(This has been a crazy week. I will have some exciting things to share with you very soon. In the meantime, please enjoy this post from the archives with my thanks for your kind understanding.)
In Luke 4, we read the story of Jesus’s temptation. It’s a deep, rich account of the proof of Christ’s worthiness, and His sinlessness. I’ve taught it several times to my Sunday school kids to drive home the point that we need to know Scripture, and that God’s word is our surest defense against temptation. But it is also a cautionary tale about misusing Scripture, including three subtle ways to do it, all from Satan’s tactics.
Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry. And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’” (Luke 4:1-4)
Tactic #1 – Don’t even bother checking Scripture.
In this first encounter, Satan entices Jesus to exercise His power to meet a legitimate physical need. In a similar way, we rely on our own assessment of a situation and decide how God should respond. When He doesn’t meet our expectations, then we fall into a despair of shaken faith. However, God reveals His character and His ways in His word. Jesus’s response tells us, “You expect God to operate this way, because you don’t see the real, deeper need. That’s the one He’s meeting.” God doesn’t exist to meet our physical needs, and our need to recognize His sovereignty is a more urgent need than even the food we eat. Quite a shift in perspective, isn’t it? Staying in His word helps us focus on God’s view of things rather than our own, and it will go a long way toward preventing us from ascribing the wrong motives to God.
Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.”And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” (Luke 4:5-8)
Tactic #2 – Ignore God’s timing.
This time, Satan tempts Jesus to take His place as ruler of the world. After all, God had promised that to Him. It was His. Satan had at least that much right. Jesus Christ will rule as King of Kings and Lord of Lord, but there is the issue of God’s timing. God has a plan and all these things will fall into place on His schedule. When we seize God’s promises without accounting for His timing in fulfilling them, we risk shattering our faith.
Then [Satan] brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” (Luke 4:9-12)
Tactic #3 – Take Scripture out of context and twist it to fit a personal agenda.
Satan twists a promise of God’s care and provision into a challenge for God to prove Himself. It’s easy for us to do the same thing. God promises to bless our obedience. However, our ‘obedience’ can’t be used to manipulate God into doing what we ask. We obey God because He’s God, not for what we get out of it. We serve Him and not our own interests. Keeping Scripture in context helps us remember that.
God gave us His word to reveal Himself, to strengthen our faith and to guide us through this life. It’s powerful and life-changing. When it’s misused, no matter how sincerely, that life-changing power drags us backwards rather than leading us forward. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit is more than capable of alerting us when things are getting off kilter. It’s up to us to listen.