Did you ever notice what Jesus filled up on before he went into the wilderness for forty days? For that matter, did you notice why he went into the wilderness? In Luke 4:1 we get the answers to both of these questions:
Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.
Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit before he went into the wilderness and it was this same Holy Spirit who then led him into the wilderness. How interesting, don’t you think? Without the Holy Spirit, he would have succumbed to Satan’s temptations. Yet without the Holy Spirit, he would not have felt compelled to go into the wilderness in the first place.
In my book Come to Me, I wrote a short scene where Satan tempts Jesus. Now in that scene, I had imagined that during those forty days, Satan would appear from time to time to tempt Jesus. In fact, the way in which Luke 4:1-13 is written gives the impression that Jesus was indeed tormented by Satan his whole time in the wilderness. But the most crucial times came at the end of the forty day period when Jesus was beyond famished, likely delirious and ready to call it a day. That’s when Satan showed up and pulled out all the stops, so to speak. He was going to bombard Jesus with everything he could think of to get Jesus to fail in his mission. So Satan hits him where it hurt the most. His stomach. Satan tempts Jesus with instant gratification.
And the devil said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread” (Luke 4:3).
Before we get into how hungry Jesus was I want to put to rest the question of whether or not fasting for 40 days and nights is even possible. The skeptics will claim that Jesus’ time in the wilderness never happened because he would have died. One thing people assume is that Jesus had no food or water. But the Bible doesn’t say that. It only says he ate nothing. Clearly, Jesus had access to water and was drinking it during that time. Otherwise, he would not have survived because the longest anyone can survive without water is a week, and that is a generous estimate. According to Randall K. Packer, a professor of biology at George Washington University, three to four days without water would be more accurate, before death occurs.[i]
So, how hungry was Jesus? He was pretty hungry! But, he was also weak, delirious and tired. Yet, he had the presence of mind to respond to Satan with Scripture:
But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God’” (Luke 4:4).
Two things to notice here. First, the word choice Satan employs that can stop most Christians in their tracks. It’s a tiny word with a whole lot of power – “if”. We hear it in one form or another every day. IF you take the wider more travelled, more acceptable path, your life will be easier. IF you agree with the majority, then you won’t be persecuted. IF you keep silent and don’t rock the boat, all will go well with you. Only it won’t. And Jesus knew the lie that comes along with the IF word, and he picked up on it, and that is how he won the first round - through Scripture.
Satan knows the Bible inside and out and will twist it to suit his purposes. That’s why it is so important we also know the Bible because sometimes temptations come to us, dressed in ways that seem right to our eyes (like the prosperity gospel. How can that be wrong)? Well, because the Scriptures tell us it is and if we don’t know our Scriptures, we can be easily swayed into believing and accepting anything.
In fact, one of the lies being spread about now is that Christians who trust in God's Word are putting more faith in the Bible than in Jesus. IF (there's that word again) we loved God, we would be rejecting the parts of the Bible that don't apply to us today. IF we were "true" Christians we would not be tying ourselves once again to the Law of God's Word. But here's the thing about that lie - Jesus is the Word (John 1:14)! It is through the Bible that we get to know the Lord and what we learn is that God is unchanging. Right is still right and wrong is still wrong. What was sin in the Old Testament is still sin today. But, because Jesus fulfilled the Law, the punishment for those sins no longer applies. With repentance comes forgiveness. We are only required to "go and sin no more."
Jesus was prepared for the IF word.
So Satan has to step up his game because he just lost that round, big time. So he hits Jesus in his next vulnerable place – his authority as God.
Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours."
And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve’” (Luke 4:5-8).
Of course, Satan is going to appeal to Jesus’ authority as God. He knew who Jesus was. He knew Jesus had stepped out of heaven and gave up his divinity to save humanity. He also knew that Jesus only had to say the word and all would be restored to him. Notice the lie Satan weaves into this temptation, “For this [the kingdoms of the world] has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.” No, he can’t. It was never given to him. That’s a lie. It’s one Christians have believed for years. And it is how Satan has most of them cowering in fear, seeing him in everything, giving him too much credit and crediting him with too much power!
There is only one who is Lord over all the world. Who has dominion from sea to sea (Psalm 72:8), who assigns the seas its very limits and marked the foundations of the world (Proverbs 8:29). And the only ones God gave charge over His creation were humans (Genesis 1:26). Not Satan. Now some will say, “But the Scriptures say Satan is ‘the god of this world’ (2 Corinthians 4:4). Does it?
I am probably one of the biggest supporters of the King James Bible because I have found far too many instances in the NIV where words (sometimes entire verses) have either been removed, added or changed to mean something the original Greek or Hebrew words did not intend. However, in this case, the KJV has erred in that it has taken the Greek word aiōn (found in 2 Corinthians 4:4) and rendered it as “world” when it actually means “age” or “a period of time”. In this case, the NIV renders it correctly as “the god of this age”. Now when we look at 2 Corinthians 4:4 in context, we also notice that “the god of this age” has “blinded the minds of unbelievers.” Let’s also be clear about that word “god”. Small “g” means no power, idol, aka fake, otherwise known as Satan. He is not in control of the world!
It has not been given to him at all. The only influence Satan has is that of deception. He can’t cause floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, illness or anything else. He does not have that kind of power. In fact, in order to be able to harm someone he has to get that power from God first (Job 1:9-12, 2:4-7). He is not in control of the world, God is. The only “power” (and I use the term lightly) that Satan has, is the power to deceive, lie and tempt us to sin. That’s it. He controls nothing but the minds of unbelievers. And what happens when you believe a lie and spread it? Chaos ensues. People get hurt, right becomes wrong, laws are changed to promote immorality, up is down and the whole world goes crazy. That is why this world is currently going to pot. Too many people are listening to Satan. It is also why vulnerable Christians who don’t spend time in the Word, are believing his lies as well. The seed of faith has been planted in some believers, but it isn’t taking root (Matthew 13). And so they succumb to the “majority view” or “worldview” if you will.
But Satan is counting on Jesus being so delirious with hunger that he won’t notice the lie about Satan having all authority over the kingdoms of the earth. In fact, Jesus himself said in Matthew 28:18, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” But Jesus once again wins the second round with Satan. How? By quoting the Scriptures.
So Satan tries again. And what does he tempt Jesus with this time? His power.
Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you,’ and, ‘In their hands, they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”
And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’”
Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time. (Luke 4:9-13).
Just to be clear – Satan wasn’t literally taking Jesus to these places. Jesus didn’t suddenly appear on the pinnacle of the temple, for all the world (at that time) to see. All these temptations are taking place in Jesus’ mind. Just like they take place in ours. And it is our minds that we have to safeguard. There is a reason Paul admonishes us to “take every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Satan tries to deceive Jesus by quoting Scriptures on how God will keep him safe. Satan uses this type of deception a lot. Especially with susceptible Christians who, as an example, are deceived into thinking that if they aren’t healed of something, then they lack faith. They don’t lack faith! They lack knowledge of the Scriptures! This is how Word of Faith preachers manipulate people into giving them money. Need money? Sow a “faith-seed” and watch it come back to you ten-fold! Need healing, but aren’t receiving it? Sow a “faith-seed” in this ministry, and you will receive healing. And what is the number one way to deceive Christians with the Scriptures today? Take them out of context. But if you are in the Word daily and digging deeper into it, you will recognize when someone is trying to deceive you.
Jesus saw through Satan’s deception and once again rebuked him with the Scriptures, and Satan left him “until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13). Did you notice that last verse? Satan’s lies, deceptions and temptations were not over. He always comes back and tries again. Always. And usually when you are at your most vulnerable.
So what can we learn from Jesus' wilderness experience?
In the parable of the three servants Matthew 25:29 says:
“For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.”
If you aren’t growing in your relationship with the Lord, by getting to know Him through His Word, you might as well go out and bury your Bible in your backyard! You are like the lazy servant, and when the master (Jesus) comes, he will find you wanting.
The Scriptures promise us that, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). Never forget that! Satan will try to convince you otherwise, just always remember this – he is a liar. Jesus isn’t. Be prepared for his attacks. Take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God and defend yourself! (Ephesians 6:17).
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