Every time God provides an opportunity, Satan brings opposition. This is why, for those who follow Jesus, things are bound to get harder, not easier. But by the grace of God, you can fight, persevere, and emerge victorious because, as the Bible says, no temptation will come to you that you can’t beat.
12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Pastor Mark: All right, Pastor Mark here in Phoenix with Pastor Ryan. Congratulations, buddy. You recently launched our fifteenth church. It was our biggest out-of-state launch ever. Tell us a little bit about where we’re at geographically and how things are going practically.
Pastor Ryan: Sure, we are standing in downtown Phoenix, a really large metropolitan area—about 4 million people. Four million people primarily in the cities encircling us. That’s right. Not a lot of people live downtown, but it’s kind of up and coming. A lot of people are coming here now.
Pastor Mark: Yeah, and we’re right next to Chase Field. Diamondbacks play right here, so we’re in the heart of downtown. You launched just a couple of weeks ago. How did opening Sunday go? How’s it been since then?
Pastor Ryan: It was great. We had about 750 people come. That’s our biggest out-of-state launch ever. Yeah, it was big. It was really unexpected. I felt like a doubter after that week. I wasn’t expecting that. Then we had ten baptisms, and six were spontaneous. We were praising Jesus. It was awesome.
Pastor Mark: Which one was your favorite baptism story in the beginning of the new church launch? Favorite one was, we had a screener, a baptism screener, named Kendra, who used to go to Mars Hill Ballard back in the day. She served Communion; she serves us now. She was screening people, and she didn’t know, and all of a sudden her mom came up to get baptized. So, she got to help screen her mom and got to be there right next to her mom when she gets baptized. It was awesome.
Pastor Mark: What brought her from Ballard to Phoenix?
Pastor Ryan: I don’t know. Great question, I don’t know. She just ended up here? It was about three years ago. So, she’s been here for a while and been wanting Mars Hill to come here so bad. And she was the first person in the door when we started training leaders. That’s great.
Today, we’re having three services. Really excited to be here with you.
We want to thank the folks at Mars Hill Church who have been praying and giving. It’s all come to pass. God’s answered those prayers, and they’ve stewarded those resources. And so we’re really excited to see the church opened and launched.
Ultimately, what we’re going to need for you guys is, we’re going to need to find a permanent home. You’ve very quickly outgrown this one, as people will see today. We’re adding the third service. There’s not a whole lot more we can do here. It’s a beautiful space, but things are going a little faster than we anticipated.
Pastor Mark: For those across Mars Hill, anything you want to say to the people, to the leaders in the other fourteen churches who have prayed and given to help support you on this mission?
Pastor Ryan: Yeah, I would just say thank you so much for praying and giving. We obviously can’t do this without the financial support of our other 14 churches and the prayer, too, for God to bring people here to get trained to lead. And I would just ask to keep praying as we’ve grown really quickly and we don’t have the amount of volunteers we need yet to support that, so we need leaders quick.
Pastor Mark: Yeah, you’re trying to catch up. Lastly, who’s coming? Is it a younger crowd, an older crowd, a single crowd, a married crowd, a little bit of everybody?
Pastor Ryan: Very, very young. So, to use Mars Hill terms that our other Mars Hill churches might understand a little better, it’s kind of a mix between Mars Hill Downtown Seattle, because we’re in downtown Phoenix, and Mars Hill U-District, a lot of college students. Arizona State’s really close, so a lot of young people. Not a lot of families, not a lot of kids in our kids’ ministry.
Pastor Mark: Yeah, that’s great. Well, I’m excited to meet everybody. I gotta go preach. I love you, buddy. Blessings, thanks for all your work. We’ll see how it goes today. Thanks. You bet. All right, thanks bro. All right, thanks. Blessings bro, have a good day.
Alrighty, morning guys. Thank you for getting up early. Good to see you again. Good to see you, buddy. Good to see you came out. Morning guys, off to work. All right.
All right, you guys can take a seat. Well, welcome, welcome, welcome. We are so glad to have you joining us today. If you’re new, this church is just a few weeks old, but we’re off to a great start, amen? And I bring you greetings from the other fourteen Mars Hill churches. You are our fifteenth church, our largest out-of-state launch, and we love you.
For the last 40 days, actually, leading up and into the launch of your church, the other Mars Hill churches were praying and fasting. And the church was praying for you. We love you very, very much, and we see you as part of a great extended family. And we asked the people of Mars Hill Church and those who are online, Mars Hill Global, to give generously to help launch this new church. We, in fact, asked people to give $2 million over and above our budget to relocate four of our other churches and to open this church, and they actually gave almost $3 million.
Our people have proven to be very generous. They love you very much. They’re very excited about what is happening across the entire church, and we are thrilled to be here with you today.
What we did is we prayed for those 40 days and fasted for five. You know that Jesus prayed for 40 days and then fasted for 40, but we knew that most of us wouldn’t make a 40-day fast, and so we went for a five-day fast. And we broke that fast with the launching of Mars Hill Phoenix. And so what I wanted to do is go back to the text that explains the 40 days of preparation that Jesus had before he launched his ministry, as we have just culminated with 40 days in preparation for the launch of this ministry.
If you’re new, know that we love to go through books of the Bible. And we find ourselves in the book of James 1:12–15, and we’re dealing with Jesus’ temptation and your temptation. And the big idea is this: every time God opens an opportunity, Satan brings opposition. So, opportunity from God is met by opposition from Satan. And Jesus here is beginning his public ministry just as you are beginning your public ministry. Jesus here is going public just as you have recently gone public. And he is going to prepare himself with 40 days of prayer as we did. And I want you to see what happened to him will in fact happen to you and happen to us.
So, we’ll jump first into Luke 4:1–13, and I’ll read it to you. And it says, “And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit.” What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit? What does it mean to be led by the Holy Spirit? It means to be like Jesus, who God, becoming a man, was empowered by the Holy Spirit to live his life and do his ministry on the earth. And the good news is, ultimately, that Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit so that we can live by the same power that he did. So, it’s not just the life we live for God. Christianity is the life of God lived through us.
“He returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days.” So here is Jesus’ 40 days of prayer. In hindsight, we’re looking back at our 40 days of prayer and seeing what he experienced, and to anticipate that, that is what we might experience.
“Being tempted by the devil.” Being tempted by the devil. You can be a godly person and opposed by the devil. In fact, the godliest people are the most opposed. God himself was opposed by the devil.
“And he ate nothing during those days.” Forty-day fast. How many of you, a 40-minute fast seems like a real stretch? A 40-hour fast, I don’t know if I’d make it. A forty-day fast, and he’s out in the wilderness. He’s isolated, he’s alone, he’s hungry, he’s tired.
“He ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended,” one of the most obvious things in the Bible, “he was hungry. The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God.’” So, Satan shows up to tempt, to test, and to try the Lord Jesus.
“‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.’” How many of you, at that point, would be glad to make bread? I would. At this point, Jesus is being tempted by Satan to meet his own desires rather than serving the Father’s purposes. There’s nothing wrong with eating, but there is something wrong eating with Satan, that our first parents got into a lot of trouble eating a meal that they weren’t supposed to eat with someone they were not supposed to eat it with, and here Satan comes. Though it’s a new day, it’s an old trick.
“And Jesus answered him.” Jesus is going to quote the Bible over and over and over. If you don’t know the Bible, we would encourage you to study the Bible. Maybe even make it a goal at the beginning of this new year to read the Bible all the way through for yourself. And Satan comes to tempt, to test, and to try Jesus, and he’s going to quote repeatedly from the book of Deuteronomy.
Now, for how many of us, honestly, if our fate hinged on our ability to quote Deuteronomy from memory in the desert after 40 days of fasting, it would not go well? Jesus knows his Bible. “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 in time, and said to him, ‘To you I will give all this authority and glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If then, you will worship me, it will all be yours.’”
He takes him up, he shows him all of the pleasure that the world has to offer: sex, money, fame, power, all of it. And Satan says, “I can give you a kingdom without a cross. I can give you a victory without a defeat. I can give you provision without any pain.”
He’s looking to give Jesus a shortcut, and one of the ways that Satan will tempt, and test, and try us as a church and you individually, as well as your family, is to try and give you a shortcut, something that God intends for you, but it’ll be hard, and Satan wants to offer you that same thing if you will simply worship him.
Here, all of eternity hangs in the balance as Satan is offering to Jesus a crown that doesn’t require first a cross. And he just needs to worship Satan, and by worshiping Satan, it means that he will submit to Satan, that he will trust Satan, that he will follow Satan.
Here, in fact, the two kingdoms are in great collision. “And Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.”’ And then he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple.” He showed him all of the worldly pleasures and power, and now he’s going to give him a religious opportunity to gain prestige, and prominence, and power without any humiliation or suffering.
“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, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,” and “On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”’” Again, he’s quoting the Old Testament, but he’s quoting it wrongly.
“And Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test. And when the devil had ended every temptation,” and there it is. It’s a what? It’s a temptation. “He departed from him.” Does it say “forever”? No, for an opportune time.
Satan will come against you, the demons will come against you, the temptation will come against you, and even if you hold your ground and are steadfast and resistant, it is not that you will live the rest of your life without temptation, trial, and trouble, that, in fact, Satan will seek another opportunity where you are vulnerable.
What we see here is that Jesus was in a vulnerable situation. He was alone, he was hungry, he was weary, and he was at the beginning of his ministry. What this means for us collectively and what I want you to understand personally out of this example of Jesus is three temptation truths, and here they are.
Number one, a life with Jesus is war. Some of you have wrongly been told, “Give your life to Jesus and it gets better.” How many of you were told that, you gave your life to Jesus, and realized it didn’t get better—it got harder? Satan hates Jesus, and if you are with Jesus, he hates you. The war that Satan has declared on Jesus, if you are walking with Jesus, he sees you as, in every way, complicit with Jesus and an enemy of his. And this war, this battle, this cosmic conflict started in the heavens before you and I even existed.
The Bible tells us that Satan was an angel, that he was made to be a messenger of and a minister to the Lord, that he became proud and arrogant in his heart. And the root of all sin is pride, and he wanted to live not under God’s sovereignty, but he wanted to live out of his own autonomy. He wanted to live his life separate from God and to be his own authority, and he had his own opinions, his own preferences, and his own direction. And he chose to live his life independent and in defiance of God.
The Bible says that a third of the angels, the heavenly hosts, joined him in his rebellion, and there was a great conflict in heaven between God the Creator and Satan, a created angel, between the angels who worshiped the Lord and the fallen angels who rebelled against the Lord. They were cast down to the earth, and they brought their first temptation to our first parents.
Much like the Lord Jesus, they were isolated, and they were given an opportunity to partake of a meal that they should not partake of. And tragically, our first parents sinned against the Lord, and they turned and they joined Satan and demons in their rebellion against God, and the result is that every single one of us is born with a nature of sin, folly, and rebellion against God.
This alone is one of the unique claims of Christianity that sets us apart from all other religions. Most every other religion says we are essentially a good person, not flawed and broken, and that through good works, religion, and effort, we can improve ourselves. The Bible says that our condition is such that we cannot fix ourselves, we cannot serve ourselves, we cannot save ourselves. We need someone to come on a rescue mission to save us from who we are and what we’ve done.
One of the great things that the enemy does is proclaim a myth of religion. The myth of religion is that there is a way to grow without coming to the Lord Jesus. Well, the Lord Jesus comes, and as we saw here, he too is tempted, tested, and tried as our first parents were. But unlike them, he does not give in to the temptation. He remains victorious and he, in every way, avoids sin. Jesus is worthy of following, he is worthy of imitating, he is worthy of emulating, and my first point is that this war against Jesus includes anyone who is walking alongside Jesus.
The second point is that temptation is not sin. OK, the Bible says two things, that Jesus never sinned, but that Jesus was tempted. Some of you have been lied to, and when you’re tempted by Satan, demons, the world, the flesh internally, you will assume that you’ve already lost.
How many of you, in a moment, have felt, “I am so tempted right now, I might as well follow this through because I’ve already given in to it”? Let me tell you, that’s a lie. Just because you’re tempted doesn’t mean you’re ungodly. God was tempted in this instance. Just because you are struggling does not mean that you are necessarily spiritually weak. We see here that Jesus has a struggle on his hands. Some of you, the enemy has lied to you and said sin and temptation are the same so that if you’re being tempted, you feel defeated.
Here’s good news: Being tempted is not equal to being defeated. Being tempted is an opportunity for victory; it is not an indication of defeat. You might not be someone who has yet given in to a particular temptation, and you’re in the same position that the Lord Jesus was. Temptation and sin are different. Temptation is an opportunity to sin, but temptation is not, in and of itself, sin.
And thirdly, you’re going to get hit when you’re hungry, isolated, and tired, and we see this with the Lord Jesus. He is literally hungry. There will be times when your physical energy levels are low. You’ve been working too much, you’re stressed, it’s finals week, you’re on the road, you’ve been sick, you’ve got an illness. Your body life energy is depleted. You’re hungry. You’ll get hit when you’re isolated.
This is the kid who’s away from their parents having an overnight at a friend’s house, or they’re traveling with a sports team, or they’re off at school and the parents are not available to oversee them.
This is the college student who leaves their mother and father’s house and moves to a university, and all of a sudden, they’ve got new freedom.
This is a young professional who moves to a new city, goes and gets their first condo, is away from their mom and dad, gets to reinvent their identity, and enjoys some anonymity.
This is a married person who’s a business leader and hits the road, and is in the bar, and then in their hotel room all alone, meeting people, and watching whatever they like. Isolation is an opportunity for temptation. And you’ll be hit particularly when you are hungry, when you’re isolated, and when you’re tired. Jesus here is physically exhausted. He is absolutely worn down.
I did, along with the rest of Mars Hill Church, the five days of fasting. And what you will find is that as fasting continues, your energy levels will ebb and flow, but by 40 days, I assure you that you would be tired, that your body is just struggling to sustain itself with enough nourishment to preserve your life. There’ll be times in your life when you’re tired, and let me say this: Satan will hit you sometimes after a great victory because what goes up must come down. It’s oftentimes after God has done something wonderful in your life that your energy levels are depleted, you’re exhausted, you’re tired, you’re worn down, you’re worn out.
These are the times I find in my own life. Your adrenal glands are firing, and then they’re dumping, and then you’re grumpy, and you’re tired, and you’re depleted, and you’re frustrated, and you’re short-term and short-sighted in your thinking, and this is when you’re open and vulnerable to temptation. Do I make sense? You’re going to get hit when you’re hungry, all right, you’re physically just not doing well; isolated, you’re alone; and when you’re tired, your life energy is just running out, and you’ve sort of poured yourself out into something. Satan is going to hit you in these times, so going into them, you need to know that “I am at this moment more vulnerable.”
Now, this transitions us to the book of James, and here’s the correlation: Jesus was tempted, and the one who saw him tempted the most was a guy named James. James was Jesus’ brother. James not only declares that Jesus is without sin, but James was there to see the entire life and ministry of Jesus.
And so the story of the Bible is that Mary and Joseph, they conceived Jesus by a miracle of the Holy Spirit, and then they went on to have other children—brothers and sisters of the Lord Jesus—and they had them in the natural way as you and I were born.
And so James was Jesus’ half brother. It was Jesus’ little brother.
And so James was there before everyone else was there. All we get in the Bible are snapshots when Jesus was a baby, a few portraits of when he was a young boy, and then we don’t see anything else until he’s around the age of 30. And here, in Luke 4, he’s about 30 years of age—the Lord Jesus is.
Well, in all of those years, who was there? James was. He grew up watching Jesus as a little boy, facing the temptations that children face. James was there during the adolescent years, and no one else was there except for Jesus’ family. He wasn’t yet public with his ministry. He saw the kind of temptations that junior high kids and high school students face.
As he saw Jesus entering into manhood, he saw the temptations that come against those who are entering into their adult years. He saw Jesus through his twenties as a single man without a girlfriend, relationships that were appropriate with women, the kinds of temptations that come to us all: alcohol, sex, financial misappropriation, whatever the case may be. Jesus would have been tempted as you and I have been tempted.
Here’s what’s amazing about God, that he doesn’t just stay far away but that he comes near, that he can’t relate, that he absolutely can relate. He can relate to us when we are children, when we are in our teen years, when we are entering into adulthood, when we are adults. He understands all of the life stages that we’ve been through because the Lord Jesus himself has been through those life stages.
And so I want you to know that every time we go to the book of James and we study James, we have to begin with the assumption that much, if not all of what James’ learned came from his big brother, Jesus, from their conversations together, their meals together, their holidays together, their growing up together. You get the idea that they’re out fishing as kids on the weekend, and throwing the ball, and maybe sharing a bunk bed at Mary and Joseph’s house.
And so much of what James is teaching us are things that he has heard from his big brother Jesus and he’s seen in his big brother Jesus.
Let me submit to you, for those of you who are not yet Christian, you’ve not crossed that line of faith into belief, if Jesus was a sinner, the person who would know it most easily would be his little brother, amen? How many of you know the sins of your brother or your sister? You would never stand up and say, “They are without sin. I have been there my whole life. They have never said or done evil, even to me.”
I have two brothers. They would say not that, OK? The fact that Jesus’ devoted Jewish brother, who knows that a declaration that anyone other than the real God is God is blasphemy that sends you to hell, for him to stand up and say, “My brother is without sin. My brother is God, and I was an eyewitness to his sinless life,” is strong evidence that everything that James’ claims are true and that Jesus Christ is, in fact, sinless and Savior.
So James is going to talk to you about temptation, and as he does, I’m assuming in the back of his mind is his brother and the kind of temptation that his brother went through. And he would be asking questions like, “What did my brother teach me about temptation? What did my brother teach me about temptation through his own life example?” And he’s going to give us some great analogies: athletes, fishermen, and moms. So, three timeless examples for everybody.
So, regarding temptation, the first thing that James gives us are lessons from victorious athletes. Any of you athletes? Any of you athletes? Any of you former athletes like me? OK, any of you sports fans, just sports fans, OK? That’s a lot easier isn’t it? OK, that’s a lot easier.
Here’s what he says: James 1:12, “Blessed is the man”—or the woman—“who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” So, he’s saying, “OK, let’s think of the world of athletics. Let’s think of sport and competition.”
Let me give you a little test. If you’re on the best hockey team on earth, what do you get as a prize? The Stanley Cup, OK? If you’re the best college football player, what do you get as a prize? The Heisman Trophy. We all know that. If you are the best baseball team on the earth, you get a World Series ring, OK?
In Seattle we have no idea what that is, but we’ve read about it on the Internet. Let’s say you’re competing in the Olympics and you win. You win a medal, a gold medal. Let’s say you are the best NFL team. (Lord Jesus, please, OK?) Let’s say you are the best NFL team on the earth. You win the Superbowl, and what do you get as a prize? The Lombardi Trophy. (Lord, please, anything in Seattle. Please, Lord.)
How about you? How many of you growing up, when you played sports, were given a certificate, a medal, or a trophy? Did you ever get one of those? OK, how many of you were just participants? But at least you got a certificate, right?
When I was a kid, I played soccer—not very well, so I stopped playing. I played basketball for a while. I have a two-inch vertical, and I can’t shoot. Like, this is as far as I can jump and I can’t shoot, but if you need a pick set, call me because I can set a pick. Other than that, I had nothing to contribute to basketball. Played a little bit of football. The only thing I was really good at was baseball, so I played baseball a lot growing up, and our teams would oftentimes get trophies.
How many of you kids were like me? If you got a trophy and you brought it home, where did you put it? Right out on the mantel so everybody could see you in all your glory. It’s like a little shrine to you, is what you’re trying to do as a kid. People come in, “What’s that?” “That’s my trophy. I’m victorious.” And then eventually after a while, your mom makes you put it in your room, but you still display it, and every night before you go to bed, you have a little moment where you worship yourself and look at your trophy. At least that’s what I did.
OK, I’ll let you in on a little story. I still have all my trophies. I found them in the garage. They’re actually in a crate. I have all of my trophies, that’s how sick I am. But it’s amazing because when you have a victory, there’s something to mark that in your life. There’s something that you’re given or you do that sort of commemorates and celebrates that was a victory.
What he’s saying is this: when temptation comes, it’s like a sporting event, it’s like a game, it’s like a match, it’s an opportunity. It’s where you take the field, and maybe it’s Satan, demons, or whoever’s involved, they take the field, and it’s a temptation, it’s a collision, it’s a conflict.
Just because you’re tempted doesn’t mean you’ve lost. That just means that the ball’s on the tee, and it’s kickoff. Now, you’ve got to decide, “What am I going to do now? What am I going to do now?”
What he says is, “Blessed is the one who remains steadfast through trial.” This is a trial, that this is a temptation, that this is an opportunity. And he says, “Blessed is the one who doesn’t quit.” That’s what he’s saying. They never give a prize to the person who quits.
All right, let’s say you’re in an MMA match, and you tap out. Afterward, they don’t hand you a prize. Right, if a team’s losing the Superbowl at halftime and they decide, “You know what? We’re not going to come out of the locker room. We’re done,” they don’t get a prize. They don’t get a prize. If you don’t persevere, if you’re not steadfast, if you don’t plant your feet and hang in there, there’s no prize, there’s no reward, there’s no award.
That’s exactly what he’s saying here when he uses this language of “crown of life.” All right, that was their version of the Stanley Cup, the Heisman Trophy, the World Series ring, the Olympic Medal, the Vince Lombardi Trophy. That’s their version of it. If you were an athlete who competed, that’s what you got if you hung in there, if you persevered, if you endured, and as a result emerged victorious.
So, here’s what he’s saying: When temptation comes, you can win. You can defeat your temptation. You can remain steadfast. And all of this is by the grace of God through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Again, back to Jesus’ temptation in Luke 4, it says, “Full of the Holy Spirit and led by the Holy Spirit,” at the beginning, and then it says he was tempted and he emerged victorious. How did he emerge victorious? By living under the power of the Holy Spirit. You and I do not have the power innate within us to say no to temptation and to overcome it in victory. But the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of God that empowered the life of Jesus, lives in the Christian so that we have access to the same power that Jesus did, so that we can say no to the same kinds of temptations, trials, and tests that Jesus did.
So Christian, I have good news for you. Some of you have been defeated over and over and over, and you’ve come to the conclusion, “Man, the ball gets kicked to me, and I get hit, and I walk off the field, and I lose.” No, by the grace of God, you can stay on the field, and you can fight, and you can persevere. You can be steadfast, and you can emerge victorious.
One other thing I want to say on this point is, some of you will be discouraged because a new temptation, test, or trial comes into your life. And you’ll think, “Why this? Why now?”
Briefly, I’ll say this from 1 Corinthians 10:13: Paul says, “No temptation has seized us or come upon us except that which is common and everybody goes through it.” But when tempted, God always provides a way of escape. There’s always a way to victory because he will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear.
Some of you are in very difficult seasons. Some of you are under the most pressure you’ve ever been under. Some of you are facing opposition that you have never faced before. Some of you have obstacles, and troubles, and trials, and tests in your life, you ask yourself, “How am I going to go to war here? I’ve been through a few seasons, but this is a new foe. I don’t know how to beat this one. I don’t know how to emerge victorious from this.”
Sometimes we can look up at God and say, “God, why would you allow this to happen to me? Why would you allow this to happen to me now?”
Here’s the good news: God does not allow any temptation to come that you can’t handle. God never allows a team to take the field that you can’t beat. God never allows a team to take the field that you cannot beat. What that means is, practically, the reason that you are in the circumstance you’re in now might be that you’re finally mature enough and strong enough to handle that. I don’t want you to see it as a discouragement but an encouragement.
You might be saying, “I have never faced anything like this.” You know why? You’ve never been this ready. You’ve never been this ready. I don’t want to say anything that could even be a hint that the Lord Jesus was anything other than perfect, but I think that a trial like this might have been difficult when he was six years old. It was certainly difficult when he was thirty.
The Bible says in Luke 2 that he grew in wisdom, stature, and favor with men and God, that Jesus humbled himself, became a man. He is God, but he humbled himself, became a man, and as he grew, he grew to be able to handle more temptation and trial. Hebrews says that he was perfected through his suffering, through his conflict, through his troubles.
Here’s my point for you: the reason you may be facing something hard today is because you’re finally ready for it. And I want you to take that as a great opportunity.
Think of it in the sports analogy. You play at this level when you’re a kid, and then you move on to this level as you get older, and eventually, if you’re able to become a professional athlete, now the competition is stronger than ever, but it’s all of that preparation, and all of those seasons, and all of that time that was invested to get you ready to take the field for something that you wouldn’t have been able to handle in your first or second season.
So, the first thing is, we learn from athletes that we have to persevere, we have to endure, we have to remain on the field. We need to trust that there’s no foe that has come against us that it is beyond our ability to overcome by the powerful grace of the Holy Spirit.
His second analogy’s kind of a funny one. It’s lessons from dumb fish. How many of you fish? How many of you fish? OK, I’ll give you a true—I don’t fish. Here’s what fishermen tell me: You get up early in the morning. OK, I’m out. Get up early in the morning, go sit on a cold body of water. I’m out again. And wait a long time, and maybe your reward is a fish. And I don’t really like fish—they have them at the store, and you can sleep in and go there and get one.
But anyways, for those of you who are fisherman, here’s an analogy for you: James 1:13–14, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured.” That’s literally a fishing word. “He is lured and enticed by his own desire.”
What he says is this: When you’re being tempted, remember fishing. The way it works is, Satan and demons are like a fisherman, and we’re like dumb fish. That’s what he’s saying. I know it’s offensive. It’s in the Bible. I’m just delivering the mail; I didn’t write it.
Here’s what happens as I understand it: true or false, fisherpersons, different fish prefer different bait? People are like that. We’re dumb and we each have our favorite bait.
What he’s saying is this: if you want to catch a fish, you drop your hook in the water and you need to bait it with whatever those particular fish like. And the fish are kind of stupid, so the fish, “Oh, look at that. What a great day. There’s my favorite thing right here at eye level.”
What does the dumb fish do? “I’m going to bite it,” and they bite it, and they’re too dumb to notice the hook. And they’re thinking, “I really got something.” The fisherman said, “I was thinking the same thing.” And then the fisherman reels in the dumb fish. And what he’s saying is, temptation’s like that. That temptation’s like that.
Here’s the big idea: Every one of us has a different bait that we prefer on our hook, OK? And so what is a temptation for one person is not a temptation for another.
OK, I’ll give you an example. I’ve never done drugs. Drugs is not a temptation to me. I saw friends of mine die. I grew up near the airport. I saw kids die doing drugs growing up. Temptation, not drugs. For some people, temptation is gambling. I’m cheap; I don’t gamble. I went to the casino, I realized how big it was, I figured they were going to win, so I don’t play.
You’re going to have things that you’re not tempted by. I’m not tempted by smoking, just not. Never smoked. I have asthma, I get bloody noses, I wheeze like an obscene phone call. I have no interest in smoking, OK? There are just certain things. People are like, “Do you struggle?” I don’t struggle with that. “What do you struggle with?” Obviously tact. I struggle with that. There are a lot of things I do struggle with.
What do you struggle with? What’s your temptation? What’s your thing? You’re like, “Gosh, I’ve got to swim around that”? Like, if it’s over here, I’ve got to swim over there—I’ve got to avoid that. That’s just such a temptation to me.
For some of you, let’s say alcohol as an example. Some of you are not tempted by alcohol. It’s not a problem for you. Others of you are like, “I can’t even go to a friend’s house, and if they pour a drink, I’ve just got to leave because, man, the bait hanging on the hook. I’m a dumb fish. I start swimming over there, and I get myself into trouble very, very fast.”
We each need to be humble. We need to be self-conscious and aware. Say, “You know what? That’s bait on my hook. It may not be a temptation for them, but it’s a temptation for me. It may not cause trouble for them, but it’s going to destroy me. I need to stay away from it.” And this is where God gives us a conscience to know where our weak spots are.
But what he’s saying is this: so oftentimes we act like dumb fish—all we get obsessed with is the bait, and we ignore the hook. And he’s saying, “Know that there’s always a hook.” So, I would ask you, what’s your thing? Know that there’s always a hook, right, ladies? You meet a guy and you’re like, “Oh, he’s nice.” You’re a single lady, I hope, right? Otherwise we’ve got a whole ’nother—we’ve got a whole fleet of fishing going on in your life.
Let’s say you’re a single gal, and you’re like, “Oh, he’s nice, and he’s nice to me, but he’s not a Christian.” Right, there’s a hook. You’re going to get reeled in. You’re going to get hurt. It’s not going to go well. Some of you are with people you shouldn’t be with, you’re going to places you shouldn’t be going to.
Some of you say, “It’s not a sin.” No, but it’s a baited hook for you. You need to be honest and humble about that and say, “I’m not ready to take that field. That’s one that I don’t think I can emerge victorious over, so I need to steer clear of.”
Then he raises an issue that I’ll address briefly regarding God and temptation. First he says, “God does not tempt anyone,” OK? We are a church that holds to—if you don’t know this, it’s fine, but we’re more Reformed, and that means that we believe that God is sovereign and he rules over everyone and everything. Well, what that can lead to is, some people blaming God for temptation. “Well, if God’s in charge, then everything that happens must be what God wants.” No, there’s sin, rebellion, and folly. There are a lot of things that are happening that God isn’t excited about—he’s actually grieved by them.
We can blame God for our temptation. In fact, when Adam and Eve first sinned, Adam blamed God. Adam and Eve sinned, God comes, and Adam says, “The woman you gave me—she’s a real problem.” See? OK, now you laugh because men are still trying to get away with this, right? Like, “I was doing fine, and then you made a woman, and then everything went wrong. I feel like the real issue here is this woman, and since you made her, the two of you should go have a meeting to figure out what’s defective in this woman, OK?”
A lot of guys get married and feel that way, right? “I have a defective woman.” Well, she has a defective man, so you’re equally yoked. It’s not an issue, all right, OK? So, what Adam is doing is, he’s blaming his wife, but ultimately, he’s blaming God. And ever since that time, we all have this proclivity and propensity to blame God when we’re tempted.
I find we do it primarily in two ways: ordination and orientation. I’ll use those words.
Ordination is, “Well, God’s in charge and he allowed the circumstances to come, right? He allowed the hook to go in the water and I’m just a dumb fish,” and we’ll blame God.
And sometimes some of you are kind of spiritual about it. You’ll be like, “Well, you know, I see God working, you know? He brought the non-Christian girl into my life, and he allowed her to return my phone call and find me interesting. I mean, look at all these miraculous events working in succession. It must be the Lord.”
No, no, no, dumb fish. Baited hook. God doesn’t tempt you. God will use the temptation as a trial to test and grow you, but God doesn’t tempt you. God’s not trying to get you into trouble. God’s not trying to get you into sin.
And so just because circumstances are lined up doesn’t mean through that ordination it was the Lord. It might be the enemy.
Secondly, there’s orientation, and this is where a lot of us who go to college and get very fancy with our blaming God. We say, “Well, this is the way I am. This is the way I was made. I have these orientations. I have these proclivities, these desires, these appetites, and if the Lord made me this way, who am I to deny myself certain pleasures because this is my orientation?” And you may have heard this, some people do this sexually. This is what they say.
God didn’t orient you with an appetite toward sin. God didn’t make you as a fish who desires bad bait. Because of sin, folly, rebellion, our desires, our appetites, even our orientations tend to gravitate toward sin, folly, rebellion, and death, toward desiring the wrong bait and toward biting down on the hook.
The way we are is not the way we were, it’s not the way we will be, it’s not the way we’re supposed to be. Something has gone tragically wrong in human history, and even our orientation, our nature, our desires are corrupted. So, you can’t blame God through ordination—circumstances must be his will—or orientation—“This is the way he made me, and I need to be true to myself.” No, you don’t. You need to repent of yourself and be true to Jesus, and that’s the essence of the Christian faith.
This leads to the next point. He says God doesn’t tempt anyone, and God is not tempted by evil. There is no thing that God desires to have, to know, to be, to do. God is not lacking anything. God is self-sufficient. Well, this leads to the question that I want to briefly answer: was Jesus really tempted? Because usually what happens is the part that I read you in Luke 4, Jesus was tempted, is then pitted against James 1, written by his brother, so they can’t be in opposition.
Some would ask, “Well, how do you reconcile these texts?” and Charles Haddon Spurgeon, one of my favorites, said, “There’s never a need to reconcile friends.” James and Jesus are friends. The book of Luke and the book of James are friends.
We don’t need to reconcile them because they’re not at odds, but we do need to consider how it is that Luke 4 can say Jesus was tempted and then James 1 says that God is not tempted. Isn’t Jesus God? Wasn’t Jesus tempted? Doesn’t that mean that God was tempted?
What happened in the life of Jesus is that God became a man, God entered into human history, God retained all of his divine attributes, but he humbly set them aside, and he had to learn as we learn, he grew as we grew physically, he had to endure temptation spiritually as we endure temptation spiritually, he came to live like us, to live without sin for us, to die and to rise to give us a new nature and new desires to live a new life as a new person. He came to save us.
So, in the Lord Jesus’ earthly life, something unique in human history happened, and that’s God in his humble state coming to be with us and to be tempted like us.
Here’s how he says it in Hebrews 2:17: “He had to be made like his brothers”—and that’s you and me, and that includes James—“in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of his people.”
There’s the cross, that he would come, and he would go to the cross, and that the sinless Jesus would die for a sinful people, that the Jesus who overcame every temptation would pay the price for those who have given into temptation. “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is now able to help those who are being tempted.”
Here’s the good news: when you are tempted, you can run to Jesus. And for a brief period in the history of eternity, God humbled himself and he was like you and me. Fully God, fully man, but he was tempted as we are tempted. He suffered as we suffer. He is a God who is sympathetic. He is a God who relates to us. He is a God who is merciful. That’s what it says.
God doesn’t just stand back and say, “Why are you the way you are? Why do you desire what you desire? I do not understand that.” God says, “I’ve been there.” Jesus says, “I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to be hungry. I know what it’s like to be isolated. I know what it’s like to be tired. I know what it’s like to be tempted, tested, and tried. I know what it’s like to have to be steadfast, endure, and to hang in there.”
And so we can run to the Lord Jesus in our time of need and say, “Teach me, help me, and empower me by the Holy Spirit to follow in your example.” And so God is not tempted, but God allowed himself for a brief season, as the God-man Jesus Christ, to endure temptation so that he could save us and sympathize with us, and God is that good.
And then his third analogy is from pregnant moms. This is kind of a negative one, so let me just start by deploying the airbag, OK? So, being a mom is a good thing, right? My wife’s got five kids. Me, too. Being a mom is a very good thing, but ladies, it’s not a good idea to sleep around with a bunch of bad guys and get pregnant that way, right? So, this is sort of a bad example of how to have a child.
James 1:15, “Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” OK, so single ladies, let’s walk through a little process, OK? Here’s how not to do it, OK? Pastor Mark, who’s the father of two daughters will tell you, don’t do it like this. Whatever you do, don’t go do it and say, “Well, I heard it in a sermon.” Hear clearly, I said, “Don’t do it” in the sermon, OK?
1. Step one, you meet a bad guy, really bad, but he’s interesting, OK? They are, right? The bad guy’s always interesting, right? The guy in Bible college, not very interesting. But the guy who does his own tattoos—very interesting, OK? That guy’s interesting. So step one, you meet a bad guy.
2. Step two, you go out on a date. You’re like, “We’re not doing anything. We’re just . . . you know, we’re just gonna—” Now the hook is in the bait, and the bait is in the water.
3. Step three, you mess around. You mess around.
4. Step four, what happens? You conceive. You’re like, “Uh oh, I have a baby, and no husband, and he’s a bad guy. I can’t depend on him. This is a difficult place.”
5. Step five, you give birth.
6. And step six, you raise the child.
What he’s saying is that sin is like that, OK? So, temptation is going to come along, a bad desire, evil desire, sinful desire, and you’re going to meet it. “Hi, I’m drugs, alcohol, porn, whatever,” right? “Katie.” Whatever, OK? “Johnny.” Whatever. Temptation comes along, “Hi,” OK? What you do is, you introduce yourself to the temptation. The next thing you know, you’re out on a date. You’re like, “It’s not going to go too far. We’re going to have a little fun, but we’re going to keep this under control.” The next thing you know, you are—step three—messing around with your temptation.
All of a sudden, you’re like, “Oh, I didn’t mean to go this far, but it’s kind of fun.” Uh oh, step four, you conceive. Now you’ve got your sin pregnant. Now it’s got a life of its own. And then you give birth. Now all of a sudden, your sin is alive, and it’s out of control, and it’s growing. It’s getting stronger, it’s maturing. It’s out of control.
He says, step six, you’ve given birth to what? Death. And the lie that Satan tells is, “If you will do this, you’ll enjoy it. It’ll make your life fun.” And James says, “No, it’ll make your life death.” Satan never comes along at the beginning of the temptation when he drops the hook in the water and says, “Do you want to kill your life?” You’re like, “No.” Even a dumb fish will swim by. “No,” OK?
See, this is where a fisherman never—they never drop a sign alongside the bait, “Would you like to be reeled into my boat, clubbed over the head, and gutted today?” “Uh, no, but thanks for asking,” right? Swim on by. Temptation never reveals its ultimate goal, but God reveals the ultimate goal of temptation because he loves us and he warns us.
How many of you have found yourself in a situation like this? You’re like, “Man, I didn’t mean to get into that much trouble. I didn’t mean to make that big of a mistake, but it really moved quickly on me, and all of a sudden, I birthed death in my own life.” This is the death of your health, this is the death of your joy, this is the death of your relationships, this is the death of your future. You’re giving birth to death. Sin only leads to death.
Now, how about those of you who’ve already gotten your sin pregnant, and it’s birthed death? Well, that’s why Jesus was born to die. See, we give birth to sin, and then sin brings us death. Jesus is born to live without sin to die for our sin so that through his death is birthed our life. See, through our sin, we birth death. Through Jesus’ death, he births our life.
And so for those of you that have already crossed that line, you’re like the athlete who’s quit, you’re like the dumb fish who’s already bit down without paying attention to the hook and been reeled in. For those of you who are—ones who have already been messing around with your sin and got it pregnant, you say, “What do I do? Is it too late?” No. No, Jesus lived without sin and died so that those who live with sin can put their sin to death.
This is where we all need Jesus, and this is where we run to Jesus and we come to Jesus. And if you’re here and you’re trying to be moral, spiritual, good, or religious, this is the decision point of the day for you. You say, “Am I going to try to fix my life or am I giving my life to Jesus and let him give me a new life?” Jesus is the only one who can cause you to endure, persevere, and stay on the field. Jesus is the only one who can get the hook out of your mouth, right? Jesus is the only one who can take your death and bring it to life. He does that.
Now, how about for the rest of you who are facing temptation or it comes upon you in the future? It says that Jesus was tempted in Luke 4 and that the devil avoided him until an opportune time, meaning he’s going to come back. Some of you are in a temptation, trial, testing season.
For some of you, it’s on the horizon. What do we do? We remember, “I just should not—I should not meet my temptation. I should not date my temptation. I should not mess around with my temptation. I should not sleep with my temptation. I should not impregnate my temptation. It only leads to death.”
Some of you, right now, you’re trying to control your temptation. What you need to do is kill your temptation. Since Jesus died for your sin, you can put your sin to death. And that’s what we want for you. That’s what Jesus wants for you.
Here’s the big idea: All the way back to Luke 1:12, to start this whole section, what was the first word? Do you remember? “Blessed.” How many of you want to be blessed? I want to be blessed. I want you to be blessed. I want us all to be blessed. And what he’s given us here is the key to blessing, so there’s a lot of hope and incentive in this. He says, “You know what? There is a reward. There is an award. There is an opportunity for blessing if we will learn what God is trying to do in us through temptation, what God is trying to do through us in temptation.”
So for those of you who have come here today and say, “I wish God would bless me,” James says, “Here’s how he does it.” God allows temptation to come. God is not the author of sin. God does not cause us to be tempted, but God will allow us to be tempted as Jesus was tempted. It’s an opportunity for us to prove that God is real, that Jesus is true, that the Holy Spirit is powerful, that we belong to God, that God has done a work in our life, that we are changed and changing by the grace of God, and there’s a great blessing in that.
There’s an internal blessing where we have a clear conscience and we realize, “I really do belong to Jesus, and I have changed, and I am changing.” There’s an external blessing where our life starts to go better because of the choices we make out of the relationship that we have with Jesus. And ultimately, not only is there an internal and an external blessing, there’s an eternal blessing: Jesus is in heaven and he’s got our award, he’s got our trophy, he’s got our medal.
He’s saying, “I want you to hang in there. I want you to persevere. I want you to lean on me. I want you to look to me. I want you to run to me. I want you to learn from me. I want you to follow me so that I can tell you, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant,’ and I can reward and award you in the end when the game is over, and all there is is a victory parade at the end for the children of God.”
We now get to respond to this Jesus, and that’s my great invitation today. For those of you who don’t know Jesus, you don’t need to fix your life. You need to give it to Jesus and let him give you a new life.
For those of you who are here and you’re being tempted, tested, and tried, I want you to no longer be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind—to think differently. “What is Jesus trying to teach me? What is he trying to show me? How has he made me ready? Where is the bait that is in my life? Where am I prone to quit? What sin am I messing around with that I need to break up with today?”
And we’re going to respond in many ways. One is by collecting our tithes and offerings. This is where we give our stuff to Jesus. And I want you to know, as we collect our tithes and offerings, that all of Mars Hill Church has been giving generously to make this possible, to allow the staff to come into being, to allow the building to be opened, to allow the technology to be purchased. We love you.
And so as you’re giving your tithes and offerings, all of Mars Hill Church has been giving to you, and now you’re part of this great family. And our goal for you is to reach maturity so that, at some point, you can help fund and bless other church plants for us as well.
The second way that we will respond, in addition to our tithes and offerings where we give God our stuff, is we give God our sin and we partake of Communion every week at Mars Hill Church. And it’s where we remember the person and work of Jesus, that God became a man, that he lived in flesh and blood on the earth, that he was tempted flesh and blood on the earth, and that he went to the cross, and he died flesh and blood on the earth.
And as we partake of Communion, remember that Jesus had a broken body and shed blood to make payment for our sin, to get us off the hook, to keep us on the field, to bring death and to use it for life. And that’s all that we celebrate in Communion.
So, as you partake today, it’s only for those who are Christians or become a Christian today, but we want you to remember the temptation of Jesus. We want you to remember the crucifixion of Jesus. We want you to remember to resurrection of Jesus. And we want you to talk to Jesus today, before you take Communion, about the temptation in your life. This is where you do business with the Lord Jesus.
And then thirdly, we not only give Jesus our stuff and our sin, we give him our song. We’re celebrating that God has given us, in the temptation, an opportunity to be blessed, to learn more about Jesus, to become more like Jesus, and ultimately, to give glory to Jesus. So, we’re going to respond with singing. And people who are this loved by God, this served by God, this sought by God, this saved by God, this blessed by God, we have an opportunity to respond joyfully.
Here’s the good news: other people are suffering, other people are struggling, and they don’t know what to do with it. They don’t know who to talk to about it and we, by the grace of God, do. We know to talk to Jesus, we know to look to Jesus, we know to learn from Jesus, and that gives us a reason to rejoice. Everyone is going to be tempted and the Christian knows why they’re tempted, the Christian knows how they’re tempted, the Christian knows what God is doing through their temptation and the blessing that awaits them.
Father God, we come to you now and I thank you for Mars Hill Phoenix. I thank you, God, for the miracle that you’ve done here to launch this glorious new church. Lord Jesus, I thank you so much that you humbled yourself, that you came into human history, God becoming a man, that you endured temptation, tests, and trials as we do, that you said no every time to every trial.
Lord Jesus, when we sin and fall short, we thank you that you give us your righteousness, you give us your forgiveness, you give us your perfection. Lord Jesus, I thank you for the opportunity to teach the Bible today. There are people who are hearing this and they’re in a season of great temptation, but it’s not bigger than them, and it’s not bigger than you.
I thank you for now sending us the Holy Spirit to give us hope, to give us a blessing, to give us joy, to give us the mind of Christ so that we might follow in the steps of Christ, the good Lord Jesus in whose name we pray, amen.
Note: This sermon transcript has been edited for readability.