Lesson 2

Issues in the Great Controversy

(Matthew 4)
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Introduction: Last week we discovered that pride (wanting to be like God) was at the root of Satan's sin and fall from heaven. We also found that pride (wanting to be like God) was the cause of the entry of sin into our world. Since this is the way in which the war between Jesus and Satan began, how does this play out in our daily lives? My daughter sometimes says that she has "issues" with me. Just what are these "issues" between God and Satan in which we are now combatants? Let's dive in and find out!

  1. Trusting God


    1. Read Matthew 4:1-3. Perhaps we can best understand the main issues in the controversy by studying how they played out between the two chief combatants.


      1. Put yourself in Jesus' place. Would you take Satan's suggestion?


        1. What, if any, issues do you see involved in this suggestion? (Satan is challenging Jesus' position and power as the Son of God.)


          1. Would it be a good idea to make something to eat after not eating for 40 days? What if we state the issue the way our children do - "What's wrong with it?" (It seems to be a matter of dependence. Will Jesus depend on Himself to work out this problem or will He trust God to provide.)


        2. There is an important context issue that we do not want to miss. Read Matthew 3:16-17. Does this give new light to Satan's temptation in Matthew 4:3? (Yes. God just said that Jesus was His son. Satan suggests God is wrong and that Jesus should so something to prove God is right.)


    2. Read Jesus' response in Matthew 4:4. How does this answer Satan's temptation? How did Jesus understand the temptation? (This "nails down" the trust issue. Jesus saw this as an issue of trusting what God had just told Him - that He was the Son of God.)


    3. How does Satan bring this same trust issue to your life?


      1. Does Satan challenge whether or not you are a son or daughter of God?


      2. Does Satan challenge whether your confessed sins have been forgiven?


      3. Does Satan challenge you to depend upon your own power rather than God's power?


      4. How would Eve's temptation have ended ( Genesis 3:3-5) if she had responded the same way that Jesus responded?


    4. Did you notice that the temptation of Eve and the temptation of Jesus both involved food? Is that a coincidence? (Maybe -- but I don't think so. Food is a basic necessity. Food is essential and helpful, not sinful. Satan will come to us with something that is essential and good to try to undermine faith in God.)


      1. Have you seen this in your life? Satan takes something that is essential and uses it to cause you to distrust God?


    5. Read Revelation 12:17. How does the message of Revelation 12:17 apply to Satan's first wilderness temptation of Jesus? (First, we have Jesus' testimony in Matthew 4:4 that we must trust God's word instead of our own power. Second, obeying God's word ("commandments of God") is a very clear indicator of whether or not we trust God.)


    6. To review, what "issues" do we find in this first wilderness temptation? (Whether Jesus is the Son of God? Whether God can be trusted? Whether we should rely on our own power or God's word?)


  2. Obeying God


    1. Read Matthew 4:5-6. Would you be tempted to throw yourself down from a high building?


      1. Why do you think Satan used this temptation? Can you see any logic or cunning in it? (This is a reaction to Jesus' response to the first temptation. Jesus said in response to the first temptation that He was going to trust God to care for Him and not His own power. Satan says, "OK, let's see how much you trust God, throw yourself down from this high point.")


      2. Have you ever seen Christians go from one extreme to another? Is this the work of Satan? (I think this is an example of this type of temptation. Jesus properly refused to take matters into His own hands in the first temptation, so Satan suggests He go overboard - completely forget about His own responsibilities -- and trust God to save Him by jumping off a high building.)


      3. Notice the location of this temptation? Where is it? (It is the temple in Jerusalem!)


        1. Why would Satan tempt Jesus in "church?" (This is another "comfort zone" temptation. We need food, so Satan tempts us in that context. We should worship God, so Satan tempts Jesus when He is at the place of worship. We need to always be alert to sin.)

    1. Read Matthew 4:7. How do you understand Jesus' answer? (This is a quotation from Deuteronomy 6:16)


      1. On the face of it, jumping off high buildings is not one of my temptations in life. Was this an "issue" in the fall of man? (Yes. When Eve walked near the forbidden tree, when she talked to Satan, she was voluntarily putting herself on dangerous ground. She was "tempting" God to protect her in dangerous places.)


      2. Is this still a major "issue" between God and Satan? (Yes. Over the years I have class members who quote Ben Franklin, "The Lord helps those who help themselves" or who cite "common sense" as a Biblical virtue without being able to pinpoint where that principle is found in the Bible. I think it is found here. This temptation shows that we are "partners" with God in staying away from temptation and danger. We may not be tempted to jump off high buildings, but I'll bet you are tempted to wander towards temptation.)


      3. How would you specifically apply Jesus statement "Do not put the Lord your God to the test" in your life this week? (Don't place yourself in unnecessary danger. Avoid "hanging around" sin - especially in areas in which you know you are weak. Wear seat belts when you drive. Don't drive recklessly. Watch your diet, exercise, don't smoke. Keep your tension levels lower by trusting God in emergencies -- which is the context for Deuteronomy 6:16. (The story, if you would like to review it, is found in Exodus 17:1-7.))


  1. Worship God


    1. Read Matthew 4:8-9. What issue do you see here? (Remember, last week we learned that sin originated in Satan because he wanted to be like God ( Isaiah 14:13-14). Here, Satan asks Jesus to give him the worship that should only be given to God. In that way Satan could be "like God.")


      1. The first temptation was very subtle. This does not seem subtle at all. Why would Satan think Jesus would "fall" for this temptation? (In the first two temptations Satan questioned whether Jesus was the Son of God. Here, Satan no longer questions Jesus' authority. Instead, Satan offers Jesus a "shortcut" to his mission on earth to win back the world for God. The temptation for Jesus is to avoid the pain and suffering that lie ahead in winning back the world.)


      2. How is this one of the "issues" in our life? (It is easy to follow God when it costs nothing. The real issue in our life is "Who do we serve" -- when it costs us something?)


    2. Read Matthew 4:10. What answer does Jesus give to this temptation?


      1. How can you apply this answer to your life? (Jesus has two elements to His answer. First, he wants to avoid being in the presence of Satan. Second, He says that He will worship and serve God only.)


      2. How about you? Do you avoid things that tempt you? Do you not only worship God, but also serve Him?)


    1. Friend, how about you? Do you trust God? Is it your goal to be a partner with God, and show your loyalty to Him, by determining to obey His will? Will you trust and obey even when it costs you something? All of these are fundamental issues in the great controversy between Jesus and Satan.


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