It’s an honor to be here and sharing with you. Anytime that God gives me an opportunity to speak to a group of women, I feel it is a great privilege. Everyone of you has a story and so the fact that you are listening to me right now, is always humbling, and I don’t take that responsibility lightly. I pray that our time today is encouraging to you and that the Holy Spirit will allow your eyes, ears, and heart to be open to the things He desires for you to hear.
When Emily and I talked about this weekend and the things God had laid on her heart about this time, she said that she wanted the theme to be “Lead like Jesus” and so since I first heard that, I’ve been praying that God would clearly show me what He wanted me to share with you.
One day as I was reading about spiritual warfare, God focused my attention on a passage I have read a million times before: Genesis 3:1-19, which is where we see the account of Eve being tempted by the serpent, Adam and Eve’s fall into temptation, and the consequences that followed. My heart was immediately drawn to questions and thoughts like, “if Eve gave into a temptation that became the door for sin to enter into the whole world, what happens when I give in to temptation? Is my response to that as serious?” We see throughout Scripture that God uses the examples and lives of others to influence us and give us both good and bad examples that help us in this journey of faithful obedience towards Him. I began thinking that if Eve is an example of how NOT to respond when we are tempted, what example can we look to for how to respond to temptation? And as I thought through many men and women throughout Scripture who we could have focused on (Stephen and Mary, Jesus’ mother come to mind), I realized that the story of Jesus’ temptation actually gives us a very clear picture and very clear contrast to Eve’s story. And since we are seeking to “Lead like Jesus,” what better way to lead like Him, then to study how He stood against temptation and remained faithful to the Lord. This, of course, is one of the foundational requirements for being a good leader. We can’t lead well when we are being overcome by temptation and are not remaining faithful to the Lord in our own lives first.
Let’s look in Scripture to get a full picture of these two stories. Can someone read Genesis 1:26-30? Before we move on, what one word is repeated in this passage more than any other (every)? Can someone else read, Genesis 2:15-17? Who did God give the command to in this passage (the man)?
Now can someone else read Genesis 3:1-7? Who did the serpent approach in this passage (the woman)?
Let’s dive a bit deeper into this passage to get a glimpse into how clever and crafty the evil one is. In verses 1-3, the serpent questions what God has said and catches Eve off-guard. “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of ANY tree in the garden?’” Actually…if you remember from Genesis 2:15, we see that God says you can eat from EVERY tree of the garden BUT one. It may seem minor but the mindset difference from “I can eat from EVERY tree but just not this one…because I’ll die (and who wants that? Thank you God for the warning!) and the way the serpent twists the question are vastly different! God is giving in abundance and withholding in protection and the serpent is tempting in such a way that it encourages Eve to focus on what God is withholding from her and not what He has provided in abundance. He seeks to cause doubt and distrust in God. Eve gives a quick reply, that is not completely off (Genesis 1:28-30), but a little off is enough to cause us to get it wrong…let that sink in. It’s often not our complete misunderstandings of who God is and what He is doing that opens us up for temptation—it’s often the small things that we compromise on that open us up to falling into temptation. We completely lose sight of the big picture and focus only on the immediate, as Eve did.
As we continue in the story in verses 4-7, the serpent blatantly contradicts God’s Word and defames God’s character. He LIES to the woman, and because she has let her defenses down, instead of looking at that tree and seeing DEATH, she now looks and considers this tree to be “GOOD for food (lust of the flesh), a DELIGHT to the eyes (lust of the eyes) and DESIRED to make one wise (the pride of life)…” Instead of stopping, crying out to God (who was with them in the garden), remembering what God really did tell her, discussing this with her husband, and counting the cost, she does what you and I so often do; she does what feels right in the moment and what seems right in her/our own eyes to get her/us what she/we want right then and what she/we feel(s) would be best. Eve eats and leads her husband into temptation (we could spend a long time talking about this wrong dynamic alone…) and the couple falls. The blame game starts, unity is broken. Sin and death enter the world. Separation from God. Shame, regret. You can go on to read the rest of Genesis 3 to understand more fully the consequences of their choices and in God’s amazing grace, mixed into this broken story, we also see a picture of redemption and the gospel (verse 15).
If you are like me after you hear this, you think one of two things…how did that happen to her, it was SO clear OR…I am her. The older I get, the more I fall into the 2nd category. I know I am no better than Eve. Maybe our sin and succumbing to temptation don’t bring sin and death into the whole world, but if we are honest, we have seen the effects/consequences of our own on-going sins and weakness in big and small ways. Is there really hope?
As we seek to lead women, children and others, is there really a better way? Is there an example we can follow to withstand temptation and remain faithful to God and His promises? As I already mentioned, thankfully, God gave us a very clear example to follow as we look at the story of Jesus’ temptation. Jesus’ temptation very much mirrors Eve’s but with a very different outcome. Different accounts of His temptation are found in 3 of the 4 Gospels. The most detailed accounts are in Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13. Today, I chose to focus on Matthew’s account. Can someone read that?
In this passage we see that “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil…” What? Yes…it really says that. We could spend a long time here as well. I think what we need to focus on, is that it is confirmation that Jesus is actually right where He is supposed to be. Do you know what happened in Jesus’ life right before this? He was baptized by John the Baptist and identified as the Messiah when after His baptism, the Spirit of God descends on Him, and a voice from Heaven says, “This is my son in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) He was given the affirmation from God that His life had purpose and power because He was His son. Then, He comes face to face with temptation. “The tempter” (called the devil in Luke’s account) brought three temptations before Him. Similarly to Eve, Jesus is tempted with the “lust of the flesh” (satisfying His hunger), “lust of the eyes” (setting his eyes on kingdoms to possess) and the “pride of life” (to force God’s hand by asserting His own rule in His own time, therefore testing God).
We can’t miss that in Jesus’ temptation, in the same fashion as Eve’s temptation, Satan starts out by questioning what God has said. It is not written this way, but Satan basically said to Jesus, “Did God actually say…you were His son? If so, (since you are hungry) command these stones to become bread…(Matthew 4:3)” What had “the voice from Heaven” recently told Jesus? (THIS IS MY BELOVED SON, Matthew 3:17).
Satan is crafty but we see and can learn from his patterns in Scripture. His repetitive #1 strategy: to get humanity to question God. In Eve’s situation and in Jesus’ situation, God had already told them who they were. Adam and Eve were made in God’s image and likeness, they were BLESSED, given dominion over everything (Gen 1:26-29), provided for in abundance and in direct relationship with God. Jesus was also audibly told that He was God’s BELOVED son (Mt. 3:17). We have the entirety of God’s Word to tell us who we are in Christ, so this is the same for us today. But Satan wants us to doubt and forget, and He will do all He can to cause us to do so. Then, he often tempts/attacks us when we are worn down, tired, walking through a hard season, or waiting on God to do something.
Speaking of that, I want to share a story with you that remains one of my greatest visual pictures of our walk with the Lord and what trust and dependence on Him looks like (even in very dark times), and it’s about my dog. 🙂
*You’ll have to watch the video of Kristin to hear the story of Rupie, the dog.
In closing, and with that visual picture in our minds, let’s unpack what Jesus did when He was tempted. First of all, He was confident in who God said He was. And then He responded to Satan with God’s Word. He answered Satan’s deceptive questions with God’s Word—exactly as it is written. And He was aware that it was Satan He was dealing with. He wasn’t deceived, and He commanded Him to leave (Mt. 4:10), “Be gone Satan.” He also wasn’t willing to trade any TEMPORARY satisfaction for the ETERNAL promises that He placed His confidence in. He had His eyes fixed on the eternal. He knew His decisions mattered, and His life was set apart to draw others to God. He had a purpose WAY bigger than Himself and WAY bigger than anything this world had to offer, including entire kingdoms. He was willing to fight the temptation for US. And do you know what the IMMEDIATE result was for Jesus after He resisted Satan’s temptation? (Mt. 4:11) The devil left Him and angels ministered to Him. Wow! What a stark contrast from the result/consequences we see in Eve’s story. Even when we feel alone, our God is there, and at His right time, He will send comfort and hope. Don’t trade that for the temporary. Cling to the Eternal.
How do we fight temptation like Jesus did so we can remain faithful to the Lord and faithful to the people God gives us to lead?
- We must be confident in who God says we are. And we must trust Him that His ways are best.
- We must hide God’s Word in our hearts, which means we need to read His Word, talk to Him, listen to Him, rely on Him, surround ourselves with others who speak God’s Word to us. This also means that we need to be actually reading God’s Word MORE than we are listening to the words of others…do you read God’s Word more than you listen to podcasts about God’s Word? Do you sit and talk to God and LISTEN for Him to teach you, or do you quickly run to others for answers? We won’t be able to distinguish God’s Word from lies if we don’t know it. We need to be in such a close relationship with the Lord, so full of His Word, that when we hear something that is not true, we are able to say, with confidence, as Jesus did, “Be gone Satan.”
- We must keep our eyes fixed on the eternal. We must remember that this world and even the very best things of this world, PALE in comparison to the life to come where there will be JESUS and no sin, no suffering, and no pain. People often ask me what I think Heaven will be like, and, of course, I tell them what we do know from Scripture, but as you may know, there aren’t too many details. What I say though is, I may not know exactly what it is going to be like, but I KNOW it will be better than here. Your best day here? There it will be better! The way you think you’ll feel if you finally get that earthly thing you have been waiting for? There it will be better! Why? Because Jesus will be there, and this world that He created good will be made new.
- We must remember that God has a purpose for us that is WAY bigger than us. We must grasp the PRIVILEGE it is to give of ourselves so that others can know Jesus and make Him known. That’s what this time on earth is all about. To bring glory to God and lead others to Him.
I pray that you will stand strong in the Lord and against the attacks of the enemy so that you will be a faithful leader who leads like Jesus and teaches others to do the same.