February 16, 2017

Make the Right Choice

“…the devil *took Him (Jesus) to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” Matthew 4:8-9

There is no doubt that the Devil has the God given authority (2 Corinthians 4:4) to give us neat stuff in exchange for our allegiance, faith; worship. Think not? The Apostle Paul calls him the “god of this world”. Paul, no doubt the most eminent theologian of the New Testament era – including our own – knows what he’s talking about. After all, he was personally tutored by Jesus (Galatians 1:11-17).

What’s the point? Not to debate Paul’s theological knowledge but to arrest your attention with the fact that we are confronted, regularly, with the temptation to capitulate the Divine will of God, with the dirty but attractive offer of Satan; our adversary.

The fact is, the same seductive offer Satan tempted Jesus with, in His wilderness season, is the same type he offers us. What Satan does is interrupt our faith-walk with God, as we pursue the previously revealed will of God. I call it the offer of “two baskets”.

It works like this. When we become Christians, having received from God the gift of eternal life through Christ Jesus, His son, our Lord, we are then offered a basket from God. God’s basket is empty except for a promissory note which reads… “Trust and follow me and I will give you exceedingly, abundantly, beyond all that you can ask or imagine”. However, sometime later, we are confronted with our adversary the Devil, who gives us a counter offer, an offer filled with tangible, attractive fruit.

Jesus exemplified this dueling offer dynamic in his wilderness temptation. God sent Him on a mission to be King of the universe, Savior of the world, but He was going to have to wait for the reward. Satan showed up, immediately after God’s offer with his own basket –one filled with worldly fruit.

God’s basket is empty and demands trust, a faith walk of obedience and waiting. So we Christians, armed with our faith and the invisible offer, set out trusting the Lord to provide and believing that in the end, it will be very good. The problem is, we never got to “see” exactly what He was offering (the basket was empty) and we have to wait until He decides to deliver on His promise. Nonetheless,  off we go…

Then, as we are moving out in our faith to … be a good husband, father, develop a successful business, stay away from health decreasing habits, etc … Satan comes along and offers us a counter offer with a basket full of tangible, recognizable, desirable fruit; just like the one Jesus was offered (Matthew 4:8) as He was shown all the kingdoms of the world AND their glory”. Now that is tangible AND there was no waiting, no faith involved!

Abram, the father of our faith, experienced the same thing. God gave him an incredible offer (Genesis 12:1-3). So Abram took the offer (the basket with the promissory note) and the text tells us, “he went forth” (v4). Later, when God reaffirmed His promise, Abram formally dedicated himself to God and His purposes (v7). Un-fortunately, a drought soon ensued and it became a “test” for Abram, based on a circumstantial problem. How would Abram’s faith respond?

Abram decided to move on, for self-survival, in direct violation of the boundaries God had set for him. So he took off for Egypt, taking the tempting offer of Pharaoh. There, Abram gave up his wife to the foreign ruler and for his capitulation, received the tangible fruit of material prosperity (12:16) – he became rich (13:2). The problem was, he was jeopardizing the promise of God and his riches consisted of livestock (sheep, cattle, donkeys, and servants) all of which were perishable. Later, when he was discovered to be a liar, he was officially rebuked and forcibly removed from the country; humiliated and rejected, his marriage reunited but marred, his reputation sullied.

Men, we do the same thing and it’s a shame, but it’s not the end. There is a way out and Abram’s story shows us how. When once we find ourselves seduced, suckered and stomped on by Satan, we need to repent – we need to go back to God. Abram shows us how and how rewarding that is.

Abram went right back to the fork in the road of his relationship with God. There back at the last good decision he made, at the Altar at Mamre, he returned (repented) to God. And God received and renewed him (13:4).

Abram then made a significant strategic decision. He got rid of his partner, Lot, who had brought nothing but conflict and compromise to his life. Then, beautifully, after Abram had both repented of his faithless disobedience and removed the stumbling block from his life, God rewarded him (13:14-18).

There, back at the place of his dedication to God, God fulfilled the promissory note he gave Abram – the land. God reaffirmed the gift of the land, delineated its boundaries and more wonderfully, told Abram to go “walk about it”; essentially to look and enjoy it!

God still does that today. He gives us a blessed, immediate, gift of salvation, when we become his sons through Jesus. At that transaction moment, we are immediately forgiven, adopted into son-ship and forever in God’s care. “But wait”, like the TV commercial, “there’s more”… Like Abram, God lets us enjoy the ride as we go and He shows us, gives us, many tangible, blessed gifts besides.

Why would anyone capitulate to Satan, compromise with God and take the immediate, perishable “fruit” Satan’s basket contains? “Cause we’re stupid”? NO – because we’re hungry, thirsty, tired, scared or lost. We make bad decisions when we get in a panic. Abram did and we do, but Jesus didn’t. Jesus didn’t because he was willing to wait for the best, rather than “settle” for lessor things. Jesus continued to rely on His father in the worst of things and so must we.

But when we fail, and we surely will, there is hope; hope in God through His mercy and forgiveness. When we go back to Him, honest in our humiliation, failure AND sorrow, we receive His mercy renewed. Paul tells us that a sincere sorrow leads to repentance and that leads to a renewed life, in God (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Men, if you’ve found yourself off track, if you’ve capitulated to Satan, compromised your life and chosen the wrong basket, then stop! Repent. Return to God. And He will renew your life.