SBTS chapel live blog: ‘Desert reign: How the temptations of Christ can wreck your life, your ministry and your future’ (part 1). Matthew 3:16-4:4

Communications Staff — February 5, 2009

R. Albert Mohler Jr. recognized Russell Moore for five years of service as dean of the School of Theology.

Preacher: Russell D. Moore, senior vice president of academic administration; dean of the School of Theology at Southern Seminary.

Text: Matthew 3:16-4:4

Moore began by speaking of a National Public Radio program ‘Driveway Moments.’ He told a story about a woman who inspected slaughterhouses. She taught slaughterhouse owners how to decrease stress levels for cows leading up to their death to create a more humane environment. The owners listened because when the cows are less stressed, the meat from them tastes better.

The woman designed a conveyor belt that would make the cows feel at home. The conveyer belt ended with the cow being gently lifted up and then killed. The woman called the last part the stairway to heaven.

The cow was on a soft road, a comfortable road and a road that led to its destruction. Just before its death, all you heard was the clatter of hooves.

Temptation to self-provision

Following His baptism, Jesus was taken into the desert by the Holy Spirit. Just like Adam and Israel, Jesus met the snake. Like Israel, Jesus met the snake in the desert. Israel wandered 40 years; Jesus wandered 40 days.

Jesus was being perfected through suffering, learning obedience through suffering. Everyone who suffers with Jesus will be glorified with Him. The path on which the Spirit led Jesus, is the same path on which Jesus will lead ministers of the gospel.

Ministers of the gospel, to lead effectively, must understand and identify with the sufferings of their people. Suffering that is a testing and trying of the people.

In the midst of people’s suffering, what kind of preacher will you be? A preacher of Jesus? Or a preacher of Satan?

Jesus’ temptation was real

Jesus was hungry after 40 days without food, just like any human being would be.

Jesus, as a man, was designed to eat bread. The serpent comes to Jesus with something that Jesus is designed to want: and he twists it. He turns it, redirects it, and reshapes it. What is at stake is the Sonship of Jesus.

In Jewish culture, fathers provided for their children. Surely, Satan says, if you are the Son of God, your Father will not leave with you with only rocks. Satan is saying, do you really have a Father? Is that really true? If it is, then where is your food?

Satan is preaching to Jesus. And he is preaching a biblical text. But he is preaching a biblical text through the appetites, through the belly. Satan does not question Jesus’ Messiahship at the level of power. He does not question Jesus’ deity at the level of ability. He questions whether Jesus will listen to His Father, and take Him at His word, or if He will grasp and seek to provide for Himself.

This is exactly what Israel did in the wilderness. Instead of turning to their God and asking for food, they began to complain.

It is easy for anyone in this room to have a satanic pulpit ministry. All you have to do is use the text to fill the cravings that your people have. Whether that is a craving for security, a good reputation, a stable family, a series of spiritual experiences…as long as you turn the Word into a vehicle for what they already want according to the flesh, you can speak with exactly the same strategy as Satan in the wilderness.

The people must trust in the provision of God to meet their needs. They must trust in the promises of God in His Word.

Pull to self-provision quarrels with the discipline of God

It is no accident that Jesus was taken into the desert. The Holy Spirit led Him there. Jesus is being perfected by God, crucifying His appetites, so that He can be your Savior.

The temptation will be to focus on your ministry as if the purpose is fulfilling your ministry. Cutting corners in your Hebrew class, what will it matter in 20 years? Gossiping in the office, what does it matter?

What you don’t see is that God is preparing you for your future ministry in those moments. When you are given toward momentary urges that direct you, when those urges are as innocent as a better church position or as wicked as Internet pornography, you are being prepared for destruction.

Jesus refuses to go beyond the Word of God to satisfy His appetites because His god is not His belly. Instead, His God is God.

The serpent will seek to destroy everyone who goes out in the name of Jesus. He will seek to destroy you through your appetites. He will seek to make you comfortable with not saying everything that comes from the mouth of God and only say what your people want to hear.

Unless you learn to direct people away from their appetites and toward the Spirit of God within them, then you will find that you are being fattened like a cow. You can have a ministry that people applaud and you will come to the end of it thinking you are heading toward a pasture, walking toward a stairway just for you…and all that will be heard is the clatter of hooves.

Are you ready to become a pastor, counselor, or church leader who is Trusted for Truth?

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