Surviving sifting and returning with a stronger faith – ready for ministry


A series about sifting…

Here is the post…

In that post I said that I have decided to make up my mind what I think that the bible says. I haven’t stopped listening to other people, I’m still reading books, I’m still listening to people – but in the end I have to relate all of it back to what I see in the bible and then make a decision about what I believe.

I seem to constantly be confronted by two alternatives that I have to choose from. In the past I’ve heard people say the way to resolve this, is to compare the options to the bible, to God’s character or to figure out which one is loving. This is all good advice, but it didn’t resolve the problem for me, the confusion continued.

Now that I am focussing very closely on the life of Jesus, as a way of resolving these problems, I have learned some things from His life. Here are some of the things I’ve noticed about the temptation (sifting?) of Jesus in Luke 4 (or Matt 4).

Here are some of the things I’ve noticed, in the order that they happened:

  1. The testing of Jesus came after being filled with the spirit, but before the public ministry of Jesus.
  2. Jesus was very hungry and in need when the temptation came.
  3. satan immediately challenged Jesus’ identity. This is what he does to all of us. he is asking: do you know who you are? Are you really a son (or daughter) of God? Your answer must be “yes”.
  4. All of satan’s questions were aimed at driving a wedge between Jesus and God the Father.
  5. If that didn’t work, he tried to encourage Jesus to grab power for Himself – that is similar to how satan fell (and how adam and eve fell) because they all wanted to be like God.
  6. When satan tested Jesus, satan used biblical statements – but he used them wrongly. We’ll only spot the deception if you have an understanding of God’s heart of love for people and His desire for us to be in a right relationship with Him.
  7. Jesus’ replies are most interesting. He doesn’t argue back to the point satan makes, He simply says “you’re wrong” and then asserts His relationship to God.
  8. Jesus was never afraid of satan and He was not insecure about who He is and He was not insecure about being in any way separated from God – regardless of the circumstance.
  9. When satan left, he had the intention of returning when the next opportunity came. But according to the bible, that opportunity never came.
  10. After the testing His public ministry began.
  11. It says He went to the testing filled with the Holy Spirit and afterwards He ws full of the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s no surprise then that He began to heal and cast out demons. He therefore became well known in the area.

I wanted to make those points uninterrupted so it’s like a flow – easy to consider as a whole.

Below I’ll highlight the verses and comment on them. So let’s get to it… let’s pick apart Luke 4 using the Amplified version this time for a bit of variety.

THEN JESUS, full of and controlled by the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led in by the Holy Spirit

God led Jesus into the time of testing.

For (during) forty days in the wilderness (desert), where He was tempted (tried, tested exceedingly) by the devil.

Do you feel like you’ve been tried exceedingly?

And He ate nothing during those days, and when they were completed, He was hungry.

Are you tired and hungry? He was in a state of need. The enemy was thinking “now we will find out what this man is made of”.

Why did God allow this? God allowed the time of testing because the experience (while aswful) will grown Jesus and deepen Him. (Perseverance produces character)

It also was a time that would show if Jesus could hack it. Yes… God knew what Jesus would do, just like He knows what you and I will do… but the person who has to see what we will do is… ourselves! We don’t know until afterwards. I have to be sure that I can make it through. I have to know:

  • Is my relationship with God strong enough for the difficulties that lay ahead?
  • Is my own identity strong enough to endure?
  • Is my character strong enough to survive, or will I fall apart under pressure?
  • Do I really understand God’s love of me?
  • Do I really understand God’s authority over absolutely everything that happens in this world?
  • Do I really understand God’s character versus the character of the enemy?

The testing continued:

Then the devil said to Him, If You are the Son of God

If? The devil is challenging His identity – trying to drive a wedge between Jesus and His Father, erode His security. It’s the whole build your life on a solid rock thing.

And Jesus replied to him, It is written, Man shall not live and be sustained by (on) bread alone but by every word and expression of God.

Jesus isn’t ruffled. He replied coolly and calmly that His focus is on God and that God is all powerful and that God looks after His kids.

Then the devil took Him up to a high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the habitable world in a moment of time in the twinkling of an eye. And he said to Him, To You I will give all this power and authority and their glory (all their magnificence, excellence, preeminence, dignity, and grace), for it has been turned over to me, and I give it to whomever I will. Therefore if You will do homage to and worship me just once, it shall all be Yours.

satan is a liar and he was lying to Jesus, trying to twist truth into untruth. This world and everything in creation is God’s, satan just has some authority – it’s not his to give. Would Jesus argue the point with satan? Let’s see Jesus’ reply:

And Jesus replied to him, Get behind Me, Satan! It is written, You shall do homage to and worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.

Rather than take the bait and argue the issue with satan, Jesus simply rebukes satan and restates His relationship to God. Wow.

Then he took Him to Jerusalem and set Him on a gable of the temple, and said to Him, If You are the Son of God, cast Yourself down from here; For it is written, He will give His angels charge over you to guard and watch over you closely and carefully; And on their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.

Again with the “if”? The strategy is the same, to mis-quote the bible and try and start an argument. Perhaps the argument will drive a wedge of doubt between Jesus and His Father in heaven or at the very least the argument will waste time.

And Jesus replied to him, The Scripture says, You shall not tempt (try, test exceedingly) the Lord your God.

Jesus handles it well. He simply restates His relationship to His Father. He’s saying “I trust my Father and I won’t try and test Him”.

And when the devil had ended every the complete cycle of temptation, he temporarily left Him that is, stood off from Him until another more opportune and favorable time.

So the enemy left. But he left only to wait for another chance. But we don’t see any further chance until God permitted it, right at the end of Jesus’ life. Truly God was in charge and is in charge.

Then Jesus went back full of and under the power of the Holy Spirit into Galilee, and the fame of Him spread through the whole region round about.

Previously Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit, but now He is under the power of the Holy Spirit. Needless to say, when you’re under the power of the Holy Spirit and casting out demons and healing the sick, your fame will spread.

Can you see in each of Jesus’ 3 replies to the enemy, He expresses relationship statements?

  1. every word and expression of God (God’s provision to us)
  2. worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve (love the Lord your God)
  3. You shall not tempt (try, test exceedingly) the Lord your God (don’t annoy God?!)

I’m not saying I’ve got it all sussed out, but I think that the simplicity of Jesus’ replies to satan is crucial. Each reply (no matter what the question, argument or challenge was) is replied to with a relationship statement.

The only person who can reply like that is someone who is in a relationship with God, knows God’s character, knows his identity in God and trusts God. Imagine being held up above the temple and still stating that you absolutely trust God – even while the enemy is the one holding you above the temple. Now THAT is walking by faith and not by sight!

Our relationship and trust in God is absolutely paramount and must be in place before significant, powerful and public ministry can begin. If we are not on solid ground with Jesus and our Father God, if we do not understand God’s authority, know His words and do not believe in His ability to protect and provide for us – then we are not ready to stand in front of people on behalf of Him.

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