Last week, in The Wilderness Experience, Part 4, we discovered that when Jesus refused to jump off the pinnacle of the temple, He left us with the ultimate example in trust. We don’t need outward signs of God’s power. We need to know the miracle worker, and we need to be watching where He is at work around us everyday. This week we will focus on the final of the three temptations:
“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”’” (Matt 4:8-10)
The temptation is an easy one to describe: The devil is tempting Jesus to break the very first of the 10 commandments: “You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Ex. 20:2 NASU) In his last feeble attempt to make Jesus fall, he is enticing Him to worship someone other than God. He’s enticing Jesus to worship the devil himself!
As you read through your Bible, you will quickly note that the admonition against worshiping other gods is a common theme throughout. In the books of Moses alone, I counted up to 67 admonitions against worshiping idols and other gods! And the Children of Israel were not only warned to not worship other gods, but they were commanded to severely punish, and even put to death, anyone who brought idol worship into the camp: (See Deut 13:6-10)
Why the strong language? Because God knows that this is a temptation we so easily fall into, and He knows how important it is to not have any other gods in our lives!
In some cultures in the world today, the worship of animals or images is still practiced, but in most western world cultures, foreign gods have become more subtle. For example:
A person can become a god. Sometimes this is a blasphemer who proclaim to be God; take Jim Jones, for example. But more commonly the foreign god is a beloved spouse, a best friend, or even a prophet proclaimed by your denomination. The point is, if anyone in your life is someone you look to instead of looking to Jesus, if it is someone you depend upon rather than depending upon Jesus, if it is someone whose word you take over that of the Word of God, then you are worshiping a false god.
The acquisition of material things can also become a god. Jesus said: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matt. 6:24 NKJV) In other words, if we allow the accumulation of worldly goods to be a central focal point of our lives, then we are in danger of making money, wealth, and possessions a god.
The long list of potential false gods doesn’t stop here. Basically, it can be said that when we allow ANYTHING to become the central focal point of our lives; when we depend on ANYTHING other than God; when we value ANYTHING above God’s laws and commands, we fall into the third temptation of Jesus: We worship other gods!
Had Jesus succumbed to this temptation, He would have left us with the example that it is okay to have focal points in our life other than God. But He didn’t succumb. He stood firm on the Word of God! And as such, He becomes the ultimate example in withstanding temptation.
We, too, can withstand the temptation to worship other gods by standing firm upon the Word of God. But we must first recognize that there are other gods in our lives. We need to search our hearts regularly for anything — clothing, computer games, food, drugs . . . ANYTHING! — that is managing to become a focal point in our lives. Spend time in prayer. Ask God to reveal to you what your other gods might be. And once they are revealed, follow Jesus’ example! Stand firm on the Word of God! Beat back the temptation with, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
One last important point can be made from this temptation: The devil promises to give the entire world to Jesus, should He succumb to the temptation. Wait a minute! The world was not the devil’s to give: “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” (1 Cor 10:26 NIV). He was making a false promise! And this he also does when he tempts us as well. He says: “If you take these drugs, you will find stress relief. Your problems won’t seem so bad!” What he doesn’t say is this: “You will become addicted to this drug, and when you aren’t high on it, you will feel even more depressed then you do now!”. He says: “Go ahead! Eat what you want to eat! You’ll be happy that way!” But he doesn’t say: “Eating too many fats and sweets will give you numerous health problems!”
The list of examples could go on and on, but the point is this: Every temptation is followed by a promise, one that is no more than half true. Beware! He doesn’t tell you the whole story! Do not fall into these traps!
Enough to ponder, but do ponder this: Everything in life can, potentially, be a false god, if we make it the focal point of our lives. The devil is very good at sneaking in these false gods. Beware! Take up your “sword of the Spirit” — The Word of God! Stand firmly thereon, and resist the schemes of the devil!
Join us next week, for the final episode of The Wilderness Experience: Part 6: The Aftermath
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Mother of two teens, Speech-Language Pathologist, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, www.scripturalnuggets.org , with Answers2Prayer Ministries, www.Answers2Prayer.org
(To access the entire “The Wilderness Experience” mini-series, please click here.)