The Challenge of the Christian Life

Bible Book: Matthew  4 : 1-11
Subject: Temptation; Word of God; Christian Living

The Challenge of the Christian Life

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor, www.pastorlife.com
Introduction

Matthew 4:1-11

As we view the temptation of Jesus are learning how Satan challenges those who belong to God. Some say that living the Christian life is a hard life, but actually the Bible says that it is the way of the transgressor that is hard. It is true that the Christian life is a challenge, but it is the life of the sinner that is actually grueling and empty.

To meet the challenge of the Christian life, we must know the manner and method of Satan’s temptations, for he is the enemy of God and the adversary of God’s people. As we view the three temptations of Jesus, we will learn that one critical ingredient is necessary to meet the challenge of Satan.

Now, to be sure, the Christian life is not easy - it is certainly no bed of roses. But, the Christian life is a piece of cake when compared to the sinful life. The Bible says, “The way of the transgressor is hard (Proverbs 13:15).” If you do not believe that, just look in the eyes of the alcoholic who has wasted his life on drink. Examine the gambler whose wife has no furniture in her house and whose children have no food to eat. Look at the prisoner who has spent his life taking what is not his own. Go to the funeral of the drug addict who was felled by a habit that could not be overcome. I tell you, that way of life is hard.

The Christian life is not easy, and it is not hard, it is however a challenge to be met through God’s will, God’s Word and with the indwelling power of God’s Spirit. We can see the principle behind this fact in the temptation of Jesus. Look with me at Matthew 4, verse 1 through 11, and note what this passage reveals:

1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. 3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”

4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ”

5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:

‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and

‘In their hands they shall bear you up,

Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ”

7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ ”

8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”

10 Then Jesus said to him,  “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ”

11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.

In this scripture passage we discover Jesus just after his baptism and at the moment He was entering into His public ministry. We note here that Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. The manner in which He was tempted and the method He used to defeat Satan gives us a look at the challenge before us as Christians. Here we learn how to overcome the enemy, for we see here how important resistance to temptation really is in our lives.

There are three challenges that face every Christian …

I. The Challenge of Fellowship – A Matter of Communion

Most of us think of the Christian life as a pleasant experience of ease and peace. To be certain, God gives believers peace – but it is a peace that goes beyond understanding – a peace in the midst of trials. To meet the challenges, trials and temptations we need a special companionship.

A. Fellowship with Savior

When a person is saved, he has a relationship with God. In fact, the Christian life is not about “do’s” and “don’ts but is rather” about “did” and “hid.” He “did” the work of saving me and He “hid” me in His hand! I have a relationship with God through Christ and that relationship is very personal. It is not about religion, it is about relationship and companionship.

Though a person cannot lose his or her relationship with Christ, one can fall out of fellowship with God. By tempting Jesus to turn the stones into bread, Satan was seeking to get Christ to place a greater emphasis on his physical needs than on His Spiritual fellowship with the Father. Jesus would have none of that.

Listen carefully - God has made us for fellowship with Himself.

When Adam was created God came and walked with him in the cool of the day.

The Bible says of Enoch that he walked with God.

The Bible says, “As you have received Christ, so walk in Him!”

God did not save us just to get us into heaven; he saved us for fellowship with Him now and forever!

Every Christian needs to understand that Satan is out to create a rift in the fellowship that was established between the believer and God at the moment of redemption. Amos 3:3 asks the question, “Can two walk together unless they agree?” Satan is out to get you into a disagreement with God.

Why is it so important to Satan to break our fellowship with the Lord? Look at John 15 for a moment, specifically at John 15:5: “I am the vine, you are the branches: He that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.”

Satan knows that you will bear fruit as long as you are abiding in the Vine – abiding in true fellowship with the Lord. If he can keep you from abiding in Christ, he can stop the flow of fruit from your life. The reason some of us are not winning souls, not enjoying our Christian life, lack peace, do not delight in worship, sense no fulfillment in our service, and suffer other spiritual maladies is due to the fact that we have allowed Satan to distract us and spoil of fellowship with God.

The words “do nothing” found in John 15:5 comes from the Greek word “dunamai.” Now, this is a powerful word which we have taken into our English language to create an explosive word. In fact, we get our word “dynamite” from the Greek word “dunamai.” In other words, when we are attached in full fellowship to our Lord Jesus Christ we are DYNAMITE.

In 1 Corinthians 1:8-9 we read, “…8 who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Do you here that the Lord is powerful and is working in us that we might maintain our full “fellowship” in Jesus? What is the purpose of this fellowship? It is that we may be “blameless” on that day when we meet our Lord face to face. Our God is faithful, and He will keep us to the end. But, note that He has not just called us to be saved; He has called us into fellowship with Christ. Satan’s desire is to break the fellowship even if he cannot break the relationship which is secured through the saving sacrifice of the Savior.

But, not only do we need fellowship with Jesus to overcome Satan, we need …

B. Fellowship with the Saints

Now let’s take this a step further. Satan not only desires to break your fellowship with God, he also seeks to break your fellowship with other believers, for even in this way the believer experiences fellowship with Christ.

Look at 1 John 1:3, “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that you also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

John stated that one reason he was writing the epistle which bore his name was so that other believers might have fellowship with him and other believers through Christ. Satan has a desire to break your fellowship with other believers, for he knows in doing so that He can create a fracture in our fellowship with Christ, our Lord. He does this by seeking to draw you into the world and away from God’s people.

Paul stated on one occasion that Demas had forsaken him because Demas had fallen in love with the world (2 Timothy 4:10). Do you see the importance of this? Satan had lured Demas away by drawing him into the world and away from God’s people, God’s service and God’s power.

In Acts 2:42 reveal we note that those people who became Christians on the Day of Pentecost remained in warm and devoted fellowship with Christ and with each other. Why was that important? Satan knows that we can do more together than we can apart, and he will do whatever he can to break the bond of our unity and fellowship with each other.

A man who worked in an insane asylum was showing a friend around the campus. The friend noted that the employee at the asylum had no weapon to protect himself and he asked the employee, “Aren’t you afraid that the patients here will get together and attack you?” The employee replied, “I’m not afraid. You see, crazy people never get together; they are too busy fighting each other.” It is crazy for God’s people to fight each other.

Dear people, we are a “band of brothers and sisters” in Jesus and are to live, work and walk in unity. We are to keep our fellowship with Jesus and with other, and we must be aware that Satan is always out to break that fellowship.

Let me share a story I read from Don Graham that illustrates what I’m talking about. In the fall of the year, a young woman named Linda was traveling alone up the rugged highway from Alberta to the Yukon. Linda didn't know you don't travel to Whitehorse alone in a rundown Honda Civic, so she set off where only four-wheel vehicles normally go. The first evening she found a room in the mountains near a summit and asked for a 5 A.M. wakeup call so she could get an early start. She couldn't understand why the clerk looked surprised at that request, but as she awoke early the next day. When she went outside she saw that fog shrouding the mountain tops and then she began to understand the surprise of the clerk. Not wanting to look totally foolish, she got up and went to breakfast. Two truckers invited Linda to join them, and since the place was so small, she felt  obliged. "Where are you headed?" one of the truckers asked. She replied, “Whitehorse.” One of them asked, “Are you driving that little Civic? No way! This pass is dangerous in weather like this." She said, "Well, I'm determined to try." One of the truck drivers said, “Well, I guess we’ll just have to hug you.” Linda threw her shoulders back and spouted out, "There's no way I'm going to let you touch me!" A trucker said, "No, not like THAT!" Both of the truckdrivers laughed out loud. “We'll put one truck in front of you and one in the rear. In that way, we'll hug your car and get you through the mountains."

Listen, in the struggle through the high mountains and foggy roads of life, we all need the hug of the Lord to get us through. We need God before us and behind us. There are many slippery hillsides, rockslides and blind spots before us, but God sees them all and can protect us. Also, the fellowship of other believers can keep us accountable along the pathway.

Let  me add one other issue of fellowship that we need …

C. Fellowship with the Scriptures

Satan has a desire to keep you from the Word of God and to keep the Word of God from you. He does this with the lost people as well. Look at the explanation of a parable which Jesus shared as recorded in Luke 8:11-12, “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the way-side are they that hear; then comes the devil, and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.” You see, the devil attempts to keep the Word of God from the lost so that they will not be saved. So, Satan seeks to keep God’s Word from the believer and unbeliever. This is a truly one of the devil’s greatest tools in our day. He keeps the Christian so busy with entertainment and social media that he cannot keep his mind of God’s Word, and the devil has caused this generation to totally reject the truth of the divinely inspired nature of the Bible.

In Isaiah 55:11 we have verse which tells us that God’s Word will not return to Him without accomplishing that which He sent it forth to accomplish. Satan knows this is true. He desires to stop the flow of this book into your life and mine.

Jesus told the devil, in Matthew 4:4, that physical bread is not as important as the spiritual bread that is found in the Word of God. Christ would not allow His fellowship with the Father to be broken!

You see, Satan has a desire to break with fellowship with God, with other believers and with the Bible. Christ stood up to the challenge. He had a mission and He would fulfill it. False religions covered the world in the day of Jesus like the frogs that covered Egypt during the days of Moses, but Christ would not play games with stones while the world was perishing. His fellowship with the Father was not going to be broken, even for a moment!

So, fellowship is critical in the Christian life. But, note also …

II. The Challenge of Stewardship – A Matter of Commitment

Christ came with a mission and a purpose, and this was His stewardship before the Father. He came to seek and to save that which was lost and not to please Himself. His mission and desire was to please the Father and to carry out His will.

When most people hear the word stewardship in church, they immediately think about money. Actually, stewardship is a matter of the heart, the energy and the life that God has given us. You see, money or possessions are only a part of what it means to be a steward before the Lord, for the most important stewardship is our devotion and love.

So, what does this stewardship mean?

A. Stewardship Involves Purpose

Christ had a purpose and Satan could not hinder Him from completing it. You can be sure that the Lord has a purpose for you - a divine purpose for your life.

B. Stewardship Involves Possessions

We do not own anything, for we are mere stewards. When we know this, accept this and live according to this, we defeat the devil’s plan in our lives.

C. Stewardship Involves Power

Satan wants to get us into a power struggle over possessions. This is not a power struggle with man necessarily, but rather it is a power struggle with God, who made and owns everything. Jesus would not let Satan tempt Him into a struggle over the things of this world.

Satan was tempting Jesus to love the world, the power of the world, the love of the world, the bread of the world – the world itself more than He loved the Father. Jesus was victorious because He kept His devotion where it belonged. We fail as Christians when we allow the things, praise and pleasures of this world to draw and our devotion away from our Lord. Satan knows how to work in a subtle way to turn our attention to self rather than the Savior.

Now, let’s look at one more challenge in the Christian life …

III. The Challenge of Lordship – the Challenge of Control

Peter T. Forsythe was right when he said, "The first duty of every soul is to find not its freedom but its Master". (Warren W. Wiersbe, The Integrity Crisis, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991, p. 22.)

The challenge every believer must face is this - who is Lord? The real test is determining whether we will live in the fellowship and Lordship of Jesus, or whether we will live for self.

Most of you remember the name Timothy McVeigh. He is the man who blew up a rental van in Oklahoma that was filled with powerful explosives. He killed 168 people that day in 1995 and wounded 680 others. It was the largest attack on Americans by an American in the history of our nation. How did he come to do such a horrible thing? It is said that he grew up feeling bullied and alone. In other words, he never learned that confidence in life comes only from a relationship with God through Christ. It is not how others treat us, but how we are led by God to treat others that creates meaning in our lives. McVeigh killed others because he had no sense of meaning in his life. When we don’t know why we are here, what life is about, or how loved we really are, we will seek importance and meaning outside God’s will. People do it every day, in one way or another. We read almost every year, and sometimes more than once a year, of some person killing people at a school or at a workplace. Life has no meaning to such people. They completely "lose it" because they never had it!

Listen to me, living outside God’s guidance, blessings and salvation can lead to some gruesome results in life. The challenge for every Christian is to live life in the light of Jesus, in the power of His Spirit and in the light of His Word. We are to carry out His mission in our lives – be it small or great in the eyes of the world. Allowing God to have control is the key.

Conclusion

The Song of Solomon is a book of love between a bride and groom. It is symbolic of the love of Christ for His Church. In chapter five the bride is asleep and hears the bridegroom knocking to enter. She thinks how inconvenient it would be to answer the door. She has removed her night coat and to answer the door would require her to put it on again. She has washed her feet and walking across the floor of her ancient home would make her unclean. Finally, she realizes how much she loves him and rises to answer the door but, alas, he is gone. There is a danger in us! If we become too comfortable in this world, we will miss the call to closer companionship that the Lord offers to those whom He has saved.

That is the challenge of the Christian life. Satan does not make this easy for us, but Christ does make the Christian life possible!

John Wesley said, “I want the whole Christ for my Savior, the whole Bible for my book, the whole Church for my fellowship, and the whole world for my mission field.”

And that is what we must say in order to be faithful to our Lord and our mission!

Augustine said, “Jesus Christ is not valued at all until He is valued above all.” That must be our commitment.

It is the challenge of the Christian life – and we can and must meet that challenge through fellowship, submitting in true stewardship and living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.