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6. Temptation After Baptism #2

Chapter 6

Temptation After Baptism #2

Luke 4:5-13, parallel Matthew 4:5-11
Montreal, April 8, 1979


Today we continue our study of the temptation of Jesus, going deeper into its meaning. Last week I pointed out that the temptation took place right after Jesus’ baptism, indeed right after his being anointed with the Spirit. In the whole account, Satan’s lines of attack are laid bare for us to see. For example, as we have seen, the flesh is the channel through which Satan works on our hearts, appealing to our needs and desires, including those which are legitimate such as hunger. Yet Satan manages to distort them with the aim of bringing about our spiritual ruin.

Three fundamental principles of temptation

Today we will look at the second of three principles by which Satan attacks us. But first I need to mention that the temptation account is very deep, and what we are doing in these studies is nothing more than looking at three funda­mental principles. There are deeper meanings in this account which we won’t go into. So I don’t want to give you the impression that by the time we have concluded our study of the temptation of Jesus, we will have understood it fully. We are only dealing with three basic principles. There are yet greater depths for you to explore as you progress in the Christian life.

Last week we looked at verses 1 to 4 of Luke chapter 4. Today we continue to verses 5 to 13:

5 And the devil took him up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and 6 said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours.” 8 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” 9 And he took him to Jerusalem, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here; 10 for it is written, ‘He will give his angels charge of you, to guard you,’ and 11 ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ 12 And Jesus an­swered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” 13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. (Luke 4:5-13, RSV)

It is interesting that both Satan and Jesus make use of Scripture in battle. In the first and second tempt­ations, Jesus fends off Satan’s attacks by quoting Scripture with the intro­ductory words, “It is written” (vv.4,8). Satan then counterquotes Scripture with the exact same words, “It is written” (v.10), this time quoting from Psalm 91:11-12, and ac­curately at that. Then Jesus, in a counter­move, quotes from Deuteronomy 6:16 in which Moses says to the Israelites, “You shall not put Yahweh your God to the test.”

Satan’s fundamental temptation: Do your own thing

Last week we saw that the first type of temptation is simply a crude appeal to our physical needs and desires, even legitimate needs. But as the tempt­ation story unfolds, Satan refines his tactics. And indeed he has many in his arsenal to choose from.

Before we examine the second principle of temptation, let us first grasp Satan’s fundamen­tal approach. Although Satan does not quite put it in so many words, his basic suggest­ion is: “Do your own thing. Don’t care what God says. Did God even say it? Look for Number One, you yourself. What matters is the self, the ego. Look after yourself, for God might not always look after you.”

This way of thinking is what underpins the famous saying, “God takes care of those who take care of themselves.” Never has there been a more Satanic statement hatched out of hell. It sounds reason­able, doesn’t it? You wouldn’t expect God to look after you if you don’t look after yourself. Can you dismantle its logic? This state­ment has brainwashed and indoctrinated us. We think that God looks after those who look after themselves because the logic makes good sense. That is precisely what Satan would have us think.

Look at the guy who gives up his career to serve God. In your heart you say to him, “Friend, you’re not looking after yourself. You’re missing the fact that God takes care of those who take care of them­selves. If you don’t look after yourself, why would you expect God to look after you?”

Strangely enough, I have heard Christians say, “God takes care of those who take care of themselves,” as though it came from the Bible, or is a common sense fact that every Christian ought to know.

To be sure, it is common sense. But it is the common sense of the natural man who reasons as follows: If you look after yourself, God will look after you. That makes it so wonderful. With this kind of assurance, what more do you need? The point of being a Christ­ian is not only that you look after yourself, but God looks after you. This is the kind of assurance that you need in a competit­ive world. God is there to serve you, not you to serve God. How wonderful it is that God sends the Lord Jesus to us! Jesus washes our feet and we wash our feet, so they are doubly washed! Who cares if Jesus gets his feet washed so long as I get mine washed—by Jesus no less!

This way of thinking is what A.W. Tozer calls double insurance. The Christian is doubly insured: you save yourself, and God saves you. That sounds perfectly logical to the natural man.

Why did you even become a Christian in the first place? Is it to be saved by the blood of Jesus? In our thinking, whether you do some­thing for God is not the point, though you might in your spare time think of doing some­thing for God. But most of the time, God is there to do everything for you.

That is what I call the man-centered religion of Satan. If you ever hear someone say, “God takes care of those who take care of them­selves,” you can tell him that this comes straight from Satan. I have seen many undiscerning Christians swallow it lock, stock and barrel, lacking the spiritual insight to see through its satanic logic.

The second temptation: A mountaintop experience

Let us now look at the second temptation. If you are looking after yourself, how would you do it in the face of difficulty? The quick answer is: Choose the easiest way out, the path of least resistance! If your prior­ity is your own well-being, you wouldn’t make things hard for yourself, would you? So choose the path of least resistance, the easy road rather than the narrow road. Join the crowd because the hard and narrow road is for the minority.

Taking the easy road is the very temptation in Luke 4:5. Let me give you some background information to this verse, which says, “The devil took him up (to a high place) and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.” These kingdoms are not just nations, but the powers and authorities of this world.

Satan was not giving Jesus a guided tour of Europe, after which one might say, “I visited ten European countries in twelve days!” Imagine seeing Germany in just one day. That is still possible. I have driven up and down Germany in one day, morning to evening. It is exhausting but doable.

But Satan was not giving Jesus a tour of the nations. The phrase “in a moment of time” (v.5) is to be understood as “in one flash” or “in a vision”. What we have is a vision, not a guided tour. The parallel verse, Matthew 4:8, says that the Devil took Jesus to a “very high mountain,” giving him a mountain­top experience.

Satan can give you an uplifting spiritual exper­ience, a grand vision from an elevated place. And what a grand vision it is, that of the glories of the world. But I say to those who are newly baptized: Beware of spiritual visions that come from Satan. Don’t think that every mountain­top exper­ience comes from God.

When someone comes out of a Christian conference with a mountaintop experience, I am not always sure that it is from God. The reason is that in many cases, the person spirals down, even into depression, within a week after the conference. When a spiritual experience depresses you in such a short time, it is unlikely to be from God. Satan lifts you up only to bring you down. That is why I am cautious of mountaintop exper­iences. Approach every spiritual experience with caution, especially if offers an instant uplift.

For this reason I worry about people who push speaking in tongues. As I have said many times, I have nothing against tongues. Yet it worries me that people look for tongues not to serve God better but to get an uplifting spiritual experience. And they will certainly get one from Satan. Note the words, “Satan took Jesus up.” Do you want an uplifting experience? Satan will give you one. But be careful of these experiences, such as joy and exhilarat­ion at a healing meeting. As I have shared with you, I have nothing against healing. God has in some small ways used me in healing. But be careful about seek­ing a spiritual uplift. It is danger­ous! Satan is ready to give you an uplift, and you won’t be able to tell what is genuine from what is fake. Not all tongues or healings are from God.

Satan gives Jesus a vision of the kingdoms of the world. It is a vision that comes from Satan, so be aware that not all visions are from God. Some are from God, some are not. It is wonderful to have a vision from God, but any such vision would show God’s glory rather than worldly glory. So discern the substance of a vision. Does it appeal to your flesh, or does it draw you into spiritual communion with God?

Can you tell the difference between the two? If you get worked up emotionally and uncontrollably, it is not from God, for if you are lifted up spiritually, there would be a deep peace, a sure sign of a spiritual uplifting.

Beware of mass meetings that use music and a choir to play on your emotions. We don’t use such techniques even though we know how to, for they often pro­duce satanic rather than spiritual results. It is easy to get carried away in a mass meeting. Psychologists are aware of the “mass crowd” effect that stirs up emotional feelings. But a wise preacher refrains from using these techniques because if you lift up a person through his flesh, he will fall spiritually.

But a genuine spiritual uplifting doesn’t need to rely on working up the emotions. When the Spirit of God lifts you up, there is a deep inner peace, not an uncontrolled trembling or weeping. I have seen people weep and tremble in a terrible emotional state. That is not necess­arily from God, for if the Spirit convicts you, the results are spiritual: quietness, broken­ness, and quiet weeping rather than uncontrolled trembling and weeping. Distinguish between the flesh and the Spirit, between the world and God. The vision that Isaiah saw is a vision of God, not a vision of the glories of the world that will only lead you astray.

Whenever you are at a large meeting (and we are not saying that all large meetings are wrong), be on your guard so that nobody works on your emotions with large choirs and moving music. Rather, stay close to God, and quiet your spirit before Him.

In China I used to carry a flag for our secondary school in a marching band. Wow! Have you ever seen a million people march? It is impressive and exciting! The mass effect is very powerful. If one person shouts a slogan, the whole crowd shouts back. But when it is over and they go back home, they start wondering, “What was that all about?”

I am grieved to see Christians use these techniques, thinking that this is a way of serving God. But you don’t serve God by using satanic or worldly techniques. A common result of mass meetings is the high fall­out rate. Many who make decis­ions for Christ in a mass rally do not stick to their decis­ions. Statistics have shown that over 80% fall within the first year. Is that the result you want? The num­ber of decisions for Christ looks impressive on paper, but how many will survive one year? Five years?

Understand the nature of spiritual warfare. Know the enemy’s tactics and how he works on the flesh. Don’t seek superficial spiritual experiences.

Acknowledge me as the one who gave it all to you

In Luke 4:6-7, Satan offers to give Jesus “all this authority and their glory,” but under one condition: “If you will worship me, it shall all be yours.”

Satan is not stupid. He is aware of Jesus’ mission in the world: “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil” (1John 3:8). It is something that Jesus knows too: “For this purpose I have come to this hour” (John 12:27), that is, to lay down his life to destroy the works of the devil.

We can imagine a discussion between Satan and Jesus. Satan says to him: “You and I know what this is about. You have come to fight me and destroy my power in the world. But you also know that I won’t take this lying down. I will fight, and both of us will suffer. You will get hurt because I am going to fight you. I will get hurt because you have spiritual power. So let’s make a deal. All along I have had authority over all the kingdoms of the world. But once I give them to you, I won’t have them anymore. I will do this without a fight, on one small condit­ion: that you acknowledge you received all this authority from me. Acknowledge my kingship and pay me homage!”

We need to grasp the meaning of the words, “If you will worship me,” because many Christians misunderstand them to mean the divine worship of Satan. But some Bibles have “bow down before me” or “do homage to me” for Luke 4:7.

It is ludi­crous to think that Jesus would worship Satan. Even young Christ­ians would never think that a religious Jew, especially Jesus, would worship Satan as God. And Satan is not so stupid as to think this. If he had tried to get Jesus to worship him as God, it would not even be a temptation for Jesus.

It is important to know how the word which is translated here as “worship” is used in the Bible. It is not to worship Satan as God, for Jesus would never do that. Even nominal Christians would refuse to do that if they were put on the spot, much less the Son of God. Satan is not asking Jesus to worship him as God, but to honor him as the king of this world.

In fact the Greek word proskyneō trans­lated here as “worship” does not have worship as its prim­ary mean­ing but only as a second­ary and derivat­ive meaning. Its primary meaning is the offering of reverence, obeisance, or homage, as seen in any standard Greek-English lexicon such as BDAG or Thayer’s. The definition of prosky­neō in these two lexicons is given in Appendix 2 of the present book, and both lexicons have “worship” only as a secondary definition.

The same word proskyneō is used in Matthew 2:2 of the magi or wise men who pay homage to the infant Jesus, honoring him not as God but as the king of the Jews.

In any case, Satan would not ask you to do something you would never do. Even a nominal Christian would not worship Satan as God. That is non-negotiable. No, Satan is only asking Jesus to honor him as king. Although Jesus acknowledges that Satan has kingly author­ity in this world, he will not honor Satan as his king.

Satan is king in a significant sense. Jesus speaks of him as “the ruler of this world” or “the prince of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). The Greek word for “prince” (archon) in its wide sense also means a ruler. In Matthew 12:26, Jesus speaks of Satan’s kingdom and kingly power, both of which stand in opposition to God’s kingly power mentioned in verse 28 (“the kingdom of God has come upon you”).

The temptation to choose the easier way

Satan is saying to Jesus, “Since you acknowledge that I am the ruler of this world, all I am asking of you is to kneel and bow before me, and honor me as king. Then I will hand everything over to you. You and I won’t have to fight, and you won’t have to go to the cross. If you want the king­doms of the world, I will give them to you. Choose the easy road. I am not asking for much, just that you honor me as king.”

One can acknowledge that a person is a king without honoring him as king. Satan is saying, “Honor me as king, and I will give you the king­doms of the world. Then I will slip away, for once the king­doms have been handed over to you, they are no longer mine.”

It is a dangerously deceptive offer. Without going into its many im­plicat­ions which will only get more complicated in the spiritual battle, it suffices to recognize the basic principle: Choose the easier way. All it takes is a tiny bit of compromise.

I have seen this subtle tactic used on Christians again and again. For example, I have seen people who want to serve God, live for God, and enter into full-time service for God. Then one of two things would usually happen. The family either opposes his or her plans in a direct confrontat­ion, or they go for the soft approach which is usually more effective. They would say, “We have no objections,” when in fact they have strong objections in their hearts. Then they make a deal: “We won’t quarrel with you. So we would like to pay for your studies at the Bible college.”

I have seen many Christians walk straight into that trap, and come out rejoicing, “Hallelujah! My family doesn’t object. They will even pay for my Bible college expenses.” But don’t shout hallelujah too fast, for you have just walked into a trap. If you are wise, you would not have accepted one cent from them. But because you have accepted their support, you are now in their grip. You will owe your theological training to non-Christ­ians even if they happen to be your family members.

I have seen many undiscerning Christians walk into that trap only to get wiped out. You don’t get some­thing from the enemy or the opposition without paying for it at high interest. So beware when Satan comes to you in a sympath­etic way. That is most fright­ening! I am not scared of a head-on attack, but what scares me is the soft manipulat­ion that may be hard to discern.

The Enemy has tried this on me a few times. Back in Liverpool, a woman confronted me forcefully. If you confront a man of God, you will soon find out that God’s power is more than enough to deal with you. When she approached me, she thought she could crush me by sheer force, only to find herself getting crushed.

She changed her tactic and tried to buy me with money: “Let’s be friends. We won’t fight anymore. I will buy you a church build­ing free of charge!” I was suspicious of her soft approach, so I said, “What strings are attached?”

“There are no strings attached.”

“None? Really?”

“None whatsoever! The building is yours. You can have it.”

How would you like to have a church building handed over to you on a platter? Her soft attack worried me more than anything else. So I prayed about it and got back to her, “No thanks. I don’t want the building.”

“But it is free with no strings attached. We will get a lawyer and sign it over to you.”

“No, thanks.”

“You don’t like the building? How about a different one?”

“No thanks, I don’t need a building.”

“If you don’t like this building, we can pull it down and build a new one. Hire your own architect to design it, and I will build it for you.”

Satan has many resources. This woman had lots of resources, lots of money, lots of houses. What is one house out of a dozen? One house, even two or three houses, would be a bargain price for buying a man of God. So beware of Satan’s soft approach.

Interestingly, when I visited England a year and a half ago, I saw her again by chance encounter on a street. She was shocked to see me. And do you know what she did? She is a clever woman who thinks fast. Her face changed immediately and she smiled: “Oh, you are back again. I would like to invite you to preach at my meeting.” I said, “No thanks.” (She had started a rival meeting which her son, a close friend of mine, dissociated himself from and didn’t want to have anything to do with.)

“No? But I am inviting you to preach at my meeting. Aren’t you a preacher of the Word of God? Then come preach at my meeting.”

I said “No thanks” because if I had accepted her invitation, she would be able to say, “See, he preached at my meeting.”

Likewise, if Jesus had fallen for Satan’s temptation, Satan would be able to say, “Jesus received the kingdoms of the world from me. I am a nobody now, but don’t ever forget that he got them from me.” Do you see through Satan’s subtle trick? When he starts getting sympathetic, you had better start worrying. Satan says to Jesus, “So you are hungry? How God has neglected you! If you are the Son of God, turn this stone into bread. Let’s not fight but be friends. I will give you the king­doms of the world for a small favor in return. Just bow before me for a few seconds, and you will have the kingdoms forever.”

Jesus’ reply to Satan: True worship is to serve God

Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 6:13 when he says to Satan, “It is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve” (Luke 4:8). Here “serve” is parallel to “worship”. Jesus is saying, “Satan, you have the princi­ple wrong. Worshipping God involves serving God. You shall serve no one but God.”

It is also a declaration of total commitment to God. In the first temptation, Jesus demonstrated his total commitment to his Father by refusing to turn stone into bread. Now he proves it again: “Him only shall you serve.” Serve no one else! No compromises! Jesus doesn’t deny that Satan is the king of the world, yet he also says, “I serve no one but God.”

In closing, let us keep in mind Satan’s basic tactic: “Who cares what God said? Did He even say it? Look after yourself and your well-being. What matters is the ego. Look after yourself because God may not always look after you.”

Bear in mind the second principle of temptation: take the easy road. Can you tell Satan’s way from God’s way?

Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14, RSV)

Follow the example of the Lord Jesus in refusing to compromise. Yield totally to God in obedience to Him and His word. That is the only sure way to avoid falling into Satan’s subtle trap.

(c) 2021 Christian Disciples Church