The Greatest Battle Ever Fought

Scriptures: Psalm 100; Matthew 3:15-4:3

Guest speaker: Larry Fletcher

This being the first Sunday of Lent, I thought we should dwell on something that portrays Lent. That was why we heard the short Scripture from the New Testament this morning. This message which I share with you was first delivered 69 years ago.

No, I didn’t do it 69 years ago. It was first presented in Los Angeles at a place they called the Canvas Cathedral, in 1949. I used this sermon, because I had gotten it, forty years ago, and it is in the style of preaching (only I don’t consider myself a preacher) 69 or 70 years ago. It’s not fire and brimstone, but it was a dramatic presentation of Jesus’ forty days, and I thought I would share it with you.

The greatest battle in the history of the universe took place in a desert in Judea, where Jesus Christ, the Son of God, met Satan, whom the Bible calls the devil. It is recorded in the fourth chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew.

The Bible says that Satan is Lucifer. He is the prince of the power of the air. He is the god of this age. And in his encounter with Jesus, he was in the prime of his life. He had been training for a long time, getting ready to fight.

Satan had already met Adam in the Garden of Eden. He had defeated him. Even though Adam was perfect in all the strength that God had given him, Satan overcame him. And Satan has defeated every other person since, except one man.

Scripture tells us, when the battle took place, Jesus was hungry. He had fasted for forty days and nights. He was skin and bones, so weak he could hardly stand. He had the wild beasts for companions, and a stone for a pillow. When he faced Satan in the desert, it was in all the weakness of human flesh.

I want you to sit in the stands of that arena, and watch the battle. On one side, you see all the demons of hell, shouting their glee, when they see Jesus stagger up into the ring. Weak, hungry, thirsty, he is entirely dependent on the Spirit and the power of God. Now Satan comes out of the corner.

And you notice, on Jesus’ side of the stands, the angels of heaven. The heavenly stars have stopped singing, and are looking down upon the scene. Business and pleasure have ceased. The earth has stopped in its orbit. The issues of life and death are to be decided in this desert place. If Satan succeeds in tempting Jesus, and wins the battle, hell will be our fate. Satan will be enthroned as ruler of the universe.

Spotlights are trained on the scene. The first round is called. The bell rings, and the fight has begun. The first thing Satan says is “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” Satan’s appeal was to Jesus’ hunger. Jesus could have done what Satan asked him to do. He could have said, “After all, man has to eat. He has to live. And I’m dying of thirst and starvation.”

Instead, Jesus stood for a moment, and he looked at the devil. Then he said, “Yes, man has to live, but not by bread, but by the word of God.” With that, Jesus drew his sword. Do you know what his sword was? It was the word of God. And I noticed that we were singing “Standing on the Promises” that also talked about the sword of the Spirit.

He used words of Scripture: “It is written, man shall not live by bread alone.” He used the word “man.” It means that he was coming before the devil, not as the Son of God but as the son of man, in all of man’s weaknesses. But he was equipped with God’s word and filled with the Holy Spirit. Although physically and materially poor, he had more power than the devil himself.

The round ends. Hell puts on mourning. Heaven rejoices. The heavenly stars sing as the principals rest a moment. Then Satan’s face lights up, and when the bell rings, he comes out again for round two.

Hell rejoices, because they know that Satan will pull one of his tricks. So Satan appeals to pride. He takes Jesus this time to the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem, hundreds of feet in the air. He says to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself to the ground. For it is written, ‘He will give his angels charge of you, and on their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot on the stone.’”

The devil knows more Scripture than the average Christian. He can tell you where the text is, but you know what he does. He either misquotes or takes it out of context. Most Christians don’t know the difference. That’s the reason so many of us are fooled by the cults. We don’t know the Word of God. People say, “It’s the gospel,” because it comes out of the Bible. But you can pull anything out of the Bible.

Satan says to Jesus, “Jump off this pinnacle, and everyone will see the angels catch you in midair. They will believe you are the Son of God, and you will not have to suffer the cross.” Satan was trying to get Jesus to take a shortcut to glory.

But Jesus again used the power of the sword of the Spirit as Satan quoted Scripture. “It is written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” Notice that Satan doesn’t argue with him. You can read that in the Scriptures. Satan did not argue with the Scriptures.

The reason so many of us fall into the temptation of Satan is that we don’t use the Bible. We don’t know it. We don’t use it. We don’t quote it. Meanwhile the temptation gets sweeter and juicier. But if you quote Scripture to Satan, he jumps back every time and falls in a bloody heap.

The bell rings, ending the second round. Again, hell puts on mourning while the angels rejoice. Satan is wounded. He is bleeding. But he is not down yet. He has another crafty plan.

The Lord Jesus is standing there in the power of perfect manhood, depending on the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, and getting stronger all the time. Satan is battling for his life.

Round three. This time Satan uses his severest punch: ambition. He takes Christ to the crest of a high mountain, and says to him, “Jesus, you see below you all the kingdoms of the world. You see Nineveh and Babylon and Crete and Rome. If you bow down and worship me, I will give you the whole thing, and it will be yours forever.”

Jesus never disputed the ability of Satan to deliver the world. Do you know why? Because Satan is the prince of this world. He controls it by the permissive will of God. So he said to Jesus, “I will give you political power, I will give you economic power, if you will only give me a little courtesy.”

And that is the way Satan bags a lot of us. But he gets some of us for a lot less. He says, “Cut this corner. Compromise a little bit. Lie a bit there. Cheat here. And I will give it to you.” Satan will pay just about anything to get us, but some of us he has gotten for a dollar a day, some of us for as little as a bit of whiskey.

It’s a fact that the worldly crowd is prospering more than the Christian crowd. Don’t ever say there’s not a good time in this world, because there is. A person can have a pretty good time – but what a hangover when you come home.

You know how long that hangover is going to last? About ten billion years, and billions more after that. It’s a long hangover for a few minutes of pleasure. But you know what Jesus gives. Joy and peace and happiness and victory. And he gives it to you way down inside. And it lasts for eternity.

So once again, Jesus goes back to the Word of God. Satan stands there, and all the universe holds its breath, for this is the final attempt. Satan has used his last trick. What will Jesus do? He speaks, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.’”

He hurls this text at Satan, and Satan goes down. The referee of the universe counts, “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.” Satan is out.

Today, Satan is a defeated enemy, conquered by the love of Jesus Christ for us. The legions of hell are in morning. Jesus has been crowned as victor, and heavenly stars sing together. Angels and archangels rejoice. God has smiled approval upon His Son, in whom He is well-pleased.

Because the enemy has been defeated. Jesus Christ is Commander-in-Chief of the forces of God. He is the Captain of our salvation, and He is leading us to a glorious and splendid victory. One day the nations of the world will bow their knees to Christ, and confess Him with their mouths as Lord and Master and King. And Satan will spend eternity in the lake of fire.

Jesus was alone when the temptation came to him. And do you know that the same temptation comes to you when you are alone? Your wife is not with you. Your husband is not with you. Your father and mother are not with you. Your friends are not with you.

You are all alone, and Satan attacks you, on a crowded highway, or a lonely street, or in a field, or in a factory, or at home, or in church. He attacks you at your weakest spot at your weakest moment. But Jesus did not yield to the tempter’s enticements. He used the sword of the Spirit to drive the devil back. Satan can be overcome. He can be forced to flee.

How did Christ gain the victory? By obedience to the will of God, by being filled with the Spirit, by spending much time in prayer, by knowing the Scriptures. If you believe in Christ, you can now have that same power, that same victory. He calls you to follow Him today. Amen.

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