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Weekly Message 10-25-09: St. Demetrius the Martyr

"Jesus returned from the Jordan, full of the Holy Spirit and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days to be tempted by the devil" Luke 4: 1, 2. Having been convinced of the truth of Christ, St. Demetrius remained faithful throughout his life, in spite of the variety of opposition and temptations he faced.

All the saints of the Church, all who wish to follow the Saviour seriously have the same "wilderness" experience as the Lord for the same reason the Eternal Father leads the Son into the desert immediately following his baptism.

Christ's experience in the desert represented an intense season of temptation that was tailored by the enemy for the challenges of messiahship that lay ahead. Demetrius is seriously tempted to abandon the cause of salvation, the cause of the Saviour, and continue pursuing the lust of unbelief. God placed Jesus with his adversary in a lab of sorts to establish the ground rules from the very beginning. With this idea in mind, let us look into each temptation and realize we are similarly tempted by the evil powers to abandon Christ if we are genuinely serious about following him. Subtly and perhaps not so plainly we are all exposed to the same seduction.

"Tell this stone to become bread" Luke 4: 3. Could Christ turn stone into bread? Undoubtedly! So, why shouldn't He? After all, He is famished and hungry. St. Matthew the Evangelist tells us He had been fasting forty days. Nothing is wrong with eating when a person is hungry, unless a greater issue is involved. Most likely the intent of Jesus in fasting was to remain in union with the heavenly Father and refrain from all distractions much the same way Anna, the prophetess, was said to wholly serve God "...night and day, fasting and praying" Like 2: 37. Since we know Jesus is filled with the Holy Spirit and led by the Spirit, we can assume the Spirit prompted the fast; therefore the fast was not over until our heavenly Father says its over.

What does this temptation have to do with the imminent ministry in Christ? The entire issue is whether or not Christ would use his power for his own ends. Would He live by the same requirements of faith and dependence on God as everyone else in the kingdom? Satan's strategy was not all that different from what he used when tempting Eve in the garden (Genesis 3: 1). In both cases, Satan wanted to sow doubt, but not because he had any. He knows what God said to Adam and Eve, and he definitely knows Christ is the Son of God. Why would the devil try sowing doubt in Christ? Precisely for the same reason he attempts to sow doubt in everyone's heart and soul about salvation in Christ and why he did it in the life of St. Demetrius and in ours as well It is the same old pattern repeated over and again.

We see a second similarity between the Garden of Eden and the wilderness, in that both temptations involved food. Christ is hungry. Eve was hungry, too, even though her hunger was for something different. We know our appetites can be ferocious. They are fodder for much temptation. We find St. Paul's description of the enemies of the cross of Christ very interesting when he says our minds are mainly on earthly things and "...their god is their stomach!" Philippians 3:19. Although we are many times not enemies of the cross, we certainly know the temptation of making our stomachs gods. Christ does not fall to this temptation. Instead He responds with two critical phrases of truth.

Christ's first response is universal because Scripture applies to every temptation we can ever face. He says, "It is written" Luke 4: 4. In these words He clarifies the matter of authority and subjugates satan's words of temptation to God's Word. He second phrase of Jesus is issue specific. "Man does not live on bread alone." Christ applies the specific word from Scripture to meet his need. So satan moves on to the next temptation.

"If you worship me, it will all be yours" Luke 4: 7. We cannot imagine Christ ever being the least bit tempted to worship the devil, but can we not imagine that He might have been tempted to rip satan's authority apart?

Christ did not challenge the ability of the devil to make such an offer. We can assume satan must have had the authority as the prince of this world, but it is also true the authority God allowed satan is limited and only temporary, but is nonetheless very real.

We can also imagine how our God feels as He witnesses the state of the world under the influence of the evil prince's authority. Oppression, violence, and deception characterize the world God loves. Surely Christ is counting the days until he grabs the deed restriction to the world and reigns without rival in righteousness. St. Demetrius understood this and remained faithful to the teaching of Christ. Satan was hoping Christ would be so anxious to secure the world that He would worship him. Needless to say, satan is wrong, always wrong. Christ will most assuredly reign over this world, but not until all things have happened according to God's kingdom calendar, not that of the devil.

Once again Christ calls upon the witness of his revealed word, this time with the specific application: "Worship the Lord your God and serve only him" Luke 4: 8. Christ adamantly resists worshipping the devil as the way to gain the world. So, defeated satan moves to the third temptation. From one offer to another, St. Demetrius does not accept the prevailing mentality and temptations of the rulers of his time.

"Throw yourself down from here" Luke 4:; 9. Based on Christ's response to this temptation, we know that at least one of satan's intentions was to tempt the Lord to put God to the test. But satan may have had a second intention in this particular temptation. The placement of the temptation at the temple suggests that the enemy may have been hoping a dramatic scene would cause the Jews to hail Jesus as their king before he faced the cross. If Christ had forgone the cross, He would be no less God, but we would be lost. Salvation would not come about and we would be doomed and the devil would win.

It is clear that all these were no ordinary temptations. They appear to be direct assaults on the messiahship of Christ. We can, as did St. Demetrius, draw a few applications from them:

Seasons of intense temptation are not indications of God's displeasure with our lifestyle. It is a sure sign of the jealousy of the devil with our success cooperating with the grace of the Holy Spirit.

Satan is tenacious. Do not expect him to give up after one or two or even three tries.

God's revelation to us in Scripture is the most powerful example in our fight against temptation. Do not fight back with your own language, ideas or words. Fight back with those of our God. Seriously answer "Satan, be gone!" Matthew 4: 10. Before Christ went public, He determined what type of Messiah He was to be. Some very vital and important issues had to be settled from the beginning. It worked in the case of Christ and in the life of St. Demetrius the great Martyr for Christ!

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