Temptation after Baptism #2
Baptism Message No. 5
Luke 4:5-13 (parallel Matthew 4:5-11)
Eric H.H. Chang
Montreal, April 8, 1979
Today we continue to study more deeply the temptation of Jesus. Last week I pointed out that the temptation came immediately after his baptism, immediately upon his being anointed with the Spirit of God. Here we see the plan of Satan’s attacks. What we saw last week is that the flesh is the avenue of approach which Satan uses to reach our hearts, by appealing to our needs and desires. Some of these appeals are perfectly legitimate, which he then distorts into something that can bring our ruin.
Three fundamental principles of temptation
Today we look at the second principle which Satan uses to attack us. I have to tell you frankly that the account of the temptation is very deep. What we are doing in these expositions is no more than looking at three fundamental principles. There are depths of meaning in the temptation account which we are not going to reach today. Thus I do not want anyone to think that by the time we have studied the temptation, we will have understood all there is to understand. No, we are only dealing with three basic principles. But there are yet great depths which you will be able to understand better and better as you go on in the Christian life, when you able to handle strong meat.
We looked at Luke 4:1-4 last week; today we will read from Luke 4:5-13:
And the devil took him up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.’” And he took him to Jerusalem, and 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 will give His angels charge of you, to guard you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.
In the first two temptations, Jesus answers Satan by quoting Scripture with the introductory words, “It is written… ” (verses 4 and 8). So in the third temptation, Satan thinks, “You have just quoted Scripture twice to me, so I will likewise quote ‘It is written’ (v.10).” Satan quotes from Psalm 91:11-12, and accurately at that. In reply, the Lord Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 6:16.
In this passage are some important principles that we must understand, especially for those of you who have recently been baptized. You are now engaged in spiritual warfare. You must understand the tactics of the enemy. And these tactics are very subtle and clever!
First temptation: Appealing to your legitimate physical needs and desires
The first temptation that we looked at last week is crude enough. It is simply an appeal to your physical needs and desires, even legitimate needs. But as Satan goes on, he refines his tactics. If the first attack does not succeed, he will find another way and means. And he has many means at his disposal.
Satan’s fundamental approach in temptation: Do your own thing
Before we look at the second principle, let us consider Satan’s fundamental approach. Although he does not put it in so many words, his basic suggestion is: “Never mind what God said. Do your own thing! Who cares what God says? Did God even say it? You have to think about number one—yourself! The self, the ego, is what matters. Look after yourself, for God might not always look after you.”
It is from this way of thinking that we have the saying: “God takes care of those who take care of themselves.” Never has there been a more satanic statement hatched out of hell. It sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? You don’t expect God to look after you if you don’t look after yourself. How do you disprove that logic? We have already been brainwashed and indoctrinated with this saying. We agree with the saying, “God looks after those who look after themselves.” Yes, it makes good sense! That is exactly what Satan thinks.
Look at the guy who serves God. He doesn’t look after himself. He gives up his job and follows God. In your heart you say to him, “You don’t look after yourself. You don’t take your own interests to heart. That is a violation of the truth that God looks after those who look after themselves. If you don’t look after yourself, how do you expect God to look after you?” The strangest thing is that I have heard Christians quoting this statement as though it were Bible truth or self-evident common sense that every Christian should understand.
Is being a Christian to have “double insurance”?
It is common sense enough, but common sense of the natural man. After all, he looks after himself, and God is going to look after him, so that is wonderful! What else do you need? The whole point of being a Christian is not only that you look after yourself, but you get God to look after you. I mean this is a man-centered world in which God is there to look after you. God is there to serve you, not you to serve God. I mean, who wants to believe in God if God is not going to look after you? How wonderful also of God to send us the Lord Jesus! Jesus washes our feet and we wash our own feet, so our feet get doubly washed! Who cares if Jesus gets his feet washed so long as I get mine washed and he washes my feet too? Better than that you cannot get. That is what Tozer calls “double insurance.” Being a Christian is to be doubly insured. You save yourself and God saves you. That is perfect logic according to the natural man.
After all, why do you want religion? Or want to be a Christian? So that God may save you through Jesus’ blood! Whether you do anything for God or not is irrelevant. Who worries about that? Perhaps you might think of doing something for God in your spare time, but most of the time, God is there to do everything for you.
That is what I call the “man-centered religion of Satan”! If you ever hear anyone quoting the statement that “God takes care of those who take care of themselves,” you had better tell him that it is something that comes straight out of the mouth of Satan. But that person might say, “Why worry about what God said? Just do your own thing, and God will look after you. When you take care of yourself, He takes care of you too.”
How perfect! I have seen so many undiscerning Christians swallow this statement lock, stock and barrel, because they do not have the spiritual insight to see through its satanic logic.
Second temptation: Take the easier road
Let us look at the second temptation. If you look after yourself, what would you do when a problem or conflict arises? The answer is simple: choose the easiest way out, the path of least resistance! I mean, if you have your own interests at heart, you are not going to make things hard for yourself, are you? You will choose the path of least resistance. Take the easy road, not the narrow road. The narrow road is difficult but the broad road offers you no resistance. Join the crowd! Who wants to be one against many? That is the hard road. Jesus faces this kind of temptation—taking the easy road—as seen starting from Luke 4:5.
Satan gives Jesus an exciting spiritual experience!
Let me give you some background information so that you can understand the picture a bit more. Verse 5 says, “The devil took him up (to a high place) and showed him all the kingdoms of this world.” The kingdoms are not just nations, but the powers and authorities of this world. Satan was not taking Jesus on a guided tour.
It was certainly not a holiday trip with tourists going on a 12-day tour of Europe. Typically they come back home and say, “I have seen Europe. I have gone through ten countries in 12 days.” Imagine trying to see Germany in one day. Of course you can do it. I have driven through Germany in one day. You start in the morning and you get out of Germany at night. It is exhausting but it can be done. So you can say you been up and down Germany, north to south, in 12 hours. You don’t see much in 12 hours, but at least you can say that you have visited most of Europe.
This is not what Satan was doing for Jesus, giving him a guided tour of the countries of the world. The words “in a moment of time” at the end of verse 5 (“showed him all the kingdoms of this world in a moment of time”) mean in one flash or in one vision. We are dealing with a vision here, not a guided tour.
Notice that Satan can give you a good spiritual experience. He can take you to a high place and give you a spiritual experience—even a vision! And what a vision, that of the glories of the world! But beware of spiritual visions that come from Satan. I say to those who are baptized: Maybe you are not experienced in spiritual warfare, but do not think that every mountaintop experience is from God. In the parallel passage in Matthew, verse 4:8 says that the Devil took Jesus to a “very high mountain,” that is, to a spiritual mountaintop experience which does not necessarily come from God.
When a person comes back from a Christian conference, I am not always sure that his mountaintop experience is of God or not. The reason I am not too sure is that in a week’s time, I sometimes see that he has faded out, even reaching a state of depression. When a spiritual experience depresses you after a time, it worries me, for the experience is unlikely to be from God. Satan lifts you up in order to bash you down. I am worried about some of these mountaintop experiences. Hence approach every spiritual experience with caution, especially those which offer you instant uplifting.
I worried about people who peddle the experience of tongues. I have nothing against tongues, as I have said many times. But it worries me when they look for tongues, not in order to serve God better but to have a reassuring, uplifting spiritual experience. People who seek a lift will get one from Satan—“Satan took him up.” Do you want a lift? He will give you one. But be careful! Watch out for these experiences. It can be the exhilaration in a healing meeting! I have nothing against healing, as I have shared with you. And God has in some small ways used me in healing. But beware when all you are looking for is a spiritual uplift. It is very dangerous! Satan is ready to provide you that. And you will have trouble knowing which is genuine and which is not. Not all tongues are from God! Neither is all healing from God! Beware of this.
Can you discern visions from God and visions from Satan?
Satan gives Jesus a vision of the kingdoms of the world. Beware of visions, for not all visions are from God. Some are from God, some are not. It is wonderful to have a vision from God. But it will be a vision of God’s glory, not the glories of the world. So discern the substance of a vision. Is it an uplifting boost to your flesh? Or does it draw you into spiritual communion with God? There is a big difference between the two.
Can you tell the difference? If you get emotionally excited and worked up, it is not from God. But if you are spiritually lifted up, you will find that you do not get excited. There is great peace and calmness, a sure sign of a spiritual lifting up rather than an exciting of the flesh.
The mass effect plays on your emotions
Beware of big meetings that use music and mass choirs to play on your emotions. The reason we don’t use these techniques, though we know how to, is that we know that it can produce satanic, not spiritual results. It is easy to get carried away in a mass meeting. Every psychologist knows “the mass effect.” The effect is to create an emotional feeling. But a wise preacher will refuse to use it because he knows that if you lift a person up in his flesh, he will fall spiritually.
A spiritual uplifting does not depend on playing upon emotions. When the Spirit of God lifts you up, there is a deep inner peace, not an excitement, not a sudden weeping and shivering. I have seen people weep and shiver in a terrible emotional state. That is not necessarily from God. But when the Spirit of God convicts you, the effect is spiritual. There is quietness and brokenness. There is a quiet weeping that has nothing to do with chattering teeth, shivering, terrible weeping and the like. Distinguish carefully between the flesh and the Spirit, between the world and God. When God works, something is very different. The vision that Isaiah saw is a vision of God, not a vision of the glories of the world that draw your heart after the world.
Understand these principles so that you will know how to distinguish the one from the other. If you go to a big meeting (and we are not saying that all big meetings are wrong), be on your guard so that nobody works you up emotionally with big choirs and moving music, playing on your emotions. Rather, press close to God. Quiet your spirit before Him so that you will not be carried away into the wrong thing.
I used to carry the flag in a marching band in secondary school in China. Wow! Have you ever seen a million people in a march? That is impressive and exciting! The mass effect on people is very effective. If you get one person to shout slogans, soon the whole crowd will go out of their minds. Afterwards, when they go home, they will wonder: “What was I doing that for?” The reason is that everybody was yelling his head off. You get one person started and soon it spreads through the crowd. Satan is the master of playing on our emotions. Beware of this.
I am grieved to see Christians use the same techniques, thinking that they can serve God in this way. You don’t serve God by using satanic or worldly techniques. You get the opposite effect. The result of these mass meetings is the enormous fallout rate at the end. People who make decisions for Christ just do not stick to their decisions. Every statistician knows that over 80% fall out within the first year. Is this the result you want? The large number of people who made decisions at a conference is very impressive on paper, but how many will last one year later? Or five years? So understand spiritual warfare. Understand the enemy’s techniques. Understand how he works on your flesh. And don’t go for cheap spiritual experiences.
Satan: Acknowledge me as the one who gave you the power
In Luke 4:6, Satan says to Jesus, “I give you all this authority and glory under one condition? Let’s make it easy and strike a bargain between us. All I ask of you is to pay me homage.”
Satan is no fool. Don’t you think he would know why Jesus came into the world? He knows why. 1 John 3:8b plainly states the reason the Son of God came: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” Satan knows very well that Jesus was sent to destroy the works of the devil.
It is something that Jesus also knows: “for this purpose I have come to this hour” (John 12:27b). What purpose? To destroy the works of the devil by laying down his own life!
We can imagine a discussion between Satan and Jesus. It is given to us in condensed form in the temptation account, and as I said, there are depths in the account that we will not fathom.
Satan is saying to Jesus, “You and I know what this is about. You have come to fight me, and to destroy my power in the world. And you know that I am not going to take this lying down. I am going to fight, and both of us will suffer in the process. You will get hurt because I am going to fight you. I will get hurt because you have power. So let’s make a deal. Up to this point, I have authority over all the kingdoms of this world, and once I give it to you, I won’t have it anymore. I will give you all of it without a fight, on one small condition: that you recognize that I had all the authority, and that you received it from me. Then I gave it to you without a fight. Acknowledge my kingship and pay me homage!”
It is important to grasp Satan’s words, “If you will worship me,” in verse 7. Many people misunderstand this point. It would be ridiculous to expect Jesus to worship Satan. Even young Christians would know that it would be ridiculous to worship Satan as God. Anyone with a sane mind would not seriously expect Jesus to worship Satan. No religious Jew would ever do that. And Satan is not stupid. If he tries to tempt Jesus to worship him, that would not be a temptation. When you study the Bible, you must see how the word which is translated “worship” is used. It is not to worship Satan as God, for Jesus would never do that. Even nominal Christians would refuse to do that if they were put on the spot, much less the Son of God. Satan is not asking Jesus to treat him as God, but to acknowledge Satan as the king of this world, and to pay him honor as king.
The same Greek word is used in Matthew 2:2 in which the wise men, the magi, worshipped or paid homage to the baby Jesus in the cradle; the Greek word, here translated “worship,” is the same as the one used in Luke 4:7. The wise men paid homage to the baby Jesus but not as God. They worshipped him as the king of the Jews, and paid him homage as king.
In any case, Satan would not ask you to do something you would not dream of doing. Even a weak Christian would not dream of worshipping Satan as God. That is not even a point for discussion. No, Satan is only asking Jesus to honor him as king.
Jesus acknowledges Satan’s kingly authority, but he will not worship him as king. In Matthew 12:26, Jesus speaks of Satan’s kingdom and kingly power, but this kingly power stands in opposition to God’s kingly power which is mentioned in verse 28 (“the kingdom of God is upon you”) Satan is a king in some sense. In fact Jesus speaks of Satan as “the ruler of this world” or “the prince of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). “Prince” is used in the wide sense of the word in which a king is also a prince, a ruler. In these verses, Jesus speaks of Satan as the ruler of the world, acknowledging that Satan has power and that he rules the world.
Satan is simply saying to Jesus, “You know that I am ruler of this world. You acknowledge this fact. All I am asking you to do is to simply kneel down, and bow before me to acknowledge that I am a king. And I will hand everything over to you. That will make it easy for you. You don’t have to go to the cross. You and I don’t have to fight. Do you want the kingdoms of the world? I will give them to you. Choose the easy road. It is easy on you, easy on me, easy on everybody. I am not asking for much, just the recognition that I am the ruler of this world, and honor me as such.” You can still recognize a person as king yet refuse to honor him, so Satan is saying, “Honor me as king, and I will give you all the kingdoms. Then I will sign out, for once the kingdoms are handed over to you, I won’t have them anymore.” That is a very dangerous maneuver.
The temptation to choose the easier way
Without examining the many implications and reasonings which get deeper and more complicated in the spiritual battle as we go on, it is sufficient to recognize the simpler principle: choose the easier way. All it takes is a bit of compromise. This kind of attack is exceedingly subtle and I have seen it used on Christians again and again. There are many ways to apply this tactic.
For example, I have seen people who want to serve God. They want to live for God, or go into full-time service. Then one of two things can happen. The family may take you on in a confrontation, or they may take the soft approach, which is usually more effective: “Okay, I don’t object.” In fact they do object but they say, “I don’t object. Let’s make a deal. You do something for me, and I will pay for your studies at Bible College. We are not going to quarrel. You want to go to Bible College? I will pay for it!”
I have seen Christians walk straight into that trap! They say, “My family doesn’t oppose me. They are even going to pay for me to go to Bible College. Hallelujah!” Don’t shout hallelujah too soon. You have walked straight into a trap. If you were wise, you would not have accepted one cent. But now that you’ve accepted their support, you are well in their grip. You are going to owe even your theological training to non-Christians, even if they are your family members.
I have seen many undiscerning Christians, unable to see through the device, walk straight into the trap and get wiped out. You can never get something from the enemy or the opposition without having to pay for it with massive interest. So beware! When Satan comes to you in a sympathetic manner, that is a most frightening thing! That really frightens me. I am not afraid of a head-on attack. What worries me is the soft manipulation. In Chinese, it’s called “shou duan” (手段). That is scary indeed, because you fail to see what is really behind it.
The Enemy has tried this on me quite a few times. Back in Liverpool, a woman confronted me by force. But when you confront a man of God, you will discover that God’s power is more than enough to deal with you. When she approached me, she thought that she would crush me by sheer force, only to find herself getting crushed.
So she changed her tactic and tried to buy me with money. She said, “Let’s be friends. We are not going to fight anymore. I am going to buy a church for you. We have this building, and you are going to have it free of charge. No strings attached! You have it all.” What worried me was the soft approach.
I said, “What are the strings?”
“Really? No strings?”
“No strings whatsoever! The building is yours. You can have it.”
How would you like to have a whole church building handed over to you? All on a platter! That attack worried me more than anything else. I prayed about it and I said, “No, thanks. I don’t want a building.”
“But it is free! No strings attached. We will get a lawyer and sign it over to you.”
“You don’t like this building. How about the other one?”
“No thanks, I don’t need a building.”
“You don’t like this building? We can pull it down and build you a new one. You get the architect, design the building, and I will build it for you.”
Satan has many resources. This woman had lots of resources, lots of money, lots of houses. What is one house out of 12 or 13? Buying over a man of God with that price is cheap. Even 2 or 3 houses would not be worth it. So be careful with the soft approach which Satan uses: “Let’s not fight. I will give it to you.”
Strangely enough, a year and a half ago when I went back to England, I saw this woman again, on the street. I remember her shock upon seeing me. Do you know what she did? She is clever and thinks fast. (She had started a rival meeting which her son dissociated himself from, for he happens to be a close friend of mine, and didn’t want to have anything to do with it.) I saw how her face changed. No Hollywood actor could have pulled this off better. Suddenly she smiled and said, “Oh, you are back again. You know, I would like you to come and preach at my meeting.” I said, “No, thanks very much.”
“What? I am inviting you to preach at my meeting. Don’t you want to preach the Word of God? Then preach at my meeting.”
I said, “No, thanks!” The reason is simply that if I had preached at her meeting, she will be able to say, “Even he preached at my meeting.”
Likewise Satan will be able to say, “Even Jesus got the kingdoms of the world from me. I am nothing now. But never forget that Jesus got them from me.” Do you see through the trick? The subtlety of Satan!
When Satan gets sympathetic, you had really better start worrying. He says to Jesus, “Are you hungry? How God has neglected you. But you are the Son of God. Just turn this stone into bread. You are sitting here hungry and where is God right now? I am sympathetic and concerned about your hunger.” Oh, he is getting sympathetic.
“Let us not fight. We are going to be friends. I will give you the kingdoms of the world, but I request a small favor in return. It just takes one moment and you will have the kingdoms forever. Just bow before me for a moment.” Oh, he is so sympathetic and understanding. He really knows his technique.
Jesus’ reply: True worship involves serving
In verse 8 notice how Jesus answers Satan by quoting Deuteronomy 6:13, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.’” Here the word “serve” is parallel to the word “worship”. Jesus is saying, “Satan, you have the principle wrong. True worship involves serving. To worship God is to serve Him. You do not serve anyone but God.”
Jesus answers with a statement of total commitment. Always remember this. That is why I constantly stress total commitment. Jesus has proved his total commitment to his Father and God in the first instance, refusing to turn stone into bread. Now he proves it again, “Him only shall you serve.” Serve no one else! No compromises. Jesus does not deny that Satan is a king, yet he says, “I serve no one but God.”
As we close, let us remember the fundamental approach that Satan uses to tempt you. His basic suggestion is: “Who cares what God says? Did God say it or not? You must think about yourself! The ego is what matters. Look after yourself because God may not always look after you.”
Remember also the second principle of temptation: “Take the easier road. Make it easy on yourself.” A bit of compromise is all it takes. Can you discern Satan’s way from God’s way in Matthew 7:13-14?
“Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (RSV)
Are you willing to imitate the Lord Jesus to give zero compromise, to commit totally to obeying God and His Word? How else will you avoid falling into Satan’s exceedingly subtle trap?
(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church