Satan Likes Adevilists
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 4:1c Holman . . .by the Devil.
Our antagonist has sinister labels. Their awful meanings came through loud and clear in the original languages, but we need English interpretations on many of them. In Matthew he is called slanderer (devil, 4:1), adversary (Satan, 4:10), enemy (13:39). Revelation titles him destroyer (Apollyon, 9:11), accuser (12:10), dragon (12:7), serpent (12:9). John’s Gospel labeled him as a murderer, liar (8:33), and thief (10:10). Paul called him worthless (Belial, 2 Cor. 6:15). Satan was given these names not for us to practice verbal variety, but to teach us how treacherous and dangerous he is.
A dark supernatural realm exists, and has a personal ruler, chief of the fallen angels. Legend says Luther was one night translating the Bible at his desk in Wartburg Castle, Germany. The devil taunted him and was so real to him that he, in a moment of intense temptation, threw an inkwell at Satan.
Many don’t believe in Satan. He values these “adevilists” as much as he does “atheists”. By not believing in him, they tempt him to tempt them.
Many who don’t believe in a personal devil are clueless when asked to explain the universal existence of evil in this world. Christianity has a very stark advantage over other worldviews. It makes sense and is very logical. We believers can give rational explanations for what we see in our world.
Matt. 4:2a After He had fasted 40 days and 40 nights,. . .
The Son was required to go be alone for 40 days and nights with the Father and the Holy Spirit, at the latter Two’s bidding. It’s good to be quiet and still often. Busyness pumps adrenalin, but does not promote holiness.
In spiritual warfare, prevention trumps cure. Our best hope to win is to be always prayed up. Washington, in his first address to Congress, told us, to prepare for peace, prepare for war. If we are lazy in the spiritual disciplines, we again tempt Satan to tempt us by making ourselves an attractive target.
Before Jesus began publicly preaching, He got alone with the Father and the Spirit. It’s hard to serve well in public until we have talked with God in private. People who visited Hudson Taylor said they could hear a match lit every morning at 3am. It was the time he set aside to be alone with God.
For us preachers and teachers, God’s anointing comes on the anvil of prayer and study. I was told the way to prepare sermons is to study yourself full, and then pray yourself empty. I still try to have my thoughts in order, and my soul clean, before my foot touches the first step of this platform.
Let me clarify a vital fact. The Wilderness per se did not promote holiness in Jesus. Many go to a desert to pray and come back no better. The help is in God, not a place. Not even a wilderness is a safe place to avoid sin.
A cloistered monk once took a vow of silence. On his first anniversary, allowed to say two words, he said, “Food cold”. On his second anniversary he was allowed two more words. He chose, “Bed hard”. On his third anniversary, his two words were, “I quit”. His Monseigneur quipped, “I’m not surprised. You’ve done nothing but complain since you got here.”
Matt. 4:2b . . .He was hungry.
The devil can never say he was not given full and fair opportunity to defeat Jesus. The prince of darkness attacked the Prince of light when the latter had fasted for six weeks, was physically weak, and alone. When Jesus was at a disadvantage, Satan tried to find penetrable places in His armor.
If the devil acted above-board and played by the rules, he would be easier to beat. Satan, a coward, picks our moments of weakness to attack us.
Temptations can be their worst when we have to face them alone. Lone deer are always the ones most susceptible to wolves. John the Baptist, the second greatest man who ever lived, doubted when alone in prison.
Temptation can be its worst when we have to face it while tired. Be wary when you are physically weary. My dad said nothing good happens after midnight. (I now disagree; I think nothing good happens after 9pm.)
I did not take dad’s words as one of my life quotes, but I admit he may have been wiser than I thought. Now that I’m around the younger generation more, I see they too tire in late evening hours. They are young and think themselves invincible, but they do tire, and it can affect their judgment.
Satan hoped to trip Jesus before His public ministry began. Always beware new beginnings. Look out when you start something new, such as planning a mission trip, starting in a new ministry, trying to read the entire Bible for the first time, attempting to establish a regular quiet time.
Satan hates good spiritual beginnings, as we learned in Experiencing God. Once we know God’s will and decide to do it, expect major opposition.
Matt. 4:3a Then the tempter approached Him. . .
The crucible began. Jesus could not sin, but did have freewill to choose the way He would win. He chose to depend. He refused to distrust the Father by using His own power to sustain, or show off, Himself. Always be leary of a bad person’s suggestions. Someone sinister may be speaking through them. The devil can be ingenious in the ways he tempts us.
Don’t listen to him. He wants to devastate us. Sin hurts deep. Learn from Adam and Eve. Their sin turned their Garden into a desert. Jesus, by resisting Satan’s suggestions, turned our desert-world into a garden.
The Eden and Wilderness temptations were similar (GN 3:6). Eve saw the tree was good for food; Jesus needed food. Eve saw it as delightful to look at. Jesus could have delighted in quick fame by jumping off the temple wall and being rescued by angels. Eve saw the fruit could make one wise, a heady thought. In an appeal to Jesus’ pride, He was offered the kingdoms of this world. The 3 temptations brought Adam and Eve down. Jesus withstood.
These are yet the general parameters of sin. Maybe John was recalling Eve and Jesus when he wrote the lure of the world comes in “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle” (1 John 2:16).
Matt. 4:3b “If You are the Son of God, . . .”
The devil did not begin with a frontal attack. Being subtler than that, he started where he often does. He questioned an earlier direct statement by God. The voice from Heaven said, “This is My Beloved Son” (MT 3:16).
Satan was taunting Jesus. “If God is Your Father, why are you in a mess like this? Why does He let you be tired and poor, deserted alone in a desert? Your supposed Father is not acting toward you like a Father.”
Satan cast doubt on Jesus’ relationship with the Father. The devil loves to do the same to us by tempting us to think we are not God’s children.
God wants us to enjoy the assurance of our salvation. “I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). This blessed gift of security is often the place where Satan attacks in us.
Fortunately, Jesus helps us turn the table on Satan. Our doubts can become the proof we are looking for to know we are saved. Be assured, the devil does not taunt his own; our struggling can be a good sign in itself. Also, don’t think behavior is the only test for assurance. Actions matter, but are not the whole test. Hear some telltale questions. Do you enjoy watching a baptism, and taking the Lord’s Supper? Do you like fellowship with other believers, private prayer and Bible time? If so, find assurance in it, because Satan’s crowd has no interest in these things.