Satan Quotes God’s Word

Matthew 4:5-7. “Then the devil taketh Him up into the holy city, and setteth Him on a pinnacle of the temple,  And saith unto Him, If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down: for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee: and in their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”

Satan started with the small stuff:  “Here, Jesus,  turn these stones into bread.”  For the next test, he stepped it up a bit.  It is important for us always to remember that Satan’s goal from the beginning of the history of man was to keep Jesus from the cross. If he could win in this next contest of the wills, he would win for all eternity.

So, where does Satan go for the next test?  Why to the Holy City!  The the Temple in Jerusalem, the center of worship for all Israel.  How fitting it would be to win a contest with the very Son of God in His own city, on His own temple!

Satan takes Jesus to the edge–the pinnacle, a very high place–of the temple and says again, with a sneer, “If Thou be the Son of God.”  Always the challenge, always the attempt to bully and intimidate the One whom he knew to be the Son of God.  You have to wonder about his intelligence sometimes, but then you have to remember that the bad guys will always try to undermine the confidence of their victims.

Satan then challenges Jesus to literally jump off the top of the temple. He says, “If You’re Who You say You are, then prove it!  Jump down!  Isn’t it written that God will send His angels to protect You so that You’ll never even stub Your toe?” (The quote is from Psalm 91:11-12, a Messianic Psalm.)

This temptation is a temptation of Jesus as Messiah.  What Satan left out was just as important as what he actually said, much like his lie to Eve in the Garden of Eden.  He told her that she would not surely die.  What he didn’t say was “right now.”  A lie is always more effective when it contains a kernel of truth.

Here, he leaves out the words “To keep Thee in all Thy ways.” Why is that omission important?

Clearly, for Jesus to cast Himself off the pinnacle of the temple would not be God’s way, but Satan’s way. The ways in which Jesus, the Messiah, would be “kept” were the ways of God, not the ways of Satan. Satan’s way would be to test whether or not God was true; to test whether or not He would indeed protect His Son.

Jesus wasn’t fooled for a moment.  What I really want to emphasize here is that when we are truly walking in the Spirit, we will not be fooled by the lies of the world; by the lies of those who claim the Name of Christ but live, teach, and preach another gospel; by the lies of Satan himself, who is a master of deceit.  Always we are to sift what we hear or read through the sieve of the Word of God.  Anything that falls through the sifter is false. We can’t do that sifting, however, if we do not ourselves study and learn what the Word of God says. 

Jesus responds with yet another scripture: “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Deut. 6:16). It’s kind of like watching a chess game, isn’t it?  Satan moves, and Jesus counters his move and stops him.  Sometimes you have to wonder about Satan’s intelligence.  After all, he knows he’s in a losing battle.  But then we have to remember, as well, that bullies always seek out our weaknesses and try to intimidate us with mockery and threats.  Nothing new under the sun.

Satan loses again, but he’s got one more trick in his bag.  We’ll look at that next time.


The Tempter

Matthew 4:3-4. “And when the tempter came to Him, he said, If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But He answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”

We are not told what form Satan used when he appeared to Jesus; it really wouldn’t have mattered, because Jesus knew exactly who He was dealing with. One thing I am very sure  of is that Satan did not appear in a red suit complete with tail, horns, and pitchfork.  

We do know that he waited until Jesus was at a very low ebb physically.  Satan does that, you know.  He looks for weakness, and that is where he pushes his way in. All bullies are cowards at heart, always seeking the weak, the helpless, those who are smaller than they are. Completely contemptible. 

There are those who call themselves Christian who deny the existence of Satan.  They want to believe that Jesus’ experience here was the result of some sort of delirium caused by His fast, and that it was the imagination of a weakened mind. In my opinion, such drivel is  great slander against Jesus Christ. 

The denial of the existence of Satan is a denial of evil, of sin.  As a result, we may make poor choices, we may make “mistakes,” but we don’t really sin. 

Jesus shed His blood to atone for poor choices and mistakes?  Really? 

No, Satan is real; he is busy; and he passionately hates God and all who believe in Him. His goal is to take as many as he can to eternal damnation, because he loves to destroy that which God loves. Evil, indeed, because the denial of a real devil results in denial of sin, judgment, wrath, atonement, a Savior, and of God.  

In this passage, Jesus is not tempted to do evil.  Instead, He is put to a test; He was brought to trial and examined to see if He could withstand helping Himself when He was weak in His human body. Ultimately, Satan was hoping to keep Him from fulfilling His purpose, which was to bring salvation to mankind. 

Looking closely at the first trial, we see immediately that Satan questioned Jesus’ claim to be God.  He said, “If Thou be the Son of God,” openly casting doubt on His holiness.  Then he says, in essence, “Look, You’re hungry and weak.  If you really are the Son of God, then help yourself out.  Tell the stones to become bread, and have yourself a feast!”

And how did Jesus respond?  Simply with the Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit, the only piece of armor described in Ephesians 6 that is an offensive weapon rather than a protective shield.  Jesus knew Satan from before the world was created, and He did not strike him down dramatically or attempt to placate him.  He simply quoted scripture. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Deut. 8:3). 

Here is a nugget for us to mine from this passage. When we are tested, we need nothing more than God’s Word to put Satan in his place and win the day. The importance of reading, studying, and memorizing the Word cannot be over-emphasized. 


Tested and Tried

Matthew 4:1-2. “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights,He was afterward an hungered.”

Perhaps our first response to this verse is, “But WHY?  Why does Jesus have to go through this experience?  Why should He be subjected to the lying and conniving  of Satan?  I mean, He could blink and Satan would go up in a puff of smoke!”

Of course I don’t know the complete answer to such a question, but one thing comes immediately to mind.  Hebrews 4:15. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have One Who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.”  Also,  I Corinthians 10:15 says, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Jesus was the God-Man, God incarnate, come in the flesh to walk this earth the same way all mankind has done and will do until He returns.  He was sinless because He was God; He was subject to temptation because He was man.

In Mark 1:12, we are told that immediately after His baptism, the Spirit led Him to the wilderness.  There was no interval of time after He came up out of the water. He went immediately to this confrontation with His enemy of the ages.

We are also told that He was, literally translated, carried or driven by the Spirit into the wilderness. Jesus, the Second Adam, was taken to a place much different than the lush garden where Adam and Eve were tempted by this same evil serpent.  Jesus went, not to an abundant garden of delicious food, but to a barren place of very little food or water. Deuteronomy 8:15 describes that kind of wilderness as a place that is terrible, full of fiery serpents and scorpion, and thirsty ground where was no water. He was there in the wilderness with wild beasts (Mark 1:13).  Here in this desolate, lonely place, He prepares to meet Satan.

Satan, true to form, waited until forty days and nights had passed.  Jesus had been alone; He was hungry, thirsty, physically depleted and exhausted because He had the body of a man, and He was subject to all the temptations of a man. He must have lost weight; He must have been drawn and haggard-looking after such an ordeal in such unfriendly surroundings.

Tomorrow, we’ll see how Jesus dealt with Satan.

My Beloved Son

Matthew 3:16-17: “And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him: And lo a Voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.”

Talk about high drama!  I love this picture, because it so strongly symbolizes  Jesus’ resurrection in power and strength, overcoming sin and death.  Do you realize that  if it were only His death, it would not be any different than anyone else that Rome crucified?  There were thousands who died the same way Jesus did.  It was indeed His shed blood that atoned for our sin; but it was His resurrection that assured us of victory over sin, Satan, and death.  I love Easter.  For years, I’ve called it Resurrection Sunday, which has a lot more meaning than the simple celebration of spring. 

As far as I know, this event marks the first manifestation of all three persons of the Trinity:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The word trinity is never used in scripture, but the doctrine is clearly taught. 

In this beautiful moment, we have the Son showing His obedience to the Father; marking the beginning of His public ministry; establishing the precedent for believer’s baptism; and, finally, receiving the public blessing and commendation of the Father through the Spirit. 

The Bible does not specifically say that the Spirit came in the form of a dove, although He certainly could have.  Instead, the simile like a dove is used to describe this event.  A simile is a literary device of comparison, using the words like or as. It is an apt description of the Holy Spirit.  Doves have long represented beauty, grace, purity, peace, and blessing. The dove is, here, a type (picture) of the Holy Spirit.  In the Old Testament rituals, doves could be sacrificed to atone for sin; in this way, the dove is a type of Christ. This subject would be a fascinating word study. . . . .someday. . . .

The appearance of the Spirit was Jesus’ anointing for the work He had to do. The voice of God must have filled the heavens, speaking His love and approval of His beloved Son. John the Baptist must have stood in awe, eyes raised to the heavens as he was given proof positive that this Jesus was indeed the anointed One Whose way he had been born to prepare. 

The Bible says that “the heavens were opened unto Him.”  No one else was gifted with a view of the heavenly places at this moment; but it is through Him that Heaven is opened for us. Then, the Father’s voice speaks blessing and approval, naming Jesus as His beloved Son. This sentence echoes Psalm 2, the first of the Messianic Psalms.  In verse 7, Messiah’s birth is prophesied: “I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art My Son: this day have I begotten Thee.”

There is so much more that could be gleaned from these two verses.  The Word of God is so deep, so rich, that even with all the books that have been written about The Book, still, there is more to be said. We will never plumb the depths until we are in heaven with Him. And even then, it will take eternity!

John Baptizes Jesus

Matthew 3: 13-15. “Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad Him, saying, I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. The he suffered Him.”

Jesus Being Baptized by John the Baptist

To me, this incident is one of the most dramatic in all scripture.  There is so much that could be written about just these few moments of time, because they affected all of the future.

This event marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.  He was about 30 years old, ready to face the next three years.  It was His baptism that clarified that John’s baptism was NOT a baptism of repentance unto salvation, for He had nothing of which to repent. He was sinless, the God-Man, and was to be the Provider of salvation, not a recipient.

We also learn from Jesus’ baptism that John was taken aback when Jesus approached him. He understood fully Who Jesus was.  He knew he was face to face with Messiah. How incredible that moment must have been, as he watched Jesus stride down to the banks of the Jordan, the river of death, and stand waiting to be baptized.

John humbly acknowledges his own need of redemption, but he also humbly obeys when Jesus tells him they must do this in order to fulfill all righteousness. For the word suffer in this passage, read the word allow. That makes more sense to us, and it is an accurate meaning of the word.

The symbolism of Jesus’ baptism is clear.  Baptism for us today symbolizes the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the hope of resurrection unto eternal life for us.  It is the first step of obedience after salvation, not before; it does not provide salvation, but confirms it.  By being baptized, Jesus was symbolizing that He would die and be buried.  That is why we believe baptism is to be done by immersion, rather than sprinkling.  More about that in a moment.  When Jesus came up out of the water, He was symbolizing His resurrection, providing hope for all mankind. 

So why do we immerse?  Many, many churches baptize by sprinkling; often this is done when the recipient is a newborn.  So let’s take a look at the word baptize and see what we can learn.

Baptizo is the Greek word used in this passage.  Its meaning is to dip, to dunk, to make fully wet, to immerse. This word never changes throughout the New Testament. However, by the time the King James translators were set to work, the Church (the state-governed religious body) was already baptizing by sprinkling.

The word for sprinkle or pour is rantizo. It is not used in scripture to describe baptism, but the beleagured translators were on the horns of a dilemma.  They had to find a politically correct way (nothing new, is there?) to translate this passage so as not to offend either King James or the Church.  They came up with the idea of using a transliteration instead of an exact translation, and that is when our familiar word baptize was coined.  Because it was nonspecific as to method, it could be read either way. The translators kept their heads on their shoulders and the King and the Church were happy.

Political correctness, however, often leads to biblical incorrectness.  When we strive to please man rather than God, there will be error.  Romans 6:3-5 makes it very clear that baptism is a symbol of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  Sprinkling does not fulfill that symbolism.  Down through history, there has been actual bloodshed over this issue.  Satan has once again taken what God has established and twisted it to cause disunity.  Worse, he has persuaded us that if a child is sprinkled as an infant, he is “safe,” and on his way to heaven.  This type of “baptism” has surely sent many thousands of souls to hell.  The Bible clearly tells us that it is our belief, not our works, that will gain us eternal life (Titus 3:5).

Self (esteem)(confidence)(aggrandizement)(centered). . . . .

Note:  I’m bumping this up to the top because the topic keeps coming up.  I first published this on February 22 of this year. You can scroll back in the archives to March 1 for the second post on self-esteem.)

Remember this little ditty?

I love myself. I think I’m grand.

When I go to movies, I hold my hand.

I put my arm around my waist,

And when I get fresh, I slap my face

And this: I am the greatest I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was

Which of the four words in parentheses in the title would you choose as an attractive trait? An acceptable  attitude toward life?  As being biblically sound?

Let’s take a look.  I can think of only one verse in the Bible in which the words self and esteem both appear, either in its hyphenated form (self-esteem) or separately. Philippians 2:3. “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than  themselves.”  This directive is certainly  the opposite of what we are taught by the purple dinosaur or even the very kindly Mr. Rodgers.  The philosophy there is that we are wonderful just the way we are; that we don’t need to change a thing, and we deserve to be loved by one and all. The unavoidable outcome of self-esteem is that we have no concept of humility, of putting others before ourselves.  Instead, we grow up believing we are the best and should always be first.

Talk to CEO’s of large companies; ask them what kinds of application letters they get from newly minted professional graduates.  You will find that 21-year-old grads these days are letting their prospective employers know that the company would be privileged if the newbie condescended to come on board, and that they were waiting to negotiate with said company for the pay level,  benefits, and corner office on the top floor that was their proper due.

No, self-esteem isn’t an especially good concept. Obviously, neither are self-aggrandizement  nor self-centeredness.  Self-aggrandizement?  What is that?  Simple.  “It’s all about ME, all the time!  I am the most important; everyone loves me and approves of me and I will make sure to tell you so; everything I do should make the front page of the New York Time and be reported on all the major news programs. I am the best, the greatest, the most wonderfully gifted person you’ll ever have the privilege to meet.”

Would you like to go do lunch with that person?  No, I didn’t think so. He really just needs to get over himself.

We all know people who are self-centered.  They usually aren’t very happy, because no one else seems to recognize how special they are.

We are left, then with self-confidence.  Attractive?  You bet. Good attitude toward life?  Indeed.  Biblically sound?  Absolutely.  But what’s the difference between that and self-esteem?

If you look at the words themselves, there really isn’t a lot of difference.  But if you examine how self-esteem has been presented; if you look at the deterioration of morality, honesty, just plain godliness in our society, you will begin to understand how damaging it has been.

Along with the proliferation of self-esteem manuals, self-help books, classes, etc., there has also been a proliferation of a turning away from standards of moral behavior taught in the Bible.  Why? Well, they go together.  Self-esteem teaches us that we are wonderful and have no need of improvement.  If that is so, then nothing is really forbidden to me if I want it. Because self-esteem creates an attitude of entitlement, nothing can be kept from me that I want. So if I want, for instance, to live with my boyfriend/girlfriend without benefit of marriage, there’s really nothing wrong with that because I want it, so it’s okay. People who think it’s wrong are just stuck in old-fashioned standards that don’t apply to me. They need to mind their own business.

If a grandfather  wants to use his three-year-old granddaughter for his own sexual satisfaction, who is to say it’s sinful?  Who is to say it’s wrong?  He wants it, and he should have it.  He’s wonderful just the way he is.  And if, in the process, he creates appetites in the child that would not normally be there until much later in her life, well, that’s okay too.

I once read a case history in which a father stated that it was his right and his privilege to introduce his daughters to sex and sexuality.

That kind of thinking comes not only from a sinful heart, but from having way too much self-esteem ,  However, in a society  that holds each person’s desires to be right for him, there really is no such thing as sin.  Poor choices, maybe, if it hurts someone else, but not sin.  After all, no one else has any right to judge me.

Okay.  Ranting. Back to business.

Self-confidence is biblically acceptable?  Sure.  Let me give you some examples.

Philippian 4:13.”I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.”

Psalm 139:14. “I will praise Thee: for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are Thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.”

Ephesians 2:10. “For we are His workmanship (masterpiece, work of art; poema,in the Greek), created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

I could go on and on, but you can see clearly here that we are not to think poorly of ourselves.  In fact, when Jesus says that the second greatest commandment is to love others as we love ourselves, it is implicit that He knows it is our nature to take pretty good care of ourselves. In Ephesians 5, men are told to love their wives as they love their own bodies, nourishing and caring for their wives as tenderly as they care for themselves. No lack of self-esteem there!

Well.  I just scrolled back up to the top and realized how long this has become. Can you tell that it’s a real soapbox issue with me?

More next week.

Gathering and Sifting the Wheat

Matthew 3:12. “Whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

This is actually a continuation of John’s description of the Lord in verse 12, Whose shoes, he said,he was unworthy to carry.  To better understand this verse, we need to do a little bit of history.

In the Old Testament, a threshing fan was a wooden shovel or screen.  The harvester would pick up a load of wheat and toss it into the wind in order for the lighter chaff, which was useless, to be blown away.  The chaff would then be swept up and burned, while the good grain settled into a pile. This process was winnowing the wheat.

The winnowing process took place on a threshing floor.  It was a space that had been hardened by the years of use from the worker’s feet, often using oxen to pull a winnowing sled across the floor; it was the place of both blessing and judgment.  To purge the floor was to completely cleanse the wheat from all chaff, weeds, and other unclean materials. Often the wheat was pounded to separate the useful kernels from the waste, picturing God’s judgment in separating true believers from the dross of Christendom that claims the name of Jesus but does not truly know Him.

The threshing floor was a place of blessing because it was the place of harvest, where the crops would be cleansed for use in the coming year. The harvest time was a time of great rejoicing. At the end of the harvest, when all the good wheat had been separated and stored, the chaff would be swept together and burned, picturing the everlasting judgment to fall on those who do not receive Jesus as Messiah, as Savior.

So John uses an agricultural event that was familiar to all the Israelites to portray both the imminent coming of Jesus into His public ministry, and the far future final judgment of the end times, when God will separate the wheat (true believers) from the chaff (those who have a form of religion, but not the power).

Second Fiddle

Matthew 3:11-12.”I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but He that cometh after me is mightier than I, Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” (italics mine)

John was under no illusions as to his own position in the story of Jesus.  He was a prophet, not a redeemer.  It was his job to warn the people, to call them to repentance, to clear the way for the appearance of Jesus as He began His public ministry.  He knew Who Jesus was.  He never for one moment assumed that he himself was the primary figure in this drama. 

Have you ever played second fiddle?  Most of us have, probably many times over the course of our lives.  I heard a wise preacher say, once, that he loved playing second fiddle because those who do so are the ones who provided the harmony.  

When I was in elementary school, I was a wannabe soprano. I always loved to sing, and I didn’t understand yet that you don’t always get to –or have to–sing the melody.  It opened a whole new, and very exciting, world to me when I began to hear harmony in my head, and allow my voice to follow what my ear was telling me.  What fun to sing the second or third part!  That started when I was about eight.  Later, I had the privilege of singing in many ensembles, choirs, duets, and trios.  And now and then I even got to sing the melody, but it was much more fun to harmonize.  Second fiddle can be a very sweet position. 

That was John’s position, and I believe he treasured it.  I believe he felt great honor and at the same time great humility to be the forerunner of the Lord Jesus Christ; it was his honor to prepare the way for the King of Kings! 

John’s Declaration

Matthew 3:11. “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: be He that cometh after me is mightier than I, Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.”

These words, and those in the next verse especially, refer to both the first and second comings of Christ. If we keep this in mind, it all makes complete sense. 

The promise concerning the first coming is that He would baptize with the Holy Spirit. At His second coming, the Lord will bring the baptism with fire, which is described in the next verse. Remember that John was still an Old Testament prophet; these men often spoke of near future and far future events in one message. 

Acts 1:5 helps establish what John is saying. In that verse, Jesus is quoted: “For John truly baptized with water: but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” That He did not mention the baptism with fire is significant, supporting that John’s prophecy was of two separate advents. In all other prophecy, as well, the day of wrath and vengeance is described as a day of burning and fire. 

Misinterpretation of Matthew 3:11 has led to a lot of confusing ideas about the so-called “second blessing,” which is never mentioned in scripture.  Those who believe this fallacy believe that baptism with water and the Holy Spirit is not quite enough; that there must be another baptism with “Holy Ghost fire” that will outshine all the other experiences and lead the recipient to amazing abilities and spiritual powers.  That is NOT the teaching that John proclaimed. 

Reading about this has set me to thinking about how easily Satan can twist even the very words of God  to make them more appealing to our lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and pride of life.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to boast of having received the “second blessing,” which puts the recipient several steps higher on the spiritual ladder of achievement than lesser mortals? 

If Satan can twist what God has said, think how much more easily he twists our feeble words to mean what we never intended.  What a firestorm can be created by the repetition of misheard, misinterpreted, misunderstood words!  How careful we need to be to govern our thinking and our speech, because no matter how discreet we are, there will always be those who will hear what we say differently than we intended. 

James 3:5. “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!”