The Desert Experience

The story of the Three Temptations of Christ is so pivotal to understanding the path that one must take to enter into the ministry of the Kingdom of God. It is this very test that the Father required Jesus to endure and pass that qualified him to move into his ministry as the fulfillment of God’s perfect lamb, sacrificed for the sin of all mankind. Let us always keep in mind that Jesus was equally as much a man as he was the son of God and he had to be completely obedient to do exactly what he saw his Father do.

John 5:19 “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”

God’s son would have to be 100% committed to the mission that is written out like a dramatic screen play in the scriptures. God’s very own son born of woman needed to not only walk in agreement with the Word of God but actually become the embodiment and physical witness of everything God is like and what He has to say to us as his children. Wow! Now that’s a lot of pressure for someone who is after all still 50% human!! The only thing I can imagine that humanly compares to this is if you were to mirror perfectly with the left side of your body, to the movements of the right side of your body, in complete unison for the rest of your life without ever messing up once because you would fail God’s mission in life for you. That’s what I’m talking about! Commitment!

This desert experience was preparing him for the schemes of the enemy and the weaknesses of man that he would pray upon to try to corrupt the Word of God instilled in the hearts of those that would receive it. Sadly, most men and women today stumble at one or more of Christ’s temptations and never actually make it out of the desert at all. Let me share with you my reasoning as to why I can say such a thing; I am sure that most all of us at one time or another have read, heard or seen on TV the depictions of the temptations of Christ, but does the average person grasp, or even ponder what that crucial test Christ had to endure was all about or what it represented? In the scriptures leading up to his temptations in the desert Jesus had witnessed the heavens open up, and the audible voice of God the Father speaking to not only him but also to John the Baptist confirming who He was and where He was in His standing with the Father. “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” Mt 3:17 This was enough for Jesus to move forward into what the Bible says was the leading of the Holy Spirit to enter into the desert. Desert in Greek means “eremos”: a deserted place, isolated from assistance from others, it can also be translated as wilderness, the definition of “eremos” in Greek speaks more to the state of being isolated rather than any type of specific terrain.

There Jesus faced the temptations every man and woman of God must face and pass if they want to be a minister and representative of the Gospel message of the life, death and resurrection of Christ. In this desert experience of Christ lies the simple three part message of our Christian walk and God’s rewards for our diligence and our efforts in resisting the very things that make us all fall; 1 John 2:16, “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.” The testimonies concerning the temptations of Christ are best depicted in the Gospels of Matt and Luke.

Luke 4:1–4, Matt 4:1–4 “Then Jesus was led up of by Spirit into the desert to be tempted by devil. And after he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And then the tempter came to him, and said, if thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made into bread.”

Notice the words that Satan uses in his first temptation; “If thou be the Son of God?… command that these stones be made into bread.” The whole statement is motivated by and hangs on this one word “IF.”

If Thou be the Son of God. Clearly this shows the first temptation has to do with our election, calling and authority as children of God.

Remember the first thing Jesus heard when He came up out of the water after John baptized Him? He heard the Father Himself part heaven and proclaim before Him and John the Baptist, “This is my beloved son. In whom I am well pleased.” This should be enough proof for anyone to fully acknowledge who they are in their standing with the Almighty apart from their natural station in life or genealogy. Jesus would have to be steadfast in his identity and fully convinced of His own ministry. Allow me to break down these desert temptations so we can all view them in the light of reason and truth and allowing each one of us to come to our own individual conclusion concerning what they may mean to US as faithful ministers of God’s Word. For with each temptation of Satan, there is a promised reward for demonstrating your understanding concerning HIS word. Remember the parable of the seed sower. The seeds that fall on the pathway, “the pathway to the kingdom” are the ones that could not understand the word of God, so the devil came and snatched the Word that was sown in their hearts.

First Temptation: The Weakness of man that Satan is trying to play upon: isolation/deprivation

Satan’s Objective: That Jesus will choose to prove who He is, and seek fulfillment for his earthly needs.

The dictionary defines the word “prove” as: to demonstrate by evidence or argument and defines fulfillment as: the achievement of something desired, promised, or predicted

So what temptation do you think this statement was meant to stir up in Jesus? The desire to eat bread, or the desire to prove to himself and Satan who He was? Let’s look again.

Luke 4:1–4, Matt 4:1–4 “Then Jesus was led up of by Spirit into the desert to be tempted by devil. And after he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And then the tempter came to him, and said, if thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made into bread.”

The answer I believe is both. You see it’s our times of spiritual isolation, our “desert experiences,” that really define us as true and faithful servants of God. Those times when the phone stops ringing, the bills need to be paid, your family needs food and there is nobody around to reassure you or stand by you to tell you who you are in God or how gifted you are or how you inspire them as individuals. It is at these very times that we will be tested and tried by Satan to start to doubt God’s word and our inheritance and calling, thus justifying our usage of our spiritual gifts to feed our bellies i.e. our flesh. The Bible says that a man is heading for destruction if he makes his god his belly, or allows his glory to be his shame or his focus to be on earthy things. Phil 3:19 The bible also tells about a man named Esau in Gen 25:34 that sold his birthright for bread to feed his belly when he was hungry and the inheritance and birthright went to his younger brother Jacob.

My belief is this: if your desires are not for more spiritual understanding and a closer relationship with God and they lay more in the area of earthly desires and needs, you should take this into consideration; earthly desires cause us to exchange our spiritual inheritance in Christ for the instant gratification of using our spiritual gifting to satisfy our earthly needs.

Let’s get back to Luke 4:1–4

At the very moment of Satan’s first attempt, Jesus was to not only being tempted to reassure himself that He was the son of God after such a long period of isolation and depravation, but he was also being tempted by Satan to tap into his spiritual inheritance and satisfy his earthly need for food by using his birthright and gifting as the Son of God to supply it. For if Jesus had chosen to do such, he would have sold his birthright to feed his belly just like Esau. I would also like to point out Satan’s use of stones as the object of Jesus’ heavenly test of son ship. Stones are very, very significant in the Bible. Stones represent the children of God, and being consumed or reduced like bread represents the very lowest condition of mankind.

Prov 6:26 “for by means of a harlot a man is reduced to a piece of bread: and the adulteress will prey upon his precious life.”

Psalm 14:4 & 53:4 “Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? They eat up my people like they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD.”

1Pet 2:5 “You are living stones that make a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”

Matt 2:9 “I say unto you that God is able to take of these stones and raise up children of Abraham.”

Gen 49:24 Jacob’s blessing upon Joseph. “But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob: from thence is the shepherd the stone of Israel.”

Is 28:16 “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.”

Matt 7:9 “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?

This particular temptation of Satan seems to be specifically designed to get us to prove to ourselves and to others who we are in our inheritance in God by using of our heavenly gifts to turn men (stones) into bread and satisfy our needs. Making other children of God the means by which your earthly desires are fulfilled. Look at Satan’s words, “If you are God’s son? Turn these stones into bread. In modern terms it might sound like this “Then prove it to me by feeding yourself with your so called heavenly powers.” Jesus’ necessity for food for his human body is the weakness Satan is trying to play upon, and the implication that He really isn’t the Son of God, is Satan’s reason to justify Jesus proving it. Take note on how Jesus answered the devil’s temptation:

Luke 4:4 “It is WRITTEN, man shall not live by bread alone but by every word of God.” Jesus was quoting this passage of scripture because there is a special message in it about desert experiences, hunger and God being faithful to feed his children.

Deut 8:2–3 “And thou shall remember all the ways which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the desert, to humble thee, and to test thee, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments, or not. And he humbled you, and suffered you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you knew nothing about, neither did your fathers know; that he might cause you to know that man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD does man live.”

This scripture right here shows that God leads us by His Spirit into these desert seasons of our lives to humble us, to test us to see what is really in our hearts whether we will keep His commands or not, and sometimes he will even test you in the area of need, but if you pass the test: God will feed you with manna from heaven. So many men and women of God stumble at this first temptation. This is why Paul said that each man should stay in the vocation he was in when he was called by God. 1Cor 7:20 Paul knew that the first temptation we all would be faced with in ministry, would be the desire to feed our needs by the fruits of our spiritual gifts.

1 Sam 2:36 “And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left in thine house shall come and crouch before them for a piece of silver and a morsel of bread, and shall say, Put me, I pray thee, into one of the priests’ offices, that I may eat a piece of bread.”

Jesus knew and understood the full meaning of the passage of scripture He chose to use to rebuke Satan’s attempt, for in it held the full response. “Man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD does man live.”

The Promise: If you remember all of Gods ways and how he has taught you during your time in the desert and in your hunger you refrain from using your spiritual gifts to validate your identity or to feed your needs (carnal desires); God will feed you with manna from heaven that you don’t even know about and neither did your fathers.

Second Temptation: Weakness of man Satan is trying to play upon: Fear and Self Sabotage

Satan’s Objective: To cause Jesus to test the faithfulness of God and His word

Faithfulness the dictionary defines as: The state of being faithful; allegiance; loyalty, adhering firmly and devotedly to someone or something that elicits or demands one’s fidelity.

Matt 4:5–6 “Then the devil takes him up into the holy city, and set him up on the pinnacle of the temple, And says 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 you dash thy foot against a stone.”

Satan uses a very small portion of this scripture, and when you read it you will understand why. For in it holds the promises of God to those who put their trust in God as Father.

Psalm 91 “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

If he says of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust. Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you and no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

Let us take a closer look at what Satan is trying to do here. He is once again tempting Jesus to prove who he is by starting off with the same: “If thou be the son of God?” Which shows this is a big gun that Satan uses. Then he tries to qualify his implication by saying “Cast thy self down.” And believes that by quoting a very small portion of Psalm 91 “He shall give his angels charge concerning the; and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at anytime you dash thy food against a stone.” and slapping a; “for it is written,” in front of it, that Jesus would take the bait and test not only the faithfulness of the promises of scripture but the faithfulness of God as His Father. Do you see what Satan did? He quoted back to Jesus the very words he used as a retort to his last temptation. “For it is written:” Right here Satan is not only tempting Jesus to test the faithfulness of God but to test the faithfulness of the scriptures that He was using to thwart the Devil’s suggestions.

Jesus knew that the complete embodiment of the promises of God to those that take refuge in Him as the Most High were summed up in this very passage of scripture. The mere fact that Satan chose to quote this scripture was I believe the plan of God all along.

In more modern terms essentially what Satan is saying is: If you are who you claim to be and you put your trust completely in these written accounts and promises, let yourself fall and you will prove the faithfulness of God’s word.

This was the real test. Would he allow himself to be deceived into believing that act of purposely casting himself down would somehow prove the faithfulness of God? Would his decision to take this fall in the end be to God’s glory, proving to everyone in the temple that the faithfulness of the scriptures had been tested and proven true? This is what I believe Satan was hoping Jesus would believe and overlook, but Jesus understood the consequences of testing God, he also understood that this scriptures speaks to those who make up the temple, the household of God and the casting of oneself down not only would cause you to strike your foot (in the bible your feet represent your gospel message) against a stone (the children of God that make up the spiritual temple of God) requiring that angels hold you up so you do not strike your foot against a single stone.

Why would our feet be vulnerable to being struck upon stones and yet have the capability to tread upon the lion and the cobra, and trample the great lion and the serpent? Stones seem to be so minor a threat and hardly an object one would fear so as to need reassurance concerning the rescue of angels from striking our feet upon them? Angels are needed because they guide us in all our ways because if they didn’t; We would bring dishonor to the NAME of Him we serve, our Father in Heaven in whom we are an ambassador. We would cause a stumbling block to be put before those seeking the understanding of God by showing our lack of faith and understanding of HIS word. 

Notice where Satan takes Jesus, he takes him to the highest point of the temple to present his second temptation. Why there? Because if Jesus chose to allow himself to fall, it would be from the highest place in the temple where everyone that calls God their Father would see him fall. You see Jesus knew about the scripture in Duet 6:16 “Ye shall not tempt the LORD your God, as ye tempted him in Massah. Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he hath commanded thee.” Massah was where the children of Israel complained to Moses after coming out of the Desert of Sin that they didn’t have any water to drink. Moses said why are you complaining to me? And why are you Testing God with your murmuring and complaining about your need for water in the desert and your lack of faith of God to provide it?

I believe that this temptation is designed to play upon our fears that maybe, just maybe these promises of scripture are not speaking concerning us directly, and God may or may not honor his promises to us.

This fear and uncertainty is the very thing that will start tempting us to test the faithfulness of God and His word by allowing ourselves to take a fall.

We all test God’s faithfulness when we choose to ignore his leadings and make wrong choices. Thanks to God that if our hearts are right, he will prevent us from hurting others as we grow in our faith and understanding. One way we test His faithfulness is when we make great boasts in the name of God. This is what it means to take the Lords name in vain. Too many men and women today find it so easy to utter the words, “thus saith the Lord,” without even batting an eye.

If Jesus himself being the firstborn of all creation had to go through the test of the desert before God would allow HIM to speak one word on behalf of his Father, how much more will we? It was required that He first be certain of who HE was and that HE was only to do and say what the Father told him to do.

John 5:19 “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”

How can He see what the Father is doing? I believe it is safe to say; by walking in complete unity with the scriptures which are the living and active past, present and future testimony of the character of God. When perfect loves comes on the scene it drives out all fear and uncertainty and there is no need to prove the faithfulness of God. I don’t really need to elaborate much more on the temptation we all face to cast thyself down and test the faithfulness of God and His word, because we have all been there. Jesus answers the second temptation with: “It is written do not put your lord God to the test.”

The Promise: He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways lest at anytime you dash thy food against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

Third Temptation: Weakness of man Satan is playing upon: Pride and mans desire to rule. “And the desire of man shall be to rule.” Genesis 3:16

Satan’s Objective: For Jesus to bow down and worship Satan in exchange for the allegiance of all the kingdoms of the world and their glory and power.

The dictionary defines “glory” as: high renown or honor won by notable achievements, and power in this particular case as political or national strength: i.e. the balance of power in Europe. This indeed is the power that Satan is offering Jesus by showing him all the Kingdoms of the world.

Luke 4:5–7 “And the devil, taking him up unto a high mountain, showed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, all this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.”

Matt 4:8–9 “Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.”

Alright let’s take some notes here: Satan gets shot down by Jesus twice after realizing that he cannot get Jesus to prove that He is the son of God. Satan then takes him to a high mountain or a high place and shows him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. Where did Satan take him? A high mountain, a high place. Hmm? Let’s see. In the Bible, authors would use the term high place or High Mountain to represent the biblical authors’ descriptions of the spiritual realm and they naturally would use an illustration from the highest things in the created world to represent a spiritual high place to the reader. How else could Jesus look down and see all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, unless it was by the spirit? I assure you there is no mountain peak high enough in the created world to give someone a view of all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. You may find it significant that High places and high mountains in the Bible are specifically spoken of when describing the abomination of pagan worship to other gods.

This really is the ultimate temptation. To use the high place we have been led to by the spirit and allow ourselves to receive the power, glory and allegiance from men because of that elevated platform.

What was Satan’s proposition to tempt Jesus to fall down and worship him? Look at Luke 4:5–7 again. Satan says: “All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them; for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will, I give it.”

In modern terms I believe it would sound like this: I have been given the power and glory of all the kingdoms of men. They are all under my dominion and I will release them to worship you, if you will fall down and worship me. You would think “Hey if they are worshipping Jesus in the long run, how can that be bad? They will at least be serving and paying homage to the Son of God and so be saved. You may think this sounds ridiculous but that is the exact same scenario when we allow others to look to us as a mediator between God and man instead of Christ. We allow the worship of the children of God to become displaced and it is no longer in God the Creator, but has been shifted to the worship of the created.

Jesus was the FIRST BORN OF ALL CREATION. What I am trying to say about this particular temptation is: Even in the case of Jesus Christ himself the Son of God in whom the Father is well pleased, the end does not justify the means. This means that even if in the long run if all the kingdoms of the world were given into your hands as a result of you worshipping and giving your allegiance to another god, you could no longer call yourself a son of God but of the devil. Even if you dedicated your entire life to the furthering of God’s word you still would have sold your inheritance over to Satan.

 If Jesus could not compromise the commandments of God in order to garner allegiance to God, we cannot allow ourselves into believing that if they are worshipping and honoring us, then they are worshipping and honoring God. Jesus himself being the son of God and believing that in himself He held the embodiment of the written word, and He knew that we as children of God are to worship and serve the Father and Him only. Jesus was the firstborn of all of God’s creation to bring glory to the Father and be a living example of God’s love and His heart for his creation. Satan already holds the power over man’s allegiance, for Jesus himself proclaimed that Satan was the Prince of this world.

Jesus was the Son of God, not an angel, He was sent to redeem the fallen state of mankind and over the course of our human history win back the allegiance of the children of God.

Satan was trying to offer a short cut I suppose? I’m sure, to Satan, this was his most brilliant of all proposals; it probably sounded something like this? “If you truly are the son of God, I can give you all of their admiration and love right now at this very moment. It will only require that you do this one little thing; you have to bow down and worship me, and you won’t have to endure and experience what we both know the scriptures say concerning you.”

Let’s go back to Luke 4:5–7. How does Jesus respond to this third temptation? “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” Jesus is referring to this passage of scripture:

Exodus 34:14 “For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” Notice that Jesus adds to the scripture by combining this portion of Exodus 20:1 by saying “and him only shalt thou serve.”

The Promise: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my Name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation. ”

Allow me to reiterate again that with every temptation, I believe there is a promise that the devil is trying to tempt you to forfeit. If we can make it through our desert experiences we will receive the promises of complete rescue from the power of death, hell and the grave. Firstly, from ourselves and our earthly desires. Secondly from man, in which we become ensnared in our efforts to win their love and support, by allowing ourselves to become stumbling blocks to those trying to understand the word of God, and most importantly from God when we allow our desire to rule and garner allegiance, overpower us and we begin to seek after God’s power and glory, and especially when WE allow that power and glory to be bestowed upon any living being including ourselves.

You will know that you have passed these tests because you will be ministered to by heavenly helpers. Matt 4:11 “Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.” Your needs will be supplied sufficiently, even above what you could even ask or imagine, if you are not an idol man or a man who is idle. Two different words I know, but both are spiritually dead, mute and useless to the kingdom of God. If we can as true servants of God pass the desert experience, we can be certain without a doubt that we have been tested and tried and can believe that we are true servants of God, one’s capable to teach the word of God without corruption. Remember, this is not for everyone that calls on the name of Jesus as Lord and savior, it is for those that desire to be the spokesman of God and that speak the word of God as though they speak on behalf of the Father.

Let us all strive to pass these tests during our desert experiences so we can move forward in the complete power and authority of Jesus Christ to speak God’s word to a dying world.

2 Pet 1:10–11 “Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

God Bless you all!

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