SBTS chapel blog: The devil votes Christian values: why we’re tempted to be glorified Satanists rather than crucified followers

Communications Staff — March 17, 2009

Preacher: Russell D. Moore, senior vice president of academic administration; dean of the School of Theology at Southern Seminary.

Text: Matthew 4:8-17; Deuteronomy 6:10-15

Part three of three in a series on the temptations of Christ in the wilderness.

In the third temptation, Satan says, ‘Bow down and worship me.’

Like the second temptation, this third one seems a bit mystical to us. We can understand the struggle against pornography and drugs. We can understand people sharing about their struggles here in accountability groups. But why would someone be tempted to bow down and worship Satan?

But the temptation with which Satan tempted Jesus is the same temptation with which he tempts every believer.

Temptation to self-exaltation in the kingdoms of this world

Satan first showed Christ all the kingdoms of the world and said ‘All this belongs to me.’ In one sense, this is true. The apostle Paul speaks of Satan as the god of this age, the prince of the power of the air. He does indeed have power over the kingdoms of the world.

But what Satan is not revealing is how he came to have this authority. Satan did this through cunning and deception in a garden, taking men captive.

Why is this a test for Jesus? Because Jesus’ mission is see that all things are placed under His feet. His mission is to hand over the kingdom to the Father. He is seeking to rule and to reign and to govern.

What will bring Jesus pleasure is the binding up of the broken-hearted. Truth, justice and love. Satan offers him in that moment all the kingdoms of the world. Kingdoms with children dying of malaria. Kingdoms with all kinds of problems and injustice. All of this would end if Jesus came to power. Satan says, ‘I will give it all to you now.’

The temptation comes to us

That temptation will come to you as well if you belong to Christ, especially those whom God has marked for ministry. When we think of the temptation to self-exaltation, we think that it will come to some people. But Scripture tells us that this is a temptation that is common to all men.

The temptation is, ‘I will give you power,’ and usually the issue is using that power for good. That is always what you will say to yourself, and what will be said to you: if you can build a power base and work it to where you can have the means to do what you want to do then you will be successful.

That is why we have a denomination where we say we have 16 million Southern Baptists. There are not 16 million Southern Baptists. So why do we claim this? Because it gives us a sense of power. But it is not the kind of power that only comes to the powerful.

Satan says, ‘Lust after this power, quest after this power: I will give you the kingdoms of the earth.’ Why is Satan willing to give up his power over all the kingdoms of the earth? Because Satan does not fear Christianity. Satan’s authority is in the power to accuse. The power to hold humanity captive to the fear of death and judgment.

Satan is not scared by external conformity to moral values. Satan does not mind family values as long as your ultimate goal is a focus on the family. Satan does not mind social justice, as long as you see justice as primarily social. Satan is willing to give up the kingdoms of the world, apart from the shedding of blood on the cross. If Satan can just bypass the cross, then he will have everything that he wants.

Pastor, Satan does not mind if you preach the decrees of God, if you do not preach the Gospel of the cross. Homeschooling mom, Satan does not mind if you thoroughly catechize your children, if you never teach them about a bloody cross.

Satan will give orphan care, environmental protection, or whatever such issue is important to you provided you do not preach and proclaim and live the power of a cross that cancels his power of condemnation.

Jesus’ response is that He will believe and trust in the Word of His Father, in the promises of His Father, promises that include all the kingdoms of this world. And promises that don’t come through self-exaltation.

After leaving the wilderness, Jesus found out that John the Baptist had been taken into custody. Jesus went to Galilee, a Podunk town away from glitz and lights. And Jesus begins to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’

Jesus begins preaching about a kingdom, a kingdom that comes from the Father.

Ministering under Christ in God’s kingdom

Do you know the kind of power it will take to look an unrepentant millionaire in the eye, a millionaire who could fund everything you would ever want to do, and say, ‘Apart from repentance, you will not enter the kingdom of God?’

Do you know the kind of power of having a woman telling you during the closing hymn that she has had an abortion, has just prayed to receive Christ and says that she doesn’t know what to do, do you know the kind of self-abasing, God-exalting power that enables you to turn to her and say, ‘There is know no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus?’

Most of you in this room are called to ministry. The satanic powers notice that. You are being sized up by invisible forces in the air. Don’t be deceived: they are noticing what catches your eye. They are noticing what causes your ego to flutter. They are noticing what it takes to cause you maybe even silently to puff up.

In the fullness of time, they will get into you: if only you will bow the knee. And if you don’t bow the knee, don’t be deceived: Satan will not leave you if you resist him once. After the encounter in the wilderness, Satan came after Jesus with the power and wrath of death. If you don’t bow the knee, Satan in every sense is measuring you for crucifixion. The satanic powers are looking at you, to see how to lead you to the place of crucifixion. But when they get you there, they will find that God is turning such crucifixion upon them.

If you follow the Lord Jesus, you will suffer. If you get to a point where you can stand on a high mountain and see all the kingdoms of the world in one direction and then turn and see the place of the skull with a cross and bloody entrails, if you come to that place and you hear the Spirit say, ‘Here is power and authority to stand,’ what would happen if our churches were led by men with that kind of self-abasing authority?

Are you ready to become a pastor, counselor, or church leader who is Trusted for Truth?

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