As we approach Holy Week, let's look at the third temptation of Christ in the final entry in our Lenten series. If you haven't done so already, please read my earlier post that discusses the nature of temptation, its dynamics, and categories:

You Eyes Will Be Opened, and You Will Be Like God

I also covered the first two temptations:

Lust of the Flesh (Self-Gratification)

For those of you unfamiliar with the observance of Lent, read how Christians use this season to prepare to share in the Passion of Christ:

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Becoming More like Christ (A Charismatic Discovered Lent)

The third temptation Jesus faced falls under "Lust of the Eyes", or what I call Self-Promotion.

"Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 'All this I will give you,' he said, 'if you will bow down and worship me'."

Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only'." Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him."
(Matthew 4:8-11)

What Adam faced, Jesus faced…but with different results!

Consequently, the temptations presented to Jesus are also launched at us today from the same age-old platforms. Satan's methods haven't changed.

Although we've been legally transferred out of Adam and into Christ by grace, we still have to work out the reality of our Salvation in everyday life. There's no better place to gauge our progress than while in the throes of temptation, for it reveals whether we are relying on Christ's power or still reaching back into the Adamic "self" for strength.

What was really at stake in this third temptation?

God, the Son, as the Second Person of the Trinity, already owned all things.

"The earth is the LORD's, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein."
(Psalm 24:1)

To the incarnate God/Man named Jesus, the Father promised possession of all earthly nations and their inhabitants. (Psalm 2:8)

Why was this statement necessary if, in essence, God, the Son already owned them?

God, the Son did not become incarnate on earth for His benefit, but ours.

As our "final Adam", His mission was to regain the authority forfeited to satan by the first Adam (Genesis 1:26-28). The way to get it back required not a sell out, but a Cross.

It's important to note that satan's deal to Jesus did not involve relinquishing one iota of that original authority. He would give the substance and glory of the kingdoms, but not the authority to rule them.

Imagine driving a new Mercedes around town. You are free to drive it as much as you want and anywhere you want, but the title remains in someone else's name.

Some people are content with this arrangement, but God doesn't work that way. When the Father gives a gift, he grants the title so that the person also has authentic authority to manage it.

Satan tempts us with all kinds of breathtaking kingdoms, but not with the legitimate authority to govern them!

When the lust of our eyes causes us to take something out of the will or time of God, we won't have the grace to take care of it. Subsequently, what we grabbed will eventually spiral downward and come to ruin, regardless of our efforts.

For instance, although many well-meaning people spoke against our marriage in the beginning, my husband and I knew God had called us to each other. Confidence in the will of God has not only given us courage to press through difficult times, but divine authority to overcome the challenges and stay together.

If you presumptuously propel yourself into a relationship, ministry, or career, then you alone are responsible for maintaining it. God will not bless what He has not authorized.

In the Old Testament, we read of a mighty man named Esau, Jacob's brother. As he approached home after a long, unsuccessful hunting venture, he smelled a savory meal being prepared by Jacob near the tents. Fatigued and famished, he begged for a bowl. The sly Jacob asked for something in exchange—the coveted birthright. Esau—driven by a momentary need to satisfy his ravenous hunger—agreed.

The birthright belonged to the oldest son. Upon his father's death, that son received a double portion of the inheritance and assumed authority as head of the family. In those days, a family was similar to a tribe—hundreds of people (kin and servants) were under the leadership of the patriarchal head. (Genesis 25:27-34)

Self-promotion tries to vilify whomever it has to step on to get ahead, and attempts to justify the bridges it burns to gain rewards.

In the Christian world, such lust-driven people often appear calm and unruffled, like swans gliding across a lake. They set up scenarios to put themselves in leadership and persuasively pull others to their side in a so-called 'crisis'.

They gain their little "kingdoms" illicitly and maintain them through subtle manipulation. Yet underneath it all--just like the swans' webbed feet below the surface of the water--they're paddling hard.

How did Jesus answer the tempter? "Worship God alone!"

Self-promotion is self-worship (self-exaltation).
Satan did it (Isaiah 14:12-15). Eve desired to be as God (Genesis 3:5-6); and we follow suite anytime we promote ourselves instead of waiting on God to exalt us in due time and in His way…a way that never circumvents a cross!

"And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me." (Matthew 10:38)

To be spiritually fit (the meaning of the Greek word worthy), there has to be a willingness to be humbled and follow Christ's attitude:

"Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2)

God's way for His only begotten Son required a self-emptying before ascension; it is no different for His adopted sons and daughters today.

Simeon was a sorcerer with a popular following. One day he encountered the power of God when Peter and John came to town.  (Acts 8:9-24)

Under Phillip's earlier preaching, Simon had believed the Gospel and renounced his sorcery, but when Peter and John came to Samaria to lay hands on the converts to receive the Holy Spirit, Simon obviously saw a power he had never encountered! He was amazed at the signs and wonders that far surpassed his former level of dark sorcery. He brazenly sought to "buy it".

Peter said, "You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you.

"For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity."

And Simon answered,"Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me."

Nothing that really comes from God can be bought, bartered, or sold.

However, the exchange of currency for the deceptive substitute can be a number of things…your marriage and family, your health, your finances…even your eternal state.

Those who give in to the lust of the eyes (self-promotion) are, as Peter said, "in the gall of bitterness", which is envy.

The "bond of iniquity" is twistedness (the biblical meaning the word). It denotes a life where unchecked sin has so wrapped itself around a person's life that it literally becomes a part of them. Temptation no longer comes from without, but from within. In other words, iniquity continuously overwhelms and controls the person, and can even be passed to future generations.

Observe that Simon had confessed Jesus Christ and been baptized, but becoming a Christian did not automatically remove the inner debris and its effects from his life. That's why we are to systematically renew our minds, continue in repentance, and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal and deliver us from the twisted ways we used to think and feel…those imaginations from our old life that can still rise up and lead us to exalt distorted ideas over God's Word. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Absalom was David's third son. He was very handsome, with long, flowing blonde hair. It was not enough for him to be a privileged and celebrated prince; he wanted to be a king. He also became enraged when his half-brother Amnon raped his sister, Tamar, and King David did not avenge her honor. (2 Samuel 13-18)

Seething with bitterness against his father and hatred for Amnon, Absalom arranged a banquet for his brothers. He commanded his servants to wait until Amnon was drunk and then slay him. Afterward, Absalom fled the palace and found refuge with his grandfather for three years.

In a shallow and contrived reconciliation, Absalom returned to Jerusalem at David's public request, only to be shunned afterward. During this time, Absalom grew in popularity and would sit at the city gate and help citizens resolve what he claimed were issues King David did not want to address. His willingness to mediate, along with his continual criticism of David's leadership, won over the hearts of the people.

Absalom staged a coup and succeeded in driving his father out of Jerusalem. However, based on the advice of a false counselor, the prince failed to attack the fleeing king when vulnerable. This error in judgment allowed David to regroup and resupply east of the Jordan. David returned to win the day and re-enter Jerusalem.

In the ensuing skirmish, Absalom's long hair was caught in the limbs of an oak tree as he was dashing under it on his horse. Joab, David's general, found the defenseless prince dangling from the tree and slew him.

Absalom's example warns us that the assets we use to gain a dishonest advantage can also dangerously snare us.

Please continue with the second part of "All These Kingdoms"

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