No, this isn’t about some early-60s doo-wop group; it’s about my book on the topic of the three temptations of Jesus during the 40-day wilderness battle with satan. All we are privy to in this crucial time in our Savior’s life is three short epigrammatic notes. So much must have happen during that time which we are not told that it elevates the importance about what is related in Scripture.
My fourth book, Jesus v. satan: The Message of the Wilderness Temptations has been out for over three years now. The response to it has been an overwhelming silence. There are probably no more than 30-40 copies in circulation, and even though it’s a rather short book I wonder how many people who began it have read it all the way to the end. I haven’t even received any substantial feedback. It causes me to think that people are likely being kind in their silence.
I’d certainly hoped for more of a response because I think that I have presented some important ideas for Christians to consider about the temptations and strongholds in our lives. However, I have learned the hard way that my Christian audience is much more interested in hearing thoughts on grace and hope than looking at topics like sin, the devil and temptation. I probably focus too much on life’s negatives, but I think we have to face how bad it is (or we are) to appreciate how good it can be.
I recently reread part of this book while sitting at the office waiting for clients. I sometimes think God sends me no/shows to give me more time to think and read. When I revisit parts of something I’ve written many months before I often draw insights from my own thoughts. Sometimes I read things that I don’t consciously remember writing. That makes me think that the Holy Spirit was at work. I sure hope so.
In revisiting parts of the Jesus v. satan book I was struck by my awkward syntax in some passages. That is uncomfortable, but it is not a fatal flaw. I also thought that perhaps I simply introduced too many ideas for the reader to ponder in the book’s rather brief 160 pages. There were likely concepts that I didn’t fully develop or explain in my haste to be done with the project and see it in print. Consequently, I’ll try to summarize the points I was trying to make. I believe that the story found in Luke 4 and Matthew 4 of the 40 day wilderness struggle with satan is as much about us as it is about our Savior. I believe the temptations (or tests) are a sort of template for tests we will all face as Christians.
The First Temptation: The temptation of bread to a very hungry Jesus is about our hunger (lust) for all of life’s material goods–and the underlying fear that we will never have enough. Jesus rebukes satan in saying that man doesn’t live by bread alone but by every word of God. We trade our intimacy with the Father thru Jesus by ignoring the Holy Spirit in Scripture and chasing after the world’s ephemeral goods and pleasures. We give into the demonic spirit of hopelessness.
The Second Temptation: (following Luke’s sequence) is about power and control and it is the longest section of the book. Satan offers Jesus authority over all the world if He will just worship him. In a sense, satan is the world, with all its power and glory. And, of course, Jesus resists this offer of unrighteous control–power rooted in power and not in love.
I believe that a need to dominate and control others is the great corrupter of all relationships and accounts for a huge percent of the world’s misery. I believe it is the essence of human evil. I give many examples of this from both individual lives and society as a whole. With this temptation people give into the demonic spirits/strongholds of both worthlessness & helplessness. The little voice in our thoughts tells us that we inflate our worth when those we dominate and control look up to us.
Jesus again answers satan with Scripture, stating that we should worship and serve God only–and, of course, that means loving and serving our brothers as well, as opposed to controlling them.
The Third Temptation: The final, and in some ways most interesting temptation, is that of trust or safety. In this temptation satan even employs Scripture in quoting from Psalm 91. He asks Jesus to throw himself off the highest point of the Temple. This temptation is all about trusting in the Lord when feelings of fear and helplessness overwhelm us. The spirit of helplessness resides in the stronghold of safety. Of course. it’s our fear and lack of trust that keeps us from being more effective witnesses for Christ–keeping us from living our lives more boldly.
Finally, Jesus has had enough of satan and reminds him of Who He is when He says, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”
How we respond to the temptations of materialism, power and trust will determine both how we will live our lives here, and perhaps how we will spend eternity. Will we respond to temptation as the Adam in us–or will we respond as the Jesus in us?