If You Are…
Woodlawn Missionary Baptist Church
March 26, 2006
Read Luke 4:1-13
Who are you? If I were to go around the room this morning and ask each of you that question, how would you answer it? Do you know who you are? In last week’s message we looked at the baptism of Jesus as a small part of the great epic God is writing on the pages of history. Jesus emerged as the hero of the story as He received the baptism of John and set His face to the cross of Calvary. What will happen next? Where will the journey lead Him?
When you and I watch or read the great epics, we all want to play the lead roles. Who watches a movie and wants to be the villain or traitor or the moral weakling? None of us! Those great epics stir our hearts and move us! When we watch the Passion, that same wave of emotion comes over us; not just because of God’s love, but because there is something in us that wishes we had that kind of strength and courage.
I told you last week that three things take place when you choose to follow Christ as the lead character in your epic. You realize or come to terms with the fact that you are here to glorify God. That means taking up your cross and following Him. You burn the bridges behind you – there is no going back – and you start walking with Christ. I told you that when you finally do that, you’re going to experience the fellowship of the Son, the presence of the Spirit, and the affirmation of the Father. Not only is there joy in heaven when someone accepts Christ – there is joy in heaven when you choose to come alive for Him!
However, we are mistaken to think that all is peace and love and joy when we take up our cross. More often than not our desire to follow Christ leads us first into the wilderness. It is in the wilderness where we learn about ourselves, we were will either falter or come out the victor.
I see this all the time. Two friends chose to answer God’s call to preach. Their journey followed the path of full time ministry, and immediately both found themselves in the wilderness. One lives in the wilderness where he wonders whether God will use him. The other’s wilderness is going to require him to give up his pursuit of financial security. Will they falter or come through the victor? A man makes a commitment to live for Christ in the workplace, but then finds himself in the wilderness of isolation and ridicule. Will he falter or come through the victor?
The wilderness is different for each of us. More often than not my wilderness is simply a place in my mind and soul where I wrestle over daily obedience to the call of God on my life. Wherever it is for you – don’t forget this one thing: the Spirit of God led Jesus into the wilderness. He has led you there too so you might discover your true identity.
God told Jesus at the Jordan, “You are my beloved Son; in you I am very pleased.” Satan came along only days later and said to Him, “If you really are the Son of God…” Satan always works to make you question what God has affirmed. Some of you have put your faith in Christ. You are a child of God. Satan wants you to question that.
Do you realize how often we struggle with our identities? Does God really approve of me or not? He must not. Does God really accept me? He can not. How could God accept someone like me? How could God possibly be pleased with me? I can’t give like I used to. God must be disappointed in me. Have you looked at my life lately? God could never use me.
Satan delights in feeding you full of this sort of propaganda and intimidation. He delights in paralyzing God’s people and in deceiving those whom the Spirit of God is leading to become God’s people. He prides himself on his ability to cause you to falter in the wilderness. Thousands of Israelites died in the wilderness because they faltered when the testing of their identity came. When they grew hungry and thirsty and then later saw the giants in the land they longed to be Egyptians – but they were the people of the living God! They were the people of God, but when put through the fire they failed to see it.
Thousands are dying around us every day. Albert Schweitzer said that the tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives. The thief comes to steal, to kill and to destroy. He wants you to falter in the wilderness, to drop your cross and run. He wants to steal your desire to live for God. He wants to destroy any hopes you might have of following Christ. He wants kill your passion so you might live out your life merely existing. The three temptations of Christ in our text reveal how he causes us to do so.
We Turn to Self-Sufficiency
That’s what the first test was really about. “If you are who you think you are, then turn these stones into bread.” Listen to the temptation. If you’re really a child of God then you have tremendous liberty. Use it! He says this to us in a million ways, each custom tailored for our areas of pride and weakness. Whenever you see the slightest hint of self-sufficiency in your life – recognize it for what it is and stand on the truth that your true identity cannot be found in independence, but in absolute dependence on God. Your identity is wrapped up in knowing that without Him you can do nothing!
We Accept Counterfeits of God’s Blessings
Satan promised the kingdoms of this world to Christ, but to accept them would be to place Himself under the authority of Satan. Christ would have to go to the cross to rule the kingdoms of the earth – anything less than the cross was a counterfeit. Think of all the ways we accept counterfeits from Satan. Pornography is a counterfeit to true intimacy – but true intimacy will cost you your life. Gambling is a counterfeit, recreation can be a counterfeit, work, money, position all can be counterfeits in your life where Satan promises you glory he cannot pay. The greatest counterfeit of them all is religion. The flesh loves it, worships it, bows at its feet. The only true satisfaction for the soul though: God’s greatest blessing, is found in a relationship that begins at the foot of the cross.
We Make God Serve Us
“If you really are the Son of God, then jump. God will catch you.” Have you ever done this? “God is the great Provider. He’s going to get me out of debt.” “God hates divorce. He’s not going to let this marriage fall apart.” “He’ll heal my son.” “He’ll protect my job.” “If God really cared about me He would _________________.” You fill in the blank.
Whether you thought about it before you walked in the door or not, every day of your life you’re in the fight of your life over your true identity. Every confrontation with Satan is fundamentally that – a testing of your identity in Christ. Will you complain about who or what God has called you to be? When you get thirsty or hungry or just a little put out will you complain and bellyache and long to return to yesterday?
If you’re saved today; if you have ever repented of your sin and placed your faith in Christ, then you are a child of God, and it is absolutely essential that you understand what abandoning yourself to that identity means. Again, from these temptations, there are three challenges you must accept.
Let the Word of God Sustain You
Jesus said in verse 4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” In this instance, Jesus was tempted with food because He was starving after 40 days of fasting, but food is only one of many things with which Satan tempts you. Every one of us has in inner longing for bread: a decent home, some environment, some material need that we long to have met. The human heart cries out to be fed, to be satisfied, but it cannot be with bread or riches or any other material comforts.
Do not mistake what Jesus is saying here. He does not say that when you feel hungry to read your Bible for a little while. He does not say when you are compelled to fulfill a carnal desire that you ought to have a little Bible study. What He says is that the answer for our greatest hungers in life is spiritual and not material. I would go so far as to say that you can make the Bible a little “g” god and then come up empty and confused when it too does not satisfy.
The Word of God is Jesus Christ Himself. He is the Bread of life! He alone can meet your every need. When Satan comes to question your identity and cause you to doubt God’s affirmation of you, your deep relationship with Christ must sustain you.
Do not leave here confused about what I’m saying. You need to read and study your Bibles. You need to be a person of prayer. But when you strip it all down, you must not replace intimacy with Christ with those things. The challenge is to nurture intimacy with Christ through those things.
Allow the Worship of God to Compel You
When Satan offered the kingdoms of the world to Christ, Jesus said in verse 8, “Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” Along the journey you will be tempted to take shortcuts. That cross you’ve been invited to carry is going to get heavy some days. The hell Satan will put you through is going to make you want to quit; give up, and accept counterfeits.
In those moments, it is essential you recognize the attacks of Satan. Satan cannot deliver the goods on his promises. He even said as much. In verse 6 “the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me…” If I went out and rented a house from someone, I couldn’t give it to you. It doesn’t belong to me! Satan had no power to give to Jesus because the only power he had was the power God had granted him.
Satan promises you all sorts of things in this life. He promises that if you were single again you’d have freedom, but he pays with bondage. He promises you if you’d work more you’d get ahead; but he pays with a wrecked family. He promises that if you’d take care of your business first you’ll have plenty of time to serve God later; but later never comes. I don’t know what he whispers in your ears, but I like the way one writer put it:
Satan promises the best, but pays with the worst; he promises honor and pays with disgrace; he promises pleasure and pays with pain; he promises profit and pays with loss; he promises life and pays with death.
God on the other hand makes good on His promises. Worship is really about allowing your life to be consumed with being in the presence of God. It’s about abiding in Him; recognizing His great worth. It is the submission of all our nature to God – adoring Him, being absolutely consumed by a desire to bring glory to His holy name.
Make that your life’s pursuit and you’ll enjoy the blessings of God like never before. Lay down your cross and accept the counterfeits of Satan and you’ll lose every time.
See That the Will of God Guides You
In verse 12 Jesus finally said to Satan, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” Satan wanted Jesus to jump off the highest point of the temple. God will save you. Is that true?
I worked a job for a couple of years where I spent a lot of time off the ground. I was a young Christian and was brash enough to take off walking across these beams 50 feet in the air. My boots were wider than some of the beams. My coworkers told me to quit, but I told them, “If God wants me to die today then He’ll kill me. If today’s not my day then it doesn’t matter what I do.” Of course I didn’t fall, and of course what I had said was fundamentally true, but what I was doing was tempting God.
I was making Him serve me rather than letting His will guide me. I was not really trusting God, nor are you when you do or say things like that. “God will get me out of debt,” is not trust, it is foolishness more often than not. “If God loves me He will do this or that,” is not trust at all; it is flinging a challenge in the face of God and forcing His hand.
The will of God must always guide us. We must say no to the tempter and no to the base desires of our carnal self that has a sensationalistic spirit about it. The will of man is for God to blaze across the skies and do some big thing. The will of man is to have an experience, to feel something. Every freak act of nature and every out of the ordinary incident is interpreted as God speaking and leading. God certainly can speak and lead that way, but more often than not He simply leads through the still small voice of the Holy Spirit and it will always be in harmony with His written Word.
Who are you? A child of God? Some of you today are not. You have never trusted in Christ as your Savior. But today you can. The demons of hell are at work today trying to tempt you to trust in yourself. “There is no God.” “You can wait until some other day.” “You’re a pretty good person. You don’t need a Savior.” They are working to tempt you to accept counterfeits, to make God serve you. I’m pleading with you this morning to see through all that and know that your only hope of eternal life will be found in repenting of your sin and trusting Christ to save you.
God wants each of you today to recognize Satan’s attacks in your life. They are real, and they are fundamentally an attack on your identity. If you are a child of God, then your identity as such compels you to let the true and living Word of God sustain you. Your identity compels you to live a life of worship and adoration for the Son of God, and that identity compels you to live by the will of God.