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.”
The enemy has power, and according to Ephesians 2:2, that power and its tentacle powers permeate the air we breathe and the world in which we live. We should not take that lightly. We’re in a battle, and if we forget that truth, we will be taken out.
Just as a genie in a bottle can grant three wishes, the enemy has some Trojan-horse prizes to deliver to the soul that surrenders to its desires. Those prizes always look good on the outside; the satan’s offerings don’t look evil, smell evil, or convey evil—at least not immediately. They are like poison hidden in candy; the devil’s promises are veiled in innocence and possibility. They seem healing and satisfying—then they sting with the strike of a scorpion.
The small pleasures the enemy offers can become heart desires—desires radically out of alignment with those Christ is forming in us. We think we are on the way of life, and we find out what we did, what we chose, how we acted, has us firmly on the way of death and pain. Just as two lines that run close together but slowly diverge, we move with confidence until some shock, some trouble precipitated by our slowly growing sin wakes us up to just how far we are from home. We give an inch, and the devil takes a mile.
This is where Jesus’s vocation, being clear and settled in his affections and disposition, held him. The enemy had the power to give him all the splendor and authority of the kingdoms of the world. Jesus knew he could, and perhaps the Son of Man could have been tempted more strongly if the enemy threw in the kingdom of heaven. But the devil has no authority over the kingdom of heaven—it looks nothing like what his rule over the kingdoms of this world looks like.
Let’s read all of Ephesians 2:1–7 to orient to how Jesus calls us to face the same temptation from the one who has power to give it all:
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
Who needs the kingdoms of this world when we have been seated in heavenly realms with Christ, priests and royalty, mastered by a love that is healing us, daily, from the inside out?
Ephesians 1:18–23 affirms our kingdom riches and Jesus’s power to give them:
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
Ephesians 6:10–12 gives us the way to face down the enemy and his promises of a better life than the Lord would provide:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Sometimes, our greatest work is just to stand against the enemy’s promises. Find the community around you that will fan the truth of God in you into flame, that will help you resist the candy-coated poison the enemy is seeking to feed every single one of us.
Lord of the Wild, we are drawn to the things this world gives; some we are drawn to more than others. But in the end, each leads to death. Root up in us any love of money, fame, power, influence, pleasure, or advantage over another that leads to death and disrupts our walk on the path of life. In Jesus’s name, amen.
How have you found strength to stand firm in resisting promises the world gives, staying with Jesus on the path to life?
For the Awakening,
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Were have I found strength to fight the good fight? “On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.”
Christ ever living and working in me gives me His strength and grace to stand firm in resisting promises the world gives and to stay with Jesus on the path to life.
This morning He woke me up with these words: Some desires need to be resisted. Others need to be cultivated. Wisdom knows the difference.