God does not look for shortcuts. This becomes clear when you look at the life that Jesus modeled in the Scriptures. During Jesus’ first great temptation in the wilderness, the devil attacks sensitive spots and tries to get Jesus to stumble.
The devil pounces to attack right after Jesus had been alone in the desert for 40 days. Jesus had not eaten during this time. He was hungry and in a weakened state. The enemy always looks to attack when we are at our weakest point.
I have to admit that when I was younger, I did not see why these were sins or even great temptations. What is wrong with being hungry and doing something to fix a meal? Why would it be wrong for Jesus to jump from a tall building to show his cosmic powers? If spider man does it, why can’t Jesus?
The bowing down to the devil thing never seemed like something good to do. But if it got the devil to go away and accomplished Jesus’ purpose for coming to earth without Him having to endure the cross, wouldn’t the Father look the other way just this once? One little shortcut won’t really hurt…Right?
Satan’s strategy focused on three key areas – provision for a need or desire, pride and God’s purpose. He still uses the same tactics today.
The devil firsts starts out by appealing to a legitimate need. Jesus had the same kind of physical needs as any other man. When Jesus fasted for 40 days, He was hungry. Jesus fed thousands through working miracles, what makes this situation so different?
In the encounter on the mountain, turning stones to bread was the devil’s idea not God’s plan. Jesus, living in direct contact with the Father, knew the will of God. Feeding the crowds brought glory to God. Following the devil’s suggestion would have done the exact opposite by signaling that Jesus’ flesh is stronger than His desire to honor God.
Jesus’ reaction shows that even He does not depend on His ability to circumvent God’s provision. He doesn’t take matters into His own hands. The Father is the source for daily bread. The Word of God provides nourishment and the things needed to sustain life.
The devil’ appeal is to do a dead work and self actualization. Jesus shows complete trust in the Father and understanding that there exists bread which cannot be seen.
Shifting to another tactic, the devil recognizes that traditional or primary temptations will not work. He decides to appeal to what caused his fall – pride.
Satan calls out Jesus. He challenges Him to show some proof that He is the Son of God. The devil even uses Scripture to try to make the temptation seem more reasonable. Most lies and temptations have a bit of truth mixed in to make it seem like a good idea. Our enemy usually tries to cloak temptation to make it seem more benign than it really is.
Sometimes it can be easy to get conflicting messages from Scripture. Depending on the context of the passage and the specifics of your situation, you can take Scripture and use it to make almost any point that you want. The key is to follow Scripture’s guidance understanding the context of the passage and its proper application to your decision as guided by the Holy Spirit.
Once again, Jesus responds with Scripture. This temptation resurfaces again in Jesus’ earthly ministry as the religious leaders try to get Him to perform miracles or provide a sign. Even while on the cross, people call for Jesus to come down and show the world His true identity.
Turning to the focal point of the battle, satan targets Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth. The devil offers Jesus a way to “accomplish” God’s goals without having to pay the price. He offers Jesus a shortcut. He basically offers to go into retirement if Jesus will only recognize His position as ruler of the earth and worship him. Satan has the audacity to ask for something outlandish and try to make it seem like no big deal.
Jesus knew better. He understood that what the devil possessed would only belong to him for a short time. He understood the truth that there was no shortcut. This shortcut would doom God’s plan to redeem mankind. There was only one way to achieve God’s plan – the way of the cross.
The very existence of man’s free will supports the idea that God does not take the easy way out. God could have created man without the ability to choose right from wrong. Removing free will would have avoided the mess caused by sin. He designed man fully aware of the problem brewing inside His creation. God knew that He would expose Himself to pain and suffering by giving man free will. Yet He did it any way. God made Himself vulnerable for the sake of mankind.
Like the father longing for the prodigal son to return home, God looks out into the distance desiring for His wayward children to make the right choice.