Deuteronomy 26:4-10, Romans 10:8-13, Luke 4:1-13
Temptation is one of those factors that every Christian faces especially in his or her journey to spirituality. Temptation sometimes is that bridge or gap between downfall and upliftment. When we encounter temptations, there is always the tendency to fall or to rise.
Whatever choice we choose can either lead us to downfall or upliftment. Temptation can come in the form of suffering and challenges which will challenge your faith.
It can come in the form of the desire to sin against God. It can also come in the form of temporary pleasure or gain either financially or otherwise, which many of us fall into because of the momentary pleasure and intended gain that we think can come from it.
When temptations come, we lose faith and even lose our form of holiness. Therefore, in the face of temptations, we need the strength to conquer temptations when they come.
In today’s liturgy, Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. Through the temptation encounter, Jesus shows us the way to conquer temptations when they come up.
Temptations leave us with Two Choices
It is normal for every Christian to encounter tempting moments, especially during his journey to holiness and the decision to be close to God. But what temptation does is not to pull us down. What it does is simply to present us with two choices.
During the time of temptation, one experiences a challenge to choose between fidelity and infidelity to God. We are given two choices, to choose either to keep our obligations towards God or to say no to it and choose that of the devil or what the world presents to us.
It comes in the form of enticement or allurement · It will present something that tempts, entices, or allures us, then creates in us the choice to accept something that we know is against God’s word or to keep to God’s word.
This happens because man has already the gift of freedom to choose and not to choose. And the point of surprise here is that after all our boasting, efforts and proclamations as people who are close to God, we still choose to offend Him.
This is why the church presents to us this topic as we begin the journey of our Lenten season. Because the temptation not to join the 40 days program will certainly come.
The temptation to drop along the way will also be there and the temptation not to listen to whatever the church is saying about repentance this time around will also come. Therefore, we have to be ready, to conquer temptations through the strength to conquer the temptations when they come.
The Spiritual Journey of Lent.
Lent is a time the church calls us to repentance. In this Lenten journey, the gospel text invariably makes us understand the need to pray, fast and do penance.
Just like Jesus stayed in the wilderness for forty days, the Lenten journey is a time also to be with the lord and have some person to person and lonely moments with Him for forty days too.
Today’s text also reminds us that our capacity to repent and to resist temptation comes from our relationship with God and the grace of his deliverance rather than from our strength and initiative. From this encounter, we can derive the strength to conquer temptations.
The Wilderness Significance
It is no accident that Lent begins with a reflection on Jesus’ time in the desert. This story takes place in two significant locations: the wilderness and Jerusalem.
Historically, the wilderness was the place where God met the Jewish people at Sinai after rescuing them from Egypt.
In the wilderness, God shapes them into God’s covenant people cared for and led by God with cloud and fire.
Therefore, the time of lent is like a wilderness experience through which God shapes our spirituality and shapes us into becoming His people. In this encounter, God gradually shapes us to become holy and transform our spiritual lives.
Therefore, the Lenten period is a time of serious encounter with God. It is a time of one on one encounter with God.
The time of Lent is a time of divine encounter with God. It is a time of total relationship with the Holy Spirit.
A Long Walk to Jerusalem
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is also led this time by the Holy Spirit, in the wilderness, and he faces temptation by his adversary, the devil.
The location of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness reminds us of the narrative of God’s rescue of Israel.
Also, Jerusalem, the city of David, is the centre of Jewish power, identity, and worship.
At the time of Jesus, the second temple had been renovated and expanded by Herod the Great and was the centre of worship for the Jewish people. This place of power and worship is the setting for the final temptation.
In our journey of Spirituality, the devil also tempts us to the place of power and glory. This is the reason many self-acclaimed men of God, see themselves as the super-gods.
Many now leave salvation to preach about themselves. Some now prioritize the gospel of prosperity over the gospel of salvation.
Many Christians now leave salvation to seek power and glory. We have to be careful to know when God is leading us and when the devil is tempting us.
Then through this gospel, the church prepares us to be ready and prepare for the times of temptation during this time. It is through this encounter that we can gain enormously the strength to conquer temptations.
Temptations must Come
When you read the gospel today, there are two silent observations that you must make. The first is that the devil dares to tempt Jesus. Therefore, the gospel text is also an exhortation for Christians to always get ready at all times. If the devil can tempt Jesus, then, we can also be tempted.
Therefore, we have to be aware of the plans and wiles of the devil to be able to withstand His schemes.
Secondly, in the gospel, we will also observe that Jesus allowed the devil to tempt Him. In fact, Jesus was just following him everywhere He goes, even when they went to the temple at Jerusalem, Jesus followed Him. He allowed the devil to play His part.
This brings us to what happened in the book of Job 2:1-11, how God allowed Job to be tempted by Satan.
Therefore, one point we have to derive in today’s encounter is that temptations must surely come. At the same time, God may allow certain things to happen to us to know how deep our faith in Him is.
He can allow certain things to happen to know if we truly love Him or not. He can allow us to pass through a situation to see if the reason we come to His presence, is because of only signs and wonders.
This is the reason we need to come to His presence whether good or bad, Our relationship with God should not be determined by conditions and circumstances.
Where Can Temptations Come
From the gospel, let us analyse where our temptations can come from. Let us make a deep analysis where we will always expect our temptations. The devil uses these schemes to tempt us. They are:
a.In Our Moments of Need
After he fasted, Jesus was very hungry. In essence, Jesus must need something to eat and the devil knows that quite well.
The devil knows he needs food and wanted to use it as bait to get Jesus.
The first temptation that the devil uses against Jesus is Jesus’ point of need. The devil immediately says to Him “if you are the son of God command these stones to become bread.
Sometimes, it is at the point of our needs that we use to encounter the greatest temptations. He comes to you and says “since you need money why not do this or that?
Since you have not paid your school fees, why not use your body and get it? Also since you have something you are doing tomorrow, why waste your time praying, instead of resting? He also says “since you need that land why not kill your brother and take it? etc.
Many Christians do fall at this point. Because we are deeply in need, we fall to His schemes and caprices.
The devil sometimes uses your needs to bring you to him. One may need a child, and he will come in to suggest ways you can get the child which is not in line with Christian values.
Today, to solve their problems, many people have wandered from one place to the other. If you are not patient and careful, the devil will use your needs, problems and challenges to trap you.
Jesus never allowed the devil to mislead him at the point of need. Do not give the devil any opportunity even it seems there is no hope in life. Do not allow any problem to pull your faith away from God.
b.Who You Are
In the temptations, the devil says to Jesus “If you are the Son of God …..” Therefore, the devil tempts Jesus to prove His divinity. This is one of the problems we encounter today.
To prove to people that you are a powerful man of God, you have put your hands in magic and dark powers.
To prove to people that you are great, you have staged managed and faked miracles in your church.
Also to prove to people that we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we now engage in fake speaking in tongues, involve in different forms of abracadabra to attract members to our church.
Sometimes, when the devil wants to tempt you, He will use who you are. He will tell you that since you are weak, why not enjoy yourself now and pray later.
And sometimes, we choose His advice more than that of God. Let us be very careful to avoid His schemes. We need the strength to conquer temptations.
In the gospel, the devil took Jesus up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world. Then he said to Him, ” I shall give to you all this power and glory if you worship me”.
The difference between God and the devil is that the devil can never give you something beyond what the world can give.
Devilish gifts are also conditional; you will do this or that to attract his favours, but God surpasses the world. God loves and gives unconditionally. Whatever the devil can give ends in this world.
You see His request, He says “if Jesus does this, He will do this: This is the devil for you. There must be something attached to his gift. There must be something you must be sacrificing to Him for you to maintain your power, money and prestige.
This is why many people today indulge in ritual killings to do a sacrifice to get what they want. Some people do it monthly or annually to maintain the inflow of their income.
The devil can never give you a gift. There must be something you have to offer to get what you want. This is why some agents of evil will promise that they will do this or that for you if you can do something for them.
So, because you are so much in need of that thing, you now commit yourself. Let us learn to reject any conditional gifts. This has led many to enter into so many temptations.
So, many of them will promise you marriage for them to get what they want, some will promise to pay your school fees. Some of them will promise to buy you an expensive gift. Then, because we need those things, we forget God and fall into temptations.
d. Power and Glory.
In the gospel, the devil says ” I shall give to you all this power and glory if you worship me”
Here, the traps of the devil are exposed; power, wealth, honour. Remember what he told Adam and Eve “if you eat this you will be like God.”
In the quest to be like God and know good and evil, Adam and Eve fell. Whenever we are so possessed to seek glory and power, we always abandon our Christian values to fall into temptations. Because many of us want to belong or to rule, we have made a lot of mistakes
This exposes the importance of humility and contentment in the life of a Christian. In the quest to acquire wealth and power many people have gone astray, many of us have killed and kidnapped a lot of innocent souls. Many people have entered secret societies. They fall into these devilish traps.
No matter what you acquire and how much you control wealth and power, everything will end with us here.
The devil promised Jesus the whole world but he refused the temptation. Many of us will never refuse this kind of temptation.
Many Christians today have perpetrated all sorts of evil just because of a political office or position.
There is nothing we will have now that will follow you in the life after. All the bread, glory, power and wealth will end here, only if you have Jesus, you are sure of the life after.
e. Uses Religious Background
In the third temptation, the devil told Jesus to jump down the mountain and God will send his angels to protect him.
Here, the devil quoted Psalm 91. This shows that the devil also knows the bible. He can use the bible to manipulate his followers.
This is the reason many people today use the name of God as camouflage. Some Christians today, use the name of God to deceive some of our gullible Christians. The devil used it against Jesus but couldn’t get Him.
Today, many people use their religious background and identity to deceive people. We have to know that the devil also appears in sheep clothing; using religion and the church to cover.
Many devil’s agents today have hidden agendas, they present one thing before you but they have another thing at the back of their mind.
The Way Strength to Conquer Temptations
Finally, let us through the gospel also analyse the strength to conquer temptations. We can conquer temptations when they come through these:
a. The Word of God
In each of the temptations, Jesus’ reply to the devil is “it is written….”. Therefore, Jesus repelled the devil’s temptations with the word of God.
The more we read the word of God and live by its principles, is the more the Spirit of God is active in us, and surely, He will always give us the strength to conquer temptations.
Also, the more we read the word of God and live by it is the more we are guided by divine principles that even if we are tempted to fall away, we stick to these divine principles to keep standing. Let the word of God be our guide, to tap more spiritual strength to conquer temptations.
b.Remind the Devil that You have A lord and he is still a creature
Secondly, to withstand the devil, you have to rebuke him. Jesus rebuked and reminded the devil who He is. Jesus is Lord and the devil is a creature. Whenever the devil comes with his troubles, remind him of the type of God you worship.
Here, when Jesus responded “do not tempt the Lord your God”, Jesus reminded the devil that he is a creature and has no power over Him. Therefore, Jesus is still his God.
Jesus is the Lord of heaven and earth. The devil is not. So, the devil cannot but respect the power of His name. The devil has no single power. Do not give him authority over you, he didn’t have such authority.
The devil is a creature. He is not omnipotent. Therefore, we should stop assigning him the role he does not deserve.
The point is that we have to be prayerfully alert
The devil left Jesus to wait for another opportunity. This is a call for all Christians to be alert at all times and never give in to the wiles and temptations of the devil. Always rebuke Him as Jesus did.
c.He was led by the Spirit
In keeping with a central theme of his gospel, Luke says that Jesus was filled with the Spirit and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. For Luke, the presence of the Spirit is evidence that God is with Jesus and that Jesus is from God.
Jesus’ ministry was empowered by the Holy Spirit. All His miracles, wonders and works were done through Him by the Power of God; the Holy Spirit. In Luke 4; 18 Jesus says “the Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free”.
Through the same power of the Holy Spirit who was already with him, Jesus conquered temptation; this shows that every Christian needs a daily encounter with the Holy Spirit to conquer temptations in life. The Holy Spirit is the source of Spiritual Strength to conquer temptation.
1. In the gospel, Jesus tells the devil in the first temptation that Man Shall Not Live By Bread Alone. Bread signifies human needs and quests. They can represent our material acquisitions and possessions. Jesus says that life is beyond these things.
Therefore, no matter how and what we acquire, what we acquire will never ascertain our true happiness and long life. They will never give you life assurance. Man needs God. True happiness comes from God.
Jesus answered the devil that man shall not live by bread alone but by the word that comes from God.
Firstly, here, Jesus emphasizes that we have to live in total dependence on God and not on what the world can give.
Secondly, Jesus is the word of God. Life is only and truly found in Jesus because he is the way, the truth and the life. You cannot live by worldly bread alone. Everything ends in this life. True life comes from Jesus. He is the surest way to everlasting life. Jesus is the only way to the father.
2. If Jesus can be tempted, then anyone can be tempted. The spirit of God gives strength.
Secondly, Jesus was tempted at the time he wanted to withdraw from the world. The devil wanted to distract him from his ministry. Beloved, you will discover that anytime you want to have some moments with God through spiritual programs and prayer sessions, the devil will always come to distract you with many things.
Sometimes, temptation abounds immediately after you have decided to come back to God. Sometimes, they come when you have decided to live a good life and go to confession. The devil knows the rewards of the Lenten season too, and he will also try to distract you from participating in it.
3. The gospel today also shows that we are in constant struggle. Life is a constant battle between light and darkness, between bad and good. This constant struggle as we see today is always glaring everywhere we enter.
There is a fight between the good and the bad. Therefore, like Jesus, we have to carry our weapon of warfare and conquer the temptations with prayer, word of God and penance.
4. Finally, the readings today simply reveal to us that the devil truly exists. Therefore, If he truly exists, we have to prepare for His challenges and temptations?
He knows when to strike. The devil’s point of entry is usually harmless, temptations, then before, one realizes that he has made mistake. Before, one understand what is happening, he has become addicted to it. We need the spiritual strength to conquer these temptations when they come.
5. The strength to conquer temptations, comes from the Holy Spirit. We need a close relationship with the Holy Spirit of God. Also, We need to be prayerful and accompanied with the reading of the word of God daily.
We do not entertain or give any temptation a chance. When we are presented with two choices, let us make the choice that leads to eternity and salvation of our souls. Our choices should not be limited by just momentary pleasure.
May God bless you and give us the strength to conquer temptations. Amen. happy Sunday