Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Eyewitnesses of His Majesty: Watching Jesus Conquer Temptation

            Temptation is an attack against our identity as children of God. When we rest secure in our position as dearly loved children, we will successfully resist temptation.

A shocking truth about the temptation of Jesus is that Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit. The devil was the tempter, but the Holy Spirit brought Jesus to the environment of temptation. Many people believe that they face temptation with neither God’s presence nor God’s involvement in their story. Nothing could be further from the truth! While temptation may expose your weakness, it could just as well be the display of your God given strength.  God is present and interested when you face temptation because he wants you to stand firm and conquer!

Jesus was hungry after fasting for forty days! The tempter prodded him to use his power to solve his immediate need for food. While hunger is a legitimate need, Jesus recognized an even deeper need than the desire for food – his need for the word of God! He rightly prioritized his needs, trusting that meeting the deeper need would result in the lesser need being met as well. This takes serious trust in and reliance upon God! Spiritual maturity eludes many people because they are so busy meeting their lesser needs, they never get around to pursuing their deep spiritual needs. Jesus gave us wisdom concerning this when he said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and all these other things will be given to you as well!”

At his baptism Jesus heard the voice from heaven say, “This is my son whom I love. With him I am well pleased.” The tempter challenged Jesus to prove himself to be loved by God. Jesus, however, secure with his status as God’s beloved, felt no need to prove anything to Satan! Secure in God’s unfailing love, Jesus was comfortable with his identity. Lacking a need to test God or prove himself, Jesus refused the temptation to prove he was loved, choosing instead to simply enjoy being loved by God. Satan never understands this because there is no prideful motivation here at all. Once you make the primary decision to empty yourself, Satan cannot use your pride to trip you up!    

After two failures, apparently Satan realized that the “if you are the Son of God” track was not working, so he switched to a more basic temptation. Satan appealed to the natural human desire to “have it all,” offering Jesus “the world” in exchange for his worship. Jesus, of course, wanted it all and more. And it was because of the “and more” that he was not taken in by the bait and switch of Satan. Jesus knew the spiritual reality behind the statement: you are the slave of the one you obey! (Romans 6:16) Jesus later asked famously, “What can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” He was already privately and publicly committed to be God’s servant so he refused to offer Satan the worship he so eagerly desired. Jesus did not give into the soul crushing sin of idolatry, rather he humbly honored God. Satan himself, apparently, fell for this temptation!

Satan knew he had been defeated by Jesus who was neither insecure in himself nor doubtful of his status with the Father. Jesus triumphed because he lived from the fullness of his faith and not the emptiness of his fears. We would do well to live like that!

- Kenny Payne