Pleasing God in the Midst of Temptation

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Mark 1:9–13 ESV
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” 12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.
Pleasing God in the midst of temptation. That is the title of the sermon today. I could not think of a title that would be more relevant in the life of a committed believer. Each and every one of us can resonate with this. Temptation is hard. We live in an area that not too long ago was making news because of the amount of overdoses that we were having. We live in a culture that always feels like it has to keep up with the Joneses because we see what others have and we want it too. We live in a culture that is rampant with divorce, and it has made its way into the church where over 50% of professing Christians have divorces. Temptation is a big part of our lives.
So the question we should ask ourselves is what is more important for us, giving into temptation or pleasing God. Because when temptation comes, you will do one of the two. What pleases God is obedience. Whether that be obedience in killing a sin or obedience in following through with an act such as baptism as we will see in our passage today. Please God or give in to temptation.
With this passage today, I hope that I can answer this question for you. Why is it important to please God in the midst of temptation?

We Please God through Obedience

Mark 1:9 ESV
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
It would be right for us to assume this scene of John the Baptist in the wilderness took more than just a couple of hours in a day. We don’t know how many people he was baptizing, but it did say that all of the people came. So I think we should assume that there is some time that he is spending out there. And after some time, we have a very important person show up. Jesus comes to be baptized. Just like much of what Mark records, he gets right to the point. In Matthews account of this event, we have Jesus come to be baptized and John tries to stop him from doing it. Matthew 3:14 “14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”” But then Jesus tells him that it needs to happen this way. So he comes to be baptized.
Where did he come from? Mark tells us that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee. This is important because Nazareth would not have been a noble place to come from. Nazareth has this reputation in the time of Jesus to be a place that is irrelevant. (John 1:46 “46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”) It just wasn’t a place that had much of anything going for it. And at this point, Jesus was not known by people. This scene right here is the beginning of his earthly ministry. So, just to set the scene, a nobody from nowhere came to be baptized. John knew who he was but no one else did. People may have heard the conversation that was going on between John and Jesus, but it would not have caught anyones attention to see Jesus come to be baptized, because they would not have known who he was.
I want to answer a couple of questions that you may have when reading this text. First of all, if Jesus is God and he is sinlessly perfect, then why would Jesus need to be baptized. This is a good question to ask. We are told that the people before him who were being baptized were being baptized for the remission of sin. Well Jesus was sinless, so why would he need to do this. First, understand that Jesus was not being baptized for the same reason as all of the others because he was sinless. He did not need to be washed for any sort of sin. What Jesus was doing was empathizing with humanity. Jesus was not being baptized for his sins, he was being baptized for our sins. He was identifying himself with humanity.
Also, I know that many of us have different church backgrounds. And in different denominations, there are different views on baptism. I grew up Methodist so growing up, we both had infant baptism, and we had sprinkling. It is not in the text but I want to deal with who is to be baptized first. As a body of believers here at Immanuel, we believe that the bible is clear on baptism. To be baptized, you must be a professing believer. This means that you should be able to clearly articulate coming to faith and what the gospel has done in your life. After the death and resurrection of Jesus, we see the instances of baptism in scripture to be clear that it is after someone has come to faith. There is one instance that our presbyterian friends would argue for infant baptism where the man came to faith and was instructed to go home and have all of his family baptized. This is not a clear instance in scripture and I would argue that there is implied in that text the preaching of the gospel to his family and a coming to faith. So we believe that to be baptized you need to have a credible, clear profession of faith. So this deals with the who.
To deal with the how, I want to look at the word baptism. The Greek word here is baptisma which is translated as to be immersed. This means that we believe the only mode of baptism that is scriptural is by immersion. We have a pool back behind me that we fill with water. You walk down in the water, and we immerse you in it and raise you back up out of the water. Just the same as Jesus experienced. This is our biblical basis for baptism.
Mark 1:10 ESV
10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.
This picture is magnificent. He goes into the water, John pulls him back out of the water. And immediately he sees this. He sees the sky being torn open. And maybe your translation may not say the word torn open, maybe it just says open. But this is what the picture is, the sky being torn open. This word used here is only used one other time in the book of Mark. In Mark 15 when Jesus died on the cross, we are told that the curtain in the temple was torn in two. Both uses the same word. You may wonder why this is important. The curtain in the temple was what separated the people from the holy of holies. The curtain was the priests access into the holy of holies. What happened when Jesus took his last breath was the curtain being torn in two from top to bottom. This symbolizes that the death of Jesus on the cross was sufficient for us. We no longer need a priest because we have full access to God through Jesus Christ. In Mark 1, we have a foreshadowing of the death of Jesus and what it would accomplish right here at the baptism of Jesus.
The heavens tear open and the spirit descends on him. You know you see paintings of this scene. I have always wondered what it would look like to be a first hand witness of this. I don’t know that the people witnessing would have noticed much though. When the spirit came down on him, it says that it was like a dove, not that it was a dove. So it would have been gentle and pure as it came down. But we aren’t even told that people could see all of this going on. It says that immediately Jesus saw the heavens tear open, but it doesn’t say that the people did. But the spirit came down on him. And then what happened.
Mark 1:11 ESV
11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Then a voice said to Jesus from heaven that “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”. Have you ever had someone argue with you that the doctrine of the trinity is unbiblical? I have. If you ever have this happen, just point them to this verse. We have the son, Jesus, being obedient in baptism. We have the spirit descending upon Jesus the son to basically anoint his ministry. And now we have the father who is verbally acknowledging his pleasure in Jesus. What God is doing here in his announcement is quoting two different Old Testament verses and putting them together.
Psalm 2:7 “7 I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.”
Isaiah 42:1 “1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.” Also, this is similar wording that we see in reference to Abrahams son, Isaac in Genesis 22:2 “2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.””
So what is God doing in this declaration. It wasn’t long ago that England got a new monarch. When this happened, they had what is called a coronation. What a coronation is is when a new ruler is crowned. They are officially saying that this is the one who is going to sit on the throne. Here at the baptism of Jesus, God is saying that this is the one who will sit on the throne. Let me be clear when I say that Jesus was always God’s plan A for salvation. It isn’t that some random guy walked up to John at the baptism and God suddenly decided that this one would be good enough. Jesus is God in the form of a son. Jesus is not a created being. He always has been, he always will be. So don’t even think of God saying these things about Jesus are what makes him officially the one to sit on the throne. There was never a time when Jesus was not our king. This is the coronation of the ministry of Jesus. Jesus is being obedient to God in baptism, in the beginning of his earthly ministry and it is pleasing to God. Just the same for us, we please God in our obedience.

We Pursue God in Opposition

Mark 1:12 ESV
12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.
Again, we have this word “immediately”. Mark really likes this word as it is a common theme throughout the entire book. But the spirit drove him into the wilderness. He was just baptized, heard the voice of God giving him affirmation in the beginning of his earthly ministry. And now, it says he goes into the wilderness. He was already in the wilderness, so he must be going even further. This is Marks account of the temptation of Jesus. I am not going to exposit the account in Matthew but I do want to read it for us to give us a detailed account.
Matthew 4:1–11 ESV
1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “ ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ” 7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’ ” 11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
The wilderness is an important place in the story of the bible. In the wilderness, we have people like David go there to take refuge to hide from being murdered. It was the place that the people of Israel wandered through for 40 years during the exodus. In the time of Jesus, it was thought that the wilderness was home to the evil spirits. But what took Jesus to the wilderness? Mark tells us that Jesus was led to the wilderness by the spirit. This is counterintuitive to how we view our walk as believers.
We are told by many so-called pastors that we are promised lives of health, wealth, and prosperity as believers. If these are the things that we are supposed to receive as believers, then why would the spirit lead Jesus into the wilderness. For us, the wilderness may represent different things. But most everything that we would associate the wilderness with is negative. For Jesus, the wilderness is a place of temptation, as we will see. But understand that the Holy Spirit will often lead you into places that will test you. But it isn’t for us to fail. We are tested so that we rely on God all the more.
Mark 1:13 ESV
13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.
The wilderness is where Satan tempts Jesus. The passage I read out of Matthew details the temptations that Satan put before Jesus. And Jesus answered Satan every single time with the word of God as instruction. The word of God is our foundation of faith. The word of God is sufficient for us to fight temptation. And that is what Jesus does with it.
There is a picture here with the number 40 as well. 40 is the number of days that Jesus spends in the wilderness. 40 is also the number of years that the people of the exodus roamed around in the wilderness. Moses spent 40 days on Mount Sinai when he wrote down the 10 commandments and Elijah spent 40 days at Mount Horeb. So there is some biblical significance with this number. Why is it significant you may ask? After Moses came down the mountain, the people continues to sin. Jesus is the greater Moses. Jesus came to be a better Adam, a second Israel. He was a greater spiritual leader than Moses and a better prophet than Elijah. All of these people still fell into sin. But not Jesus. Although this was only the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, he wins the battle and at the cross, will win the war on sin.
And he was there with the wild animals. You may picture this like he was going through a tour of a zoo, but this is not the case. What is implied here is danger while Jesus was in the wilderness. Because of the fall of Adam, Satan has dominion over the wild animals. So while Jesus is out there being tempted by Satan, he was also in physical danger of the wild animals.
One last detail that Mark gives us is what was happening on the opposite of Satans attacks. On the other side, we have the angels and it says that they were ministering to Jesus. This word here for ministering literally means serving. So even in the midst of him being tempted, the angels are with Jesus and serving him. Just the same, we are being ministered to. It may not be how we picture it sometimes. We think of the baby with wings floating around. This is not exactly what is happening. But scripture encourages us that this is happening. Hebrews 1:14 “14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?”
Be encouraged that even in the worst times you are going through, that God is still there. You are still indwelled with the Holy Spirit. And God’s angels are still there ministering. And one of the biggest points in this passage is to show us that Jesus knows what we are going through.
Why is it important to please God in the midst of temptation?
As a committed follower of Jesus you should be fighting temptation. I don’t think this is a ground breaking thought. But we should not only be fighting temptation, but in the process of it, we should be pleasing God. There are two different heart positions in fighting temptation. You have the legalistic side of it. This is where we fight temptation out of some sort of obligation. That we do it so that we can keep up this appearance of someone who has it all together. We do it because we are expected to do it.
But we can also have this position of doing it out of love for God. That the reason that we are doing it is because we have truly been changed by God and will do whatever we need to do to be closer to Jesus. Which side are you on? Obligation or love? If it is out of obligation, this is sinful. And when we identify sin in our lives, we need to repent.
Maybe you are here today and have never truly surrendered yourself to Jesus. But you have heard this today and you know that this is wrong and you want to give your life to Jesus. The bible tells us to repent and believe. Repent means to turn from your sin and turn to Jesus. And by doing that, you believe that Jesus is truly God who came in the form of man to live a sinless life and go to the cross to take on the sin of man so that those who become children of God will have the righteousness of Jesus placed on them. Repent and believe. And then your next step after that is baptism, like we saw Jesus do today. If you are there, please come and let me know after service.
For the believers in the room this morning, I want you to leave encouraged. We are all tempted to give into sin. We fight this only through the power of the Holy Spirit that is given to us through Jesus. Keep fighting. Scripture tells us to take every though captive. I know this is my greatest battleground is in my thoughts. So I want to leave you with a scripture.
Hebrews 4:14–16 ESV
14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
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