Jesus knew the battle was forthcoming, so He geared up for it by weakening His flesh through fasting. But Satan didn’t show up immediately. He waited 40 days. Circling. Crafting a plan to bring Jesus to His knees. The tempter meets us under similar conditions—following a spiritual high, when the flesh is weak and needy, and when a significant spiritual shift is about to occur. Jesus had just been revealed as the Messiah, announced by John, applauded by heaven. But His growling stomach testified that He was just as human as He was divine. This perfect blend of God and man was soon to publicly launch an attack on Satan’s domain that would offer salvation to all mankind. It was a grand mission, one Satan wanted very much to prevent.
So, Satan sharpened his best swords, and then borrowed even better ones from God, using his cunning speech and twisting God’s word to slash the humanity of Jesus. If he could get Jesus’ flesh to react, then His spirit would be rendered powerless. With subtilty of a serpent, Satan slithered close, wrapping his words like coils around Jesus.
With his first temptation, he appealed to Jesus’ natural appetite. If Jesus could make and taste a loaf of bread, then the Bread of Life meant to fill hungry souls would be inedible. With the small word, “if,” he questioned Jesus’ identity, the human longing to know and be known. After 40 days of silence, solitude, and hunger, the descending dove of the Spirit was much less tangible than at the moment when Jesus rose from baptismal waters. He enticed Jesus to misuse His speech, that small weapon flesh wields with precision under stress or when the need for validation has been threatened. “Command,” Satan instructed Jesus, seeking to get Him to react to His present, natural condition with a selfish, feel-good-in-the-moment response.
For the second round of temptations, Satan moved Jesus to a higher place, the pinnacle of the temple in the holy city. Barren wilderness was exchanged for the holy—the known dwelling place of God. There, Satan whipped out Scripture to lure Jesus’ righteous nature into unrighteousness. From this place of potential “spiritual” self- elevation, things looked holy. They sounded holy. The stance was a mighty religious one. However, using God’s word for wrong motives was a perversion of the truth that revealed darkness beneath the enemy’s apparent light. Had Jesus accepted the bribe to use Scripture as a personal parachute and taken an unholy leap from the temple rooftop, He would have misapplied Scripture and the Word He embodied would have mingled with error. Without the Truth, there would have been no singular Way and no pure Light to guide the lost to reconciliation with God.
With yet another upward move, Satan launched his third set of temptations. Pointing out the glories of the kingdoms of the earth, he attempted to get Jesus to shift his heavenly calling for an earthly one. Instead of being King of kings AND Lord of lords, Jesus was offered rulership over all humanity. There’d be no flesh outside His dominion. All people would serve him. That was His purpose in coming to earth, after all. Wasn’t it? Why not do the job the easy way? No sacrifice. No cross. And no choice offering humanity the option to refuse service. Satan’s plan encouraged circumventing natural pain and getting full human surrender…with just one catch. Jesus wouldn’t be lord over Satan. He could have the people he loved…the way Satan dictated. The result would have been people's unflinching devotion to Satan's control. Had He compromised, Jesus would have traded fleshly death for spiritual death.
Satan’s tactics with us are much the same. He appeals to our natural desires, questions our spiritual identity, encourages us to misuse both our words and God’s Words, and presents a plausible compromise that seems to say we can have our cake and eat it too. He elevates the carnal above the spiritual and attempts to shift our vision from heavenly heights to earthly ones. He capitalizes on our needs, squeezes us with our circumstances, twists the holy, and manipulates our very god-essence in an effort to nullify our purpose, alter our perspective of truth, and sever our connection to God. His aim is to push God out of rulership and become lord over all. To him, we are but pawns, moved by our response to him.
But we have a choice. We can stand. We don't have to be swayed by his deceit. Following Jesus’ example, we can overcome by keeping a singular, spiritual focus rather than succumbing to the appeal of the flesh and the demands of our temporary circumstances. We can submit to God and resist our adversary with the pure Word of God that keeps the Kingdom of God as its motivation rather than one of gratifying the flesh.
In the place where the Spirit leads us, we can triumph over the enemy's testing. Victorious, we are ministered to by the supernatural, and we step fully, unflinchingly, into our calling--leaving the wilderness assured of who we are in God and empowered to reveal Him to the world.
Tip/Tidbit: If you are in a place of testing, face your enemy with the Word of God and the confidence that you can overcome.