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The Three Temptations of Christ

When we look at leadership qualities for the ministry, we need to look no further than the life Jesus demonstrated during His time on earth. Everything He did was out of dependence upon the Father and because of that, everything He did generated spiritual success.

He reminded His followers the following words when they would ask where the source of His power came from: “Everything I do, and everything I say, and everything I hear comes from the Father.”

With that flow of dependence, Jesus chose to live His life with certain paradoxes: “If you want to be great, be a servant. If you want to be first, be last. If you want to find your life, lose it in Me.”

These key elements of leadership kept Him from being successful in the world’s eyes alone because He never sought to climb to the top of the corporate pyramid to gain prosperity, power, or position.

Below are the three great temptations every Christian faces when desiring to serve God, and they were the same when Jesus began His ministry. Just as Satan tempted Jesus with these aspects of leadership, so does he with us.

Let’s look at Matthew 4:1-11 and observe how Satan came along in a crafty way to offer

 

everything Jesus would need and want, theoretically, for worldly religious success and reject each one.
1. Prosperity — “Tell these stones to become bread.”

After fasting for 40 days and nights, Jesus was probably hungry; some have interpreted that this tempting was with food. That would have been the most immediate need, yet Satan also had a long-range goal in mind. Bread was not only leavened and unleavened loaves of meal but represented far more than that element. The term “bread” in the Bible signified all food as well as personal property. Thus, anyone who controlled all of the world’s food resources sat decidedly in the seat of prosperity, having become the world’s provider and distributor. 1
2. Power — “Throw yourself down from the tip of the temple.”

Here, Satan offers Jesus a physical miracle that would have dramatically “jump-started” His ministry. To hurdle yourself off the top peak of the temple and save yourself from certain death with angelic hosts acting as a celestial safety net would have communicated to everyone the omnipotence of Jesus. Any of the world’s religious leaders knows that to draw followers, you need people who see you as spiritually powerful, and as a thinker, teacher, and potential miracle worker. This test would have been tough to turn down if you were not living in the influence of the New Covenant’s power as was Jesus. To have people know you can defy earthly restrictions and command angels at a moment’s notice would be the credentials to start a corporate-style, world-class church and ministry.

3. Position — “Bow down and worship me and I will give you all of the world’s kingdoms.”

Satan now knows he is not winning the day with Jesus and, therefore, throws out a temptation that should “close the deal.” Israel didn’t have tall mountains to stand upon and see all of the kingdoms of the world, so Satan probably provided a miraculous vision of all the world’s kingdoms at that moment. I believe those kingdoms would have included all of human history from the past, present, and future.

This temptation falls into the realm of being offered the position as the most influential religious/spiritual leader that no one could ever challenge.

The nature of the above three temptations from Satan – Prosperity, Power, and Position – would be equal to taking every spiritual leader’s influence throughout all of history, melting all of those achievements into one person, and handing it to Jesus. But, even then, the gift cannot be considered hallowed, transcendental, or celestial. Satan knew what every man or woman knows when they are going into ministry or religious service. To earn a following and to be successful, one needs all three influences. Thus, this is

1 Bible Meanings; www.BibleMeanings.info. “The Spiritual Meaning of Bread”

 

how the ministry’s model of an upward pyramid survives: It invites everyone to climb to the top, just as Satan offered for Jesus to climb to the top pinnacle of the temple.

However, the teachings of Jesus flip the pyramid upside down and instruct us with these words: If you want to be first, become last (Mark 9: 35); if you want to become the greatest, become the least. (Luke 9: 48)

Matthew 4:1-11 (Text)

Jesus Is Tested in the Wilderness

1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[b]”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.

6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[c]”
7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[d]”
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’[e]”
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

 

Discussion Questions

Key question: Why would Jesus reject Satan’s offer for help as He was starting His ministry?

1. Was the church not meant to be a physical structure, but instead a network of people who understand that their spiritual identity comes from the awareness that God made each of them the church and the temple of the Holy Spirit? (1 Corinthians 3:9,16 & 5:19; 1 Peter 2:5)

2. Was it God’s purpose to not build buildings because it would lead to competition, comparison and kingdom building? Are we capable of not being envious or jealous of another building, denomination or church headquarters that looks to have grown beyond what we are creating?

3. How do we establish buildings and not have a professional staff managing the corporate structures? Was it Jesus’ intent that the church not have the world’s corporate structure but instead employ an organically arranged group of people operating out of their spiritual gifts rather than in professional positions? (1 Peter 2:1-11)

4. Is the clergy/laity model for church ministry an example of why Jesus rejected the temptations of prosperity, power, and position? What are the pitfalls of the clergy/laity model?

5. Jesus saw another method for fellowship, leadership and spiritual growth. How is it possible to recognize what He envisioned for the church when the corporate or institutional model is commonplace? If you think outside of the church box, are you viewed as a little peculiar?
6. Can the church operate as instinctively as a human body and flourish? (1 Corinthians 12:1-31)

7. If we place our dependence upon what Satan was offering Jesus, is it possible to combine those ideas of prosperity, power, and position with the resources and plans of God for ministry in order to be more effective?

 

Summary
Jesus declined to accept all corporate and institutional models that would have produced worldly gain, and instead accepted an organic model that flowed out of an instinctive relationship with His Father. Leadership by others following Him was to be the same. No positional titles, salaries, budgets, building programs, denominations (divisions). Everything that would bind people to religions’ structures was thoroughly rejected by Jesus when such temptations were presented to Him by Satan.

 

 

Church at the Lodge — Sundays @ 9:30 a.m. © 2017

Bill Rose, 530-392-5012; Bill@ChurchAtTheLodge.com;

www.ChurchAtTheLodge.comwww.ConversationsInChrist.org

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About Bill Rose

Bill is the "educated" one of the three. Although a seminary graduate and pastor for many years, he came to realize that knowledge in and of itself cannot substitute for the enlightenment of that knowledge by the Holy Spirit. In the mid-nineties he came to realize he was worn out trying to do God's work and decided to let God do His work through him. WHAT A CONCEPT! No longer a member of a religious organization has not diminished his passion for God, but rather his passion has increased immeasurably. Bill is self-employed and among other endeavors performs wedding ceremonies.

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