The more we become like Jesus, the more similar the tactics that our enemy uses will become to those he used against our Lord. Fortunately, Jesus has already overcome our enemy, and provides both the wisdom of His tactics and the strength of the Holy Spirit to ensure that we also will be victorious.
Consider the time that Jesus spent in the wilderness fasting and then being tempted by the Devil (Luke 4).
Satan opened up, as he often does, with an attempt to plant doubts and sow the seeds of distraction. His opening gambit was “who are you?” “IF you are the Son of God…” Jesus responded with “…man does not live by bread alone…” He made it clear, first of all, that He was here as a man. Yes, he was fully God, but He was here as a man. As such, He made Himself subject to the guidelines for success that God placed, and was focused upon the Word of God. It is important that we also know who we are. We don’t have to control everything, and it isn’t all up to us. We don’t have to be God, we just have to obey Him. If we keep our focus on Him, and on His Word, we will have life.
Even if we know who we are, our enemy would love to make us forget to whom we belong and distract us with the cares of life. His first attempt a total bust, Satan moved on to this next tactic. Jesus again made it clear that He knew to whom he belonged. “You shall worship the Lord Your God and serve Him only” What do we say when Satan distracts us with the cares, pleasures, successes, failures, and treasures of this life? Do we allow them to become idols, taking the first place in our heart and mind, or do we keep that first place reserved for “Him only”?
The third temptation boils down to one question… “Ok, you worship God, but does he love you back?” If you’re stupid, will he make everything all better? Should you test Him to make sure? How will you know He’ll be there when you need Him if He doesn’t prove He loves you on demand? Jesus had a response for this too… “You shall not put your Lord your God to the test”. Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy, where the command continues with “as you did at Massah”. Massah is the place where the Children of Israel whined about how poorly God was treating them and worried aloud that he’d led them out in the wilderness to die (Exodus 17). As with the Children of Israel, God has led us out from Egypt, and he isn’t going to drop us off in the middle of nowhere to die. He loves us. Never forget how much (John 3:16), and that he makes everything work together for our good (Romans 8:28).
The Devil left Jesus for a season, but he continued to oppose Jesus, and will continue to oppose us. Open opposition must be faced with strength. Letter vs. spirit of the law conflicts and other subtle conflicts between believers with openness, integrity, and reason. As we become more like Jesus, we may even find that evil hides from us (Luke 8:28), and can be assured that if we submit ourselves to God and resist the Devil, he will flee from us as we fight in the strength of the Lord.
When our mutual enemy cannot get a wedge between us and our God, and when he cannot oppose us directly, he will attempt to use others. He thought to use Judas this way, but just as love demonstrated through self-sacrifice allowed Jesus to turn this final assault into His greatest victory, it will do the same for us.
God in his mercy is good to provide us with the strength to overcome and examples of the appropriate strategy to apply. Identifying the problem is 80% of the solution. I pray continually that He will give me the wisdom to discern the challenge and apply the appropriate solution.
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