Today’s Lectio Divina: Luke 4: 13-15 (MsgB)
That completed the testing. The Devil retreated temporarily, lying in wait for another opportunity. Jesus returned to Galilee powerful in the Spirit. News that He was back spread through the countryside. He taught in their meeting places to everyone’s acclaim and pleasure.
Jesus vs. Satan.
Rounds One, Two and Three are now over.
The three temptations in the desert are in the books. That’s the good news. But unfortunately, there’s bad news as well.
Jesus has won the day on this day. Our Lord has prevailed. But as Luke indicates, Satan has not conceded defeat, but only deferred the battle until another opportune time. And as we keep reading, we’ll find Jesus and His disciples facing similar tests and temptations quite regularly over the next three years.
As I see it, Luke’s Gospel is peppered with three unique tests of self. Opportunities sent by Satan, tempting Jesus and His disciples to choose self-initiated self-interest over self-initiated trust in God. And as we’ve seen in our study of Jesus in the desert, these temptations of the flesh can be categorized into three unique tests of self.
The temptation of self-preservation.
The temptation of self-promotion.
The temptation of self-perpetuation.
Satan, you see, is an ancient foe and he knows full well what well-crafted temptations will work best in pulling human beings away from the God who created us. Keep in mind that sin is not the key issue here. It never has been. It never will be. As the Bible clearly states, we all sin and fall short of the glory of God. That’s no revelation to either God nor to Satan. So we miss the point when we associate Jesus’ three temptations in the wilderness as being tests devised by Satan to tempt Jesus into sin.
The deeper truth at hand is the fact that Satan is looking for opportune moments to tempt us into words and actions that are driven, not so much to make us sin but to misuse our gift of independence. If we’re honest in our evaluations of Satan, it was this misuse of independence combined with his insatiable hunger for self-glorification that got him kicked out of heaven in the first place! As I see it, Satan is simply looking for us to repeat his grave mistake! And unfortunately, human history displays that, through our ignorance and pride, we humans fall for Satan’s scheme on a regular basis.
Now before you call the doctrine police, saying Boller is going light on sin, understand this. Sin is bad stuff. Sin is wrong. Sin separates us from God. But as I see it, we in the church are so consumed with the sin issue, we miss the larger, underlying problem at hand.
Issues of self.
As I said, in Luke’s presentation of the three temptations in the wilderness, Satan is much more interested in undermining Jesus’ life and ministry through the unraveling of self than he is in getting Jesus to sin. Sin, you see, is a by-product of ungodly self-management. A secondary action resulting from a primary problem. In my humble opinion, we, in the church, would do much better in this world if we’d let up a bit on pressuring people to live of life of quality sin-management, work a bit smarter, and help people deal with our underlying issues of self.
So, in order to better understand these underlying problems with self, let’s go back to the beginning for just a moment. In the Beginning (see Genesis 1), God chose all of us to be made in His image. As men and women, we reflect the very nature of God. We are, at the very heart, very good in God’s sight and well worth His diligent efforts to save and redeem us from a lost and dying world.
On that special day He created us, He breathed upon us, placing His Life within us, gifting us with a very unique gift I like to call the ‘gift of self’. This gift is very unique. No other animal or creature on earth has been given this unique gift. The ‘gift of self’ is the gift of free will. Only humans, and apparently angels in heaven, have been given such liberties in life.
The ‘gift of self’ comes with unique independence, which mercifully removes us from becoming robots. In God’s perfect wisdom, He loves us so much, He wants us to experience this wonderful gift of choice and free will just as He does.
But alas, the Book of Genesis also shows us how we humans abuse this ‘gift of self’, choosing through our independence to take life into our own hands. Choosing self-initiative over God-reliance, our ‘gift of self’ has now become, in our fallen state, more of a curse at times than an actual blessing.
If we look carefully at the inward workings of our lives, our problems in life really don’t emanate from sin, which we all know is a common trait, but more from our inward battles with self. The truth of the matter is that when everything in life is all about me (self-consumption), my world might seem good at first, but with all of us running around the planet full of ourselves, we eventually have one pretty dysfunctional place. A planet of self-consumed, self-driven, self-promoting people is a pretty ugly place. Wouldn’t you agree?
But Jesus came to reverse this ugly curse of the independent, all-consumed self. And in the process He modeled a new way of life which demonstrates how a man or woman, created in the image of God, can willingly choose to submit our free will back to God, living free yet using our ‘gift of self’ for the glory and honor of God. I like to call this way of life that Jesus modeled as ‘the perfected self’.
But keep in mind, good things don’t come without a challenge. This explains why Jesus is immediately subjected to three key tests of self.
As we discussed earlier, the test of self-preservation comes first. If Satan can get the Son of God to take matters into His own hands, ignoring God’s promise of being our provision in life, Satan will be well on his way to winning this battle with the Son of God. Next up, Satan offers Jesus an opportunity of self-promotion. Why not grab for the prize while it’s being offered to you versus waiting for God to give it to you. Only one condition. Bow your knee to Satan and we’ve got a deal!
After Jesus says no to both of these tests, Satan finally offers Jesus an opportunity to simply move out of His own self-perpetuation. What’s wrong, for example, for taking a little initiative every now and then in getting God’s work done on the planet? Heaven knows there’s plenty of human initiative down here. Come on, Jesus. Get on board.
Fortunately, Jesus decidedly overcomes all three of these major tests of self, demonstrating to us that through the power of the Holy Spirit, we humans can willingly choose God and His will over and above our own tendencies to prefer our independence.
And so it goes.
This God-given ‘gift of self’ has been placed firmly inside all of us, and as Luke states, the Devil waits for opportune moments to test us with these three temptations of self. In truth, we are given daily opportunities to choose whether we will use our ‘gift of self’ for our own self-consumed desires or submit it back to God, deferring to His discretion and His glory.
As we study Jesus over the next three years of His ministry, we’ll find that He is continually able to bring His ‘gift of self’ into its’ right alignment, consistently deferring to the will of the Father, preferring obedience to God over His independence of self.
The perfected self.
A human life that fully embraces the unique God-given ‘gift of self,’ yet willingly submits and defers to the perfect will of the Father.
My prayer: God, thank You for the ‘gift of self.’ Thank You for the independence You’ve given me in this life, the free will and gift of choice. May I choose You today, calling on the power and presence of the Holy Spirit within me to willingly say no to the temptations to abuse my ‘gift of self.’ May I walk humbly alongside You today, choosing You as my provision, waiting on You to bless my life, and listening carefully so that I move in response to Your promptings, for Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: So how am I responding to Satan’s temptations? Am I focusing too much on sin, as compared to issues of self? Am I caught up in trying to live a life of sin management? How can I move my awareness of Satan’s temptations over into the realm of self? Where am I falling prey to Satan’s tests of self-preservation, self-promotion, and self-perpetuation? How can I call upon the power and presence of the Holy Spirit so that Jesus’ ‘perfected self’ might better live and dwell in and through me today?
So, what are you experiencing today as we are journeying through this Lenten Adventure?
Over a 48-day period (from Ash Wednesday through the Monday after Easter), you and I will be taking a deeper look at the stories surrounding the life and ministry of Jesus (especially the last week known as Holy Week) as recorded in the Gospel of Luke. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Our Lenten Journey home page for ease of use.
If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!