Would you believe me if I told you that the devil’s main temptation of Jesus, was that Jesus was not in fact the Son of God?
“If you are the Son of God…”
Those are the words (in both Matthew’s account and Luke’s account) that the devil uses as lead-ins to 2 of his 3 temptations:
“And He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He became hungry. And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Matthew 4:2-3
“And he led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning You to guard You,’ and, ‘On their hands they will bear You up, So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’” Matthew 4:9-11
Two-thirds of the devil’s temptations of Jesus were based on challenging who Jesus was – His identity.
I have to tell you, this tactic at first seemed ridiculous to me. Sure, it was part of the initial tactics that the devil took with Eve, but wasn’t the situation with Jesus quite a bit different? I mean, if anyone had ever understood who they were in relation to God the Father, was it not Jesus? Was challenging Jesus’ identity really the best tactic?
And please understand the context here: this was the devil’s big chance to destroy the plan of God for salvation. Jesus as God in flesh, was the plan – the only plan. There wasn’t a plan B.
And the advantage seemed to be in the devil’s favor. The devil still had all of his power, spiritual faculties/abilities, and complete access to his full demonic army. He had even spent the last couple thousand years perfecting his ability to tempt and destroy humanity with sin.
Jesus on the other hand, had given up His power and glory to take on the form of a very lowly human - relying solely on the Holy Spirit within Him, as a normal human today does also. And Jesus had just finished a 40 day fast in a barren dessert wilderness. He certainly was not at His human peak performance.
The devil had waited thousands of years for a moment like this and had probably been actively planning and preparing for this singular moment since Jesus arrived on the Earth 30 years prior.
I think it is safe to say that the devil brought his temptation and sin-destruction A game to this encounter.
So with all of that experience, knowledge, and power, the devil concluded that his A game – his best chance of destroying God’s singular plan of salvation for humanity by getting Jesus to sin, was to challenge who Jesus was in relation to God the Father. The devil’s homerun swing was to challenge Jesus’ identity. (And the Bible records it, so that we can clearly know what the devil’s A game is.)
So, do you think it is safe to say that the devil is absolutely trying to do the same to you and I? Do you think that the devil is challenging your identity in Christ Jesus?
You better believe that he is trying to challenge, diminish, confuse, cloud, and especially deceive your understanding of who you are in relation to God.
Because identity is the core of who we are - which determines how we act and live.
“For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” Romans 8:5
So, who are you? Who does God say that you are?
“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21
“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are.” 1 John 3:1
“The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” Romans 8:16-17
I could go on and on with Biblical passages that speak to our identity in Christ, but the couple passages that we have here should be more than enough to bring about the transformation that Jesus wants to do in us.
Will you however, appropriate these truths about your identity - truths that He paid for on the cross for you to have - into the core fabric of your identity?
And don’t mistake this for a power of positive thinking concept. NO! This is the power of clearly understanding your identity in Christ Jesus. If you appropriate and integrate into the fabric of who you are, the truth that as a follower of Jesus, you have been adopted into being a child of God, you cannot help but begin to live and act like a child of God.
I assure you that this is NOT what the devil wants. He wanted to thwart it in Jesus… and he wants to thwart it in you as well.
(Note: All passages are NASB 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.)