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Showdown in the Desert

Jesus shows us how to face temptation—by training and not just by trying.

The story behind the sermon (Bryan Wilkerson)

This was the twentieth message in a 40-week journey through the Bible called Living God's Story. It was the first message on the life of Christ, and I wanted people to understand from the beginning that Jesus lived God's story with the same resources available to us—prayer, Scripture, a will trained by spiritual disciplines, and the empowering work of the Holy Spirit.

The temptation narrative provided a dramatic and engaging vehicle for teaching that truth, while at the same time speaking to a real, felt need. The message was preceded by a simple video, or drama, of two demons in power suits discussing best practices for tempting humans—much like The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. The message could work with or without the drama.

While I exegeted the three temptations in a classic manner, I deliberately avoided three P words—or, First John's the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—for the sake of freshness and immediacy.

Listeners always seem to connect with messages on temptation since it is a daily and discouraging reality for every believer. By tapping into that urgency in the first part of the message, listeners were eager to hear about anything that might help them gain victory—even fasting and prayer! This was not our first go-round with the spiritual disciplines or with Dallas Willard's concepts, so I didn't need to offer a lengthy apologetic for either.

Since it was the Sunday before Lent, it was an opportune time to challenge people to try one or two of the disciplines that might not be familiar or comfortable to them. We made sure we offered them simple and practical ways to engage those practices, since many people ...

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Bryan Wilkerson is pastor of Grace Chapel in Lexington, Massachusetts.

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Sermon Outline:

The story behind the sermon


I. Jesus' vulnerability

II. Satan's craftiness

III. Jesus' victory over temptation

IV. Our victory over temptation