Tuesday, November 24, 2015
How We Are Defeated But Can Be Victorous (Part 2)
The second temptation of the Devil to the Lord Jesus, as narrated in Matthew 4:1-11, was specific to who he was as God’s Anointed. For the devil knew that he was the Messiah, the Son of God. The devil did not dispute this fact in suggesting this tactic. Rather he is trying to bait him into showing off his divine power to do something that no ordinary human being could possibly do! The devil wants Jesus to act in a way that defies the means and method of God’s work.
The Lord’s response tells us what kind of attitude is proper and right for a human being to have: One of humble obedience to God while seeking to excel in living out one’s calling—for God as the sole audience. The devil does bring to us a parallel temptation to that of Christ when he suggests that we use any worldly means to use our talents or influence in order to win the applause of others or to make money for ourselves.
The Lord saw right through this because he understood that we are not to “put the Lord your God to the test.” (v.7; Deut. 6:16, NRSV) That is, we must listen to God and do what we are called to do in God’s way and in accordance with what he has revealed. This means that we must not utilize humanly designed publicity stunts or tricks to convince others that we are great or important. God called us and God will back us up as we follow his will.
This third temptation of the Devil is the most direct and bold of the three he presented to the Lord Jesus. It is also the simplest one to name: Idolatry. The Lord dismisses it outright with this quote from the Scriptures, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” (v.10; Deut. 6:13, NRSV)
The heart of the temptation was to pull Jesus away from his rightly relating to God and doing his good will by offering to bestow upon Jesus something that the Messiah was said to be given by God—namely, to rule the whole world (see Psalm 110). The devil offered a shortcut around the narrow road of following the will of God to being glorified through his suffering on the cross and thus be Ruling Messiah of the heavens and earth.
The appeal of this temptation for us sinful humans is obvious. Do we not all feel inclined to get into that “inner circle” and access “power positions”? And like the devil we naturally want to wield power to suit our own purposes—not God’s or our neighbors. Thus if we are not fearers of God and decide that the end goal of life is gaining power over others and wielding that then the devil’s offer will be very attractive indeed! But even if we get some power to wield in life it comes at the eternal loss of our souls—if we do not repent and turn to Christ for life.
This is why we need to understand and apply the biblical rational of Jesus’ refutation of the devil’s offer. To take the devil’s offer is to subjugate oneself to a creature made by God rather than God himself. This devalues and degrades human dignity because that value comes from a vital worship of God through active faith and trust in God alone. This offer also cuts off one from the destiny God has for redeemed humanity to rule with his authority and power with Christ—that includes the angelic beings!