Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ written by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage begins with the eighteenth verse of the fourth chapter, and continues through to the twelfth verse of the fifth chapter. When you come to this particular passage of scripture you find the apostle Matthew transitioning from Jesus being tempted of the devil in the wilderness. As you approach this chapter you find the apostle Matthew moving away from Jesus returning from the wilderness after having been tempted of the devil forty days and forty nights. This particular passage finds Jesus journeying into the region of Galilee as an incredible light which broke forth in the midst of darkness. What we find in this passage of scripture is a wonderful and powerful testimony of Jesus overcoming the devil in the wilderness, and not only emerging from the wilderness having overcome the tempter and his temptations, but also retuning in the full power of the Holy Spirit. What I so love about the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness is based on a book the late A.W. Tozer wrote entitled “I Talk Back to the Devil.” While I have not read this book and only own it, the premise of the book suggests the ability the saints of God have to not put up with the devils garbage, and to firmly resist the devil when he comes against us. It is not for nothing the apostle Paul speaks of putting on the full armor of God in order that we might stand against the wiles of the devil. It is no coincidence the apostle peter writes and speaks of resisting the devil who comes against us as an adversary and for. It’s not by chance James the half brother of Jesus also wrote and encouraged us to resist the devil having submitted ourselves unto the Lord.
I have to admit that I absolutely love this concept of talking back to the devil and not accepting that which he sows, and what which he speaks into our lives. I am completely and utterly convinced that there are too many Christians—myself included—who allow the devil to continue having a voice within their lives. There are far too many men and women who allow the devil to have a place within their lives, and as such is able to come against them with everything he has. I love how Jesus talked back to the devil, and how Jesus resisted both the temptation and the tempted, for it brings us face to face with the reality that we as the saints of God have the same privilege of talking back to the devil. Tell me dear brother, tell me dear sister—when was the last time you talked back to the devil? When was the last time you reached the point where enough was enough and you weren’t going to put up with the devil’s filth and garbage any longer. It’s something noting and pointing out that when the remote came unto Jesus, he didn’t hurl any accusations or condemnation against him. When the devil came unto Jesus there in the wilderness, he came in order that He might be tempted prior to being released into ministry. Although Jesus has been baptized of John the Baptist in the river Jordan, and although the heavens were opened, the Spirit descended upon Jesus in the bodily form as a dove, and the voice of the Father affirmed the identity of His Son, Jesus was not yet released into ministry which was before Him. Having been filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus was now led by the same Spirit into the wilderness where He would be tempted of the devil. The same Spirit which descended upon and filled Him was now the same Spirit that led Him into the wilderness for a showdown in the desert.
A SHOWDOWN IN THE DESERT! A SMACKDOWN IN THE WILDERNESS. The more I consider Jesus’ time in the wilderness, the more I can’t help but be gripped by the fact that the Spirit led Him into the wilderness where He would be tempted of the devil for forty days and forty nights. Jesus would enter into the wilderness full of the Holy Spirit, and would fast forty days and forty nights, thus bringing Him into a place of absolute and complete vulnerability. It would be while and when Jesus was in a weakened and vulnerable place the devil would come unto Him in order that He might tempt him. I have previously written how I absolutely love the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, for it confronts us with the humanity of Jesus. What we must recognize and understand concerning Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness is that it proves His humanity and the fact that while He was one hundred percent divine and one hundred percent God, He was also one hundred percent human. It was His human side that could not only be targeted by the devil and tempted, but also needed to rely fully and completely on the person, the presence, the power of the Holy Spirit. Even the first recorded temptation of Jesus proves, reveals and touches upon His humanity, for the devil tempted Him to take the stones which were before Him, and turn them into bread. This same Jesus who would, and this same Jesus who could turn water into wine could have easily taken the stones which were before Him and then them into bread. What’s so incredibly interesting is that while He would take water and turn it into wine to supply the needs of others, He would not take stones and turn them into bread to supply and provide for His own needs. This first temptation not only touched upon Jesus’ humanity, and not only touched upon and exposed a very real need within His human flesh—namely that He was hungry—but it also touched upon the reality of whether or not Jesus would use His divine power to turn stones into bread to satisfy His own needs. If He turned stones into bread to satisfy His own needs, what would He do within and throughout His ministry if He again found Himself in need, of in weakness, or vulnerable?
I TALK BACK TO THE DEVIL! What I so absolutely love and appreciate when reading the account of the temptation of Jesus is that Jesus allowed Himself to be tempted, yet that didn’t mean he was going to take or put up with the devil’s garbage or filth. While Jesus was in the wilderness, He was tempted by the devil, but even with being tempted of the devil, He didn’t take and accept his temptations. What we find in the account of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness is a powerful account of true resistance to the devil when he comes against us with and through temptation in order to bring about devastation and wreak havoc within our hearts and lives. How absolutely wonderful, and how absolutely incredible it is to think about and consider the fact that while it was true that Jesus was in fact tempted of the devil while He was in the wilderness, He resisted and talked back to the devil. I am convinced that one of the greatest problems facing countless Christians in this generation is that they don’t have the boldness, they don’t have the courage, they don’t have the strength to talk back to the devil. I believe that there are countless men and women among us today who although they are, and although they have been tempted by the devil, they pose absolutely no threat, nor any resistance to his temptations. There are countless Christians and saints of God who are continually threatened, continually assaulted, and continually assailed by the adversary, and yet they aren’t willing to resist and talk back to the devil. The more I read the words which the apostle Peter and James wrote concerning resistance of the devil, the more I am brought face to face with what that looks like through the temptation of the Lord Jesus Christ in the wilderness. When writing unto the saints which were scattered abroad, James the half brother of Jesus wrote and instructed them to “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw night to God, and He will draw nigh to you” (James 4:7-8). When writing unto those which were scattered abroad, The apostle Peter wrote the following words concerning the opposition and assault of the devil: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9). It is quite clear and quite obvious when reading these two passages of Scripture that we are instructed to resist the devil, and that we are instructed to talk back to the devil. It is quite clear and quite obvious that we are not to take, nor are we to put up with the devil’s filth, nor are we to take and put up with the devil’s garbage which he continually seeks to barrage our hearts and lives with. Consider if you will what it looks like to talk back to the devil, by considering both accounts of Jesus in the wilderness—the first which was written by the apostle Matthew, and the second which was written by the beloved physician Luke:
“Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Then the devil taketh Him up into the holy city, and setteth Him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto Him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto Him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto Him” (Matthew 4:1-11).
“And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days He did eat nothing: and when they were ended, He afterward hungered. And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but be every word of God. And the devil, taking Him up into an high mountain, shewed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve. And he brought Him to Jerusalem, and set Him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: for it is written, He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. And Jesus answering said unto Him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season” (Luke 4:1-13).
Please don’t miss the tremendous significance of what is recorded in these two passages of Scripture, for not only do we find Jesus being tempted of the devil for forty days and forty nights in the wilderness, but we also find the Jesus resisting and talking back to him. What I so absolutely love about the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness as that He didn’t resist him through silence, nor did He resist him through engaging in warfare, nor did He resist Him by running away. I am convinced there are too many men and women who run away from the devil instead of standing their ground and firmly resisting him in their most holy and precious faith. When Jesus resisted the devil, He did so by speaking directly to him, and by declaring unto him what was written in the word of God. This is actually quite peculiar—particularly and especially when you consider the fact that in one of the temptations, the devil actually used the Word of God to tempt Jesus. In his epistle which was written unto those which were scattered abroad, James the half brother of Jesus declared that even the demons believe, and do tremble. With that being said, and based on what I find and read in the accounts of Matthew and Luke, I am convinced that the devil knows Scripture, and can and will use it against us. The secret is not that the devil knows Scripture, but that we know the Scripture, and that we can discern when the devil is trying to use Scripture to manipulate us within and throughout our lives through manifold temptations. When Jesus resisted the devil in the wilderness, He didn’t resist Him with prayer, He didn’t resist him by releasing positive thoughts and positive words of affirmation. Jesus—when resisting the devil in the wilderness—resisted the devil being able to stand firmly on the divine Word of God, which is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword. When we think about, and when we consider the words which Jesus spoke when dealing with the temptation of the devil in the wilderness, we must recognize that the words He used were not His own, in that He didn’t write them at that moment. On each and separate occasion when the tempter sought to tempt the Lord Jesus Christ, Jesus not only talked back to him, and not only resisted him, but He did so with and by the divinely inspired Word of God.
When Jesus talked back to the devil, He didn’t talk back to Him with His own ideas, with His own imaginations, with His own intellect, but with the word of God. I fear there are far too many men and women who are thinking and believing they can resist the devil using their own intellect, using their own imagination, and using their own ideas. Such men and women actually think and believe that the devil is somehow phased by our own intellect and imagination when he comes against us to tempt us. The truth of the matter is that the devil is not at all phased, nor does he even flinch when we seek to resist him with our own ideas and imaginations. The devil does not care about the strength you believe you have in your own flesh, nor the ability you feel you have in and of yourself. When Jesus resisted the devil there in the wilderness, He resisted him by speaking back to him, and by speaking back to him using and with the word of God. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that when we talk back to the devil, we don’t use our own words, which proceed from our own thoughts, our own imaginations, our own strength, and our own power. There are far too many men and women who are trying to resist the devil using earthly and natural means, and are finding themselves not gaining any ground or experiencing any victory. We must recognize and understand that resisting the devil can only come to the degree and measure we are willing to use the divinely inspired word of God. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews wrote in the fourth chapter of the epistle. Beginning with the twelfth verse of the fourth chapter, the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews wrote: “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:12-13). It is obvious and clear when reading the words which this author wrote that the word of God is in fact quick and powerful, and is sharper than any two-edged sword, and that it can in fact be used by the saints of God in all situations.
When we talk back to the devil, or when we attempt to do so, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that by talking back to the devil, we must not use our own words—words which proceed from our own heart, or from our own mind, or from our own inspiration and imagination. When we seek to talk back to the devil, we must talk back to the devil using the divinely inspired word of God, which is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword. When we talk back to the devil, we must do like Jesus did and do so with the divinely inspired and authoritative word of God. The days and times for us to attempting to talk back to the devil with the words proceeding from our own imagination and inspiration are over, and the time for us to talk back to him using the word of God are here. You have been given authority, you have been given permission, you have been given the freedom to talk back to the devil, yet when you talk back to the devil, you must recognize that the words which proceed from your mouth must have their root and foundation in the word of God. We are able to talk back to the devil, and are able to do so on a regular basis, however, we must do so according to, with and by the divinely inspired word of God. We have been given the word of God in order that we might experience correction, reproof, rebuke and exhortation, but we have been given the word of God in order that we might use it to take a stand against the wiles and schemes of the devil. Jesus used the word of God in the wilderness to stand firm against, and resist the devil, and He did not waver, nor did He flinch when using the Word of God. When Jesus used the word of God in the wilderness, He used it authoritatively to talk back to the devil, and by talking back to the devil, resisting him and his temptations. Oh that we would recognize and understand that we have been given authority and permission to talk back to the devil, yet the only way we can truly talk back to the devil is by using that which proceeded forth from the divine word of God. We cannot, we dare not, we must not make any attempt to talk back to the devil using our own words, and the words which proceed from our own heart and mind, for such words will fall drastically short. As I am sitting here right now, I feel compelled to urge you to no longer take any garbage, to no longer take any filth, to no longer take any bs from the devil who like a roaring lion seeks whom he may devour. I feel compelled within the very depths of my soul to urge and compel you to rise up, to stand your ground, and to take your place—regardless of how often and how much the devil seeks to assail, assuage, and assault you through temptation. You have been given authority and power to take your stand against the devil, and to talk back to him authoritatively standing on the authority and power that is found and contained within the word of God. No more allowing the devil to speak into your life and get away with it. No more allowing the devil to infiltrate your life and getting away with it. No more allowing the devil to tempt you with manifold temptations to tempt and trip you up. The time to rise up, take your ground and stand firm against the devil is now. Oh that we would rise up with the authority and strength we have been given in order that we might stand firm against the wiles and schemes of the devil.
What I so love about Jesus emerging from the wilderness having talked back to and overcome the devil with his manifold temptations, is that Jesus emerged from the wilderness, and returned in the power of the Holy Spirit. Not only that, but what we find and read next is a wonderful and powerful statement about His journey away from Galilee, and His leaving Nazareth, and coming and dwelling in Capernaum. Within the fourth chapter of the gospel according to Matthew we find that having emerged from the wilderness full of the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus burst forth into Capernaum like a radiant light which shines through and scatters all darkness. In all reality, I am convinced that this is how each and every one of us should emerge from temptation and from the wilderness—not naked, and bloody, and beaten, and wounded. I am convinced that when each and every one of us emerges from the temptation(s) which the devil seeks to bring against us, we should emerge full of the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, and should shine like a light in the darkness. There are far too many men and women who may emerge from their temptations and struggles, and yet they don’t emerge full of the Holy Spirit’s power and presence. There are far too many men and women may emerge from their temptations and struggles, and yet they don’t emerge as a shining light and burning torch shining in the darkness. When Jesus entered into and dwelt in Capernaum, He entered into it like a great and driving force of light which completely shattered the darkness that enveloped the land. There was a strong, a powerful and pervasive darkness that was upon the land, and when Jesus entered into and dwelt in Capernaum, He entered in as a strong and powerful light breaking through the darkness. What’s more, is that I love that having emerged from being tempted of the devil in the wilderness, Jesus didn’t shy away from the darkness, but actually went toward and dwelt in the midst of it. Oh, there are many who would emerge from temptation and trials, and are so shaken and so wounded and bruised from their temptation that they are completely unwilling to stand in the darkness—much less actually dwell in the darkness. Having emerged from the wilderness after standing firm and resisting the devil by using the word of God to talk back to him, Jesus returned full of the Holy Spirit, and entered into Capernaum like a shining light which completely shattered and scattered the darkness.
Oh, I can’t help but wonder what that scene looked like in the spiritual and supernatural realm. I can’t help but wonder what that scene looked like in the supernatural realm as Jesus—the eternal Son of God—entered into a region that had been so saturated and consumed by darkness. Scripture makes it very clear that when Jesus entered into this particular region, it fulfilled the words which the prophet Isaiah prophesied concerning the people sitting in darkness seeing a great light, and upon those which sat in the region of the shadow of death light has sprung up. When Jesus emerged from the wilderness having overcome the devil and his temptations, Jesus emerged full of the power, the person and presence of the Holy Spirit, and entered into the shadow of death, and the place where people sat in darkness. Having just overcome the devil and his temptations, Jesus rushed right into the darkness, and rushed right into those places where people were sitting in darkness and overshadowed by darkness. Oh, please don’t miss the awesome and incredible reality of this, for not only are we to stand firm and resist the devil in the midst of temptation, but we are to then enter into those places of tremendous darkness, in order that we might shine and burst forth as a shining light and burning torch. We are not intended to cower in fear, and cower in terror, and cower in dread having overcome the devil and his manifold temptations. When Jesus emerged from the wilderness full of the Holy Spirit, He didn’t seek a life that was comfortable or convenient for Him, but rather chose to dwell in a place where countless men and women sat in darkness. This is absolutely incredible, and truly remarkable when you think about and consider it, for it brings us face to face with where many of us are right now, and what many of us are and have been called to. There are a great number of us who have been called to infiltrate those places where men and women are sitting in darkness, and those places where the shadow of death has overshadowed and overpowered men and women for far too long. When Jesus came and dwelt in the region of Capernaum, Matthew records that from that time Jesus began to preach, and to say: Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. IN the midst of the darkness, Jesus instructed and commanded one very important, and one incredibly powerful reality—namely, that men and women repent and prepare themselves for the kingdom of heaven. Jesus’ message was one of repentance in order that men and women might be ready and prepared for the emergence of the kingdom of heaven, which was draining nigh unto them within and upon the earth. When the seventeenth verse of this fourth chapter draws to a close, it does so with Jesus calling men and women to repent, in order that they might be ready and prepared for the emergence and manifestation of the kingdom of of heaven.
As you continue reading the fourth chapter of Matthew’s gospel, you will find the apostle writing how while Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew, and He called them to follow Him, and by doing so, He would make them fishers of men. Matthew goes on to write and record how Jesus came unto another pair of brothers—James and John, the sons of Zebedee—and called them to follow Him. In the case of Simon and Andrew, we find Jesus declaring unto them that He would make them fishers of men, and how they left their nets. In the case of James and John the sons of Zebedee, we find that they left their ship and immediately followed Him. In both cases, and in both instances we find these two sets of brothers leaving their nets, and leaving their ships in order that they might follow Jesus. What I so love and appreciate about the words which Jesus declared unto Simon and Andrew is that while and during the process of following Him, He would make them fishers of men. In other words, if they followed Him, He would in turn take and make them into something completely different than what they had previously been. I find within this an incredibly powerful truth for us as the saints of God—namely, that to the degree and measure we agree to follow Jesus, so also to the same degree and measure we can and will be made into that which we have been called to be made into. We cannot think or expect to be made into that which the Lord our God has instructed and commanded us if we are not willing to rise up and follow Jesus. Moreover, Matthew used the words “straightway” and “immediately” when speaking of their response to Jesus’ call to follow Him, thus suggesting that they wasted absolutely no time in making the decision to follow Him. They did not need to take time to think about it, nor did they need to take time to pray about it. They did not need time to consult their friends and their families to see if they thought it was wise to leave everything and follow Jesus. Matthew records how straightaway and immediately both sets of brothers left their places along the sea in order that they might follow the Lord Jesus Christ. LEAVING NETS, LEAVING SHIPS! I find within this passage of Scripture a wonderful and powerful call for us as the saints of God to leave our nets and leave our ships—leave those things which we have grown accustomed to within our lives. We as the saints and people of God are and have been called to rise up and immediately leave our nets—those instruments we used in the world to make a living, and perhaps even to support ourselves—and to rise up and immediately leave our ships—those places which we have used to make a living, and perhaps even support us. The question is whether or not we are willing to rise up and leave our ships and our nets behind in order that we might follow Jesus on the land.
LEAVING SHIPS TO FOLLOW JESUS ON THE LAND! The unique reality about this, is that there were two distinct times when the disciples found themselves out on the sea—the one occasion with Jesus asleep in the boat, and on the other occasion with Jesus still on the shore before walking unto them upon the waters of the sea. What’s more, is that on the occasion where Jesus came walking on the water to the disciples—while He was still standing on the water in the midst of the storm—Peter stepped out of the boat to walk toward Jesus Christ. Peter—this same one who left his nets in order that he might follow Jesus—was not leaving the comfort and safety of the ship in order that he might walk on the water toward Jesus. While it is true that Peter and Andrew, James and John left their nets and their ships in order to follow Jesus upon the land, there were times when following Jesus led them back out on to the sea where they would face storms. The fundamental difference between any of the storms these sets of brothers faced prior to following Jesus, is that those storms were absent the person and presence of Jesus. There is something about walking through and going through storms without the person and presence of Jesus, and there is something about actually going through those storms with Jesus—even if Jesus doesn’t immediately join us in the storm. Undoubtedly Jesus saw the disciples being tossed about by the waves of the sea—being tossed about by waves of fear, waves of doubt, waves of terror, and waves of dread—and at the appointed time He came unto them walking on the water which threatened their existence. Oh, how absolutely wonderful and remarkable it is to consider the fact that in the midst of one of the storms Jesus actually stood up and rebuked the wind and the waves, thus commanding them to die down. This same Jesus who talked back to and resisted the devil in the wilderness was now talking back to, instructing and commanding the wind and the waves to obey His voice, and to cease raging. Oh that we would recognize and understand this absolutely wonderful and powerful reality, and that we would not only only learn how to talk back to the devil when he assaults and assails us with his manifold temptations, but also that we would stand firm in the midst of each and every storm we face within and throughout the course of our lives. There are far too many men and women who are running away from the devil in the midst of temptation, in the midst of trials, in the midst of tests, and the like, and there are far too many men and women who are cowering in fear in the midst of the storm rather than stepping out of the boat and walking unto Jesus in the midst of the wind and the waves. Oh that we would be a people who authoritatively and passionately rise up, take our place, stand our ground, and talk back to the devil when he seeks to assault and assail us with his manifold temptations, schemes and tactics.