Good morning, everybody—great to see you guys! Great to see a lot of new faces. If it’s your first time or you just started attending Hope City, you’re joining us at a great time. We’re just kicked-off a 40 Day Bible Challenge—in which our church is going to read through all 4 gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in 40 days.
That’s what this series “40” is preparation for. And I know a lot of you are excited to get going! Last week, we had dozens of people hand-in their Response Card. If you weren’t here, there’s one in your program today on the bottom of your notes. And you’ll have a chance to sign-up and drop it off at the end of our service.
Last week, we learned that the number 40 has huge significance in Scripture.
• God used 40 days of rain to purify the earth in Noah’s day.
• Moses spent 40 days atop Mt. Sinai and received Revelation from God– The Ten Commandments.
• Israelite spies spent 40 days exploring the Promised Land.
• But bc the people doubted God, they spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness. Being corrected by God.
What’s clear is that God often used a SEASON OF 40 to prepare His people to lead them to the next level spiritually. And that’s what we’re after as a church in 2018—we want more of Jesus! More of His grace, more of His presence & the Spirit’s power, amen?
So we’re devoting these 40 days to encountering Christ in a fresh way in the NT.
And here’s the cool part. This #40DayChallenge is for EVERYONE. For Newbies & Old Timers—we got ‘em all at Hope City. If you’re kicking the tires of Christianity—or returning to church after some time away. This is the perfect point to dive in & discover the Bible for yourself. Maybe you’ve walked with the LORD a looooong time… but I think this experience is gonna be a wake-up call for you. Especially if your faith has waned or flat-lined a bit. Some of us who grew up in the church know the Bible “up here”, in your mind… but maybe it hasn’t touched your heart, in awhile. I believe if you devote the next 40 days to journey with us—your walk will be resuscitated.
This morning, I wanna dive right into a PASSAGE that opens the NT. And I think this’ll set the table for what we can all expect over the next 40 days. You can open your Bible to Matthew chapter 4:1-11, that’s page 658. First book of the NT—In fact, if you’ve already started the 40 day reading plan, this is a passage that you read this past week.
We’re gonna see some SYMMETRY with what we discovered last week in the OT.
In the OT, the Israelites were chosen by God to walk with Him… but they failed. They broke the covenant & spent 40 years in the desert. But in the NT, Jesus Christ is chosen by God in a similar way… and he too finds himself in a desert.
Not for 40 years… but for… anyone? 40 Days.
Yes, Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness. Let’s read this together—Matthew 4:1-11.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. Matt. 4:1
Q: Why was Jesus in the wilderness of 40 days?
A: Not bc of the Devil. Rather verse 1 says:
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. Matt. 4:1
IOW: There will come certain times in your life that God will intentionally lead you to a Dry Place. The Judean wilderness was bleak. Here’s a picture of place where Jesus found himself.
It’s bleak. It’s barren. You can see a solitary camel alone in the distance. It’s dry. No shade, no water. Nothing. The only thing you have is what you bring into the wilderness with you. And Jesus didn’t go in unprepared. He came to this epic battle between God and Evil, with his ammo box.
And this was the appointed place that the Spirit of God led God’s Son to strengthen him for the ministry ahead. At this moment, Jesus was 30 years old. (And he hadn’t begun his public ministry yet. Not one miracle. Not a sermon. Not a healing… nothing. And God’s Spirit said, “For 40 days, I want you to go out into the desert so I can strengthen you for what’s coming.”
Why the desert? Well, the Judean desert is a place of extremes.
BLAZING HOT temperatures during the day. FREEZING temps at night.
You can’t get comfortable. You’re either Boiling Hot or Freezing Cold. There’s no balance. It’s not “comfortable” in the desert. Honestly, that’s how a lot of Christians want their faith—comfortable Xianity. Nice and mild. Not too hot. Not too cold. Just riiiight… Goldilocks faith.
The problem with that is that in the last book of the Bible, Jesus says, “You were neither hot nor cold… you were lukewarm. So I spit you out of my mouth.” No, I’d rather you be white hot about your faith… or forget it altogether. Bc I need Men & Women who are passionate about my Father. And willing to move out of their comfort zone.
So good news if you’re feeling spiritually dry this morning. Sometimes God will intentionally lead you to a dry place. Something like a Wilderness (word over the wilderness image??). Has something in your life dried up today? Your marriage? A business? Finances?
Sometimes God will bring you to a Dry Place at the beginning of a 40-day journey. Not to kill you—but to STRENGTHEN you for what He has in store! That’s why the Spirit led Jesus there—to test & strengthen his soul before He began his public ministry.
IN fact, there are things we can learn about how to prepare for our own wilderness experience.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting FORTY days and FORTY nights, he was hungry. Matt. 4:1-2
1. Jesus Prepared by Fasting
Now there’s an understatement. Fasting—if you’ll recall—is when you don’t EAT FOOD for a time & drink only water. We sacrifice something PHYSICAL in order to receive something SPIRITUAL. A deeper connection with Christ—we imitate Him by denying our flesh. Jesus fasted 40 days…and he was hungry. You would be too.
If you have a Granola Bar for breakfast and don’t eat the rest of the morning, what happens around 12noon? You get hungry. Food is a basic human need. And Jesus was starving. But Satan slithered up and said:
“If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Matt. 4:3
IOW: He attacks Jesus right at the core of his IDENTITY! Who He is. “If you are the Son of God…”
Our Enemy always goes right for the jugular. Look at the passage prior to this: The baptism of Jesus. Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River… and a voice from heaven says, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” IOW: God the Father puts his STAMP OF APPROVAL on God the Son.
But Satan assaults that. He always wants to God’s children doubting about WHO WE ARE IN CHRIST: Tell these stones to become bread.
IOW: The World tells us to FEED OUR FLESH!
But God says, I want to RENEW YOUR MIND!
To be Wilderness ready, Fast and Pray.
And I’m thinking’: After 40 days & nights without food… those rocks started looking pretty good!
WHOLE 30 GRANOLA STORY- Fasting from certain foods…
Day 5 started craving anything other than vegetables… hats off to you vegetarians…
Walked by this granola made by Sams Club… We typically have it back in the Hub where our Dream Team Members hang and grab a bite to eat. SO GOOD!
ONLY 5 Days IN!
This 40-Day Journey is a FAST in some ways. We’re gonna be reading 2-3 chapters a day—which takes about 15 minutes. Which means you’re gonna have to GIVE SOMETHING UP to make room for God.
What will it be? Where’s that time going to come from:
• Fast from Television (Give up ‘This is US’)
• Fast from Facebook
• Fast from Golf… or some hobby…
The point of a 40-DAY SEASON of denial is just that. You are denying your flesh, so that your SPIRIT can come to life & be strengthened! This is a season for your SOUL to be fed & refreshed in God.
I’m asking to give you A NEW HUNGER for His Word… I want our church to have an APPETITE for Jesus & God’s Word…
2. JESUS KNEW God’s Word
You may be here this morning and your appetite is dull. Or you don’t see the relevance of Scripture. There is a second thing that we learn from Jesus about being in the wilderness… But notice what Jesus said to the Devil after his first test:
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’’” Matt. 4:4
Jesus knew that it wasn’t about physical bread, but there was something even better than that. It was the word of God!
Jesus fed on it daily. He meditated on it day & night. Jesus knew His Bible. He was saturated in Scripture. And when temptation came calling, He pulled out his AMMO BOX. He was ready for it. To be wilderness ready, Know God’s Word.
Jesus knew His Bible. Not just up here. But somewhere the words of His Father had moved from the page and into here. And here. (HEART & MIND)
And Jesus fed off them for 40 days. Now Jesus’ Bible was a little different than ours. He had the Torah, Psalms, and Prophets. And Jesus quotes from His Bible about 80 times throughout his ministry.
He was a student of the Word. Scripture was hidden in his heart. And in a time of temptation, He used it like Spiritual Ammo against the Enemy.
When the Enemy attacked, Jesus didn’t flinch. He was weak physically, but He opened His AMMO BOX—pulled the pin from Scripture—and used his SPIRITUAL muscles to beat back the Enemy.
And that’s a model for us. That’s what Believers are supposed to do when we find ourselves tempted. In fact, that’s a GREAT QUESTION: When & where do you find yourself tempted?
• To linger a little longer on that website than you should? (anyone here struggle with LUST?)
• When do you find yourself tempted to buy STUFF you don’t need with MONEY you don’t have? (anyone tempted by Consumerism?)
• When are you tempted to say cruel or cutting things when others aren’t around? (anyone here struggle with Gossip or a critical spirit?)
• How about this: When are you tempted to RAGE & FUME around your family or relatives? To not fight fair, but use your power to hit ‘em where it counts. Or punish them with your silence? (anyone here struggle with Anger?)
These are the PRIVATE BATTLES we all face… Which Jesus shows us how to handle with His Ammo Box. Watch what He does. Temptation #2
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down…” Matt. 4:5-6
Here’s a picture of Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem. As you can see, it’s a MASSIVE STRUCTURE dozens of stories high. Overlooked the city & dwarfed all the other buildings.
And Satan says, “Alright Jesus, if you’re truly chosen by God…” Why don’t you go to the top of the Temple and JUMP?!?
For it is written: “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’’” Matt. 4:6
See: Satan knows Scripture too! Now he twists it & uses it out of context… but His motivation is clear.
He says, “Jesus if you’re really the Savior… DO SOMETHING SPECTACULAR!!”
Something DRAMATIC to show-off. Make a GRAND ENTRANCE to dazzle the crowd!
IOW: He appeals to Jesus’ PRIDE! Just climb to the Top. Step out over the ledge and …. SWOOOOOOOSH! You’ve seen IRON MAN, haven’t you? Now that would be a Grand Entrance! A God-like entrance! You could wear a cape and impress people!
Q: Ever been tempted to SHOW OFF at school or work? Ever been tempted to SHOW others just how powerful & important you are?
Jesus reaches into his Ammo Box:
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’’” Matt. 4:7
IOW: Satan, that is Man’s approach to leadership. To show off one’s POWER in a prideful display.
But my power is from another place. And the Father asked me to make my entrance in a HUMBLE way. By putting a towel on my waist & washing feet. And I’m gonna carry a ROMAN CROSS—not a SuperHero’s cape– to save this world.
Satan wasn’t done. He had one Last Temptation of Christ:
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Matt. 4:8-9
It’s this final temptation that challenges me most. Bc at its core: Is the temptation to take a SHORTCUT in your spiritual life.
See Jesus knew that ultimately—all the kingdoms of the world—would be put under his feet. The Bible says the world was created by Jesus, for Jesus, and that He is the ruler over all creation.
So this was a matter of TIMING. Satan’s offering Jesus something that is already rightfully His. But with a twist. “Jesus, you don’t need to carry that Cross. You’re 30 years old & ready right now for coronation.”
You don’t need to go through that Bloody Death for the sins of humanity.
Cut to the chase and TAKE POWER NOW!
If the Father really loved you, then why is making you go through all this?
Q: Ever been tempted to take a SHORTCUT? Doubt God’s intentions?
Singles, ever wonder: If God really loved you, then why is He making you wait so long to find a spouse?
Why is He making you endure this chronic illness when He could snap his fingers & restore your health?
Why is it that God’s brought you out into the desert… when we all know you belong in a palace?
Is it because perhaps there is no God? That there’s only chance & random events?
C’mon. Let’s get this over with… bow down. Just bend your knee a little. Worship me.
• And Jesus reached into His Ammo Box and pulled out one last bomb:
Jesus Removed Temptation and Replaced it with Worship
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’’ Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.” Matt. 4:10-11
Scripture says “Rebuke the Enemy & he will flee.” And Jesus is showing us that the Spiritual Life is a steel cage match with the Enemy of your Soul. If Jesus was tested, so will we. If Jesus suffered in his flesh, so will we. If the Enemy appealed to Jesus pride—so will we.
It’s not a matter of “if”… it’s a question of “when.”
To be Wilderness Ready, Remove Temptation and Replace it with Worship.
Worship is simply focusing your heart on the value of something. So when you’re tempted to linger in lust, replace it with your worship of God’s goodness and grace. When you’re tempted to linger in the satisfaction of pride, focus your heart on the value of God’s love and acceptance of your brokenness.
Find music, find scripture, and play that over and over again in the midst of your temptations.
Are there certain VERSES or STORIES in God’s Word that you call on in a moment of testing? Or when you’re weak & tempted?
It’s interesting to see how Jesus handled His Bible. He’s tempted 3 times, and each time he replies with a SINGLE VERSE from a single book.
All 3 verses are from the book of Deuteronomy, chapters 6 & 8.
Q: Do you know what’s happening in Deuteronomy 6 & 8?
It’s the account of ISRAEL wandering in the desert for 40 YEARS to start the OT.
And here, Jesus opens the NT by fasting in the wilderness for 40 days.
There’s a symmetry—and it’s not coincidence. Both were tempted to DOUBT God—but only one passed the test.
The OT—summed up—is the sad story of God’s people failing God over & over & over again.
God had a simple question: “Will you trust me? And follow me?”
And over and over, the people at first said “Yes!”… But then they’d compromise & cave… and forget & doubt. And for their sin, they wandered in the desert for 40 years.
Only Jesus PASSES THE TEST. The Father said, “Will you trust me? This path I have planned for you?” And Jesus said, “Yes, I will do what Israel could never do. I will not only rely on the Father to defeat the Devil… I will pick up my Cross & carry it even if it means I suffer & die.” Jesus focused his heart on what mattered most. God’s plan for you!
Bc that’s the Salvation plan. It comes through Sacrifice & Trust—not Pride & Fear.
Here in the desert, Jesus is RELIVING & RE-ENACTING the story of Israel. He is being the faithful follower of God that Israel could never be. That you & I could never be.
That’s why He could be the PERFECT SACRIFICE for our sin on the Cross.
You were saved bc Jesus had an Ammo Box & stood up under testing.
Q: When you’re tempted… I wonder: What’s in your Ammo Box?
Lemme show you how this works for me.
As a pastor, some of you will be shocked to know I have all the SAME TEMPTATIONS as the rest of you.
Here at the start of the New Year, I need God to take out the garbage. To cleanse my heart & detox my soul so that I can be useful to you & lead this church with humility. Sometimes I worry about what people think. Will they like the sermon? Will they come back? Just pride & insecurity & all that stuff.
And my prayer this week was this:
Lord, I don’t want to be known as a Good Speaker. I want Christ to speak through me. I want to preach Christ to you—and Him crucified—so that your faith doesn’t rest on human wisdom… but a DEMONSTRATION of CHRIST’S POWER!
But you know: I get tempted like anybody else. And one of the things that I’m grateful for is that when I was young—my parents filled up my Ammo Box with Memory Verses. And now I’m doing it with my son Noah.
Now why am I doing this?
A: Because I’m a Great Dad? Because I’m a Pastor?
No. The reason I’m doing this now while he’s 12… is bc someday he’ll be 21.
And he won’t be hanging out with Daddy anymore…but at a party with his buddies.
Or in his dorm room with a girl. And he’ll be tempted in a different way.
And at that moment, it’ll just be my son… His God, and his Ammo Box.
So I’m hiding God’s Word in his heart NOW… so he can access it LATER and make the right choice.
Psalm 119:11 says:
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psa. 119:11
As a kid I memorized certain verses—key passages—that I have found invaluable in my journey as a man. For example, when I’m tempted by:
• PRIDE (to believe my own press clippings. Or start acting like a jerk)
James 4:6 God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
I’ve memorized that verse & will say it aloud when I’m tempted to BRAG… or throw my weight around… or look down on others. I remind myself—in humility, others > me.
Job 31:1 I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl.
Guys, this is an important one for all of us. As a young boy, in the 5th grade I remember the first time I saw porn. We were out on the playground by the swings and my friend Mark took a crumpled page out of his pocket that he had ripped from one of his dad’s magazines to show us all.
When I was young, you had to go out of your way to find it. Nowadays, it finds you. It’s on your cell phone, iPad, cable TV. And it is getting HARDER & HARDER to rely on filters to keep your mind pure.
That’s why you need something PORTABLE—that’s what Scripture is.
And guess what? Whenever I’m confronted with sensual images, I bounce my eyes.
Nope—those thoughts are for my wife alone. I’m gonna save ‘em for that. I made a covenant.
Which is to say: “When I get cut off while driving on Bee Ridge, or someone doesn’t know how to merge on the circles up at UTC mall”
Or when Tiffany and I get in a fight—and I can’t believe HOW WRONG THAT WOMAN IS!
I pull out: Proverbs 15:1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
In the heat of battle with my family, it’s easy to forget… WORDS count. And even if I don’t like their tone of voice… it’s my job to respond GENTLY.
We need to say: Away from me, Satan! You’re the Enemy… not my wife. And not my kids. That’s what’s going in our Ammo Box… what’s in yours?
Jesus had an Ammo Box and he used it whenever He was tempted. Certain verses fed his soul & sustained him spiritually.
So here’s what I want you to do. Throughout these next 40 days—as we read through the NT—certain VERSES are going to jump out at you. Speak powerfully to you. Or your situation. When that happens, I want you to put them in your Ammo Box. Write them down bc you’ll need them over the next 40 days.
Even better—memorize them. Move them from here, your eyes… to here, your head. And here, your heart. This may be the start of a new practice in your life.
And if you’re new to the faith… this is how you start. Start reading the Bible with us… and make some of these verses YOURS over the next 40 days.
So if you want to jump in for the Journey over these next 40 days… sign-up now! You can fill out this RESPONSE CARD right now. Along with a prayer request on the back, and it’s my commitment to you, as your pastor, that I’ll be praying over these requests for the rest of this year!
For the next 40 days, we’ll all be eating the same Bread. Strengthening our INNER Soul. Nourishing our families for battle. And preparing our church for victory!
Let’s pray together.