Let us spend a little time on Jesus’ temptation in the desert. It has always been a puzzle, why Jesus had to be tempted before He began His Ministry? According to one Christian writer, Jesus was tempted like any other man so that He could help his followers (Hebrews 2:18). If that is the case, then Jesus’ encounter with Satan is a blueprint for man. First of all, Satan did not tempt Jesus when He was physically strong, but when He was exhausted and hungry. Secondly, Satan questioned Jesus’ relationship with God. Jesus, being the Son of God, He should have no trouble turning stones into bread. The issue was not what Jesus could or could not have done; rather the question was, “What was Jesus’ duty as a man?” Jesus was to abide by God’s Law built into creation, and He was not to alter it by a new creation of turning stones into bread, whenever man gets hungry. It was a matter of obeying God’s Law and Word rather than pleasing the tempter. In this case, hunger was on the tempter’s side. Hence, to satisfy the needs of the human body, we should be allowed to break a Law or two. “Not so,” said Jesus! We can live without bread, but we cannot live without God’s Word, which sustains all of creation. No miracle was called for here, but complying with the Word of God is always called for. That of course opened the door for Satan to quote Scriptures and he was rather skillful at it. However, beware for what purpose Satan uses the Scripture. Then, Satan took Jesus to the highest point on the roof of the Temple and challenged Jesus to break another one of God’s Laws; namely, gravity. Being the Son of God would not at all hurt to put His Father, in heaven, to the test. After all, it was written that God would send his angels who would carry His Son on their hands so that He would not strike His foot against a stone. The request was foolish. The quote was out of context. Psalm 91 was a prayer of a god-fearing man that trusted in the Lord and not a promise or command of God. Jesus’ answer was a reference to Deuteronomy 6:16 when the people tested God at Massah. To please the quarreling people, Moses had to strike the rock to get water. It cost Moses the Promised Land. Satan had neglected to read that particular command from the man from whose prayer he quoted. In both instances, Satan attacked God’s limitations. God has limited Himself by His Word and by His Law. Only Satan can concoct the idea that man should turn stones into bread and jump off high places. According to Jesus, God was not interested in miracles; however, God is interested in abiding and living within His Word and His Law.
The third attempt of Satan, to throw Jesus off course, was to give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world for an exchange of denying God only once. All it would take to become the greatest man in the history of humanity was to pay homage to Satan. Satan asked only for one single acknowledgement that he was worthy of reverence. It did not seem much; yet, it was to be an act that would have slapped God in the face. For Jesus, it was a matter of having respect in this world or respect in heaven. Satan wanted to limit the Power of God Almighty. On earth, Satan knew that man could do that. But what man does on earth determines whether he ends up in heaven or in hell. If you break one Law, you break all the Laws. You can only serve one master or one God. Satan did not want all of Christ’s allegiance, only one. All sins and transgressions begin as a single act. If the action is unchecked, sin multiplies until it becomes a “norm for life.” However, God does not share nor will God share His Son with another extraterrestrial being. Neither will God share His Son’s followers with Satan. There are no either ors. Lucifer is just not big enough to make that claim. And Lucifer is himself only a fallen angel. And since his fall, God found it necessary to create a special place for Lucifer called, “Hell” (Matthew 24:41). And those who serve Lucifer will join him. Satan is the accuser! Every mistake man makes, Satan quickly takes before God to embarrass the Almighty (Revelation 12:10). We need to refresh our thinking on Satan, the accuser, by reading the Book of Job! And then, we should make certain that Christ is our defender (Romans 8:34). Satan too is limited and does not spare a trick to pervert our feelings, needs, and ambitions. But, Satan too must gain our consent.
The Lord respects the “Will of man”
Let us turn to Jesus. Prior to Jesus’ Resurrection, He had authority over the Sabbath, the demons, and sin. Jesus could multiply bread and fish, stop trees from growing and walk on the water. But, when it came to man, Jesus had to have their consent. Jesus could do no mighty work at home due to their lack of faith in him (Matthew 13:58). Jesus could not divide the inheritance between two brothers (Luke 12:13). Jesus could not grant James and John to sit on His right and left in His Kingdom (Mark 10:40). Jesus did not know when the end would come (Mark 13:32). He could not alter His destiny (Mark 14:36). Jesus could not avert the “hour of darkness” (Luke 22:53). Jesus saved others, but He could not save Himself (Mark 15:31). Jesus too had to function within the limits, that have been put in place before creation came into being (John 17:24). Jesus’ disclosure was planned (Matthew 13:35) and Jesus’ Sacrifice was also in place (Revelation 13:8). We live a life within limits and in a world within limits. These limits are God’s Eternal Law. And God’s Eternal Law is fixed for man’s good. God’a Law gives man an opportunity to prove himself. It is up to man whether he is productive or destructive. It has also been predetermined, that is if he fails, where he will spend eternity. That place has also been prepared beforehand (Matthew 25:41). Man does not have to go there. If he does, then it is all his doing. Joshua’s challenge still rings down the corridor of history with the appeal to man’s ability to choose. “Choose you this day whom you will serve.” The options he presented were the man-made gods of the neighboring nations and the Living God of his fathers (Josuah 24:15).
The creature called “man” is fully capable of choosing and managing his and the world’s affairs. The Creator has endowed him with the ability to do so. Consider for a moment the statement, “Let us make man in our own image, in our likeness,” (Genesis 1:26). This is not just a reference to the inner nature of man, but also his ability to make choices. This is supported by the following statement that man has been placed in charge of all the affairs of the world (Genesis 1:26). In fact, man is in charge of life itself. Man can kill the body and he will (Matthew 10:28). Men will even kill the Son of God in the flesh (Matthew 17:23). Men will kill God’s messengers, and people that preach God’s Law (Matthew 23:37). The only thing man cannot destroy is his soul (Job 19:26). Man has been given the ability to develop and invent awesome weapons to manage and govern. He is capable of altering the environment and disrupting nature. Man, and not God, causes abnormalities and accidents. But — it is God that will hold man accountable for everything he has done (Revelation 22:12). In the final analysis, man is only a steward whom God has put in charge of the world and everything in it. It is entirely up to man to manage in such a way that will earn him worthy recognition (Matthew 25:21-23).
Is there any link with God? The truth is that God has never turned the world over to man without witnesses (Acts 14:17; Hebrews 1:1-2). Their encounters and their testimony with the Almighty has culminated in the Bible. Many, unfortunately, have not taken God’s witnesses seriously. To begin with, God’s Spirit was in the world at the time of creation and in the lives of all the godly people in history, including in Jesus. And God’s Spirit will come to every godly person that invites Him, even today (Luke 11:13). But there are also many evil spirits in the world that can be identified only by those that are Christ-centered (I John 4:1-6). The head of these false spirits had the audacity to tempt Christ Himself (Matthew 4:1-11). His angelic performance has swept the world of its feet (II Corinthians 11:14; John.14:30). His children have already left an ugly path of blood (John 8:42-47). An eminent clergyman made this shocking reminder, “The news media does not tire talking about atrocities committed by Hitler, Stalin, Hussein and others, but is completely silent about forty million aborted babies in the United States of America alone.” The news media is also silent about all the Christians that are being killed by people who think they serve God (John 16:2-3).
Man did disobey God and tasted the fruits of good and evil (Genesis 3:22). Instead of repenting and correcting his error, man went on and called evil good (Isaiah 5:20). On top of it, the highest authority in the land legalizes behaviors that are an abomination to God (Romans 1:32). For such people, there is no connection with God (Romans 1:18-31), and no redemption through Christ (Hebrews 10:26-31).
If Man does not use his will, Satan will
Satan, no longer, can bite or hurt anyone; unless however, we give Satan our permission. The good news is that Satan has been stripped of his power. Jesus has cast Satan out. Jesus has rendered Satan ineffective, “Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out” (John 12:31). Satan is already condemned, “Of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged” (John 16:11). Satan cannot touch Jesus. However, Satan is in the world and Satan is now on the loose, “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me” (John 14:30). All one has to do is submit to God, resist the devil, and the devil will flee, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Satan cannot stand people, who live godly and clean lives. Satan prefers that human beings render lip service, rather than godly acts of compassion and acts of mercy. Satan, too, believes in God. But, — Satan trembles! Only fools do not believe in God. John reminds us, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder” (James 2:19). Satan is deceptive! Satan likes to appear as if he were an “angel of light.” Paul states, “And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (II Corinthians 11:14). That is, Satan can only appear. Satan steals the truth and alters the Word of God by putting doubt into people’s thoughts. Regarding the different kinds of seed sown by the Word of God: “The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, that they may not believe and be saved” (Luke 8:12). The work of Satan and his followers can easily be identified. “He who commits sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (I John 3:8). Anyone who entertains murder is a child of the devil:
You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).
The one who betrays Christ is also of the devil, “And during supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him” (John 13:2). The truth is simply this, without the voluntary human being’s consent, Satan, the devil and his angels or his demons, cannot touch man or even use man. Man must want to do the devil’s bidding and believe in the devil’s teaching. Satan only uses one doubt and only one argument. And that is, “God could not really mean what He said?”
It is important that man discerns the “spirits” whether they are of God, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (I John 4:1). How then does one know whether the spirit is beneficial? Let us look at some examples. A Samaritan village did not welcome Jesus because Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem. Two of Jesus’ disciples were ready to have fire fall from heaven and punish them. Jesus’ reply was, “You do not know of what kind of a spirit you are” (Luke 9:55; KJV). The two disciples in question were James and John. And John was the disciple whom Jesus loved. Take Peter, the third of the three disciples, who went everywhere with Jesus. When Jesus informed his followers that He had to die to give credence to His Mission, Peter tried to be helpful and told Jesus that he would not let this happen. Jesus told him, “Get behind me Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men” (Matthew 16:23). The disciples were arguing who among them was the greatest? Whatever Peter did, Jesus addressed him:
Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:31-32).
Peter did not get it. Peter kept insisting on that he would prove to Jesus how great he was. And what did Jesus tell this man, who was supposed to be the Rock of His Church? Jesus predicted that Peter would deny his Lord three times before the rooster crowed. Obviously, Peter had not taken inventory of his spirit. Jesus had sent out seventy-two to do His work. They returned with glowing stories of success. How did Jesus receive them? Jesus told them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18). Again, Jesus had to stop Satan from getting the better of the seventy-two disciples. The spirit of pride and the spirit of success almost kept them out of the kingdom.