made an "adjustment." Because Jesus previously essentially answered, "I don't need to be like God, because I'm trusting Him to give me food," Satan brings a temptation about trusting in God.)

      2. Can you trust God too much? Is that the issue?

    2. Let's read the text Satan quotes so we can better understand the temptation. Read Psalms 91:9-14. Would this text justify Jesus throwing Himself down and trusting God? (Psalms 91 seems to refer to disasters that overtake you. Not disasters that you decide to create.)

    3. Let's read the texts that form the basis for Jesus' response. Read Deuteronomy 6:16. This refers to a prior situation recorded in Exodus that we should read next: Exodus 17:1-3 and Exodus 17:7. What is the "test" in Exodus 17? How is God being tested? (The people denied that God was with them. Moses said that the test existed in saying, "Is the Lord among us or not?"

      1. How does that support Jesus' answer to Satan? (Notice how this again goes back to trusting God. Jesus interprets the temptation as a test of whether God will be with Him and save Him. Jesus essentially responds (considering the background texts), "I'm not going to show doubt about God being with Me by needlessly jumping off a building.")

      2. Have you tested God to see if He is with you?

        1. Can that happen when we decide to pursue something God has not directed us to do?

  3. The Wilderness Match - Round Three

    1. Read Matthew 4:8-9. What element of the prior temptations has Satan dropped? Why? (Satan no longer challenges whether Jesus is the Son of God. Instead, this test assumes that fact and asks Jesus to give His allegiance to Satan.)

      1. What could possibly tempt Jesus in this offer? (Jesus came to redeem the earth from Satan.)

        1. If Jesus worships Satan, has Jesus taken back the world?

    2. Read Matthew 4:10. Jesus again cites the Bible to respond to temptation. What is the lesson for us when we face temptation?

    3. Jesus again quotes Deuteronomy 6. Let's read Deuteronomy 6:13-15. What common sin is being suggested to Jesus? (Idol worship.)

      1. Let's assume that Satan is not stupid. Although idol worship is a very successful temptation for us, it hardly seems to be a temptation for Jesus. What do you think is Satan's thinking in this temptation? (I don't see any skill at all. This is not some sort of subtle trick. Satan is not appealing to pride or trust in God the Father.)

      2. Read Luke 22:41-44. Is the nature of this temptation now more clear? (Yes. This is not a "skill" temptation, this is a "club" temptation. It is like the threat of torture. Satan essentially says, "If you do what I want, I won't torture and kill you.)

      3. Is this a temptation that you and I can face? (How many times are we tempted to take the easy way out? How many times are we tempted on self-denial?)

      4. Let's drill deeper. When I think about self-denial I think about my nice house and car. Is that the issue here? (If Jesus worshiped Satan, if He gave His allegiance to Satan for the sole benefit of avoiding torture, that would be understandable, but it would be sin. I think this is more akin to someone giving up on God to do better or avoid loss. An example would be if you embezzle money. An example would be if you denied God just to have friends.)

    4. Friend, if Satan brought these temptations to Jesus, imagine how Satan's fallen angels use these on you. Will you be alert to these temptations, and follow Jesus' pattern of trusting His Father and relying on the Bible?

  4. Next week: Jesus' Teachings and the Great Controversy.
* Copr. 2016, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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