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The first event in our Lord’s ministry which St. Matthew records after his baptism is his temptation. This is a deep and mysterious subject. There is much in the history of it which we cannot explain; but there lie on the face of the history plain practical lessons, to which we should do well to take heed.
Let us learn in the first place, what a real and mighty enemy we have in the devil. He is not afraid to assault even the Lord Jesus himself. Three times over he attacks God’s own Son: our Saviour was “tempted of the devil.”
It was the devil who brought sin into the world at the beginning. This is he who vexed Job, deceived David, and gave Peter a heavy fall: this is he whom the Bible calls a “murderer,” a “liar,” and a “roaring lion” (John 8:44; 1 Peter 5:8); this is he whose enmity to our souls never slumbers and never sleeps; this is he who for nearly 6,000 years has been working at one work, to ruin men and women and to draw them to hell; this is he whose cunning and subtlety pass man’s understanding, and who often “appears an angel of light.” (1 Corinthians 11:14)
Let us watch and pray daily against his devices. There is no enemy worse than an enemy who is never seen and never dies, who is near us wherever we live, and goes with us wherever we go. Not least, let us beware of that habit of foolish talking and jesting about the devil which so unhappily common. Let us remember that if we would be saved we must not only crucify the flesh and overcome the world, but also “resist the devil.”
Let us learn in the next place that we must not count temptation a strange thing. “The disciple is not greater than his master, nor the servant than his Lord.” If Satan came to Christ, he will also come to Christians.
It would be well for believers if they would remember this. They are too apt to forget it. They often find evil thoughts arising within their minds, which they can truly say they hate. Doubts, questions, and sinful imaginings are suggested to them, against which their whole inward man revolts; but let not these things destroy their peace and rob them of their comfort. Let them remember there is a devil, and not be surprised to find him near them. To be tempted is in itself no sin: it is the yielding to temptation, and the giving it a place in our hearts, which we must fear.
Let us learn in the next place that the chief weapon we ought to use in resisting Satan is the Bible. Three times the great enemy offered temptations to our Lord. Three times his offer was refused with a text of Scripture as the reason: “It is written.”
Here is one among many reasons why we ought to be diligent readers of our Bibles: the Word is the “sword of the Spirit;” we shall never fight a good fight if we do not use it as our principal weapon. The Word is the “lamp” for our feet. We shall never keep the King’s highway to heaven if we do not journey by its light. (Ephesians 6:17; Psalms 119:105) It may well be feared that there is not enough Bible-reading amongst us. It is not sufficient to have the book; we must actually read it, and pray over it ourselves. It will do us no good if it only lies still in our houses. We must be actually familiar with its contents, and have its texts stored in our memories and minds. Knowledge of the Bible never comes by intuition; it can only be got by hard, regular, daily, attentive, wakeful reading. Do we grudge the time and trouble this will cost us? If we do we are not yet fit for the kingdom of God.
Let us learn in the last place, what a sympathizing Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ is. “In that He himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:18)
The sympathy of Jesus is a truth which ought to be peculiarly dear to believers. They will find in it a mine of strong consolation. They should never forget that they have a mighty Friend in heaven, who feels for them in all their temptations and can enter into all their spiritual anxieties. Are they ever tempted by Satan to distrust God’s care and goodness? So was Jesus. Are they ever tempted to presume on God’s mercy, and to run into danger without warrant? So also was Jesus. Are they ever tempted to commit some one private sin for the sake of some great seeming advantage? So also was Jesus. Are they ever tempted to listen to some misapplication of Scripture, as an excuse for doing wrong? So also was Jesus. He is just the Saviour that a tempted people require. Let them flee to him for help, and spread before him all their troubles. They will find his ear ever ready to hear, and his heart ever ready to feel. He can understand their sorrows.
May we all know the value of a sympathizing Saviour by experience! There is nothing to be compared to it in this cold and deceitful world. Those who seek their happiness in this life only, and despise the religion of the Bible, have no idea what true comfort they are missing.
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