Billy Graham Center

10/23/58 - "How To Meet Temptation"

Republished with permission from The Charlotte Observer. Copyright owned by The Charlotte Observer.

What follows is a transcript of the newspaper page above, which appeared on page 22-C of the October 24, 1958 issue of The Charlotte Observer (Friday). It is a transcript of the sermon which Rev. Billy Graham had preached at the Charlotte Crusade the day before, the twenty-seventh sermon of the crusade. Attendance on October 23 was 14,700 and there were 672 inquirers. To read the actual newspaper page, click on any of the four quarters of the page above.

In the transcript that follows, any comments by the transcriber are in brackets []. Any asides by Rev. Graham are in parentheses (). The sermon title did not appear in the paper but is from material supplied by the BGEA. Only the actual sermon is transcribed below. Any introductory or concluding material included in the newspaper text is omitted.

How To Meet Temptation

Now we are reading tonight from the 4th chapter of Matthew's gospel, beginning at verse 1:

"Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward a hungered. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

"Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

"Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him." [Verses 1-11.]

Another passage I want to read is Ephesians 6:12, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."

Now tonight I want you to see that the Bible teaches the Christian life is a warfare. The Christian life is a battle, a fight, a struggle, a warfare from beginning to end. We are told that we as Christians must be strong in order to wrestle against the forces of darkness. Notice in the passage we just read that the apostle Paul summons his fellow pastors as fellow soldiers. He summons them to arms. Much of the New Testament concerning Christian living has to do with warfare. The Bible teaches that not one single Christian is ever exempt from fighting this battle. He calls every Christian, not to a religious playground, not to a sports field; He calls us for a grim, terrible, bloody conflict. And God says that the Christian life is a combat and a fight and a wrestling match from start to finish. It is not against flesh and blood. You cannot organize, you cannot scheme to defeat this enemy who is against your soul.

The moment you give your life to Jesus Christ you have started a fight. You have started a battle that will last the rest of your days. It is the battle with Satan. Already some of you who have given your life to Christ have found that the struggle is greater now than it was before you gave your life to Christ. You were on Satan's side then, and he did not bother you. Now you are on God's side, and Satan does not like it; and so he battles and he fights.

The Bible says there is something about this person, and it tells us we are fighting against principalities, powers, and spiritual rulers. We're told in 2 Corinthians 2:11 that we are not to be ignorant of the devil. The apostle says that Satan should not take advantage of us, because we are not ignorant of his devices. Now one necessity in victorious warfare is to know your enemy.

We are reading in Life magazine these days the story of World War II from the viewpoint of General Montgomery. He said that on one occasion when he was going into Holland with some paratroopers, he underestimated the strength of the enemy and lost the battle.

Many times we underestimate the strength of the devil, and because of it we lose the battle. The Bible says in 1 Peter 5:8, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, is a roaring lion, who walkest about, seeking whom he may devour."

Some of the names given in the Bible of the devil describe his personality. He is called Satan [see Matthew 4:10]. He is called deceiver [see Job 12:16]. He is called liar [see John 8:44]. He is called murderer [see John 8:44]. He is called prince [see Matthew 9:34], destroyer [see 1 Corinthians 10:10], the evil one [see Matthew 13:38], Beelzebub [see Luke 11:15]. We are told in the Bible that he has wiles [see Ephesians 6:11], devices, and snares [see 1 Timothy 3:7].

The Bible also warns that he beguiles [see 2 Corinthians 11:3], he seduces [see Mark 13:22], he opposes [see 2 Thessalonians 2:4], he resists [see Zechariah 3:1], he deceives [see Revelation 20:10], he avenges [see Psalm 44:16], he buffets [see 2 Corinthians 12:7], he persecutes [see Psalm 143:3], and he blasphemes [see Revelation 13:4,5]. The Bible indicates that Satan has authority over vast hosts of demons and evil spirits; in Matthew 25:41 Jesus speaks of "the devil and his angels."

Now the devil is in control of a vast spiritual world that is at war against the kingdom of God. And when you enter the kingdom of God, when you come to Jesus Christ and give yourself to Him, you are immediately involved in that conflict. Satan is out to betray, to foil, discourage, seduce, to bewitch every single child of God. Every one of us has a battle every day, and the Bible teaches that Satan is the tempter [see 1 Thessalonians 3:5].

Now there are some people who say that Satan doesn't exist. But I don't see how anybody can read the Bible and doubt that the Bible teaches there is a personality called Satan. And if you look in the world today and see all the trouble going on, certainly it looks as if somebody has a great big bowl and a great big stick stirring the whole thing up. We put out one fire in the Middle East and another breaks out in the Far East. Mr. Dulles is on his way home tonight across the Pacific. He has got that one quieted down a little bit, and another one is going to break out somewhere.

That is true in your life. It seems like you solve one problem, and then it seems you jump from the frying pan into the fire. Always, you are faced with this problem and this difficulty, and that difficulty. One time you win a battle over the devil, you have the victory over a certain type of temptation in your life; and all of a sudden, the devil comes from another direction. You put up a guard in front, and he kicks you from behind. You turn around and put up some armor behind, and he kicks you in the side. Everywhere you turn, Satan is battling and fighting. He is probing. He is finding your weakest spot. When he finds it, he latches on, he attacks; and he puts his sword right into the sore spot and the weak spot.

How can you overcome him? How can you resist him? How can you win the battle? He has got a lot of you Christians tonight with long faces. He has got a lot of you so confused and mixed up that you do not know whether you are coming or going. He discourages you. He has beaten you right down to the ground. And some of you are ready to give up and say, "I just can't live the Christian life. It's impossible! I just can't do it." You've been up one day and down the next. Your life is up and down, and there is a constant war going on down inside. It seems like the flesh is winning over the Spirit all the time. You want to do good, but you cannot. Satan is too strong. He is too powerful.

Some of you Christians are wrestling with habits like alcohol. You are trying to give it up, but you cannot. You know you ought to. You know that it is wrong to do certain things. You are trying to quit lying. You are trying to get rid of jealousy. You are trying to get rid of that pride. You are trying to get rid of that temper which you have got, which irritates people and hurts so much. You don't really want to get mad at people, but you do it. You are trying to be forgiving, but you can't forgive. There are some things that people have done against you that you just can't forgive. God says that you can't get forgiveness from God unless you are willing to forgive others [see Mark 11:26], but you can't forgive. It is too deep. The scar is way down inside. There is bitterness and malice in your heart, and Satan has a grip on your life.

What can you do? Well, I want to tell you, first of all, that Christ has already been subject to every temptation and trial that you have ever faced. In Hebrews 4:15, "For we have not [a] high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." In all points! Do you mean to tell me that Jesus was ever tempted to lust? Yes! Was Jesus ever tempted to get angry? Yes! Was Jesus ever tempted? Yes! The Bible says "in all points . . . like as we are." And the Bible teaches that temptation is not a sin. It is not a sin to be tempted. There is no sin in it. Satan is going to tempt you. He is going to lure you. He is going to try to trap you. He is going to try to get you on his side. But sin comes when you yield to the devil.

Now Jesus never yielded once, never yielded an inch to the devil. So that means that I do have resources within me, by the Holy Spirit, to resist the devil. Yes, thanks be unto God, you can live victoriously. "Sin shall not have dominion over you" [Romans 6:14], the Scripture says. There is no excuse for any of us ever committing sin. There may be sins of omission. None of us is perfect, and any man who says that he does not sin deceives himself [see 1 John 1:8]. The Scripture makes clear that there is no excuse for any of us ever deliberately telling a lie. There is no excuse for any of us ever deliberately allowing our imagination to wander on that which it should not. There is no excuse for any of us having lust and hatred and prejudice and bigotry in our hearts. No excuse! Because the means is available to the weakest creature here tonight to live above it. Every child of God here tonight can live a victorious life twenty-four hours a day.

The Scripture says in Hebrews 2:18, "In that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted." Jesus has already been through every experience that you go through. He is able to help you. He has already experienced it. He knows the prince's power. And because He knows it and because He has experienced it, He can help you.

Let us see how He faced the devil when the devil came in the great temptation. Notice Jesus--it happened right after His baptism, when He had this tremendous experience. Now whether you Presbyterians believe that He was sprinkled on, or whether He was poured on, or whether He went all the way under--I'll let the theologians battle over that question. He was baptized by John in the river Jordan [see Matthew 3:16]. When He came up out of the water, He immediately was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. And there for forty days He did not have anything to eat; and after the forty days' fasting, the devil came to tempt Him.

Now if the devil could tempt Jesus and make Jesus sin, then, of course, Jesus would no longer be Christ. God would tumble Him from His throne, and the devil would take over control of the universe. And that is exactly what the devil wanted to do, and that is why he tempted Jesus.

But I want you to notice that the temptation of Jesus came immediately after His great experience of baptism, when the Holy Spirit descended on Him like a dove and the voice from heaven said, "This is my . . . Son, in whom I am well pleased" [Matthew 3:17].

Many times, the darkest hour of temptation comes after a spiritual victory. I find it in crusades like this. One night we can have a mighty victory. The next night it seems that the devil himself has a grip on the service. It seems to be almost a spiritual law.

Suppose you come and give your life to Christ in consecration. You dedicate your life to Christ. At that moment, immediately after may be your most difficult hour. Some of you who have accepted Christ in this crusade are now going through what may be the most difficult hours of your Christian experience. This time of adjustment is just like getting married. The first few months of marriage is fun and it's a wonderful experience, but there are adjustments to be made. There are difficulties, too.

So it is when you first come to Christ. You give yourself to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and what a wonderful experience. You are walking on air, and the next thing you know the devil has a knife in your back. The next thing you know, temptation is pulling you in a direction you had never dreamed you would be pulled--almost like a magnet you are being pulled. The devil is on the job, working to throw you off the track, to keep you from being an effective witness for Jesus Christ. Satan is bothering us all, all day long.

But I want you to see Jesus. Forty days and forty nights He had not eaten anything. Now Jesus did four things that I want you to see are available to everyone tonight. First, He was obedient to the will of God. Second, He was filled with the Holy Spirit. Third, He spent much time in prayer. And, fourth, He was filled with the knowledge of the Scripture. Every time the devil came with a temptation, Jesus quoted a verse of Scripture to him.

Now if you are obedient to the will of God, if you are willing to obey God with all your heart, if you love God with all your heart and you are willing to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and you know some of the Scripture verses He has given you to memorize during this crusade, then when the devil comes with a temptation, you can quote him a passage of Scripture. And the Bible says that the devil will flee. "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" [James 4:7].

The first temptation is the temptation of hunger. "[Since] thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread" [Matthew 4:3]. "Come on now, Jesus, you claim to be the Son of God, and you are hungry. You have not eaten in forty days and forty nights. Why don't you turn those stones into bread? You've got the power. You are God."

Ah, what a temptation that was. The famished body of Jesus must have leaped with desire, for He had not eaten in forty days. And to think those stones could be eaten by His own magic touch, by being turned into bread. But to do so at the behest of the devil would be sin. And you know what Jesus did? Jesus said, "It is written." Every single time that the devil said to Jesus--every time--He flashed the sword of the Word of God. "It is written, [Thou shalt] not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" [Matthew 4:4]. Jesus said, "Yes, a man has to live, but not by bread alone."

Jesus said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things [will] be added unto you" [Matthew 6:33]. The devil wanted Jesus to get His eyes off the kingdom of God, and get His eyes on material things. He wanted Him to seek material things before the kingdom of God.

And there are thousands here tonight that the devil has tempted just like that. You don't have time for the kingdom of God. You don't have time for church. You don't give up your money to the church. You give a little bit, but not much. You very rarely read your Bible. You are far more interested in television, and the radio, and the newspaper than you are in the Scriptures. You are far more interested in material things of life than you are in the spiritual things. And the devil has got your gaze away from Christ and away from God, and got it on material values.

The material things of the world, and the lust thereof shall pass away--this material world shall pass away--but he that doeth the will of God alone shall abide forever [see 1 John 2:17]. Look how one-sided you are. The material side of the world is going to pass away and burn up [see 2 Peter 3:10]. You are spending all of your time boozing and looking on and playing with material things; whereas the spiritual part of the world, that is going to last forever--you are giving very little time to it at all. So the devil has many of you.

Yes, Jesus said, a man has to live, but not by bread alone. Jesus said bread and worldly goods are unimportant compared to the development and the cultivation of your soul, and keeping your eyes on the kingdom of God, and keeping His righteousness first.

What are you seeking first in life? Pleasure? Or are you seeking God first? Will you enjoy a big steak in the restaurant more than you do a time of prayer, than to closet at home in fellowship with God? Do you enjoy going to the theater, and sitting there two and three and four hours, more than sitting one hour in church on Sunday morning? Do you have your television fixed if it is broken rather than to give that twenty dollars to the church? Is your pleasure and entertainment more important than church? What about it? We have yielded to the devil's temptation. Jesus did not yield.

Secondly, the devil came again to Jesus--after the devil had lost the first round, he came for the second round. He came to Jesus and took Him high up, six hundred feet on top of the temple. And he said, "If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone" [Matthew 4:6].

Notice the subtlety of the devil. The devil decided now he is going to quote Scripture, and I have found that the devil is a pretty good Scripture-quoter. He misquotes it sometimes, and he misinterprets it. He takes it out of its context, but he can quote it. He can twist you and turn you. And a lot of young Christians have to be careful of the cults and the sects that will try to get you off. They can cleverly quote and twist the Scripture.

You can find anything in the Scripture. The Scripture says Judas went out and hung himself [see Matthew 27:5]. And it says in another place, "Go thou, and do likewise" [see Luke 10:37]. You put it together and you think you are supposed to go hang yourself. You can prove anything! Be careful. Don't let Satan beguile you. The Bible says the devil is "an angel of light" [2 Corinthians 11:14]. He puts his best foot forward, and you would think the devil must be right. He gently leads you along the broad road that leads to destruction. All the time you may think you are going right. The Bible says, "There is a way [that] seemeth right [to] a man, but the end . . . [is] the [way] of death" [Proverbs 14:12]. Be careful! Satan will try to get you off the track.

The devil says, "All right, Christ, you want to be Christ. You want to be accepted by the people of Judah and the people of Israel. All right, jump off the temple; and while you are on the way down, the angels will reach out and catch you. And everybody down below will look up and say, 'That must be the Christ.' Then you will not have to go to the cross and die."

What a temptation! Because on the night of Gethsemane, Jesus in the garden shrank from the cup He had to drink. He shrank from the cross. And He said, "If it be possible, let this cup of suffering pass from me; not my will, but thine, be done" [see Matthew 26:39]. Jesus knew that He had to go to the cross. He didn't want to go to the cross, but He had to save us from our sins. But the devil had got a new way to get out. The devil said, "You can make a short cut. You can save people, and they will believe on you. You won't have to go to the cross. Jump down and let the angels catch you." What a trick and what a temptation it was to Jesus.

That's what the devil says to you. He says, "Why, there's more than one way to heaven. Come on. Why, you know you don't have to go to the cross. You don't have to be converted. You don't have to repent of your sins. Why, if you'll just do good and try to please everybody, you'll be all right." The devil doesn't mind you going to church once in awhile. In fact, he wants you to. The devil's not interested in a man lying in a ditch drunk. Why, a man lying in the ditch drunk is no help to the devil. The devil loves to see a man put on respectability, go to church once in awhile. It's good for business. But not to be born again of the Spirit, having had no personal experience with Christ.

Jesus said once again, "It is written." And notice He uses the Scripture, "It is written . . . , Thou [shall] not tempt the Lord thy God" [Matthew 4:7]. Once again the devil went down to defeat. He just couldn't stand a man obedient to the will of God, full of the Holy Spirit, spending time in prayer, and taking the Scriptures, and letting him have it.

I want to tell you, you try quoting verses of Scripture to the devil when he comes with temptation, and see what happens. He'll run. He can't stand it. He can't stand the Word of God. You can argue with him. But he has argued with the greatest brains in the history of the world, and he has won every battle. He has won over every single person who has ever lived, except Jesus. He knows all the tricks of the trade. You've only got a few years to learn just a few of the tricks. He knows them all. He can lick every one of you, but he cannot lick God's holy Word. He cannot lick the Scriptures. That's the reason it's so important to start reading your Bibles. That's the reason we believe it's important to memorize certain Scriptures, appropriate Scriptures, so that when Satan comes to you, you can flash a package of Scripture at him.

How do we tempt God? We tempt God in many ways. You young Christians, watch out--you may be tempting God. We tempt God by playing with fire. We tempt God by playing with sin.

I know a man who was an alcoholic. He was converted to Christ. He has been on this platform. He has still got five thousand dollars' worth of liquor in his basement. I told him to get rid of it. He hasn't taken a drop of liquor in three years, but he's still got it. He can't sell it. He isn't allowed to sell it. I don't guess he wants to break it. I don't know what he wants to do with it. I told him, "You are tempting God. Watch out, you'll get burned. You can't go back to those places, and with that old gang, and stand up. They'll pull you down. You'll be testing God."

That's the reason the Bible says, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean [things]" [2 Corinthians 6:17]. Don't tempt God by putting yourself in the way of sin. Avoid those people who used to pull you down. Witness to them, but no longer partake of the things they are doing because they'll pull you back.

Yet there are a lot of you here tonight who have really never experienced Christ, and you are also tempting God by neglecting or resisting this Holy Spirit. You haven't come to Jesus Christ. You are like the old eagle that was on the block of ice floating down Niagara River. Somebody yelled and said, "Watch out, old eagle, you'll go over the falls and be killed." And the old eagle looked proudly around as though to say, "My powerful wings have taken me over mountains before. I don't have to worry." And he kept eating and eating the sheep carcass as he went down. Just as he came to the falls he lifted his great wings, but his feet had frozen in the ice and he went screaming over the falls to his death. He tempted too long.

There are some of you that have resisted the Holy Spirit. You have put off giving yourself to Christ, and you are tempting God. Reach up and play with forked lightning, but don't tempt God. Play with a rattlesnake, but don't tempt God. Don't play with sin. It'll soon strike, and the poison will kill you. And you are headed for destruction. I beg of you tonight to give your life to Christ. "Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?" says Proverbs 6:27. "Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?" [verse 28].

Then, lastly, there was the temptation of ambition. The devil took Jesus high up on the mountain and said, "Jesus, you see all of this." He showed Him in one dazzling, glorious moment the splendor and the sovereignty and power and the pomp of men of Babylon, Persia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, France, Germany, America, and Russia. All passed before Christ. And the devil said, "Christ, I will give it all to you if you will just bow down and worship me." [See Matthew 4:8,9.]

The Bible says the devil is "the prince [and] the power of the air" [Ephesians 2:2], that he is "the god of this world" [2 Co-rinthians 4:4]. He is the prince of this world. He has the power to give you anything he wants, to keep you from Jesus. And the devil is saying to some of you tonight, "All right. Just bow to me. Just give me a little wink once in awhile. Play footsie with me under the table. Hold hands with me under the table, and I'll give you anything you want." He's got some of you for a little bit of pleasure. He's got some of you for a little bit of sex. He's got some of you for a little bit of extra money. He's got some of you for a little better grade in school. The devil said, "If you'll just cheat a little, just lie a little--not much, you don't have to go all the way, just a little bit--lower the flag, stifle your conscience just a little bit, I'll give it to you."

Now, in order to get you, he'd give you almost the whole world; but he's got some of you cheap--very cheap. Why, there are some of you here he'd pay you a million dollars if he could get you, to keep you from the kingdom, but he's got you cheap.

Jesus once again took out the words and said, "It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve" [Matthew 4:10]. How did Christ gain the victory? By obedience to the will of God, by being filled with the Holy Spirit, by spending much time in prayer, and by knowing the Scriptures. Not one time in Scripture are we told to run from the devil. If you see the devil going, don't you start running the other way. The Bible doesn't tell you that. It tells you to "flee lust" [see 2 Timothy 2:22]; the lust of the flesh we're to run from. The Bible says we're to "make [no] provision for the flesh" [Romans 13:14]. But if the devil is coming to tempt you, don't run. The Bible says in Ephesians 4:27, "Neither give place to the devil." The Bible says in James 4:7, "Submit [yourself] to God [and] resist the devil, and [he'll] flee from you."

We are to resist the devil. In the power of the Holy Spirit, with the Word of God, we can resist the devil. And he is the one that will do the running. You can't do it in your own strength. You can only do it if Christ lives within you. If Christ, the Holy Spirit, is living within you and you have submitted yourself completely to God--your hands, your eyes, your ears, your nose, your tongue, your heart, your whole body submitted to Him--then you have the authority to rebuke the devil, and he will flee from you.

So many times I have quoted that passage when the devil is tempting me. I have said, "O God, with all my heart I submit to thee. In all the capacities that thou hast shown me, I submit to thee. Now, by faith, I claim I can resist the devil and he will flee from me." And he does flee. The Scripture says, "Be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, is a roaring lion, who walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" [1 Peter 5:8]. Then resist. When trial and adversity and trouble come, when the devil tempts you to be discouraged, resist him and he will flee.

But I want to tell you that you need to spend time every day in prayer. You need to be obedient. What does this obedience mean? It means that you love your neighbor as yourself. It means that you're faithful and loyal in the church. It means that you're reading your Bible daily. It means that you're spending time every day in prayer. You are obedient to the will of God. It means that you're memorizing Scripture so that you have got it written in your heart. "Thy word have I hid in [my] heart, that I might not sin against thee" [Psalm 119:11], says the Scripture. And when the devil comes, he will flee.

I have seen it happen thousands of times in my own life, and I know it works. It will work in your case. When it comes to the world, we're not to be conformed to the world [see Romans 12:2]. When it comes to the flesh, we're to run from the flesh. And that's another story and another message at another time. But when it comes to the temptations of the devil, and the trials and afflictions of the devil, Jesus Christ has already suffered every temptation we'll ever face. He knows how to help us. If we are "in the way," He will help us.

But there are many of you here tonight, you don't really know Christ. You haven't really given your life to Christ. You are not certain you have really experienced Christ. Christ died on the cross for your sins. He rose again for your justification. He's a living Christ, ready to come into your heart tonight, to cleanse you from sin, to change your life and make you a new person. You need Him tonight.

He's spoken to many hundreds of you during this crusade. You've read it in the paper. You've heard it on television or the radio. God spoke to you. You haven't come. We've only got two more nights. This may be the last moment you'll ever have like this to give your life to Christ.

I am going to ask you tonight to come and give your life to Christ, and say tonight, "I want to be an obedient Christian. I want to follow Christ. I want to serve Christ. I give myself to Him as Savior, Lord, and Master."

Send us a message

Return to BGC Archives Home Page

Last Revised: 8/14/00
Expiration: indefinite

Wheaton College 2005