The enemy only has so many tricks up his sleeve. I’ve noticed this, as I watch and teach my children. It’s always the same things—over and over. It makes me so angry sometimes, I almost shake. And then I remember to channel that anger toward the right thing and I whisper (or shout) the prayers for God to break strongholds and redeem the time and grow His love inside them until the walls around their hearts crumble and they can breathe light.
And then I will turn around and stumble hard over the same. blasted. things. that I just battled in my own life last week. Or yesterday.
But thankfully, oh, so thankfully, God did not leave us without instructions. He did not leave us without the knowledge of the battles to come and the blueprint to fight them.
God knew, He knows, that the enemy of our souls is a poor excuse for a king. He will wage war on the armies of God—but he uses the same plan of attack every time. He knows no other way.
He is the father of lies and all he has to offer are lies. Three main ones, to be exact.
It is right there, in Luke 4, usually labeled as The Temptation of Jesus but it should be called The Enemy’s Three (Pathetic) Battles For Our Souls.
And I don’t mean “pathetic” as in “ineffective”. They work alright. At least on us. But they are pathetically simple and easy to spot—if we are listening close enough.
The first lie, or temptation if you wish, for Jesus was, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” (vs.3)
Jesus, of course, had been fasting and praying. He was hungry. And that might be the understatement of the century.
He was hungry.
So the devil pointed his finger at Jesus’ greatest weakness and said, “There. You should have what you want. You have the power to do it. Go ahead.”
I know this lie in my own life—how the enemy has exploited my greatest weakness. One that has nothing to do with food.
My weakest point—the fact that I cannot bear the children my heart cries for—is dangled before my eyes at the craziest moments.
Jesus teaches me the answer. There in the creased pages of my Bible. Jesus answers with Scripture. He exposes the lie by clinging to the Father’s words. “Man shall not live by bread alone.”
What He is saying is simple: If I try to eat my fill to satisfy my hunger—there will never be enough. Always, I will hunger more. Or thirst. Or choke myself to death in grasping for what my flesh wants. But if I keep my eyes on the Father—I will have more than enough.
[pullquote]There are not enough babies in the world to remove the ache in my heart for the babies I have lost. If I search for them, I will always hunger more.[/pullquote] Instead, I need to keep my eyes on the Father because the deepest truth is that there is always enough in Him.
I will ever, only be satisfied when I am filling my heart with His truth.
- What is your greatest weakness?
- How is the enemy attempting to exploit it?
- Do you really believe that Jesus is more than enough?
The next lie is the one I stumble on the most. Oh, how embarrassing that is to admit. Mostly because it’s the silliest and the most ridiculous.
The enemy takes Jesus and shows Him all the kingdoms of the world. “You can have all of this—if you just worship me.”
The fleshly part the enemy is catering to is, of course, pride.
Jesus deserved all the kingdoms of the world. Good grief, He created them! He is the Word and it was the Word that split the darkness and produced life. The reason Jesus left the heavens was to win back His creation—to display His love to them and bring their worship back to where it belonged.
And wouldn’t this be an easier way? To just tip his head to the one who controlled the hearts of the people and with a snap—they would all recognize Him for who He was again.
It wouldn’t work like that, of course. Because if the God-head bowed to the enemy—He would cease to be the One who Was-And-Is-And-Is-To-Come. But oh, my. Doesn’t a tip of the head sound better than being beaten to death and despised and rejected and hated?
The enemy continually tries to manipulate my flesh. Oh, Tasha, you deserve credit. You deserve love. You deserve to be honored for what you do. You deserve to be appreciated. You deserve…
What I actually deserve is death, but I have been redeemed by a loving, compassionate, and kind Father.
And He alone is worthy of the praises of all people.
Which is why Jesus answered with another Scripture. Worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.
[pullquote position=right]If I choose self, I am bowing my head to the enemy of my soul, and I will be destroyed.[/pullquote]
If I choose to slaughter my pride, I am kneeling hard to the only One who is worthy.
It’s pretty obvious what the best choice is, but I have to recognize the lies and the choice or I will be manipulated every time into giving my worship to my flesh (and the enemy) instead of the King of kings.
- What areas do you struggle with pride in?
- How has the enemy tried to conceal the manipulation of your fleshly desires?
- Do you really believe that God is worthy of all your worship?
The third lie is the most dangerous. It’s the one I have recognized, but still fall for over and over again. It’s the one where the enemy gets tricky and his manipulation is on full display but if we aren’t careful, we’ll still stumble under it.
It’s the one where the enemy pits the promises of God against us and tries to talk us into forcing God’s hand to prove His love.
He takes Jesus to the top of the temple and starts spouting off Scripture. God said this. God said that. Go ahead, make Him prove it. Make Him show how much He cares about you.
I want to do this. I do. I want to list the promises of God and say, If You love me, God, You will… And I want to force the hand of God. I want Him to prove His love to me the ways I want to see it.
If you love me, God, you’ll let me bear a child.
If you love me, God, you’ll fix this problem.
If you love me, God, you’ll give me the money I need for this issue.
If you love me, God, you’ll…
I don’t think I ever understood the danger of this lie until I had a daughter. Until she told me, point blank, that if I loved her, I should prove it by giving her this thing she desired.
“That’s not love,” I said to her, “that’s manipulation. Even if I gave it, you wouldn’t feel loved. Oh, maybe for a minute, but then you’d start on another list of things you wanted and your feelings of not being loved would just multiply and explode all over you.”
And it was like arrows pierced my heart.
Because I have done this. So many times. I have grabbed Scriptures about God giving barren women children and waved them before God with heart-wrenching commands for Him to prove His love. I wrote verses about healing and the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and begged God to prove His love by giving me what He gave them.
Using Scripture to manipulate the hand of God is a trick of the enemy. He knows what the Bible says, but he doesn’t understand it. He doesn’t understand love and truth and beauty. He doesn’t understand that the things we desire can’t be bought or forced.
[pullquote]Love doesn’t come from manipulation. Something isn’t a gift if we are prying it out of His hands.[/pullquote]
So Jesus answers with Scripture, again. And He shows the enemy that it doesn’t matter if you quote the Bible if you aren’t quoting it right. Because the Word also says, “You should not put the Lord your God to the test.” And if we’re going to believe Scripture, we’ve got to believe it all.
I prove my love for my daughter every single day. I provide for her needs and I do what is necessary to reach her heart. I make her work when it would be easier for me to do the work myself. And yes, I pour gifts on her. But not always the ones she wants, and definitely not the ones she tries to manipulate me to get. I pour out the gifts that will make her heart heal. She is my daughter and I call her mine even when she turns her back on me.
And that, dear ones, that is what the Father does for us. His love is not manipulated out of Him. It is given. And the gifts He gives? Let’s embrace those. Because they are the gifts that will make our hearts heal.
- Are you trapped in a cycle of trying to force the hand of God?
- Are you listening to the enemy entice you to create a showdown between you and God?
- Do you believe that God has good things in store for you—even if those things are different than what you want?
I’m pretty convinced that any lie from the enemy will fall into one of those three categories. At least, in my life they have. And the antidote seems to be clear: know the voice of God so we can recognize the deceit of the enemy.
And knowing God’s voice begins with knowing the Scriptures– but it doesn’t end there. We also need to purpose in our hearts to allow God to transform our minds so we can think like Him. So we can see farther than this life and this moment and identify what is truth.
Can’t you hear the Father’s voice in the words of John?
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. (3 John 1:4)