Our Vicarious Victor

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Luke 4:1–13 (ESV)

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’ ” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written,
“ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God,
and him only shall you serve.’ ”
And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,
“ ‘He will command his angels concerning you,
to guard you,’
11 and
“ ‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ”
12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” 13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Dear fellow redeemed, who walk in spiritual danger from the Devil, the world and our flesh.  Over this Lenten season we will look at several issues involving spiritual combat – issues such as Temptation, and Hard-Heartedness, and Self-Deceit, and Repentance, and Faithfulness, and honor to Jesus as the Christ and Savior.  These are the issues that we will be considering these next six Sundays.

Today we look at the issue of temptation.  We will talk a little bit about how we are tempted, but we will not presume to think that we can merely TEACH a person HOW to overcome temptation, as though we could be saved that way. Knowing the right thing doesn’t give us the power to do it.

Far more importantly, we will consider that Christ overcame temptation IN OUR PLACE, AS OUR SUBSTITUTE.  He is

OUR VICARIOUS VICTOR.

  1. He Saved Us as Our Substitute
  2. He Taught Us To Oppose Temptation
  1. He Saved Us as Our Substitute

How well do you handle temptation? We all must admit that even though as Christians we hate sin, still we do give in to the compulsion of our own appetites, to the coercion of the world, and to the temptations of the devil.

And when we remember God’s warning about sin, (Romans 6:23)  23For the wages of sin is death, ….” we begin to comprehend that defeat and death are staring us in the face!

It’s time to call in the substitute to take over the battle for us.

Imagine being a civilian in a besieged city watching a battle in our defense. If the defending force loses, we will be put to the sword.  Not a one of us will remain alive, except to be made a slave or the toy of some brute.

That is how much we depend upon our substitute and defender, Jesus, the Christ!  And in our text we see a glimpse of the battle.

Unlike us, He had no sinful flesh from which temptation sprang, so His temptation had to come from the devil and the world.  But like us, He has desires and wants and needs — physical, emotional, spiritual – just like us.  So it was true that, as Scripture says, “He was tempted in all ways just as we are, yet without sin.”

Because he is truly man, He was truly our substitute, and He was truly under the law.  Because He is truly God His victory was assured in spite of the greatest torture and temptation.

The temptations He faced are like ours – temptations to human appetites, leading us to sin, and temptations to the mind, leading us into doubt and unbelief.

He faced the temptations to appetite.  After fasting forty days, He was famished, and His mind as well as his appetites cried out for food.

You and I have been tempted, appealing to our own appetites as well – hunger, thirst, sexual appetites, curiosity, desire for the euphoria of drugs or alcohol.  Not all have faced all temptations, but we know the type, and whether as a child we stole a piece of candy or as an adult drank to the point of intoxication, or whatever else, these temptations have been our downfall.

But not Christ’s.  For even for the sake of food, He would not use his divinity in a self-serving way, nor at the bidding of Satan.  He had come in humility to serve, and He would not exalt Himself to please Himself.

He met the temptation with God’s word:  3The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

4Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’”

Note how the devil tries not only to lead him into pleasing His bodily needs, but he also tries to cast doubt.  Such temptations come to us all the time. Just like clockwork you can expect Time or NatGeo, or the History channel to run some blockbuster program or article “debunking” Scripture. Temptation attacks our mind as well as bodily appetite.

Jesus also faced temptations that appealed to his sense of mission.  Just think, if He were the ruler of the world, wouldn’t he then turn the world to God?  He had the chance.  One little, meaningless word of worship, and He would have the whole world in His grasp.

5The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7So if you worship me, it will all be yours.”

8Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”

It would have been “just words” for Jesus to worship Satan.  On that basis, the Christian world is fractured and well-meaning Christians tolerate teaching contrary to the word of God.  It is easy to excuse, because it is “just words.”

The truth is conveyed in words, but they aren’t “just words”! Never think that compromising the truth is harmless!

And Christ also faced temptations that appealed to His desire to be believed.  Wasn’t that His purpose after all‑ for people to believe Him?  A jump from the high point of the temple wall would have convinced people in a spectacular way.  Jump off the temple, in plain view of everyone, and levitate miraculously before striking the ground.  THAT would silence the gainsayers and convince the doubters!

But that would be to tempt God.  It is wrong to put God to the test, or to make deals with God.  Think of how we tempt God when we neglect the word or the Sacrament and then expect God to keep us in the faith? Think of how so many of the Pentecostal types insist that there be some sign to validate their ministry!

And these are only three of the temptations He faced – His days and nights were full of the allurements and deception and harassment of the devil.  But since He went through it all WITHOUT SIN, He was able to rescue us from death and judgment.  It is HIS holiness in OUR PLACE that we have to thank for our salvation. Here we see the righteousness of God lived out, the righteousness that is ours and is from God and ours by faith. As Paul says, [by grace we are] found in him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith.(Philippians 3:9, CSB)

2. He Taught Us To Oppose Temptation

(Back to the defending forces)  If we had actually stood on the walls of the city and watched the defending force stave off destruction, you can bet that we would be devoted to every one of those heroes.  Christ is our defender, our rescuer, our hero, and we are devoted to Him.  So we fight our own fight against our own temptations.

We fill our lives with service to Him, simply because He is our loving Savior and we love Him.  We don’t try to love Him so that we CAN BE saved, we love Him because we HAVE BEEN saved.  What we do out of love for God we do because we have salvation, not because we hope to get it!!

That is the real reason why we wrestle with temptation ourselves.  In that, too, we can learn much from our Savior here.  But there is one thing only that I especially want to emphasize >>> in every case He dealt with the situation with reference to the word of God.  It is written.

As Christians, we must turn to the principle, the absolute, God’s Word.  While the world is consumed with what works, the Christian is concerned with what is right and true.

Under the philosopher, John Dewey, our educational system has been overrun by pragmatism.  Pragmatism is only concerned with what works, not what is right or true..  It was called progressive education 40 years ago.  And it rejects the teaching of anything as being intrinsically right or wrong.  The question stressed is “what is useful.”  And our civilization shows the consequences.

Perversion:  Not “Is it right?” but “How do I avoid the consequences.”

Divorce: Not “Is it right,” but “Does it appear to be more convenient.”

Theft:  Not “Is this taking from someone else,” but “Can I take this without someone getting it back or getting me in trouble.”

We could go on and on.

Our world is set up to give in to the temptations of the Devil, the World and our Flesh.  As Christians we will only be faithful as we take God’s word as our standard. Yes, that will convict us every time, for we fall short over and over again. But as we have seen, our hope is not in our conquering temptation, but in the perfect righteousness of Christ.

AMEN.