We like to imagine the devil has more power than he does when it comes to temptation. He’s a fallen angel. A great dragon. A lion who prowls around seeking to devour. Fierce, sure. But you, Christian, wear the armor of God. he may be a lion but he has no teeth to you. he’s not all powerful. he’s not all knowing. The devil didn’t make you do anything.
satan is nothing more than a student of character. he watches. He’s been doing it a while. Since Adam and Eve. he never could read thoughts, but he pays attention. he knows us. he knows what questions to ask. he knows just where to poke.
You know where too. Where that guilt piles up. The frustration. The fear. This is where the knife goes. Then it’s really just about leverage. Leverage isn’t about power. You can lift a lot with very little if you know where to pull. he’s so used to it working that you can watch him overplay his hand. Jesus stands in the wild lands. The devil goes out to confront him with only tricks he knows.
First, he comes in weakness. Jesus hungers. 40 days. No food. “If you really are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread.” Temptation: measure God’s love by your satisfaction. If you really are so important, you shouldn’t want for anything. The enemy leans on our weaknesses as proof there’s no God, or worse, a God who won’t help us. But the Lord answers. Man cannot live by bread alone. God’s love means more than stuff or earthly pleasures.
So the devil comes in strength. Jesus’ faith. If You really know your bible you know you can throw yourself down from here. The psalm says He will command His angels concerning you and they will bear you up lest you strike your foot against the stone. You trust more than anyone. He tempts us to trust in what’s strongest about ourselves. He gives self esteem. Confidence. Then twists it in on itself until it gets too big to fail. But sooner or later, humanity always falls. Watch him work. He takes strong faith and tries to corrupt it. He twists trust in God into trust in faith, but faith in faith has saved no one. Jesus answers. You shall not put the Lord to the test. Not just don’t poke the bear. Recognize it’s God who saves, and not Your ability to impress Him. Don’t bet on that. Don’t test God that way.
So finally satan comes in fear, but really that’s what all of these get rolled into. There’s a lot you don’t know, and too much of what you do is bad news. If you just bow, you can control it all. I’ll give you every kingdom. You can have whatever you want. Fear is really what the weakness and the strength all gets rolled into. We want control, so satan tempts us into looking to our own will instead of trusting God’s.
It was fear that didn’t want to starve or hurt in weakness. It was fear that thought it was the one who should be in control in strength, as if we were smarter than God. Mostly because the dark unknown is even scarier than the weakness we know. And even if we don’t know what to do with control, we want it. Because we’re afraid we can’t trust anyone who’d hold it over us. So when it comes to God, it’s fear that prays my will be done, not yours.
It’s no different here than when satan would mock Jesus through the Pharisees as He dies for them. If you really are the Son of God, come down from there. I know who talks like that. Who meets Jesus in the wild lands and leads every temptation that way. satan overplays his hand. he teaches us his favorite word.
If. I figured it would be profane, but it’s the one he keeps falling back on. If you are the Son of God, make the stones bread. If you are the son of God, throw yourself down and trust in God. I’ll give you all the kingdoms of the world If you bow to me.
We still we echo it. When it comes to temptation we love to say the devil’s favorite word. If only we weren’t so overwhelmed. If only we weren’t around those bad influences. We could deal with temptation just like Jesus If only we knew the right bible verse like Jesus always seems to. Then we’d be able to resist.
If is the devil’s word because there’s no certainty to it at all. The devil wants only doubt. You can watch TV if you clean your room. You can get a raise if you meet your goals. You can fix your marriage if you stop being a sinner. If. It’s a word of law, not gospel. Because the word if is on you.
Let’s test it. You broke the 10 commandments this week. Did you not know them? You knew the right verse. You just leaned harder on the “if” than anything after it. We deal with temptation wrong. You will not beat temptation with the devil’s own words. You only play further into it. Because You knew. You knew when you did it. Temptation isn’t ignorant. Temptation is knowing it’s wrong and doing it anyway. That’s what makes temptation so vile. It has to excuse what it already knows. So it tries to measure not just right and wrong, but God Himself by something different. Every time. Every way. It all comes down to this. Dress it up for the dance, but it’s the same old lie of the same old enemy. If God were really loving I wouldn’t hurt. If it feels good, a loving God wouldn’t call it wrong. It cant matter that much.
Would you really say “My God wouldn’t say this or do that?” You’ve made up your mind before you ever asked Him and checked the book. And sometimes even after. Quoting the bible wrong is worse than not quoting it. Instead of looking for a cross to answer your sin, the enemy would twist the scriptures around. he points away from Jesus, where there is certainty, towards yourself, where if rules the day. Then we do what comes natural. We try to justify our sins. Find enough works to answer our fears, or at least prove others are worse than us. We try to live by the law.
See it for what it is in the devil who does just that as he twists scripture to our Lord.
Quoting scripture wrong is worse than not quoting it at all because All the while would dare to call itself godly even as it flees from God. In all of it we pave a road away from the cross, where Jesus died for you. It wasn’t just a reminder to feel guilty. It isn’t just the proof that thing you excused and justified was so bad God had to die. It’s more. It’s that God wanted to save you from that thing. It’s that God loves you so much He was willing to bear all the things we run from in temptation. Just for you.
For every time you grabbed hold of satan’s favorite word to excuse your sins, slander your Lord, or build your self up because you were scared, God loved you. It looked like something. A cross. There, your sins are forgiven. All of them. Every time you fell to temptation, God met it with that cross. Your sins are forgiven you.
This Cross Jesus bore for you was a will expressed through all of history, not determined by the desires of the moment. It’s what all of scriptures move us toward. All of scriptures moves us to the cross where Jesus died for sinners. For you who struggle and fall to temptation. So that you would have hope.
Answering temptation isn’t a measurement of how many bible verses you know. It is a measurement of how many are true. Jesus falling back on the word is not a challenge to memorize more scripture than the devil. You’ll fail. It’s to recognize that there are wills outside of your own. satan’s will for you is bad. God’s will for you is good. This mess you’re in? It’s not all by chance. But this mess you’re in? There’s hope inside it. See how Jesus confronts the devil. He falls on His Father’s will. Remember why Jesus is in the wilderness starving. It is God’s will. Remember why He stands toe to toe with the devil and won’t budge an inch. Remember why He was offered every pleasure and chose the cross. It was all For you. To save you
Now stop feeling bad about it. Because that’s the devil steering us away from God’s will too. It was God’s will to die to save you sinners. Rejoice that He loves you that much and nothing you’ve done or failed to do can change that. When the devil confronts us and twists the scriptures, measure it against what You see in the will of God. He died and rose To save you. He gives you grace in word and sacrament. He has mercy. God’s will that puts Him in the desert is not happiness, not power, not miracles. It’s salvation for sinners. Salvation for you. To undo the curse of Adam and make straight the twisted paths that we pave and conquer the enemy who works against God’s will.
If you’re not a sinner, there’s no salvation for you. If you’re not willing to call sin sin, there’s no cross for you. If you’re not able to see Jesus die for sinners in the scriptures you’re hearing, you’re looking in the wrong place. Look here. It did something. Not only are you forgiven. You’re victorious. The devil lost. His temptations are something different to you now. Not only are you holy enough to cast aside your old excuses. You’re holy enough not to need them anymore. Why excuse what God forgives? Now, resist.
Wanna out muscle the devil? You don’t have the strength. or the leverage. But you do have the Lord. You do have His word. A place to hear it. to grow in it. To receive the forgiveness it proclaims and enacts. Resist here. Pray the litany. Hear the word. Receive the supper. This is where the leverage is. outside of you. outside of your will. wholly in God’s.
Because God is stronger. His will is gonna get done no matter what. His will is your salvation. Live.