In 1984 a movie was released that became a classic. Ghostbusters! Its theme song also became a classic and is easily identifiable across several generations. (In fact, you’re probably singing it to yourself right now, aren’t you?) 🙂
Ghostbusters – Who You Gonna Call? By Ray Parker, Jr.
If there’s something strange
In your neighborhood
Who you gonna call?
If there’s something weird
And it don’t look good
Who you gonna call?
If you’re seeing things
Running through your head
Who can you call?
Don’t get caught alone, oh no
When it comes through your door
Unless you just a-want some more
I think you better call
Hopefully, by now, nearly 40!!!! Years later, you’ve seen the movie. The plot is, in a nutshell, that there is an epidemic of paranormal occurrences that take place in Manhattan. A team of four parapsychologists who have been considered eccentric and somewhat off-kilter form a company called “Ghostbusters” to battle the supernatural. As luck would have it, more and more appearances of this demonic entity take place. As a result, more and more people call on the Ghostbusters to fight, destroy, and get rid of these scary annoyances. The theme song “Who You Gonna Call?” became a popular catchphrase that’s still used today.
So, the question for us is this. When temptation comes across your path, “Who You Gonna Call?”
We know what the answer should be, but what is the truthful answer to that question? Who do you call on when you encounter temptation? Probably most of us, if we are really being honest, would answer, either “our own selves and our willpower” or “nobody”. Many of us don’t necessarily feel the need to call on anyone to help us with temptation.
From time to time, we will have friends over for dinner and I’ll usually have ice cream or cupcakes for their dessert. If I can’t talk our guests into taking the leftovers home with them, I’ll see those cupcakes on the counter or that carton of ice cream in the freezer and I’ll be tempted. I do not think to pick up the phone while eyeing the sweet treats and call someone to help me resist. I’ll deal with it my own way – either throwing them away or just talking myself out of them every time I lay eyes on them.
There are, however, situations in which people are encouraged to call on someone to fight the battle of temptation.
Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous offer sponsors to those struggling with addiction. “A sponsor is a senior member of AA or NA who has been in recovery for usually at least a year. Sponsors help you navigate membership, answer questions, work on the 12-steps, and offer accountability.
A sponsor is also a confidant who understand(s) where you have been.”[ii]
That’s the key. Calling on someone who understands where you’ve been and where you are. Someone who can identify with being tempted and knows how to properly deal with it. Someone who has fought the battle and has the scars to prove that you can survive.
Matthew 4:1 NKJV reads “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”
I want to break down this one verse for a moment.
That first word “then” is crucial. The word “then” indicates that something takes place at the same time or immediately after something else. So let’s turn back to Matthew 3 to see what has just taken place.
Matthew 3:13 GNT “13 At that time Jesus arrived from Galilee and came to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14 But John tried to make him change his mind. “I ought to be baptized by you,” John said, “and yet you have come to me!”
15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so for now. For in this way we shall do all that God requires.” So John agreed.
16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he came up out of the water. Then heaven was opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God coming down like a dove and lighting on him. 17 Then a voice said from heaven, “This is my own dear Son, with whom I am pleased.”
Jesus is baptized by His cousin, John the Baptist. As soon as He comes up from the water, Heaven is opened to Him. The Holy Spirit descends upon Him and God speaks acknowledging Jesus as His own Son. This is one of the few occasions in the Bible in which all three Persons of the Holy Trinity are mentioned. There is no question as to the powerfulness of this moment. This event – the baptism of Jesus – is thought to be the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. This is a major game-changer!
We all experience those mountain-top moments in life. Those times in which we can see, feel, and know the presence of God in our life. When we are flooded with blessed assurance, we have peace like a river, and we are standing on the promises of God! And then. Then something happens that tries to steal all of that from us. Then doubts, trials, discomforts, and temptations start oozing in and threaten to darken our mood.
Matthew 4:1 NKJV “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit”
Before Jesus has dried off from the baptism, He is led away by the Holy Spirit. Before the euphoria of the moment has quieted, Jesus is taken away. The Holy Spirit leads Jesus from the waters of the Jordan River into the wilderness. And the very purpose of this retreat is told to us at the end of that first verse. “to be tempted by the devil.” This sudden exit is planned. It had already been determined that Jesus would have this mountaintop experience with the baptism then quickly led into an uncultivated and neglected environment in which He would come face to face with the enemy.
This clarifies any doubt that the devil doesn’t do anything without God’s knowledge and God’s permission. That should give us some comfort, shouldn’t it? Even when it doesn’t make sense to us, we can be assured that God is still navigating. But do we really plug into that reassurance? Because, sometimes, when everything seems to be going wrong when temptations of life seem to be coming at us from all directions and we feel a vice-grip-type pain in our life, we sometimes wonder what we’ve done wrong. Right?! Have we made God mad? Is He trying to get our attention in the most painful and difficult way? Can you relate to that?
I don’t know if you’ve done this or if you’d admit to doing it, but I’ve actually tried to convince myself that if I’d just “do better” at being a Christian, God will make things easier for me. The storm would blow away, and the dark cloud would disappear. If maybe I read two chapters in the Bible instead of just one chapter every day, God wouldn’t be as angry with me. If I only listened to Christian music on the radio when I’m in the car, God would ease things up. In other words, I tried to be less than authentic with God in order to manipulate my circumstances.
As I matured as a Christian, I began to realize that wasn’t how it worked. I began to understand that temptations in life to worry, to take control over situations, to get revenge, to become angry with God, or to take the easy road oftentimes can be attributed to spiritual warfare. That spiritual battle between good and evil goes on all around us and within us where Satan attempts to separate our thoughts and actions from God’s plan for us.
We are about to see that’s what He attempts to do with Jesus!
Matthew 4:2 ERV “Jesus ate nothing for 40 days and nights. After this, he was very hungry.”
Jesus fasts for 40 days. The number 40 is used quite often in the Bible. It rained for 40 days and 40 nights when Noah and his family were aboard the ark. Elijah fasted for 40 days. Goliath threatened the Israelites for 40 days before David faced him and defeated him. Moses met with God for 40 days and 40 nights. The Israelites were forced to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. All of these periods of time were challenges of some kind. In fact, “the number 40 generally symbolizes a period of testing, trial or probation.”[iii]
We know from Bible stories as well as our own individual life stories that challenging times of testing or trials usually lead to spiritual growth. Or, at least it should.
Jesus, being very human, is hungry. It was customary in those days that people had two meals per day.[iv] Jesus had skipped roughly 80 meals! To put it into perspective, 40 days is 960 hours. How many of us can’t go more than a few hours before we’re looking for some trail mix or at least some goldfish crackers to snack on!?
Jesus is hungry. He’s physically weakened. He’s in a vulnerable position. And then. Then Satan comes along. He comes along with a plan to tempt Jesus with what He should be craving at that very moment. Something to eat. (Not to belittle the experience by any means, but think of going to the grocery store when you’re hungry. Everything looks good to you, and you are tempted to overbuy and overindulge because of the physical needs of your body.)
Matthew 4:3 CEV “Then the devil came to him and said, “If you are God’s Son, tell these stones to turn into bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “The Scriptures say:
‘No one can live only on food.
People need every word
that God has spoken.’ ”
Jesus doesn’t come up with an argument of His own words; instead, He quotes Scripture back to the devil. Jesus uses a verse from Deuteronomy 8 which is part of Moses’ last message to the Israelites before they enter the Promised Land without him. He knows that his time with them is limited so he tries to remind them of bookmark moments that they need to remember.
Deuteronomy 8:2 CEV “Don’t forget how the Lord your God has led you through the desert for the past 40 years. He wanted to find out if you were truly willing to obey him and depend on him, 3 so he made you go hungry. Then he gave you manna, a kind of food that you and your ancestors had never even heard about. The Lord was teaching you that people need more than food to live—they need every word that the Lord has spoken.”
What Moses is telling the Israelites is that feeding our spiritual self is more important than feeding our physical self. Our human nature will most often focus on the physical things in life. We like to have things. Even what we consider to be the basic necessities of life. A roof over our heads. Clothes to wear. Shoes for our feet. Food to eat. Then it gets to a car to drive. Choice of clothes to wear. Choice of shoes to wear. A pantry and refrigerator filled with food along with a freezer full in the garage.
We don’t like to be hungry, do we? When our stomach gets empty, it growls. We feel uncomfortable. If we don’t feed our hungry bodies, we can start to feel weak. Our blood sugar can drop. We can get irritable (or hangry!). Hunger will usually produce a bad headache. If the hunger continues, it can become dangerous. Organs will begin to shut down.
Spiritual hunger or spiritual salvation isn’t quite as obvious to detect, but the symptoms eventually start to show. A person suffering from spiritual salvation will usually withdraw, not only from God but also from other Christians. They’ll be indifferent to studying God’s Word and praying. They’ll turn a deaf ear to the Holy Spirit. They’ll lack the joy they once had. They’ll be weakened.
Satan seems to be tempting Jesus to satisfy His physical hunger, but really, Satan was more interested in Jesus starving His spiritual hunger. He does the same thing to us. Whatever the object of our physical hunger may be, Satan knows that if we give in to those desires of the flesh, our spiritual health is compromised.
Satan knows that once we are saved, our souls cannot be plucked from the hand of God. But, Satan is going to do all that he can to keep us from fulfilling God’s purposes and His plans for us. Temptations are one of his most favorite tools. He loves temptations so much that he tried it on Jesus – the Son of God. If Jesus wasn’t immune to Satan’s temptations, how could we possibly think we would be safe?
Let’s peel back the layers of this event for just a moment and examine what’s really happening here and why.
First, there is God Who is all-knowing and above anyone and anything else. Without His allowance, the devil’s hands are tied.
Secondly, there is Jesus, Son of God, in human flesh Who has perfect communication with God the Father. He is sinless and has come to fulfill His purpose knowing full well what was before Him.
Then there is the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity Who, in conjunction with God’s direction and the obedience of Jesus, leads Jesus into the wilderness for the purpose of being tempted by the devil.
Lastly, there is Satan who knows full well Who God is, and what He can do. Satan had successfully tempted the “first Adam”. It seems reasonable that a creature as arrogant as the devil would assume he could just as easily tempt the “second Adam”. Did Satan really understand Who Jesus was? Did he think because Jesus was in a human body that He lived by the desires of the flesh? I don’t think we really know for sure. Satan says, “IF you are God’s Son…” which could mean he was either taunting Jesus or he may have genuinely doubted the identity of Jesus.
But we can use this scene as a template for our own lives because temptations do come from Satan and they will come when we are most vulnerable and weakened. How Jesus handled this is our example.
Ephesians 6:11 LSB reminds us “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.”
The belt of truth helps us to understand who God is and who we are as His child. The belt of truth also helps us to recognize the truth about Satan’s existence, the power he does have, and the simple fact that he is a liar.
The breastplate of righteousness protects our heart so that we aren’t careless with our moralities and we safeguard our goodness.
The helmet of salvation serves to protect our minds and our thoughts.
Boots of the gospel of peace enable us to stand firm in the Lord by knowing that through His sacrifice, we have been made right with Him, and because of that, we are compelled to share with others what He has done.
The shield of faith we use to deflect the fiery arrows the devil sends our way. The shield that keeps our faith in God intact.
All of these pieces of armor are defensive pieces; intended to protect us and guard us. There is one piece of the armor that is for offense purposes and that is the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. (Eph 6:17)
That’s the weapon Jesus, THE Son of God used to deflect Satan. He didn’t come up with His own argument. He didn’t engage in a battle of wits. He didn’t rebuke Satan. He didn’t call Satan ugly names. He simply used the Word of God as His defense. He relied on God’s Word to resist temptation.
I’m going to say this for my own benefit, and I don’t mind if you listen in. If God’s Word was powerful enough for the Son of God to use against the devil himself face-to-face, why am I not using it more in my daily life to resist the temptations brought on either by myself or by the devil?
“God isn’t asking you to fight the devil. He is asking you to simply uphold or sustain the victory won by Jesus at Calvary and enforce his authority over the devil. You’re like the traffic warden who raises his hand and the vehicles stop. They don’t stop because he can physically bring the vehicles to a halt, but because he is representing and upholding the authority of the state.” – Pedro Okoro
If we are to have any hope of resisting temptation, our only solid means of defense is to call on God. We’ve got to outfit ourselves with the full armor of God but that means having a stored-up arsenal of God’s Word to use. It must be personalized. We all need to identify our areas of weakness and search God’s Word for weapon verses for each and every one of them. Our Sword of the Spirit is sharpened when we make application of God’s Word. Hebrews 4:12 ERV “ God’s word is alive and working. It is sharper than the sharpest sword and cuts all the way into us. It cuts deep to the place where the soul and the spirit are joined. God’s word cuts to the center of our joints and our bones. It judges the thoughts and feelings in our hearts.”
“It was a remarkable contrast between the glory following Jesus’ baptism and the challenge to be tempted by the devil.
· Then the cool waters of the Jordan; now the barren wilderness.
· Then the huge crowds; now solitude and silence.
· Then the Spirit rests like a dove; now the Spirit drives Him into the wilderness.
· Then the voice of the Father calling Him “Beloved Son”; now the hiss of Satan the tempter.
· Then anointed; now attacked.
· Then the water of baptism; now the fire of temptation.
· First the heavens opened; now hell.”[v]
Jesus was met with temptation face-to-face but He was able to resist it, not on His own, but through His relationship with God, His Father.
Podcast available at: https://spotifyanchor-web.app.link/e/Oaki8EtAgzb