Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (NKJV)
All the knowledge, training and confidence in the world won’t do you a bit of good if you don’t actually pick up a weapon and use it. Today we will look at the Master Swordsman and learn from His example on how to wield the Sword of the Spirit.
In the Gospels we find the account of the Lord’s severe temptation by Satan (Matt. 4:1–11; Luke 4:1–13). Jesus was enduring an extraordinarily long fast, led into the wilderness alone by the Spirit of God (Mark 1.13) to be tested. In His weakened physical condition, Jesus was confronted with temptation by the most devious, clever, and manipulative being in all creation – that Old Serpent, Father of Lies and Great Deceiver: Satan.
Jesus leads by experience. He experienced all things with regards to sinful temptation and showed us how to deal with it effectively. We have no excuse to sin. We cannot say “well the Lord just doesn’t understand what I am going through”. Oh yes… He does.
Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. (NKJV)
Jesus is our Savior, and our great Leader; who like all great leaders, led by example. We’ll look at how He defeated temptation and sin under the most extreme circumstances. He hadn’t eaten for 40 days, He was alone, He was fully human; and none other than the Prince of Darkness decided to handle this temptation himself (Matt 4).
- “Jesus, you haven’t eaten in 40 days. If you’re the Son of God, it should be nothing for you to turn these rocks to bread.”
Well that sounds reasonable and harmless. Jesus was the Son of God. He could feed 5000 families with 5 loaves of bread. So what’s that big deal? Satan was just asking the obvious, right? “Make yourself something to eat Jesus. Shouldn’t be much of problem for the Son of God”.
Satan was tempting Jesus to depend on Himself instead of depending on God. He was taunting Jesus into becoming self-sufficient with regards to His humanity. He was trying to trick Jesus into ruining God’s plan to save mankind by having Jesus use His divine power to care for Himself as a human. This would negate God’s requirement that a “man” (Jesus, fully human) had to live a perfect, sinless, fully human life in order to be a sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the world (1John 2.2; Rom 3.25; Heb 5.3).
So Jesus pulled out His Sword: “It is written…”
Jesus used the Word of God to defeat sin and defend Himself against temptation. In this, He demonstrated the proper offensive use of our spiritual weaponry.
Now, let me stop here and state the obvious. It is a little difficult to say “It is written” if you don’t actually know what is written. This underscores the incredible importance of regular, intensive, daily, unrelenting Bible study. The more you read God’s Word, the more you become saturated with it, the more you memorize it, the more you understand it… the more victory you will achieve over sin because you will draw your sword at the moment of temptation and destroy with “It is written…”.
Matthew 4:4 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.’ ” (NKJV)
Notice two things here. One, Satan immediately moved on. He didn’t persist with that specific taunt. It was effectively defeated. The Sword of the Spirit is powerful. It is not a dull knife or a stick. It is a razor sharp, two-edged destroyer of temptation. Used properly, it is effective and powerful.
Second, Jesus used the appropriate Words given the temptation at hand. This also emphasizes the necessity of intense Bible study. The typical Christian is familiar with a handful of popular Bible verses and that’s about it. Not being familiar enough with Scripture to employ effective verses for a given temptation is tantamount to shooting a tank with BB gun.
Imagine if Jesus would have said “It is written, thou shalt not steal!” because that was one of the only 5 verses He knew. Encouraged by the display of Biblical ignorance, I can hear Satan’s response… “huh? What in the world does that have to do with anything? You better get to making that bread!”.
No, Jesus employed Scripture that destroyed the basis for the temptation. Physical bread only gives physical life; what good is physical life without spiritual life? Hence, Jesus’ response: “Man shall live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”. That’s real life. That’s real food. Real bread.
- Then Satan tempted Jesus to use His Divine Power this time attacking the Lord’s ego. “Hey Jesus, you’re such a hotshot with all your angels and power. Prove it! Throw yourself off this building and call some angels to rescue you.”
Satan was using the old “I dare you” or “you’re too chicken” plays on human pride. What is really being said is “I don’t believe you can really do it; and if you don’t prove to me you can, I’m going to tell everyone”. All to often our response is, “oh yeah, I’ll show you!”. Not Jesus.
“It is written, you shall NOT tempt the Lord your God”. And that my friends, was that.
- Unsuccessful in tempting Jesus’ physical needs and ego, Satan now turns to tempting Him with materialism, power and fame. Satan, who at the moment is the ruler of this world, offered to give it all to Jesus, if only the Lord would worship Satan just one little harmless time.
The Father of Lies and Deception was at his best here. Satan seemed willing to give up the kingdoms of the world, but he knew that they would revert right back to him if Jesus would worship him. If Jesus would have worshipped him, it would surrender this world right back to Satan one second later because the Lord would have become sinful.
Like a mouse who gets the “prize” on the mouse trap for a few seconds then pays for it with his life, Jesus would have forfeited all by taking the bait.
Sound familiar? It should. Satan had already used this trick on Adam and Eve successfully. Satan must have thought “well it worked on the perfect man once before, let’s give it another shot”.
In Genesis 3, Satan said to Eve, “God doesn’t want you to eat from that Tree because He knows you will become just like Him when you do and He doesn’t want any rivals”. In essence, Satan was saying the same thing to Eve he said to Jesus, “if you do what I ask, you’ll have everything”. Eve was deceived and took the bait from Satan when she should have responded with “God said…”. Adam however just flat out sinned and did it knowing exactly what he was doing (1Tim 2.14).
Instead of “becoming like God” (Jesus temptation: gaining the whole world) they in reality had surrendered themselves to Satan (Jesus temptation: worship Satan) and death entered creation. Jesus was hearing the Great Lie, all over again. He didn’t fall for it.
Matthew 4:10 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.’ ” (NKJV)
And with that, Satan was rebuked and Jesus had endured that greatest of sinful temptations successfully, leaving us with no excuse for sinning. He also left us with the perfect training example:
It is written…
I want to close with some examples of how you can develop your battle skills employing Jesus example of using Scripture. Let me say very clearly, and forcefully that this is not some magic trick, spiritual formula or new revelation. Christianity is poisoned today with stomach-turning gimmicks:
- The 7 keys to instant success
- Secrets to harnessing God’s power
- The 4 principles of getting what you want from God
- The Prayer of This
- The Miracle Power of That
The Christian bookstores are full of the same Madison Avenue, attention grabbing tricks that secular marketing uses. (Well, there goes my chance of ever getting published!) That is not to say that these books are devoid of truth, or even effective teaching. It is more an indictment on the READER, not the writers. We have cultivated such a carnal, “entertain-me” culture, that a book entitled “What the Bible Teaches About Holy Living” goes untouched, while the book entitled “Seven Secrets to Your Financial Miracle” tops the best seller list for months.
Now, back to my point. Jesus demonstrates how to properly use Scripture to combat sin and temptation. Several things to keep in mind:
- You need to know effective verses given the temptation at hand.
- You need to have previously formulated your “battle plan” for a particular and be well trained before the attack occurs.
- You need to be alert to know when the actual attack is occurring.
Let’s say that you frequently battle the temptation of lust. Here is an example of Scripture that could be used to combat it:
IT IS WRITTEN: “….You shall not commit adultery. (Jesus said) that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators… nor adulterers… nor the sexually immoral… will inherit the kingdom of God. (NKJV Matthew 5:27-28; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; combined & paraphrased)
I have found it effective to not only think these words, but to actually say them. This serves several purposes:
- It immediately turns your mind away from the temptation and focuses it on the Bible.
- It is hard to follow up on sinful desires when Scripture is coming out of your mouth.
- It bring more of our total being into the process: mind, mouth & ears; diverting all of these from the temptation.
- Demons can’t read your mind, but they can hear you. If fallen angels are fueling a temptation, they will hear Scripture and be repelled by it. (spiritual warfare; Eph 6)
Maybe you struggle with gossip, or running your mouth too much. Here’s an example of effective Sword use:
IT IS WRITTEN: “.. no (one) can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison… a fire, a world of (wickedness)… it defiles the whole body, and… is set on fire by hell. Let no corrupt word proceed out of (my) mouth, but (only) what is good…“ (NKJV James 3:8; 3:6; Ephesians 4:29; combined & paraphrased)
IT IS WRITTEN: “… no evil or foolish word will come out of my mouth except those words which edify, bless, encourage or teach others because profane and idle talk increase ungodliness, and the ungodly will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Eph 4.29-32; 2Tim 2.16; 1Cor 6.9; combined & paraphrased)
IT IS WRITTEN: “…the love of money is the source of all sorts of evil and will bring trouble to my life. Money can’t save me and will deceive me into thinking I don’t need God. My treasure should be in heaven when thieves and rust won’t destroy it; and that whatever I give up to God, will be given back in eternity“. (1Tim 6.10; Prov 11.4; Rev 3.17; Matt 6.19; combined & paraphrased)
While I have paraphrased the thoughts of the verses together, it is important for you to memorize and meditate on each individual verse. Don’t ever shortcut memorizing Scripture because paraphrasing is easier.
God has supplied us with an effective weapon to use against sin: the Sword of the Spirit. The Bible is our door to knowing God’s heart. The more we immerse ourselves into it, the more God will reveal its amazing riches to you.
Father, thank you for providing us a weapon to fight sin. We would be powerless against sin without you. Help us to cultivate an insatiable hunger for Your Word and may You become the very center of our lives at all times. In Jesus Name, Amen.
Contemplation: Do you have battle plans for the sins you struggle with? Do you know enough Scripture to be able to fight using “it is written”?
Application: The Bible is not just a book. It is God’s heart and plan revealed to us in written form. Determine that you will treat it as such.
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Written each weekday by Brent Riggs. Brent is a member of Tulsa Bible Church in Tulsa, OK. These devotionals are produced as an individual work and there is no intention to imply they are the official teaching or doctrine of Tulsa Bible Church. Do you have a question or topic you would like to know more about? Send your comments or questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org