Sojourn: Toward an Enduring City
8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright (c)2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. http://www.esv.org
When we think of spiritual warfare, many of us might assume that Satan is after something dramatic: a scandalous sin, a psychological break, or a heretical conviction. But masquerading as an angel of light, Satan’s tactics and aims are typically more shrewd. What we may consider a mundane compromise is often the stuff of violent assault.
Consider the ways that Satan attacked Jesus with temptation in the wilderness. The first two means of temptation related to Jesus proving His deity and power. Satan said, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread,” and from the top of the temple, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down (Matthew 4:3,6).” Satan even quoted the Bible for rationale, making his temptations seem permissible, and perhaps even good.
In his classic, Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis suggests that Satan and his forces can do more damage to a Christian by twisting the truth than rejecting it altogether. Speaking of Jesus, the demon says, “We thus distract men’s minds from who He is, and what He did. We first make Him solely a teacher.” In other words, Lewis perceives that Satan may do us more harm by keeping a half-true version of Jesus before us than by convincing us that Jesus was a lunatic or liar.
In his sermon this past Sunday, Paul Goebel suggested that one of Satan’s greatest means of attack comes when he convinces us of the half-truth that we are unable to solve the problem of our guilt and sin. On the one hand, this is true: we aren’t able to solve this problem. But on the other hand, this is a hell-stained lie: Jesus has solved this problem and freely extends His victory to us. As the hymn-writer put it:
When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look to see Him there, who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free,
For God, the just, is satisfied, to look on Him and pardon me.
In the fog of warfare, how do we defend ourselves against attacks that we miss so easily? How do we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith? Like Jesus, we must arm ourselves with the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.
Oh, how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.
Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me (Psalm 119:97-98).
While it may seem like a simple, even permissible compromise, we must not consider God’s Word peripheral to our spiritual security. It is the sword God has given us to battle against the schemes of Satan, and with it we, like Jesus, are wiser than our great Enemy.