Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
There it is again. For the second time in the testing, the temptation, of Jesus in the wild, this simple two-letter word appears again.
I’m incredibly confident in who I am in Christ—until a dark voice in my mind questions me: “Why are you so confident in who you are in Christ? Have you met you lately? You’re fearful, anxious, proud, forgetful, and you lack both trust and compassion. You should question if you are enough; if you’ll even make it through this life and finish halfway well. You’re not such a healthy person, let alone a disciple of Jesus.”
Jesus has already had his Sonship and his captive-releasing vocation (all embodied in his Sonship, the purest essence of his calling) questioned, right after its declaration in his baptism by John in the Jordan. He’s pulled through, and modeled the way through for you and me, having been “tempted . . . as we are—yet he did not sin” (Heb. 4:15).
But this second if is different from the first. This if represents a key, a doorway, to a better destiny.
This is the kind of if filling the pages of books, the Internet, and the social media promises of self-made entrepreneurs around the world. If you do this, that, and the other thing, you will get this result. That is not to say that some of the ifs out there don’t work; they do. But in working in their limited way, they can displace the better way that leads to a different kind of good life than they promise.
The quality of the promise must match the quality of the result; better confidence, better skin, better attitudes, better memory, better muscle tone, better relationships, and better political results all fall short of the result of a heart, home, church, city, and world made new.
So, while a president or prime minister promises a bright, bold future for the greatest nation on the earth if they are elected, the promise can never match reality. The world will be remade, and the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever (Rev. 11:15). The golden age will come when the one true King ushers it in; not when a politician has control of a tiny kingdom’s administrative reigns for four years of all human history.
“If you worship me,” is the key offered to the door of a suffering less path for Jesus. All gain, no groan. All power, no pain.
It’s tempting; I would be lying if I said it wasn’t. If I simply stop worshipping God—which is the equivalent of worshipping the satan—I might be able to have a life with limited suffering. I like the sound of a life with limited or no suffering.
But you know the sound I look forward to more? I look forward to the sound of my Father welcoming me into eternity with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant. . . . Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matt. 25:21).
That’s the sound we all want to hear.
Lord of the Wild, we’re not above disconnecting our worship from you, and turning all that praise and confidence toward ourselves. In so doing, we would worship, ultimately, the enemy who seeks to destroy and de-story us. We choose to stay in your story, to worship you only. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Have you ever followed the “if you do this, then this will happen” strategies to the good life offered in this world? What was your experience, and did it ultimately help you grow in your faith?
For the Awakening,
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Unfortunately some of the same sales gimmicks and trickery that Satan’s demons use to tempt us off the narrow way are also foisted upon would-be followers of Christ. This, in my opinion posses a greater threat to Christ’s Church than the seductive lies of Satan. The whole Gospel of Truth must be preached and taught to the faithful or else they too are at risk of being mislead as well. For example: “ This particular lifestyle is blessed by God, even though it directly contradicts God’s word, because He made you like that.” Or, “Your role as a lay person is to merely show up on a regular basis for worship, prayer and monetary support. The “professional” ministers will do the “real” ministry of the Church.” Or, “Satan, demons, miracles, and supernatural Spirit Gifts aren’t real, but merely superstitious thoughts from a pre-scientific era.” Or, like you’ve implied, “ If only we can get the right political party in power, we could enforce our own perceived vision of the kingdom of God.” This last one applies to both conservative and progressive Christians. Lord have mercy.
All humans worship:
What directs your heart is what you worship. A heart directed by the mind worships intellect; a heart controlled by emotions worships feelings; a heart driven by desires worships pleasure; but a heart led by the Spirit worships God. To worship anything other than God is to be caught up in the devil’s deception called idolatry.
“If” is a two-letter word with the greatest potential or the saddest regrets of missed opportunities. “If only I’d….”
“If” sends good intentions to blame. “I was going to, if they had only….”
“If” is not only a conjunction; it is a verb.
“If” displays the evidence of your love for Christ.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
We can say all day that we love Jesus. We say it after prayer, in the beginning, and sometimes we admit it to others or quietly to ourselves. All that is good if it comes from the heart and not a personal prosperity pulpit. Yet, if (there’s that word again) you love me, Jesus said, this is the evidence of that love:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
And so we wouldn’t be confused about the grumpy neighbor. He added-
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
Now, “if,” we say we do these things, how do others know?
I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’
This is how Jesus wants to be loved and the affirmation that we do.