September 8, 2019
Conversations with Jesus – Luke 4
I want to start off our time this morning by asking the question-if you could have a conversation with anyone living who would it be? That’s the key word-living. We’re not talking about a time machine or going back in history-but if you could sit down and have a conversation with anybody alive in our world today-who would it be? Who comes to mind? Turn to the person next to you and answer that question. Who did you come up with-politician, athlete, musician, entrepreneur? If you know me-the first living person that I would like to converse with is George Lucas-creator of Star Wars. I’ve been a lifelong fan since my dad first took me to see it at age 4! Few things have impacted me more profoundly! How did you come up with that? What was it like developing all those characters and spaceships and aliens? This was the guy who invented Yoda and Chewbacca! But the second living person I would love to converse with is JJ Abrams-the director of the new Star Wars movies. Quite honestly I’m not sure why he hasn’t called me! After watching the previous 2 films I could have given a lot of good suggestions that would have made it better-like JJ, here’s what you need to do… An hour’s conversation with me would have definitely improved the new Star Wars films. The final film is due out this December so there’s still time for he and I to talk! I should be on his list! But the third person I would love to have a conversation with is the head custodian at Area 51 in Nevada. Because that guy knows exactly what’s going on there and what secrets are kept hidden. He’s not talking fiction or conspiracy-theory. A conversation with him and you’ll know the truth whether they really do have aliens that crash landed on earth! And isn’t that what good conversations are all about-not so much talking about aliens and little green men-but discovering the truth, understanding what someone else knows and why it’s important. A stimulating conversation isn’t just small talk and shooting the breeze-it’s about discussing what really matters-what makes someone tick, how are they wired, what have they discovered or learned in life that I ought to know?
Think about the conversation in 1502 when the Italian merchant and explorer Amerigo Vespucci, from which we get the name America, realized that Columbus was wrong and that the lands Columbus reached weren’t China or Japan or any part of Asia but instead an entirely separate continent-Hey, everybody, there’s a New World out there! It doesn’t just go from Europe to Asia-there’s something big in-between! Wouldn’t that be a stunning thing to consider when thinking about the world. Or even far earlier than that, think about the conversation when the ancient Greek mathematician Eratosthenes suggested that the earth wasn’t flat but round. He’s talking to a bunch of newbie sailors-Don’t worry, you won’t fall off the edge. It just circles back around-trust me! What a mind-blowing concept to consider back then! Far more modern than those examples, I can remember the first conversation I had about the Internet. Do you remember the first time you learned about this? For me it was freshman year of college, the guy in the next dorm room brought up some text-based screen on his computer and said-This is the Internet. And I was like-what does that do? You can read stuff from other computers! It didn’t seem very important at the time-but now I look back on that conversation and see how I learned about something world-changing! My life, everybody’s life is affected by the Internet. No one goes to stores anymore-it’s all online. And that conversation was when I first heard of it.
And that’s exactly what happens when we come to conversations with Jesus-we learn about world-changing, life-altering truths. I think we would all agree that if we could truly have a conversation with anybody it would be with the person who’s origins aren’t from planet earth, who’s come from far beyond that, someone who knows what’s on the other side, who knows what lies after the grave-and that’s Jesus. Look at what it says about Him in Micah 5:2. That’s pointing to His eternal reality as the 2nd person of the Trinity. Or look at Jesus’ own words in John 8:23. And Jesus didn’t mean that He came from above on a spaceship from some world in a distant galaxy-but from eternity; that’s He’s come from heaven to earth, taking on human flesh. And so there is no one greater to talk to than Jesus. Doesn’t that make the most sense? That to learn about eternity and what happens after we die, we ought to speak with the one who’s from eternity? If you were here last week, we looked at that awesome moment when Jesus was transfigured back into His heavenly glory on the mountain-and what did God say-Matt 17:5. That’s the simple and straightforward command from God-listen to His Son. And that’s exactly what we want to do this fall as we begin our new sermon series-and that’s listen to Jesus. As you can see on your bulletin-we’ve entitled this series Conversations with Jesus. I had thought about calling it Conversations with the King-as Jesus is our king-it has ring to it-but that was the title of a biography on Elvis Presley (the King) and it was also the title of a book on writing by Stephen King. So as not to confuse our conversations with Elvis or Stephen King-we’re going with Conversations with Jesus. And what we’re going to be looking at in particular is Luke’s gospel. There are a number of key conversations, snapshots from Luke in which Jesus is interacting with a variety of different people-from all across the board. And yet all of these conversations teach us world-changing, life-altering truths about Jesus and who He is! So turn in your Bibles to Luke 4.
And as you’re turning there-you may have one of those Bibles that puts Jesus’ words in red. If you do, you’ll notice that His first words come in chapter 4. There’s one short verse in chapter 2-and we’ll reference that later-but Jesus’ first conversation as recorded by Luke comes in chapter 4. Take a look at how it begins-Luke 4:1-2a. So conversation #1 is with none other than the devil. Certainly an interesting way to get started. You can already imagine that this isn’t someone soaking up what Jesus has to say, hanging on every word, deeply desiring to learn the truth. Instead this conversation is going to be a battle-and Luke framed it as such-being tempted by the devil. And so right away we’ll learn how Jesus dealt with temptation and stood up to the devil’s lies. But it’s worth noticing for a moment who guided Jesus into this place of temptation. Did He just accidentally wander into it, get stuck in the devil’s traps, fall victim to his snares? No-what did the verse say-v. 1. It was the Holy Spirit who brought Jesus there, this was part of God’s sovereign plan for Jesus’ life. Now the Spirit wasn’t the one who tried to tempt Jesus to sin-obviously that was the devil-but the Spirit allowed Jesus to be in that place where temptation would occur. Think about that-because it’s the same thing with Adam and Eve. God allowed them to be in the garden where the serpent would tempt them to eat the fruit, and it’s the same with you and me. God, in His vast and perfect plans, will allow us to be in that place of temptation. God has never said that He’s going to shelter us from temptation or protect us from having to make that choice of whether we should sin or not. If that was His intention He certainly would have protected Adam and Eve from having to make that choice. Maybe you’ve always wondered that. I know I have. Lord, why did you even let Adam and Eve be tempted in the first place? Just keep the devil out of the garden. Why did you even let him in? If the devil wouldn’t have been there, they wouldn’t have sinned, the human race wouldn’t be cursed, we’d all be living in parade and I wouldn’t have to go to work! But God didn’t do that. He allowed the temptation to happen in their lives, just as He does in our lives. Don’t think for a moment that when you’re tempted you’ve done something wrong. Temptation isn’t sin. God’s desire isn’t that you would stumble and give in to it. God isn’t setting us up for a fall and waiting to see us trip up; rather His desire is that in the midst of temptation, that you and I would turn away from those alluring sins and all the false hopes they promise and instead trust that His way is best-even if we don’t understand it-which we often don’t. That was God’s desire for Adam and Eve. Not to purposely find a way to make them sin and kick them out of the garden as if God’s some big meanie, but to let them see for themselves how good it is to turn to God and trust Him. Lord, we don’t know why you say we can’t eat this fruit-it looks really good-but we know You are even better. You’re our Good Father in heaven, our Maker and Creator and so we trust in you and your blessings which are far better and more satisfying than this random piece of fruit right now. We’ll leave that and turn to you. That’s what temptation teaches us. While the devil will use temptation to take us down, the Lord will use temptation to shape us and mold us and deepen our trust in Him. Now unfortunately, Adam and Eve blew it, we’ve blown, but here comes Jesus. And He’s going to show us exactly how we can and should handle temptation.
Back to v. 1-2-nothing like stating the obvious! I’m hungry after 4 hours, Jesus is hungry after 40 days! I don’t think any of us have gone that long without food-so we can only begin to imagine how absolutely famished Jesus was. Yet how does the devil tempt Him? Right at His place of weakness-v. 3. He’s saying to Him-Jesus, if you’re hungry than by all means-eat, it is your right. Who wouldn’t eat in your shoes? You’re going to starve here! Good point! So Pt1:Jesus fully faced all temptations we’ve faced (and then some!) I want to get that point out there at the start of this passage-because don’t think that Jesus was supernaturally way above us and not subject to the stuff we are. That temptation didn’t bother Him or get to Him. Food-nah! So primitive and earthly! Of course He was the Son of God-but He was also fully man-the Son of Man-as He referred to Himself. And He was hungry-just like you and I get hungry. It’s a normal, natural human condition. You don’t eat-you’re hungry. Maybe you’re hungry right now wondering when this sermon is over so you can go eat! But notice how this first temptation for Jesus referred to food. What did we say a moment ago was the temptation Adam and Eve facd? Food. But in their case it was a single piece of fruit-and God had already said you can eat from every other tree of the Garden-so they weren’t going hungry. Here Jesus has had nothing for 40 days. He’s facing Adam and Eve’s temptation to the nth degree! He’s starving! And the mere thought of food is exactly what He’s craving! So the devil knows how to tempt him at His place of greatest need.
But also-did you catch what the devil said? If you are the Son of God. And here’s where studying this passage becomes so important. What do you and I naturally assume about Jesus. Well, He was the Son of God, He’s all-powerful so obviously even if He’s hungry-not sinning isn’t hard for Him. He can just zap the temptation with a little burst of divine power and make it go away-but me, I’m not God, I’m just a human so temptation is way harder for me than it was for Him. Isn’t that how we think? Jesus can just pull out His God-card every time things get tough and automatically defeat temptation-the ace up His sleeve. That despite His human skin, He can become this glowing God and nuke it-sort of like Tony Stark can put on his Iron Man suit and nuke the bad guys. But since we don’t have that resource, that we don’t have a God-card or a God suit, that we’re just flesh and blood we’ll probably fail. So what we do is read a passage like this where Jesus defeats temptation and we conclude-Good for Him-I’m not surprised-He’s Jesus, but how does that help me? I think we’ve all wondered that-feeling a bit daunted by Jesus. And yet this passage is intensely relevant for us because of how Jesus does defeat the temptation.
Go back to what the devil said to Him-If you are the Son of God… The devil wanted Jesus to use His God-card; to fall back on His divine power. That was the very nature of the temptation-Why don’t you use your divinity, Jesus, to help yourself out. Why don’t you whip up a little bread, goodness sakes you made the universe, how hard is it to make a few loaves of wheat bread or some snack crackers when you’re super hungry? So did He do it? Did Jesus do something powerful and amazing that only the Son of God can do? Look at v. 4. What did Jesus do? He turned to the book of Deuteronomy and quoted from chapter 8. There is nothing magical or almighty, nothing supernatural going on here. To defeat temptation, Jesus responded as a man by pulling out the truth of God’s Word. He didn’t pull out His God-card and automatically defeat it, He pulled out the Sword of the Spirit, the very same sword you and I have, and ran the temptation through by remembering what Scripture says-it is written. You can’t miss that. So Pt2:Jesus fully relied on God’s Word to face temptation (and that was sufficient!) It wasn’t like quoting a verse was just the start but then Jesus had to kick it in with some extra Son of God firepower. No-He fully relied on what that verse said and followed it. And isn’t it interesting that that’s the essence of the verse Jesus quoted-Deut 8:3. We would say that physical food is awfully necessary-we’ve got to eat-but Jesus is saying it goes far deeper than that spiritually. By quoting this verse, He’s saying-What you need is to know what God’s Word says, you need to stick it in your heart and your mind, and then pull it out and believe it the moment temptation comes. We know that the devil’s schemes are so subtle and smooth-but here in Luke Jesus shows us over and over that God’s Word is the weapon, the resource, we’ve been given to defeat him-Pt2.
Take a look at the next temptation-v. 5-7. The devil was offering Jesus everything this world has. The annual report from CBS New of the richest people in the world has Bill Gates coming in at number 2 with a net worth of only 96.5 billion, while Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, tops the list as being the first person in the world to break 100 billion mark-his net worth is 131 billion. He’s arguably the richest person who’s ever lived on planet earth. And yet-all the kingdoms of the world are far, far greater than 131 billion dollars. 131 billion dollars is a drop in the bucket compared to this! The devil was presenting Jesus with all the wealth and power and glory the world can ever offer. When he says –it will all be yours-that all is gigantic-every kingdom and throne and empire the world will produce-Rome and Athens, the Spanish Armada, the French and British Empires, the US, China, Russia, the wealth of the Middle East-even tropical kingdoms in the S. Pacific-we’re talking all of it. Politicians are arguing over who should be the ruler of our kingdom as President of the US-and yet Jesus could have had every kingdom right then in that moment. Put yourself in His shoes-ruler, owner, president, CEO of the world. You’d have all the power and wealth you ever wanted. Everybody would bow down to your wishes and follow your orders! You would be in charge! All you-what you say goes; what you want you get. No one could disagree with you or argue with you-you’d be the king of the world. This is what’s being offered here. The single most greatest offer in the world-it’s on the table! So what would you do? Thankfully, we’re not faced with that decision because I fear what we might choose, right? Well, I could be a king for a day-try it out… But Jesus refuses to be swayed, He refuses to let those things steal His heart or cloud His judgment. He doesn’t bow down and worship the devil. Look at what He said-v. 8. He’s right back to quoting God’s Word again. And I love how these two words stand in opposition to one another-all will be yours-v. 7 versus Him only shall you serve-v. 8. Only versus all-and Jesus goes with only-v. 8. So right at the onset of Jesus’ ministry, He makes this incredible decision to forsake all the world’s power and wealth and instead chooses to focus on the mission before Him by worshipping the Father and doing His will. And it’s all based on God’s Word. Again nothing supernatural about defeating this gigantic temptation-Jesus has centered His life on knowing God’s Word and relying upon it.
I said we’d go back to His first words in Luke-look at chapter 2. This is when Jesus’ parents would go up to Jerusalem every year for the Passover. On this year Jesus was 12-and 2:42-45. This is a new experience for Mary and Joseph. Jesus has always been so perfectly obedient-best kid to raise ever-what happened? Did he run away, get lost, get kidnapped? 2:46. First of all, Jesus wasn’t at the mall or Disneyworld-He’s at the temple! But what is Jesus asking questions about? The Scriptures and their understanding of them-in this case it would be the OT because the NT hadn’t been written yet. Jesus stayed behind and for 3 days was talking to the experts about God’s Word; interacting with them, discussing it, soaking it up. And remember, the OT was written on scrolls back then that were very expensive to produce. There was a good chance that Jesus’ family didn’t have a personal copy. Jesus didn’t own a student study Bible or have the Bible app on His phone, it wasn’t convenient and yet here He is learning all He can-v. 47-49. Even at the age of 12 Jesus desired to be filled with the truth of God’s Word, to be in that place-His Father’s house-where the Word was taught and communicated. He centered His life upon what it said. And the beauty for you and me is that God’s Word is accessible and convenient. There might be multiple Bibles around your house, you probably have it on your phone. You don’t have to stay behind at church for 3 days. The big question is if you’re centering your life on what God’s Word says. Look at Luke’s conclusion to this scene-v. 52. This is saying that Jesus didn’t show up on planet earth with the entire Bible already downloaded into His brain. Jesus learned God’s Word the same way we do-which is by reading and reflecting on it. Once again-I don’t believe Jesus did anything different from what you and I can do. Look at Ps 119:9-11. Those would have been words Jesus read. Words He read as a young man of 12-saying Yes, that’s exactly what I need to do-to store up God’s Word in my heart. So flash forward 18 years later when Jesus is 30 in the wilderness-what’s He doing? Referring back to God’s Word and fully relying upon it when He needs it most! And this is especially important in the 3rd temptation.
Look back at Luke 4:9a-there’s that statement again. Maybe you should try using your divine powers again-after all you are the Son of God-why don’t you show us who you are and what you’ve got-and listen to how he continues-v. 9b-11. The devil’s quoting Ps 91! And yet doesn’t he try to twist Scripture, doesn’t he try to get us to feel religious all the while he’s dragging our hearts away from God. To use God’s Word for our own means and motivation. It happens all the time-people try to twist what the Bible says to suit their own desires. But Jesus cuts right through it-v. 12-13. The devil wasn’t done-he’ll be back. But this is the third temptation-and the third time Jesus quoted God’s Word. He defeated the devil exactly the same way you and I need to defeat him, by remembering and relying upon God’s Word. Don’t miss the fact that Jesus didn’t perform a miracle, He didn’t summon His divine power, He just spoke the truth-3X-it is written. That was the conversation Jesus had with the devil. And our challenge this morning is to do the same. And that’s Pt3:We’re fully equipped to face the battles in our lives (exactly the same as Jesus!) Don’t think for once that when it comes to temptation and facing the lies of the devil Jesus has a leg up on you because He was God. That’s not what Luke is telling us. Jesus purposely didn’t summon His power as the Son of God (even though the devil suggested it) but relied upon the Word of God. I like what one author says-Dann Spader, 30.
And it shouldn’t be any different for us-especially as we have the NT to draw upon! There’s so many places in God’s Word that ought to have center stage in our lives. For example-when struggling with lust or feeling tempted to click that link on the internet to say it is written-1 Thess 4:3-4. That’s a dagger to temptation! Or when you’re struggling with feelings of bitterness and anger at someone, wanting to get revenge and see them get what they deserved to say it is written -Eph 4:31-32. Another dagger! Or when your pride’s been bruised because you’re buying into the devil’s lie that life should revolve around you and since no one seems to care about you you’re ready to go off and throw yourself a pity party to say it is written-Phil 2:3-4. How does that not pierce and shatter your pride?! And finally the biggest area of struggle is when it comes to loving others-when you’re tempted to be rude and selfish and not love your spouse or a family member as you should, or you’ve got a co-worker you always clash with, or even a brother or sister in Christ that really test your patience to say it is written-1 Cor 13:4-7. What would happen if you remembered that the next time you’re fighting with somebody-or with your spouse? That moment when your pride is in full gear ready to do battle-what if you brought these verses to mind? Suddenly everything changes and this truth shatters the attitudes or anger you’re trying to hold onto. Don’t forget-God’s Word is infinitely more powerful than any of the flesh’s desires or the devil’s devices. Do you believe that? Now you can’t just quote a verse and hope it’s magical-you have to read or recall that verse to mind and then rely on what it says. When you do that victory comes-just as it did for Jesus-Eph 6:16-17. It’s our weapon to battle temptation.
Here’s a pic-Sword in stone. English legend says Merlin, the great wizard, put it there with the inscription Whosoever pulleth out this sword is the rightwise born king of England. And of course many people tried until eventually the young Arthur, stumbled upon it by chance, and pulled it out, becoming the legendary King. Now you and I aren’t kings, but as a follower of Christ we’re sons and daughters of the King-and He’s given each of us a sword to use-but I wonder how many of us leave our swords basically stuck in the stone, sitting idle like that? The way to fight temptation and defuse the lies of the devil isn’t to hold your ground through your own strength or effort or willpower. You can’t just think to yourself-I’m strong enough to say no, temptation won’t get the best of me. You can’t assume that you’re smart enough or you’ve been a Christian a long time, so you’ll make the right choice. No way! That’s just another lie of the devil-but how often do we fall for it and fight that spiritual warfare empty-handed? Think of the times you battle temptation. How often do you just try to grin and bear it on your own? To dig deep and tell yourself-Not gonna do it! Not gonna do it! and then of course you do. How often do you just try to handle it through your own ability or strength, all the while leaving the sword of God’s Word stuck in a stone? In the midst of temptation, we need to respond just like Jesus. To pull out the sword of the Spirit, by uttering those very same words He did-it is written. And then let the power and truth of God’s Word bring the victory as you trust in what it says. When have you clung to God’s Word in a moment of trial? When are you tempted to leave it in the stone?