Here we are in the throes of the Lenten season. For many, these 40 days have become a required religious exercise with no meaning. For some, this season means nothing different whatsoever. For yet another group; perhaps the most dangerous of all – is the belief that due to the finished work of Jesus, no personal application is necessary at all.

Legalism is a word bandied about in church circles. Like many terms, it has lost its original meaning. Legalism is adding to God’s word.

That’s it.

Therefore, when God has given me a command, he has already decided that I am able to obey His commands! I heard a radio preacher the other day say that God’s commands to us are impossible to do, but that he wants us to strive – knowing that we can never obey them!

That’s not only foolishness, but it makes God to be a celestial prankster. The scriptures do not teach us to try harder. The scriptures teach us to trust more!

Jesus is our example. After His baptism, our Lord was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. There, in the desert, he faced the devil himself. You may reference this encounter is Luke 4, in its entirety.

Jesus is tempted three ways. He’s been fasting and praying. He’s been alone. He knows the mission ahead.

When I think of this encounter, I am humbled and amazed. First of all, the text reads that at the end of 40 days he was hungry. I don’t know about you, but whenever I am prompted to fast, I’m hungry after 30 minutes! Gas fumes smell like food.

I want to encourage you to fast – which means to “not eat food.”  Over the years we’ve made fasting fun. A few years ago the Daniel Fast was made popular, and to this day, many churches do a 21 day Daniel Fast at the first of the year. So popular this became, there is even a cook book for the Daniel Fast! 

I’m not anti-Daniel Fast. What I’m saying is that we – especially us Americans – can’t seem to help trying to make everything fun. Fasting is a call away for a specialized time of prayer, meditation, scripture reading, and self denial.

What also stuns me about Jesus’ time fasting is that he was worn down at the end. He was vulnerable. Why would God motivate us to this?  The answer is found in the overcoming.

Jesus was tempted to make fast food – Pun intended. Satan tempted Jesus to make a quick bread, thus using miracle power on personal gratification!   Oh how we – especially those of us that identify as Pentecostals – have taken advantage of this.

Esau was guilty of eating fast food. He was out in the woods being an unsuccessful hunter. His brother took advantage of the opportunity. Jacob made him stew. Esau wasn’t willing to wait to make his own food. He let his fleshly appetite cost him his birthright.

The Bible calls him unholy, (Hebrews 12:16) and warns us not be like him. The miraculous isn’t utilitarian. It isn’t for us to feed our fleshly appetites. Like Esau, if we won’t wait upon the Lord for provision, the cost is high.

Jesus could answer satan with the answer to his hunger: “man doesn’t live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God.” This is a quote from Deuteronomy, when Moses was telling the people that God can feed them and sustain them all by Himself! God did. He sent manna from heaven and water from a rock!

In the Mark passage of the temptation, angels come and provide food for Jesus.

What does this mean for us? Jesus didn’t give into his flesh; even though he was hungry. We can call out to God and He will meet our needs!

Jesus was tempted to turn His back on God. Satan manages to give Jesus a panoramic view of all the kingdoms of the world. Satan offers to give it to him, if he will just bow down and worship him. Think of the boldness and audacity of satan.

This was perhaps an even stronger temptation than the food. This temptation dealt with the possible skirting of going to the cross, suffering, dying… an easy path. Satan was offering a half truth. It is in the devil’s purview to offer power to whomever he likes. God’s word identifies him as the prince and power of the air. Satan operates in delegated power.

The end-around obeying God is to simply offer ourselves to satan. The easy way out. The power now. No suffering, no self denial. All we could ever want – in this life, right now!

The lure of success.

John speaks to this temptation in his first letter. “…the boastful pride of life [pretentious confidence in one’s resources or in the stability of earthly things]…” I John 2:16 AMP. Jesus addressed the temptation to success and pride in the parable of the rich fool.

The rich man said to himself that he would build better, build more, have more, enjoy more… sound like America. The most wealthy nation in the world worries every day about who has more stuff, and why we can’t have more.

What do we do?  We choose, instead of answering like Jesus, “you will worship God alone,” we ask, “what else do you have?” 

Our lust for power and money will have a recompense some day. Sir, when you are on your death bed, what good will all of your money do? You get a fancier casket and a more expense hole in the dirt. You are still worm food.

Ma’am, that sweet talking fool at work is offering you heaven on earth in bed. Don’t give away your body’s power to satisfy what may be missing at home.

Temporary power is just that. Satan couldn’t offer anything eternal to Jesus; only for a moment of time. Jesus overcame that temptation too! Hallelujah, so can we.

Jesus was tempted to kill himself – What? What did you just read? Yes. 100%. Jesus was tempted to throw himself off a building. Hebrews 2:18 reads, “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

We are in such a day that self death has become not only common, but generally accepted as ok. Hear what the voice of the Lord is saying to you, over the voices in your head. Jesus is the author of life. He was tempted in order for you and I to overcome.

Satan even used the scriptures to tempt our Lord. He will use scriptures to allure you. Remember; the devil is a liar.

Several years ago, a man was standing on an overpass planning to jump. I was a police chaplain, and was on call that day. The police said to me, “he’s saying the devil is in his head.” I said, “tell him the devil is a liar.”

The man came down. I was taking his wife to the hospital. We’d never met, but I discovered that she was a Christian. Her husband was struggling. She said, “last night my husband was saying that the devil was in his head. I told him to remember that the devil is a liar.”

God hears your struggles today. The devil only has one language; lies. As you are reading this, and you are struggling with self harm, I want you to know this: the devil is a liar. He couldn’t kill Jesus. Jesus said no to the devil because He had a reason to live.

You have a reason to live.

In Acts 16, Paul and Silas are in jail. The jailer was actively preparing to kill himself, but Paul cried out “do not harm yourself. We are all here.” This is what you may need to hear today. Jesus told the devil to step off – you shall not tempt the Lord your God.

Note: if you are actively preparing to take your life, call 911 right now. You can also call me day or night: 661-444-7642.

Jesus overcame so that you can overcome. There is victory in Jesus; therefore there is victory in me.