Chapter 14 - Temptation's Trophies
John the Baptizer has been baptizing. He is baptizing persons, based upon their confession of sin and repentance, and the bringing forth of fruits worthy of that repentance. He is asked on many occasions if he is the Christ. He tells them all that he is not the One; that the One will come later who will not baptize only with water, but with fire and the Holy Ghost. In fact, John says, "I am not worthy to even hold his shoes."
In fancy, I can see John immersing the last candidate. The day is far spent and the sun is ending its diurnal arc in the sky. The trees dotting the river bank are creating unusual shadows. Suddenly, John stops in the middle of a sentence. His eyes are elevated beyond the crowd. As is typical of a crowd, they turn as one and behold a tall man who identifies himself as Jesus. He comes forward to request baptism. "No," says John, "I have need to be baptized of you - and you come to me? Why should I baptize you? It has been revealed to me who you are," Jesus says, "Suffer it to be so, I must be baptized of you to set an example; I must be baptized of you because it fulfills righteousness."
We then read in God's Word, "And Jesus, when he was baptized went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending upon him, like a dove, and lighting upon him: and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
This bring us to "Temptation's Trophies." The baptism of Jesus has been a prelude to it, because the very next word in Matthew is "then." "Immediately." We have lost the context because we have divided God's Word into chapters and verses, which were not so written, but for the sake of convenience they have been so divided. Following the last verse in chapter 3, when the Spirit rested upon Jesus and the Word of God was heard the word is immediately.
Immediately Jesus was led up to the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil, therefore the text of our message, "Temptation's Trophies." His baptist was, so to speak, the control door to a public ministry. The Devil was there. I would say to you who have been baptized, that the Devil was there on that eventful day, and before you removed the baptismal robe the Devil was attacking you. Jesus said, you, too, are exposed to such temptations.
After the baptismal experience of Jesus He went to this "wilderness" which, when properly translated from the Greek, means a place of devastation, thirty-five miles long, fifteen miles wide. It is a place where He truly could be alone, (Nancy and I have been there). It is twisted limestone rocks and hillocks looking like piles of dust. At the edge of this, a precipitous drop of some twelve hundred feet to the Dead Sea, Here, Jesus was truly alone. Maybe we tend to go wrong today because we do not spend enough time by ourselves; we need to stop in our rushing around and let Jesus minister to us through His Holy Spirit.
The Devil was there! I want you to note that the Devil attacked Jesus from the inside, three temptations are recorded -- He was alone, forty days -- He was hungry. The little stones that dotted the hillside of this desert area looked like small fragments of bread, The tempter knew He was hungry and for the first temptation said, "You are the Son of God, make these stones to become bread." Jesus replied with scripture, which is proof text that we need to commit God's Word to our heart that "we may not sin against thee." Jesus said, "It is written, thou shalt not live by bread alone,t' For the second temptation the Devil led Jesus to a high pinnacle and said, "Fall down, the angels of God will protect you." Jesus said, "It is written again, thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God."
For a third temptation, Jesus was led to a high mountain and was told that if He bowed down he would receive all the lands in sight. "The world is yours, if you will but Bow down to me" said the Devil. Jesus said, "Get thee hence, Satan, for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord, thy God, arid Him only shalt thou serve." We then note, "the Devil left Him, behold angels came and ministered to Him."
The baptized Saviour became the second Adam. The first Adam was tested in the garden of plenty; the second Adam was tested in the wilderness of want, This word "'p" is interesting. We have placed upon it a wrong connotation, We read in Matthew 4:1 that " He was led into the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil" (elsewhere translated "tempted" which in English has a consistently and uniformly bad meaning). We think of it as being bad, we think of it as enticement, we think of it as persuasion, we think of it as wrong, but the Greek word has a different meaning - it means to "test" and this is NOT bad. It means to test far more than it does to temp in our sense of the word.
When we encounter a personal temptation, it is not for us to sin, it is presented for us to conquer. It is not meant to make us bad, but to make us good. Let us review. What we call this personal encounter with a temptation, is not to lead us to commit sin, although sin, because of our human nature, may evolve, but it is a challenge to us to make us good, make us better.
I once read that temptation is not the penalty of being a man, but it is the glory of being a man. To receive, personally, these temptations and to overcome them is the way God wants us to react. The Devil tries to chill our soul, even as we come out of the baptismal waters. We find ourselves as on a battlefield, where we must fight. In Job we read, The Lord said to Satan, 'Where have you been?' Satan answered the Lord, 'Well, I have been going to and fro in the earth. The Lord said, 'Have you considered my servant, Job? There is none like him in the earth -- a perfect, upright man, he fears God.' The Devil said, "You have put a hedge around him." We do place around ourselves a hedge so that we can withstand the fiery darts of the Devil. This war of temptations within us needs to be hastily brought to a conclusion. And there can be a final defeat. Read 1 Peter 5:8.
He presents to us temptations of all sorts. If we yield, we sin; if we don't yield, we are made firm, for somehow God supports us.
Once a minister was traveling by rail to a speaking engagement. He was the only occupant of the compartment except for a young man, The man was a Christian, but his faith was weak. "There are so many temptations," he said, In conversation with the minister he said he just did not see how he could stand life a week longer.
The minister took from his pocket a penknife and a Bible, He said, "You know, son, I can make this knife stand up on the cover of this Bible," Well, the young man really was intent in watching this "trick" he thought. He said that it would not be very easy.
So, he watched and waited, "Well," said the young man, "I am waiting," "I am doing it." "You are holding the knife with your finger," replied the young skeptic. "That's right," the minister said, "Have you ever heard of a knife standing by itself?"
"I see, " was the comment, and the young man lit up like a light, He had seen the dawn, No one can stand unless God holds him, The Christ must lay hold on us and sustain us. As he left he thanked the minister for reminding him of a great truth that he had forgotten. "I see the point. I can't stand alone without God's support," What I say to you is that it is not easy to be a christian, or a faithful Christian, unless one is wholly dependent upon God. We have built around us the paper mache supports of the world which can be easily kicked out or torn down by the world's many demands. God is asking that we lean upon Him and let Him sustain us, as did the minister's finger support the penknife on the Bible.
We and our temptations: Temptation and adversity; temptation of prosperity; temptation of old age and of young age; temptation of health and sickness. But in the face of all temptations we must remember that GOD DOES NCY TEMPT US. It was the brother of our Jesus who said: "Never say, 'I am tempted of God." But He allows, oh yes, He allows temptation to come our way, so that through it we can be made strong. It is not weakness to run. Proverbs 6:27-28
Someone said, "There are three kinds of temptations - to shine, to whine and to recline." To which category do you belong? A question was recently asked of me: "Does every Christian have temptations?" The answer is YES. All Christians are tempted to do wrong. If Jesus could not escape temptation, how do we expect to? It is not temptation that is wrong, it is the yielding to it. We sometimes sing, "Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin."
Right now you have the temptation to bypass Church when the doors are open to you; to neglect to tithe when you know it is right to do so; to absent yourself from Church School; to fail to read your Bible every day. Temptations are many and they vary. These are pinpointed temptations; many are self-inflicted.
If you are tempted to do wrong, one thing is in your favor; You are not dead. Your conscience has not been dulled by the world, and for this one should be grateful. You know the difference between right and wrong. There are trophies awaiting those who do not yield, Many of you have received some of these trophies.
I. The First Trophy is That of Being Blessed.
This is a state of quality. The word "blessed" means "congratulations" or "happy" and if yield not to temptation you are to be congratulated and thus be an heir to happiness. You receive the trophy of being blessed by God. Not "bless" by God, but being blessed. The quartz gold may complain bitterly when the crushing hammer comes down; it may say Ouch, it hurts." When placed in water it may cry out at being drowned; later it rebels at being reduced to atoms. Then the furnace -- "Qh But finally it will result in being part of a beautiful crown. We need not complain, for an opportunity has come to us to use the grace of God to discover our metal.
Again, it was the brother of Jesus who said, "Count it all joy, brethren, when you fall into temptation." Tested by God. You see, he does not want us to be hothouse plants. He wants us to be storm beaten oaks. And because of this He must bring us into a testing room, which is your life, and you are in this room right now.
There is a trophy of being blessed awaiting us when we acknowledge the Holy Spirit. We need such a spirit ruling over our life in order that we may be taught and will respond by refusing evil and choosing good. This makes us adhere steadfastly to righteousness and use our talents, time and circumstance to strengthen our own soul and advance the Eternal' s Kingdom. Yes, trials and temptations bring us happiness. "Happy is the man..." Why? Because there awaits him a trophy. One is happy when wisdom has been increased, and faith and patience.
II. The Trophy of Having Dignity
Intrinsic worth, a quality of being esteemed by God, This is a degree of esteem. I wonder, in the eyes of God, how much dignity we have. It is a state, if you will, with Almighty God.
Temptations are to be expected and from temptations can come dignity. You. have a religion that God gives you, which God has tried, and which God has sustained You can bear up under it. Live with it. and do not be led out of the right way by it. Trophies come when we are faced by temptation, big temptations; but by overcoming the small ones, the little ones that so easily beset us, the big ones are on their way to defeat.
Years ago, one Bobby Leach, the Englishman, startled the world by going over Niagara Falls in a barrel without being harmed. Years later, I am told, he slipped on an orange peel while walking down the street and was taken to the hospital with a badly fractured leg.
Some temptations roar upon us like Niagara Falls; others, insignificant, easily sneak upon us, yet they cause cause our downfall. When our soul slips on the way we fall, and were it not for the everlasting arms of God supporting us we would fall deeper into a bottomless pit.
III. The Trophy of Enduring Character
It, too, represents a quality0 It represents estimation being placed upon your being. You see, in yielding to temptation, the fabric of character is torn down. There are temptations ,of vanity, of idleness and stealing0 There are temptations of pride, love of power and of wrong ambition. When we yield not we receive a trophy, one that comes because our character has been tried. No test or trial - no trophy0 No blessing develops upon an untried man - no trophy to receive0 We may have character in the sight of our fellow man, but it can fade like a leaf, of which our fourth trophy speaks. With God there is an enduring character.
A smooth sea never made a very skillful sailor, so storms of temptation, like storms at sea, do develop and prepare us. Isaiah said, "Fear not..." God never promises without giving. Therefore,
IV. The Trophy of Receiving a Crown
A crown was the usual reward of the Olympic Gaines, something familiar to the audiences of James. The victor in an athletic event received recognition of his achievement by receiving a crown. Victory was the fruit of vigorous discipline. The crown soon faded, however, being made of either parsley, olive or laurel leaves . God says to you who yield not to temptation, you will receive a crown of life, not one that will fade away, but a crown of life. A living crown is yours. "Blessed be the man that endures temptation for when he is tried he shall receive a crown of life which the Lord has promised him," Note the word, "promise."
All of the promises of God will come to pass. His word is truth. He promises us a crown of life. This is the trophy. Because of our strenuous moral endeavors we have received a crown. When the world falls upon us in the area of the test, we are called upon for submission and endurance0 Ail that causes you pain; all that causes you anxiety or apprehension is for the purpose of receiving a crown of life from God. It may be persecution with its injuries; it may be family difficulties; it may be from the heat of disposition; it may be temptation of a more subtle nature, from the Evil One.
The Eternal says that if we yield not He will bestow upon us the crown of life. The Olympic crown soon fades, but the crown of life endures forever. It is a crown in the present and it is a crown that culminates in the future. But before the crowning there must be trial.
Truly our way is up river, is it not? I like the story of "Magnet Bill." This is the name given to one of the employees in an automobile factory in Toledo, Ohio. The President of the company says that this man does not look very important, as he walks around the big factory0 But come rain or shine, summer or winter he is there, arid he saves his salary a dozen times over every day.
"Magnet Bill" walks slowly around the plant, his eyes always cast on the ground. He gets his name from the fact that his only tool is a large steel magnet strapped to the end of a shovel handle. It is his duty to save automobile tires by removing from the roadway every bit of iron, steel or nails that would cause a puncture. Thousands of tires run over the roadway to the testing place and it is figured that without the precaution taken by this one, the cost for cut and punctured tires would be $20,000.
In christian living it pays to remove the cause of trouble and danger, just like in a business. How many people have testimonies of a wrecked life because they did not take the time to remove the temptations. The road of life would present a smoother and safer pavement if we could get this across.
Listen to the words of Jesus, "Lead us not into temptation," It was Jesus our Saviour, — "Watch and pray lest ye enter into temptation..." It was Paul who said, "There hath no temptation..." It was the brother of Jesus, "count it all joy..." (James 1:2, 1:12). The way to receive a crown of life, the way to receive character, the way to receive a state of "blessedness" is to yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin. It is closing our ears to the world.
We have all thrilled to the story of Ulysses: On one occasion as his ship passed an island from which came music and voices of temptation, he put wax in the ears of his men. This meant that they could rest their whole attention on rowing the ship. He himself was lashed to the mast, his ears not stopped. He could hear but because he was bound securely, he could not yield. Safety was had for all.
What I am saying is that we need to put wax in our spiritual ears so the temptations of the world will not have dominion over us, thus giving our attention and our energies to the rowing of the ship. The Church has long been symbolized by the ship. You have an oar but to what effect, or with what strength, or with what speed are you using it and pushing forward the Church?
Maybe you have no oar at all. Maybe you are not even in the ship. To take words out of their context, Paul said, "Remain in the ship lest you perish." Get in the ship via a personal acceptance of Jesus as Saviour and Lord. Maybe you, as a christian, have an oar but you are rowing out of time, out of order0 Because of this the ship of your life is not going for ward, the speed is cut, the destination is not clearly marked0 The ministry of the Church is to reach people for God0 In the Church there are many with their temptations.
May temptation's trophies be yours!
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