Summary: The temptations expose our vulnerabilities. Beware of the devil's traps of performance (we are what we do), popularity (we are what others think), and possession (we are what we have).
Jesus was tempted, so are we today. Jesus overcame the temptations, so can we today.
• Even under a direct confrontation with the devil, alone in the wilderness, under harsh circumstances, Jesus won.
If the devil tempts Him these ways, it would possibly mean that these were good entry points, our “Achilles’ heel”.
• The baits exposes our vulnerabilities, else they won’t be very much of a temptation.
• There are the same 3 vulnerable areas that we need to take heed today.
Before the passage begins, we are given a snapshot of Jesus’ understanding of WHO He is.
• Heaven opens. The Spirit descends like a dove. And Jesus’ Father speaks audibly: “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.”
• Jesus has yet to do any ministry or perform any miracle. Yet He receives a tangible affirmation that he is deeply loved.
• He is loved by the Father for WHO he is. He knows that very well. This love is the anchor of his soul and the root source of how he feels about himself.
We are the beloved of God, not for WHAT we do or can do for Him, but for WHO we are.
• Understanding this love makes us secure. Knowing this love enables us to surrender to God.
• We are able to submit because we know we are fully loved. We are able to obey Him, even when His will seems so different from what we see, feel or figure out ourselves, because we know we are deeply loved.
This love anchors me. This love anchors my soul. I am fully secured and at peace, because I know I am deeply loved and highly favoured.
• Jesus enters into the desert with such an understanding.
• He does not need to do anything to prove he deserves to be loved. Jesus was anchored in His Father’s love for him.
The devil came with three powerful temptations, all hitting at Jesus’ understanding of his identity before God.
• The devil throws the same temptations at us today.
• He said to Jesus: "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." (4:3)
Temptation One: YOU ARE WHAT YOU DO (Performance Trap)
Don’t fall for such a trap. The devil would like to you think that your value lies in what you can do. It is a performance trap.
Jesus had not yet begun His ministry at this point. He had nothing to show. He had only been a carpenter. For thirty years, He had done ‘nothing’ great.
• When Nathanael got to hear that Jesus came from Nazareth, his response was: “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46)
• Jesus seemed like a ‘nobody’. No one has yet to believe him. What contribution can he make?
Our culture asks the same question. Show me what you’ve got. What have you achieved? Demonstrate to me your usefulness. What can you do?
• Over time, such a preoccupation causes us to value ourselves according to our achievement.
• We see ourselves as worthwhile IF we can do well at school, at work, in our relationships, and even in church ministries.
And if we don’t score enough successes, we either (1) force ourselves to work harder, longer, faster, to prove that we are somebody, or (2) enter into a depression, and feel sorry for being who we are.
• You don’t have to prove anything. You are already deeply loved and highly favoured in God’s eyes.
Thomas Merton was a writer of a best-seller and was approached by a man who was compiling a book about SUCCESS, to contribute a statement of how he got to be a success.
Merton was actually angry. He replied, “I did not want to consider myself a success in any terms that had a meaning to me. I swore I had spent my life strenuously avoiding success. If it happened that I had once written a best-seller, this was a pure accident – due to inattention and because I was naïve. I would take very good care never to do the same thing again.
If I had a word to my contemporaries, it was surely this: Be anything you like… of every shape and form, but at all costs, avoid one thing, success.
I heard no more reply from him and I am not aware that my reply was published.
Merton understood how easily earthly success tempts us to find our worth and value OUTSIDE of God’s inexhaustible love for him, in Jesus Christ.
• Don’t read in too much of your achievements; they are yours because of God’s grace.
The devil went on to tempt Jesus a second time:
"If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: "`He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'" (4:6)