by Pastor Bob Miller
We are taking our first few steps during this Lenten season into the wilderness. Lent is a time when we, as Christians, band together for a season to focus on our walk with Jesus. The duration is only 40 days. The significance of 40 days is that it coincides with Jesus' 40 days of fasting in the wilderness.
I believe there is a natural pull that comes into all of our lives where we can easily let the cares of this world take the forefront of our thoughts and minds. Over time, if we aren’t careful, our priorities can get skewed. We might be singing, “He is Lord,” but in reality, we have let other things begin to take positions of lordship in our life. They, instead of God, are controlling our lives.
And so in this season, we want to take the hand of Jesus and let him lead us in such a way that He may be able to show us the things which need to be washed away, cleansed, and pruned. I wish I could say that God will accomplish all that with the snap of his fingers. But I’m learning that more often than not, He needs to lead us on this journey. It is in the living that we experience the growth.
It is through trials that God's lordship over our lives is revealed to be a reality or still to be settled. In these situations, I am going to have to make a choice. Will I go my own way or will I go God’s way?
Jesus wants to bring us to where we experience life and have it in its fullest sense. He said in John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."
Jesus knows about the thief first hand from His wilderness experience. It was there in the wilderness that Satan came to tempt Him. He did his best to get Jesus to turn aside from God’s call on His life.
Jesus faced the lies, half-truths, and deception of Satan. Those tactics haven’t changed. The world we live in has bought into these lies and deceit. It offers these lies and half-truths to us on a silver platter for our consumption. The design is to steal, kill, and destroy. But God has a better plan. He uses them as opportunities for us to experience growth, victory, and fullness in Him.
Let's very briefly familiarize ourselves with those temptations Jesus faced so that we won’t get caught off-guard when we meet the same lies of Satan. We too, with the help of the Holy Spirit, can experience victory. Then we can send Satan packing until the next time he plies us with his lies.
After the 40 days of fasting were over, we read that Jesus was hungry. Kind of an understatement. He was weak physically, and no doubt exhausted. It was then that Satan came full force with three temptations.
They were designed to attack Jesus at the point of His newly-formed commitments. Jesus had experienced the highpoint of his life at His baptism. He heard His heavenly Father’s voice out of heaven affirm to Him, “This is my Son.” In His time in the wilderness, Jesus most likely received His marching orders from God: the direction His ministry would take, the fact that He was sent to set captives free, and that He was the lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. He had come to serve and not be served.
Don’t be surprised if following a commitment you make, a time of testing regarding that commitment occurs. It happened to Jesus.
At the point of his physical hunger, the temptation came, “If you are the son of God, speak to this rock and turn it into bread.” In other words, take care of yourself. Put yourself first. If you are the Son of God, use your authority and power to meet your needs!
Isn’t that the way of the world? I want to be the boss so that I can be served. The temptation is to use your position and authority for our good.
Jesus responded, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’" Jesus gave up what He wanted to focus on what He needed.
His response is completed in Matthew's gospel, “...but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matt. 4:4)
It is an affirmation that there is more to life than just our physical needs. They are important, but they aren’t everything. We tend to make our physical needs everything! It’s not just bread alone. Not just satisfying our hunger. We tend to make "happiness” what life is all about. We say, “How can it be wrong when it makes me feel good? It makes me happy! What’s so wrong with that?"
Jesus says life isn’t just about bread alone. It is about listening to our Father’s words. It’s about hearing what He has to say. It's about trusting in Him to provide for me in His time and in His way.
In answer to this temptation to take matters into his own hands, Jesus determined that He would let His Heavenly Father lead Him, source Him, and supply Him. He reaffirmed His faith in God! Jesus affirmed life is about listening to the Father.
In the second temptation, Jesus is taken by Satan to a high place where He is shown the peoples of the world. Satan parades them before Jesus and says, “I can give them all to you…just worship me…do it my way. Besides, my way doesn’t involve a cross”.
Our scripture says the devil then led Him up to a high place and showed Him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. Luke 4:6-8,
And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
The temptation Satan puts before us is that we can accomplish God’s purposes in our way. Very often, Satan’s testing isn’t about doing "bad things." It is about accomplishing good things in self-centered ways. The temptation Satan is offering is to do it his way, to let him call the shots. Jesus’ answer is, "Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only!" We are called to yield our rights, preferences, and desires to God. We are to worship Him, obey Him, and serve Him only.
I remember a time when I was still a youth pastor in Kaneohe. Jude and I got a call to start a church on the Big Island in Paradise Park. We decided we needed a van. Toyota had come out with a beautiful one, so we went to a rental dealership and bought a van for our ministry. We told God, "We need this van!” We signed the loan papers. As we were driving it home over the Likelike, God said, “What are doing in this van? Did I tell you to get it? That is not what I want for you!” “But God, we need this for our new ministry!" I’m not sure if we turned around or waited till the next morning, but we returned that van. God had a better idea. And because we didn’t have a big car loan, we were able to buy a home AND a used VW van to care for the needs of building a church. We had taken things into our own hands, stopped, turned around, and did it God's way. God's way was better.
Jesus says, "You can’t serve two Gods." We want to live with one foot in the world and one foot in heaven. We want to go to heaven, but we don’t want to let go of the things of this world. We are called to yield our rights, our preferences, and our desires to God’s will. That is what Jesus affirms when He says, "Worship the Lord your God and Serve Him only!"
In the third temptation, Satan took Jesus to the highest pinnacle in the temple, a place where everyone could see Him.
The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you ]to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Satan quoted scripture and told Jesus, look down at the crowd. You want the world to bow down to you? Just jump! God isn’t going to forsake you. He said so in his word, "His angels will snatch you up…." Go ahead and see if He won't act on your behalf. You will be the talk of the town! You can accomplish your purposes through the WOW FACTOR!
Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’
Just a few Sundays ago, we were speaking about stewardship and about putting God first. I challenged you with a "trust test" card. We are told in Malachi to test God. God says, "Test me and see if I won't care for you."
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.
Now in our scripture, Jesus says, "Don’t put God to the test." Which is it?
Look to the source. In Malachi, the Lord is speaking. It is His Word to us. In Luke’s Gospel, Satan is talking. Jesus says, "Don’t put God to the test!" In both instances, the intention is, "I am affirming that God is the LORD of my life and I’m committed to obeying Him!" It is not us telling God what to do! It is not us telling the Lord to perform.
Let’s be on the alert for opportunities that will present themselves during this season for us to choose and affirm, "He is Lord. He has risen from the dead, and He is Lord." All other options are merely temptations. Jesus has settled the issue. I am God’s Child!
Have you resolved that issue? As you do, He will lead you!