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.
Jesus allowed the devil to lead him places, only because the Spirit first led him there. It was the work of holy sabotage at its best.
Does today’s phrase sound familiar, yet strange?
In Luke 4:1, we read that the Spirit “led” Jesus into the wild. Now we read that the “devil led” Jesus to a high place (v. 5). Here we are, pausing in our journey to realize that Jesus allowed the devil to lead him somewhere.
And so, the second temptation begins.
This is where I think Jesus and we are radically different. Even allowing ourselves to entertain a vision from the enemy can be fatal for us.
Many years ago, I was on a cliff ’s edge in New Zealand. It was the highest cliff in the country. I was afraid to go to the edge, feeling the expanse would suck me toward it. My good friend looked at me, shook his head, and said, “Why don’t you crawl to the edge?” He wanted me to have the view, but safely. I laid flat on my face, crawling to the edge (and he held my ankles for good measure). I was glad I got the view, but thankful I did so on my face with a physical demonstration of humility keeping me grounded.
When we stand on an edge, proud and confident, there is always a wind waiting to push us over. Think about all the celebrities who walk tall to the edges, pushing boundaries not only of their art form, but also of morality, character, and achievement.
Many celebrities have fallen, I believe, because deep within them is a creed that tells them they can ultimately control the wind as they stand high on the edge. They’re not necessarily explicitly unbelievers; they are just as firmly believers in themselves as they are in God.
The Father will not compete with anyone or anything; even one’s positive self-esteem.
Humility is expressed in more than words and attitudes; it is an inner state of the heart that must be cultivated and nurtured through continual acts of humbling oneself, even in the face of glistening opportunity and wild success. “Humility,” it has been said, “is not too high a view of ourselves or too low—it is an accurate view of ourselves.” We are tested in these moments, when things are going right. If we begin to believe our own reviews, we can lose our way.
Pride comes before a fall (Prov. 16:18); this is the moment Jesus has been led to by the devil.
The devil, otherwise known as the traitor and slanderer, will lead you places. You won’t even know you are standing on a height, because the way will seem so normal, so the result of your faithfulness and goodness, so the result of your gifts and good choices.
“Make a name for yourself” was the old encouragement from parents and grandparents and people invested in your reputation. While well-meaning, that sounds exactly like the devil in sheep’s (or relative’s) clothing. We are not here to make much of ourselves. Jesus knew that, even being the Son of God. He was here to make much of his Father. We are here to make much of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is here to glorify the Father and the Son. And the name-serving continues.
The devil wants you to make a name for yourself, to operate in your gifts for the satisfaction of yourself. That’s what he was doing with Jesus in the second temptation.
But nonetheless, the devil may lead you there, hoping for an “opportune” moment (Luke 4:13) to give you one little push—into losing your God-given name and replacing it, quietly in your heart, with the name you have made for yourself. You may be led to a high place many times in your life; the key is to walk away before you make that kingdom your own.
Lord of the Wild, we are tempted to make a name for ourselves, and in so desiring it, we have allowed the devil to lead us to high places where we thought we were seeing our future kingdom rather than yours. Meet us in the place in our hearts that craves validation and honor for our name, experience, and skills. Address the wound that makes us vulnerable to the enemy in this temptation and heal us. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Be honest with yourself today. Think of the last time you were applauded for your gifts and application of help to another. Were you able to receive the compliment with grace and humility, did you deflect it as if you deserved no thanks, or did you take a bit too much pleasure in having your name recognized?
For the Awakening,
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This post is so correct in pointing out the temptation that success presents. Unfortunately it’s all to common to see “celebrity pastors, preachers and authors” fall into this trap. I believe that John the baptizer gave us the correct response to this temptation. When John was told that some of his disciples were defecting over to Jesus, he replied, “He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30) Whenever I’ve received some sort of compliment for kingdom service, I reply that it’s due to Spiritual Gifting, not my own strength; credit given where credit is due.
I believe that God has called me to be a passionate and persistent proclaimer and facilitator of “the priesthood of the believer” instead of one-man control of a church service. Because of that viewpoint I get much criticism and very little praise. In the past week three different people who I don’t even know have rebuked me for my views that I post in my blog and on social media. That helps me to avoid the Christian celebrity edge.
I have wanted to be famous, but God has protected me from that desire by closing numerous doors that I had worked hard to open. He has also called me to intentionally lay down things that I love to do. For example, I love to preach, but once He called me to copastor a church for 10 years with my wife and not to preach a single sermon. Instead we had an open mic every Sunday morning.