Tactics, Temptation, and Triumph Pt.2

The Sin of Power and Control

If you recall we have been learning about Satan’s tactics. The first of which is to give us options. When faced with a moral decision, he is quick to have us think about other ways to resolve it. We have seen that there are no options other than adhering to the word of God if we are to find victory in our faith. We have seen how our Lord Jesus wielded the word of God in order to strike down the temptation that Satan had suggested. That first temptation was an appeal to the body and the need to be satisfied by something other than the resident power of God’s word.

The next temptation, reads something like a contract and appeals to the human need for power. This condition of the human heart is in all of us, but not in Jesus as we shall see. It is nothing more than the desire to be in control of something(s) or someone(s). It is often recognized when we don’t get our way and then force our will on others. There is a strange paradox about control. We think that if things would be in our control that all would be ok. But things sometimes are out of our control for the simple reason we have no real control in the first place. We barely have control over the checkbook or our time and we think we can tackle life! That is because real control is not what or who I commandeer on the outside but how I commandeer myself on the inside. Therefore, when we attempt, for our own ends, to control issues or people we must do so by manipulation. We maneuver the situation in such a way that we ensure a benefit to ourselves with little regard for the wellbeing or enrichment of others. And this brings us to the next temptation that Satan schemes against Jesus.

The subtleties in this next temptation are many. Ultimately, the devil’s bargain to Jesus is one of a self centered power play. But it is made to appear on the outside that an enormous benefit awaits Him. How often have we found ourselves doing the same thing? Let’s look at this ploy a little closer.

“And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.”And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.”Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.” Luke 4:5-7

What was the offer? Satan was propositioning Jesus and once again getting Him to weigh it upon His mind. Being a master deceiver, his approach to transferring a legal exchange of power carried with it many interesting elements that provoke thought and imagination. Like the first temptation, the tactic was to get Jesus to ‘think’ about other options. His tactic did not change but the temptation indeed became a stronger enticement. This temptation was going deeper than bodily satisfaction; it was an attempt to seize the mind. And Satan knew the minds of men. He had successfully wreaked havoc on the world through the empirical rule of power hungry monarchs. Why would this be any different? He knew the mind of human beings were self-centered and given the opportunity, would buckle under the heart’s desire to satisfy the lust for power and control. And now a prospective king stands vulnerable before him. If he is human, as Satan could most certainly see, then surely he could not resist the offer to take possession of kingly rule now! The devil had hoped that Jesus, in His humanity, would ponder the offer, entering the game of power by the rules of the devil himself. But if Jesus took the offer, would He not be in fact conceding that Satan is the possessor of all these kingdoms? If the devil truly is the possessor, then he has the power to hand these kingdoms over to anyone he wishes.

Your Kingdom Come

Now king’s have always taken possession of other kingdoms by war. Power, bloodshed, enemies, victims…This is what marks the taking of kingdoms. Satan is granting Jesus a chance for world domination and rule without any of this. He is just going to hand them all over to Jesus, without a fight. Really? If Satan is the legal possessor of these kingdoms would he have followed through on his contract, to sign over these kingdoms, and given them to Jesus should the Savior accept the terms to worship him? Jesus would have no such thing? Bargaining with the father of all lies was not an option. He had no thought of a peaceful transference of power with the evil one. Oh, but there was a war coming. And there will be a battle for power, and with bloodshed. There are enemies and there will be victims; but not in the way that Satan envisioned it. It was going to be the war of all wars. Jesus would decide the place and the only blood that would be spilled in this war would be His own. Jesus would not side step the cross. There was truly a kingdom that was to come. It is the mission statement of Christ about God’s Kingdom,

“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10

Jesus could have easily seized control of these kingdoms that day in the wilderness, but he chose to do it on a lone hill. With the aid of the armies of Heaven he could have immediately overthrown the Deceiver and unseated him from his powerful control over the nations. But to do so was to forfeit the real mission at hand- Redemption.

So then, the offer of the devil to hand over to Jesus these kingdoms was an opportunity for Christ to end empirical corruption now and herald the arrival of the messianic age. Jesus was asked to consider this possibility: to establish a righteous rule where obedience to God’s word and law would supremely reign, and all without the torment of the cross!

And yet a future rule was in the plan of God that would be granted and ever increasing, once the Savior signed the contract in His own blood. Unlike earthly kings, who acquire rule by the blood stained sword, Jesus Christ would acquire legal authority by carrying out His Father’s plan. That plan being to rule in the hearts of the redeemed, and destroy the works of the devil, all without raising a single military weapon, save the cross. The Messiah would reign globally, through the administration of the indwelling Spirit, which would in turn move the citizens of Heaven to impart the righteousness and love of her King to all peoples and thereby expand His earthly governing rule by His Spirit: On earth as it is in heaven. And it will be accomplished,

“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” Zechariah 4:6

“Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” Revelation 11:15

So the Lord remains unswerving and unmoved by the tempters offer and with resistant resolve voices His true heart from the scriptures,

Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD AND SERVE HIM ONLY.’” Luke 4:8

The Sin of Self Glory

Jesus now draws the line. He hurls the word of God into the face of the deceiver and boldly declares His allegiance and alliance. One cannot serve two masters. Jesus will not bow. There will be no compromise. He will acknowledge only One to be worshipped and served, the true and living God. Perhaps this carried a haunting tone, a reminder of ages past when Satan and his followers fell because of their refusal to obey and serve their Creator. Satan himself had aspired to be a god and in this desiring, to be worshipped. His hatred for God is such that he robs the glory due Him by enticing mankind for self glory. This is just what the devil had in mind when he propositioned Jesus with global rule. The devil had said,

“I will give You all this domain and its glory.”Luke 4:6

Self glory is idolatry and in essence, devil inspired worship. When we are seeking glory for ourselves then God’s glory is undermined and dishonored. God will not share His glory with another.

“I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” Isaiah 42:8

Jesus brings the devil’s past rebellion and self glory into painful view by quoting heaven’s anthem, which is earth’s first and second commandment.

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them” Exodus 20:2-5

It appears to me that while the quote from Deuteronomy 6:13 (“You shall fear only the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name.”) is most given by commentators as the quote spoken by Jesus, it seems more apparent that Jesus was quoting the essence of the first two commandments. Either way, neither was an exact quote. And the Deuteronomy passage, in its fuller context, is in itself an encapsulation, by way of reminder of the first two commandments, spoken by Moses to the Israelites. It is clear that Jesus formed his counter offensive from these scripture verses. We might well see that Jesus was not just giving the devil a scriptural answer but an emphatic command that he, the devil, is to “worship the Lord your[his] God”. Jesus would, in the Father’s time, receive the glory due him, but not until the war at the cross had been won. And then in that future day when

“at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:10-11

Every knee will bow, every tongue confess… This will be the most dreaded day in hell when every demon will without hesitation bow in fear and open their mouths in open declaration that Jesus Christ is forever Lord!

So far we have seen the devil tempt, by appealing to a natural need as a means to abort the will of God and thereby overthrow the work of Christ. We have also seen him offer a shortcut to personal success and the fulfillment of  the mission by testing Jesus’ allegiance. And now, the final test, a theological apologetic. If Jesus’ appeal was to scripture, then the Devil would propose a scriptural argument.

 A Battle of Words

We have come to the final temptation of our Lord. So far we have seen the devil tempt, by appealing to a natural need (to eat) as a means to abort the will of God and thereby overthrow the mission of Christ. Next, we watched how he maneuvered in a subtle tactic; providing a shortcut for Jesus’ personal success in obtaining Messianic rule. This was a test of Jesus’ obedience to his Father’s plan for Messianic rule. Satan’s offer to Jesus was for world rule; God’s mission was to rule in the hearts of mankind. In God’s process for Messianic rule, world dominion was secondary to heart dominion. And now, the final test, a theological apologetic. Jesus had constantly rebutted the devil by answering every temptation with a verse from scripture. If this is what it would take to bring down the mission of Christ, then the crafty one would construct a scriptural argument. He would go head to head with Christ on an issue of scriptural importance: Faith in God. The devil would appeal to both reason and faith as a means to challenge the God/Man using Psalm 91:11 and 12 as supporting verses.

In the gospel of Luke 4:9-11 we read, “And he [Satan] led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “(If You are the) Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; for it is written, ‘HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU TO GUARD YOU, And, ‘ON THEIR HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.’

The devil puts forth the ultimate scriptural challenge. By the way, don’t think that the enemy will not use the Word of God against you and I. He knows the scriptures very well and is a master at twisting them just enough to bring confusion; misleading us into scriptural error [1].  The above challenge is a quote from Psalm 91:11 and 12 [2].  The devil takes Jesus to the roof of the southeast end of the temple, at its highest point. Standing 350 ft. at the edge of this precipice, towering above the Kidron Valley the devil puts Jesus to a test of faith. Will Jesus trust the Word of His Father from this Psalm? Will He trust that the angels of heaven will catch Him once he jumps to his death? Does He really believe the scriptures to be reliable and inerrant? We have often heard that actions speak louder than words. For all His preaching is Jesus ready to put into practice what he so fervently believes? Would Jesus doubt the validity of this verse by NOT acting upon it? Does He really trust that God will do what this scripture promises? Either he believes the Word and in faith jumps off the temple’s pinnacle or he demonstrates his own lack of faith in His Father’s Word and walks away shamefully defeated. If God cannot be counted on to come through on this promise from Psalms then the whole of scripture becomes suspect. This challenge of faith was designed to do one of two things: undermine the trustworthiness of scripture and thereby create doubt in God’s Word or question Jesus’ own faith in God Himself and bring about the tumbling of the Messianic hope.

A Precarious Challenge

Adding weight to the temptation was a Rabbinic tradition which prophesied that the Messiah would reveal himself on the roof of the temple [3]. This was a chance of a lifetime! A public display of the miraculous that would both satisfy the Jewish people as well as the Jewish religious caste. What grander way could the announcement come than in this spectacular staging of the long awaited Messiah? The crowd would surely roar with applause! So the devil brings Jesus to a public place. This was no private testing, like the previous ones. His faith is now tested before the world. It’s all or nothing. And that is how it is for every believer. The devil would revel in watching us have an embarrassing failure of faith before the eyes of the public. When the world is watching that is the most opportune time to discredit the Gospel we proclaim and our faith in God. Because the temple was the place of worship and frequented daily by the Jews and others, this was the perfect setting for the Savior to announce His arrival as the Messiah; and more so, with a miraculous and dramatic display of confirmation by being caught mid fall off this pinnacle by the hands of angels. How could the crowds below ignore so wonderful an act of faith and spectacular proclamation of His being the Deliverer sent by God to rescue Israel from its oppressors? With the devil’s promptings to throw Himself down (for the devil cannot force any of us to do his evil bidding, but is empowered by a willing subject), while the people below witness this great sight, now is the time to see what Jesus really believes about Himself and the Word of God.

Luke 4:12 And Jesus answered and said to him, “It is said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.”


Law or Grace

For those who believe that we no longer recognize the importance of the Law, I submit this revealing observation. Here is an inside look into the mind of Christ. Every temptation that Jesus faced was countered with a reference to Deuteronomy, the book of the Law. The answers that Jesus gave were solid unwavering truths. It becomes apparent that the Savior considers the Law of God of highest priority in living upright before the Lord and serves as a guide in steering us clear from worldly temptations.

Ps 119:97 “Oh, how I love thy law! It is my meditation all the day.”  King David

The church needs to take note and reclaim its love for the Law and incorporate it into its teachings and personal daily meditations. Many believe that we live solely in an age of grace, abandoning the significance of the Law. Jesus never made this distinction, and He is Truth and Grace. He did not place Himself above the Law or remove the Law. He honored the Law and meditated upon it daily. It is this love for the Law that kept His fellowship with the Father enriching and truly free from the temptations of everyday life. Grace in the flesh had come in the person of Jesus. But this was never a reason to set aside the Law and live outside the holy safeguards that the Law of God establishes. Unlike those who trumpet a grace alone faith, living uprightly is not living in perpetual repentance by a grace alone life but in perpetual obedience where the Law of God (now fulfilled by the sanctifying work that is accomplished by the Law of the Spirit of life [4]) guards our minds and hearts to stay within the limits of His holiness. If we truly desire to follow Jesus Christ then this act of faith, which is our submission to the Spirit of God, will grace us fully while keeping us within the guardrails of the Law.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

That said, distinctions must be made regarding natural, ceremonial, civil, judicial and moral law. While the ceremonial laws were fulfilled in Christ’s work on the cross, moral law was never abrogated. But this remains for further study elsewhere. Those who would downplay the Law and replace it with Grace, beware! Playing into the theological tactics of Satan will take a Christian down the road of compromise and sin. How is it that many today fall to such fleshly temptations? Perhaps a return to a love for God’s Law is what is needed, or a more knowledgeable understanding of the law. If Jesus saw fit to reply with it, it is to our advantage to do the same.

Tempting the Lord your God

But let’s have a closer look at the scripture Jesus used to fire back at Satan. It is a verse taken from the book of Deuteronomy Chapter 6:16. Moses was preparing the Israelites to possess the Promised Land and made this charge to them, “ye shall not tempt the Lord your God.” John Gill makes this comment regarding Jesus’ response to Satan in the verses in Luke:

“In the text in Deuteronomy the words are, “ye shall not tempt the Lord your God.” The second person plural [your-plural, speaking to all], is here changed into the second person singular [your-singular, speaking to you], to accommodate the words to Satan; whom Christ singularly addresses, and makes answer to, and who was under this same general law as other rational creatures: and Jehovah may be called the Lord his God, as he is his creator and governor; by whom he is upheld in his being, and to whom he is subject, whether he will or not; though not his covenant God: and even if our Lord Jesus Christ is intended by the Lord God, as some think; he is God over all; over all principalities and powers, good and bad, by whom all are created, and in whom all consist; and whose power and authority over Satan and his angels, have abundantly appeared, in dispossessing devils out of men, sending them where he pleased, and in spoiling the powers of darkness, and in destroying him that had the power of death, the devil; and great insolence and wickedness it must be in a creature, to tempt the Lord his God, in any way, or form whatever.” [5]

Again, we can make another insightful observation. Jesus changes the grammatical form of one single word in the Deuteronomy passage; it is the word ‘your’. When Moses spoke this command to the nation of Israel he used the plural form “Ye shall not tempt the Lord your [plural- as in all of you that is the people of Israel] God.” Jesus takes this same command that was given by Moses and personalizes it by changing the grammar from a plural to a singular form. The ‘your’ in Jesus’ answer is spoken as a direct command to a single person and not a group of people. In other words, Jesus is now commanding Satan, ‘You,[Satan] shall not tempt the Lordyour [singular person, addressed to Satan] God. By making this grammatical change, Jesus was not just quoting a passage from Deuteronomy but He was commanding Satan personally, that this word of the Law is for him to obey. In effect Jesus turns the table on the evil one. It is no longer Jesus that is being challenged but it is the devil. He is forcefully reminded that he must not tempt God. And that is just what he was doing in tempting the Son of God. This turning of the tables demonstrates the Divine authority that Jesus has over Satan. He calls the tempter to account and reminds him that he can never do anything outside the bounds of God’s authority. Satan cannot just run amuck within the world of mankind. The Lord may permit satanic temptation but there are lines to be drawn. And even devils must concede to God and to His Christ. No one in heaven, earth or hell can subvert God’s rule or plans. And so we can learn that all creatures, angels as well as mankind, are commanded to be subject to the ultimate authority of the Creator, and that means Satan as well!

Twisting Scripture

The devil’s use of this scripture in Psalms tells us something about what the Bible calls scripture twisting. As we saw previously in the footnote on 2 Peter 3:16 the devil is able to twist scripture and so too can the religious and the non religious alike. In this final temptation we see a prime example of scripture twisting. The devil misinterprets and then misapplies Psalm 91:11,12. The devil had cleverly designed a situation that placed Jesus in a position to test God. Properly understood, Psalm 91:11,12 is not an invitation to test God. It is a declaration to the believer that should we find ourselves in circumstances that could prove injurious or fatal that we can call upon the Lord for his divine intervention. We are nowhere instructed to put ourselves in precarious situations and then ask God to get us out of them. This is not faith, but ignorance and sheer foolishness!


Triumph Over Temptation

The Lord Jesus Christ effectively triumphs over Satan’s best attempts to find a fault in His character. Satan departs but will not give up, he will reassess where he failed and find another opportunity to foil the Savior’s mission. Until then, the scriptures say that,“Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit…” Luke 4:14. You and I know this well, when we overcome the temptations of the devil we experience the power of God. Too often we want this power going into the temptation, but what is needed is bold defiance against all that allures and arouses the flesh and instead have complete reliance on the living and active Word of God within us. With brazen faith, even in our weakest moments we can rely on the Lord and His Word to bring down the strongholds and temptations of the evil one.

“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

Divine power is readily available for those who obey God’s Word with single devotion and rely on the resident power of the Holy Spirit.

Know his tactics.

Resist his temptation

And you will triumph.

End Notes

[1]   2 Peter 3:16 “There are some things in them [the scriptures] that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.” ESV

[2] Psalm 91: 11,12 “For he will command his angels concerning you to grant you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” ESV

[3] Marshall, Howard. The Gospel of Luke. A commentary on the Greek text. Pg 173. Eerdmans Publishing: Grand Rapids, MI

[4] Romans 8:2 “For the Law of the Spirit of Life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the Law of sin and death.” There is still a law in place here. The difference is that it is not done by the actions of human effort, but by the indwelling Spirit of God. One Law brought death, the other life. Jesus was the only one capable of keeping the whole Law code of the Old Testament. We, on the other hand, are in Christ, and by virtue of His fulfilling the Law, live by the Law of the Spirit of Life.

[5] Gill, John. Exposition of the Whole Bible. Quickverse 2008.


copyright © 2011 Steve Covarrubias

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