Monday, January 14, 2013

I Pledge Allegiance

I am currently reading and studying my way through the book of Luke with commentary by Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel. Today I was struck by Luke 4:5-7, part of the temptation in the wilderness.

“And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 

Satan gave Jesus the same offer he gave to Eve in the Garden of Eden: take power by short-cutting God’s will. 

Eve accepted, thus handing over power to Satan (thanks a bunch Eve).  Jesus rejected, knowing that true God-given authority comes from suffering and sacrifice, not from coercive power offered by Satan and the kingdoms of this world.

Satan basically said to Jesus, “Jesus, You don’t have to suffer. I offer You the kingdoms and all their glory because they have been given to me to give to whom I will. You don’t have to be separated from the Father by taking the world’s sin upon You. You won’t have to watch Your mother weep at your beaten, bloodied body. You can have it now—without the suffering.”

This is the same offer Satan gives to us:

“Don’t wait for God’s vengeance: pick up a gun. Don’t do the hard work of developing deep, lasting relationships: keep it shallow through Facebook and text. Don’t love when it’s seemingly impossible: divorce, move on, you deserve better anyway. Don’t push past your stereotypes and fears to love people you don’t agree with: point fingers, throw stones, and claim you’re standing for Jesus. Don’t worry that your brothers and sisters around the world are suffering and dying: you’ve worked hard for your luxury, enjoy it.”

Lies. Lies. Lies.
Satan is a liar.
Satan has charge over this world (Luke 4:6, Eph 2:2).

Jesus knew suffering through sacrificial love was the way God wanted Him to reconcile mankind back to God. He refused to let Satan trick Him into short-cutting God’s plan by taking the easy way out.

Satan doesn’t give up after tempting Jesus in the wilderness though.

In Matthew 16 and Mark 8, Jesus tells His disciples what He must endure, the suffering, His excruciating death on a cross, and His resurrection three days later. “Far be it from You, Lord!” cries Peter, ready to fight and die for his Lord.

What is Jesus’ reply to this seeming bravery and desire to protect his master? “Get behind me Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (emphasis mine).

Peter, like Satan, wanted Jesus to avoid the suffering, avoid the pain, skip straight to the conquering hero role. After all, this is what the Jews were expecting: a soldier ready to tear down the Roman empire, set up His own Kingdom, rule as the King. They were not prepared for this suffering servant, the one who told them the least is the greatest, the meek will inherit the earth, and only those like children will enter the Kingdom.

Romans 6:16 says, “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness.”

Jesus tells us we cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6, Luke 16). We can pledge allegiance only to one power: that of God or that of the world. God and the world have nothing in common—“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15, emphasis mine)

I pray that the Church, the entire Body of Christians, may have the courage to follow “in His steps…when He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:21-23). 

We may think we fight against governments, corporations, materialism, weapons, poverty, or terrorism. But truly these things are only the result of Satan’s control over the world: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12).

You cannot fight Satan with a gun, nor can you ever win by wielding the power of this world through coercion, violence, or threats. It is only when we look like Jesus, imitating His sacrificial love for His enemies, can we truly begin to defeat the darkness around us, and in us.

We must answer like Jesus, when any power besides God asks for our allegiance: "It is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve."

I should also add this, which I should have added earlier: None of this can be accomplished on human will alone. Jesus Himself was "full of the Holy Spirit...led by the Holy Spirit" into the wilderness temptations, then came out of the temptations "in the power of the Holy Spirit" (Luke 4).  We are to be full of the Holy Spirit, led by the Holy Spirit, and living in the power of the Holy Spirit in order to accomplish the will of God and overcome the kingdoms of the world. 

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