At the temple, Jesus gave clear indication He knew He was the Son of God. At his baptism many years later, God the Father affirmed that Jesus was in fact His beloved Son. And in the wilderness, the devil tested Jesus’ understanding of what that meant, and offered Him a radically different version of sonship than the one set forth and defined in Scripture.
While these aren’t perfect encapsulations of the temptations themselves, perhaps we can summarize what the devil suggested to Jesus like this:
1. To be led by one’s physical desires rather than the Word of God.Having one’s desires met is the source and goal of life.
2. To make receiving the glory promised by God more important than the God who promised the glory. Getting what God has promised in the future now is the sum and substance of the Christian life, rather than patiently looking to God and waiting for Jesus’ return.
3. To refuse to trust what God says about His love and care for Him and to demand visible, tangible manifestations of His concern over and above what He’s already given instead. The Word isn’t sufficient, one needs all kinds of signs and wonders to be really sure.
The reason I bring this up is because the more I have thought about these temptations of Jesus and considered the Christianity of many here in Africa, the more I have come to realize the Jesus that many people are worshiping and the Jesus that many people are following seems a whole lot more like the Jesus the devil wanted him to be, than the Jesus who actually resisted.
This tendency shows up in the following characteristics of some of the Christianity we see all around us:
1. There is less concern about what God says than there is about having all one’s physical desires met. And if there ever is conflict between God’s Word and someone’s desires, desires win.
2. There is little concern with eternal life, and all kinds of concern with your best life now, and of course, that best life now is offered up by avoiding ideas like the cross, suffering, and self-denial.
3. There is little excitement about the great promises of God and little interest in what God says, and a whole lot of excitement and interest in showy, visible, tangible signs. In fact, the definition of faith according to some, seems a whole lot more like what Jesus called testing God.