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Who’s in Charge? The Third Temptation

We have already taken a look at the first two temptations of Christ and how they might apply to us in the present day. In the first temptation, Satan enticed Jesus to feed His belly instead of His soul: “If you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread.” In the second temptation, the devil craftily quoted scripture, inviting Jesus to cast Himself from the temple: “God will command his angels concerning you.” Our enemy throws these same temptations at us today, trying to get us to exclusively focus on material things, coaxing us to test God instead of trusting Him, and casting doubt on our identity as children of the Heavenly Father.

In the third and final temptation, Satan goes for a frontal attack, showing Jesus the splendor of the world’s kingdoms: “All these things I will give you, if you fall down and worship me” (Mt 4:9). It would seem that only one-percenters could understand this temptation, as most of us aren’t among the super-rich and powerful. Yet Satan tempts all of us to embrace fake power.

Fake power is the illusion of control. The Bible tells us that self-control is the fruit of the Spirit, which teaches us to “say no to godless ways and sinful longings” (Titus 2:12). Fake power, on the other hand, blinds us to godly control and keeps us focused on ourselves. In the end, it makes us miserable and drives wedges between us and others.

Let me give a hypothetical example. A man named Ty lives down the street. He’s a good man who provides for his children, pays his bills, and regularly attends church. Yet Ty is easily offended. He’s not aware of it, but he’s always on the lookout to see affront in other’s actions. When he interprets insult in an interaction, he decides he will nurse a grudge and avoid that person at all costs. Ty is exercising fake power, elevating himself to the position of a saintly martyr, cutting off relationships instead of nurturing them. Subtly, over time, he begins to think of himself better than others because everyone is out to slight him while he lives an exemplary life.

Satan doesn’t show up in a crimson suit with a pitchfork in hand; he often appears as an angel of light, quietly convincing us that our way is the righteous way. He distracts us from God by fueling our natural inclination to look inward and justify thoughts and behaviors that are sinful. He cackles when we fall for the bait and coddle our self-centered flesh.

When Satan tried to appeal to the human nature of Jesus by offering him earthly power and authority, the Lord told him to hit the road: “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only'” (Mt 4:10). Worshipping God is not necessarily showing up at church on Sunday morning. You can sit in a pew week after week, sing the hymns, and listen to the sermon — but never worship. Worship means recognizing God, moment-by-moment, as our true source of strength. When we hand control over to God, we are worshipping. 

Who’s in charge of your life? You — or God? Your answer will determine who you really worship.

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