Tempted and Tried (5): Shortcuts
Intro – One of my all-time favorite movies is Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. We watch it almost every Christmas. In it there is a scene where a star performer, Linda, is coming from New York to be in the July 4 show at the inn out in the middle of nowhere in NE. But, Gus, the driver has been bribed not to get her there on time. So, on the way back he takes a wrong turn. Linda protests, but Gus simply says, “Shortcut.” Shortly he takes another wrong turn. Again, she protests. Gus simply replies, “Shortcut to the shortcut.” As the road gets worse and worse, Linda’s anxiety grows, but Gus perseveres until he drives right off into the middle of a river. His was a shortcut to nowhere. I suppose we’ve all been there, haven’t we?
We all know that we live in a now world. In school it’s about Cliff’s notes, and in life it’s about shortcuts. But there are no shortcuts to spiritual growth. No shortcuts. But that’s what the 2nd temptation of Jesus Luke 4 is about – the enticement of a shortcut. Satan offers Jesus an easy way, a shortcut, to dominion outlined for Messiah in the OT. It is a great temptation to Jesus, living as a man. But the premise is false. As always, Satan is lying. The false premise we saw last week was that “man must live”. Jesus counters – “No, man must obey.” Today the false premise is “you can shortcut your way to God’s blessing”. But there are no shortcuts. What we actually do is make an idol of the blessing and the shortcut ends up being a shortcircuit.
I. The Seduction
V. 5, “And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6 and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” This is the most significant of the three temptations. I want us to see three things.
A. The Process (It’s threefold)
1. Appeal to the Eye
V. 5, “And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.” He may have simply caused him to visualize this in his mind, but Matthew tells us he took him to a very high mountain. That seems pretty literal. But by whatever means he shows Jesus the world and says, “All that, I’ll give to you.” Smart guy. He enters through the eyegate. The same thing happened in Gen 3:6 when we read that Eve “saw that the tree was good for food.” She probably hadn’t thought much about that tree before. There was plenty else around. But Satan got her to look.
Temptation often comes that way. Every salesman knows that. Get people to look. The lust of the eye is powerful. Ever notice all that trivial stuff they put near the checkout counters at grocery stores? Why? All stuff we don’t need or even want – nothing we think about until it hits us in the face – and suddenly we just have to know what Brad just said about Jennifer, or how Kate Middelton captured a prince. We guys think we are exempt. It’s only for lack of opportunity. Just send a guy to the store with a list and see what else he comes home with. I can still remember getting a new car in 1973. Then in 1974 every new car had square headlights and suddenly, I needed a new car. Wanted the square headlights. The lust of the eyes. Job knew the power of the eyes, thus said in Job 31:1, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin.” He was determined not to give sin a foothold by what he looked at. We can learn from that determination.
2. Appeal to the Flesh
V. 6, “and (the devil) said to him, “To you I will give all this authority.” I’ll give you authority. You’ll be able to do whatever you want. Isn’t this what you came for – to rule? Well, I’ll guarantee it. Just imagine what you can do with this world when it is all under your control. You will be the man. Think of all the good that you’ll be able to do. An appeal to the flesh.
3. Appeal to the Pride of Life
V. 6, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory.” Glory – pride of position. See Caesar before the cheering crowd. That could be you, Jesus. I’ll give it to you. Just worship me. One time. Just once. You can still worship God all you want. That is no concern of mine. But I’ll do you better. He’s going to ask you to die to get this, if you ever do. Just bow the knee to me one time and it is all yours. All the acclaim. The crown can be yours – without the cross. Shortcut. You’ve been a carpenter. I’ll make you the king you were born to be. I’ll give you the world. The pride of life.
Do you see how literally this ties in with I John 2:16, “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.” Jesus didn’t have that verse of Scripture. It hadn’t been written yet. But He knew that truth. He saw through the glitz and glamor of the world that Satan offered to the rottenness underneath. He didn’t come for the world in its present form. He came to clean it up so that He could have a kingdom of peace and joy and sinless perfection. What Satan offered, even had he been able to deliver, was a sham. Satan turned all the guns he had on Jesus in this temptation – the desire of the eyes, the desire of the flesh and the pride of life – but it was no use. He saw with spiritual eyes, felt with godly desires and acted in humble submission to the Father. And he succeeded where the first Adam had failed.
B. The Promise – of the seduction
Satan promised the world. You can’t miss that metaphor, can you? He always promises whatever world you want! But to appreciate this temptation, we have to go back to the beginning, to Eden. God gave his son Adam a little start – a garden. And he told Adam, “Your task is to tend and expand this garden until it fills the whole earth. Exercise dominion in my name.” Had Adam done that, he’d have eventually come back to God and said, “Father, look what I have done. I have completed the task you gave me. Here it is – all the kingdoms of the world redeemed from the hold of the devil.” You say, “Where do you get that idea?” Well, I get it from I Cor 15:24 where we are told, “Then comes the end, when he (Jesus) delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.” Where the first Adam failed, the second Adam will succeed – do you see? This would have been the joy of Adam’s existence, but, of course, he never got off the ground. He sputtered to failure before he could even taxi down the runway. And his failure was not just personal sin; it was a cosmic disaster. He lost the world and Satan retained it which is why Satan is the god of this age, the prince of this world who needs to be cast out.
Now, the last Adam, as Jesus is called in I Cor 15:45, has arrived on the scene. Satan recognizes the threat immediately. He doesn’t see everything – but he knows this is the seed of the woman promised in Gen 3:15. And he is keen to take him down. What more compelling temptation could there be than to say to Jesus, “I will give you exactly what you have come for, if you will just worship me.” There is no need for you to die and go through all that. I’m here to help. It’s yours. Just acknowledge me.
This was tempting. Jesus knew that in the Father’s plan, he had to die. And the closer he got to that time, the more it weighed on His human mind. The night before, He sweat drops of blood as He wrestled with His own will versus the will of the Father regarding his death. It wasn’t the awful physical pain He knew awaited, but the fact that He would become sin for us who knew no sin. That would break the Father’s heart as well as His. In Gethsemane, he was praying for an out. When the devil offered a way to accomplish his mission without the death, believe me, He was tempted. The temptation was real and it was compelling.
Now, we need to consider for a moment, did the devil really have this to offer. Were the kingdoms of the world his to give? And the answer is in one sense, yes. Multiple passages of Scripture acknowledge Satan’s rulership of the current world system. Paul speaks of how those outside of Christ are “following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air ” (Eph 2:2). Paul speaks of his devastating effectiveness in II Cor 4:4, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Jesus speaks of a time when “the ruler of this world be cast out” (John 12:31). One need only look objectively at this world to see the rulership of the devil and his forces of evil.
But we must remember that rulership does not mean possession. Satan doesn’t own anything! Solomon prays in I Chron 29:11 “all that is in the heaven and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord.” David reminds us in Psa 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” As we have also seen, the devil can’t raise his little finger without the permission of Almighty God. And we must ask, would he have abdicated his influence had Jesus acknowledged him. Would he have boogied on out? NO WAY! Jesus later characterizes him in John 8: 44) “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. He lied to Jesus and he’ll lie to you. He’ll promise the world; he’ll deliver chaos.
C. The Price of the Seduction
Satan offers discounts. He does an interesting thing here. When the devil said, “If you, then, will worship me”, he used a Greek aorist tense and subjunctive voice which stresses a one-time event. It urges compromise. “I ask little. Just once. Worship me one time. You don’t have to give leave God. Worship Him all you want, but worship me a little, too, and I’ll give you the world.” That’s his price. That’s the shortcut that’s a short circuit.
In 2,000 years, nothing has changed, has it? He offers the same bargain in the same language. I’ll give you the world. You want that promotion? Just take credit for Joe’s idea. Why wait? Take the shortcut. The hidden message? Worship me and little, I’ll give you the world. You can still go to church, still be a good Christian, still worship God. Beloved, it’s a short circuit. You want a comfortable living, don’t you? Get paid under the table. Who’s gonna know? Uncle Sam already gets plenty, and the government will just waste it anyway. Short circuit, dear friends. Listen, God wants you happy, right? So go ahead and take the girl. She’s not only hot; she’s sympathetic and kind and appreciates you. I’ll never forget reading how quarterback and ESPN commentator Joe Theismann explained to his soon-to-be-ex-wife why he had an affair – “God wants Joe Theismann to be happy.” It’s the devil saying, “I’ll give you the world.” But, it’s a lie. Many of us here today could testify that his price is too high. We spend a lifetime learning that nothing gained through compromise is worthwhile. Nothing. Yet we keep trying. Aren’t you tired of trying? Haven’t you figured out by now that no one can give you the world – no one but Jesus?
II. The Solution
Now, Jesus’ response to Satan is interesting. He doesn’t try to negotiate terms. He doesn’t question whether he can deliver or not. He goes straight to the heart of the matter in v. 8, “And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” Once again He has appealed to Scripture for His authority, and his answer is very perceptive. The devil has only said, “Worship me a little. Just once. Just bow the knee one time.” But the Scripture Jesus quotes notes that the one you worship you also serve. Satan implied one time and it’s over. Jesus knew better. He knew you can’t worship Satan and God at the same time.
Satan was offering the crown without the cross. Jesus knew God’s way was the cross. All the kingdoms of the world without redemption paid for on the cross would have been meaningless. You can’t shortcut your way to God’s blessing. Satan was saying, “You can serve two masters. I just want to be one of them.” Jesus says later in Matt 6:24, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” Compromise is the worship of something other than God, and it is never right regardless of the end in view. What is the very first of the 10 commandments? “You shall have no other gods before me.” Everything else flows from that. But we are very slow to obey.
God is a jealous God who will broach no rivals. He was constantly warning Israel as in Lev 18:3, “You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. 4 You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God.” Jesus carries the same theme forward in the Sermon on the Mount where a key phrase in Matt 6:8: “Do not be like them.” Like who? Like all the people you live around. But Israel was no better at obeying than we. They barely got settled in the land and they began to adopt the ways and the gods of their neighbors. They tried to keep Jehovah and the other gods. And, of course, it was a shortcut to nowhere. We’ve got churches full of people trying to look as much like the world as possible – to show that Christians can be cool. Dear friends, that’s not what we’re called to.
Long ago a circuit rider stopped at an inn. The proprietor said , “Sir, I see you are a clergyman. Are you a Presbyterian or a Methodist.” “Why do you inquire?” the preacher asked. “Well, I aim to please. I have observed that a Presbyterian is very particular about his own food and bed and a Methodist is particular about the feed and care of his horse.” “Very well,” the preacher replied. “I’m a Presbyterian but my horse is a Methodist.” Isn’t that just like us? We want the best of both worlds. We want Jesus and all that this world offers. But God doesn’t share His throne, Beloved. God’s ways are not compatible with the ways of the world we live in. To try to have both is to take a shortcut to disaster.
III. The “So What?”
What is the application for us? I see two things here. First, all people worship something or someone. You may think not, but you do. Second, many people who think they are worshiping God, aren’t. So, we need to examine this morning, what are we worshiping? We worship what we value most. Worship says, “This person, this thing, this activity, this status, or even this blessing or this ministry is what I value most.” We can find out what we worship by following the trail of where we spend our time, money, interests, desires and ambitions. At the end of the trail there will be a throne – and on that throne will be someone or something. So, where does your trail lead? What is it that you could not live without?
It could be a person, power, a habit, money, recognition, acceptance, or anything. We don’t walk around saying, “I worship money” or “I worship sex”, “I worship food”, “I worship my wife”, “I worship my career”, “I worship the approval of people” or “I worship being right.” We don’t say it, but the trail of our time and interests never lies, and it leads to something. Something -- what? If anything in our life comes before God, we’ve been had. Satan has offered us a world he can’t deliver, and we’ve bought it. We placate our conscience by getting to church occasionally and maybe giving more than we’d really like. We think we can have the crown without the cross – God’s favor without His suffering. But we’ve forgotten – you can’t serve two masters. So who is it? Who’s on the throne? Satan wants anyone or anything but God. But that represents a shortcut to happiness, contentment, joy, satisfaction and worth. And spiritual shortcuts end up being spiritual short circuits. Paul gives this ringing indictment in Rom 1:25, “they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!” We must ask ourselves today -- are we buying the lie? Taking a shortcut to nowhere?
John Wesley toured a vast estate with a proud plantation owner. They rode their horses for hours and saw only a fraction of the man’s property. At the end of the day they sat down to dinner. The plantation owner finally asked, "Well, Mr. Wesley, what do you think?" Wesley replied, "I think you’re going to have a hard time leaving all this." He had put his finger on the issue. Is there anything wrong with having property and means? Of course not. The question is, has it become your god?
What is it that you would have a hard time leaving, Beloved? What is your shortcut to nowhere? What relationship, ambition, feeling, gratification are you pursuing in disobedience to God’s commandments? What comes before God in your life? You only get God’s blessing by obedience to God’s will. First place in your heart must be His alone. Let’s pray.