When I first became a new Christian, I joined a men’s group at a church. I was given the opportunity to give my testimony, (the story of the events leading up to my conversion). I was welcomed into the kingdom, applauded, congratulated, patted on the back, prayed for, and warned.
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That’s right, I was warned.
On what was maybe my 8th day of being saved, I was told to be careful because there was now a target on my back. “Welcome to the kingdom. The enemy knows he’s lost you now and will be eager to get you back.”
I’m not sure about the scriptural soundness of the advice I was given that morning. There are two things I am sure of though:
- It wasn’t long before the enemy came after me.
- It wasn’t long after Jesus was baptized that the enemy came for Him too.
“And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” (Matthew 3:16-4:1)
Just like that, God allowed Satan to take his best shot at His Son, Jesus immediately after He was baptized (we get clarity on the immediately part in Mark 1:12).
Jesus is not the first person that God permitted Satan to tempt or to test. The book of Job opens with a conversation between God and Satan:
“And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?’” (Job 1:8)
In Old Testament times, there were two types of people:
- The Jewish people to whom God had revealed Himself
- and everybody else (known as Gentiles).
Satan, also known as the “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2) and the “ruler of this world” (John 12:31), likely has full access to the everybody else’s in the world, but he needs permission from God to access anyone on His team.Satan needs permission from God to access anyone on His team.Click To Tweet
From the two passages above, we learn that Satan is sometimes permitted by God to have access to His followers. Also, God seems to put His best players in when it’s game time.
That is where we are when we see Jesus tempted by Satan. There are some important things to notice in the account.
- God (the Father) made it a special point to express His joy in Jesus after He was baptized.
- By implication, Satan never bothered with Jesus prior to His baptism.
- God’s Spirit was with Jesus during the temptation.
I try to imagine just how excited God was to lead Jesus out to Satan to let him try his level best at bringing Him down. Have you considered my Son, Jesus?
It had been some 4,000 years since Adam and Eve had their chance to stand up to Satan, and failed. Now God was executing the plan He had in mind all along. Adam’s trespass was the fall of mankind. I’ll go into more specifics about the fall in my next post. The free gift of God’s grace, through Jesus’ atoning work on the cross, was the salvation of mankind.
“But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.” (Romans 5:15)
There are aspects to notice in the comparison as well.
- Adam was tempted in paradise, Jesus was tempted in the harsh wilderness of the fallen world.
- Satan questioned God to Eve, “did God really say…”, Satan questioned God to Jesus, “if you are the Son of God…”
- Adam’s failure condemned mankind. Jesus’ success saved mankind.
During Jesus’ ministry – which began immediately after He persevered against Satan – He taught us how to follow God, how to pray to God, and how to love and serve God as well as our fellow man. I’ll speak to this more in a future post.
During His temptation, He taught us how to overcome temptation and how to stand up to the evil one – with God’s Word.
Satan issued three challenges to Jesus.
First, he appealed to Jesus’ desire, “If you are the son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread” (Matthew 4:3).
To this, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 when He answered, “It is written, ‘man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4)
Second, Satan quoted Psalm 91:11-12 to appeal to Jesus’ pride, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone” (Matthew 4:6).
Jesus answered with Deuteronomy 6:16 when He said, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test’” (Matthew 4:7).
Lastly, Satan tried to appeal to Jesus’ material greed when he took him to the highest mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world saying, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me” (Matthew 4:8-9).
To that, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:13 when He said, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve” (Matthew 4:10). And Satan left Him.
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)
There is strength in that! Nothing will get us through the temptations of our enemy like God’s Word.
Another thing we can take strength in is this:
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)
Now that you are saved, you can bet that temptation is coming your way. There is a target on your back. The enemy knows that he lost you. He will be eager to get you back. But now, you are on the team.
Welcome to the kingdom.
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Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.