We live in a world of confusion. We may not always be walking around scratching our heads wondering “What’s going on?”, but we live in a world where most people have a seemingly infinite number of options for school, a career, and where to live. Add the current economic condition on top of that, and it makes it even harder to decide what to do. It’s annoying, and it’s confusing. Yet, in the midst of all of this confusion, one thing is painfully clear: We have forgotten who we are.
The good news is that we are not alone. Christian history is filled, almost exclusively, with people who have forgotten their identity. Many preachers tell us that the temptations of Jesus (Matt.4:1-11) were the same as the temptations of Adam: Lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. In his book, Tempted and Tried, pastor Russell Moore rightly points out that while these might have been particular areas of temptation, Satan was striking at something much, much deeper. Identity.
Ryan Kucera, one of my good friends, and a pastor at The Village, spoke about this topic last night. Something that he said really stuck with me, “Adam could not have been better set up for success.” Think about it. Adam and Eve were set up in a garden and given any tree to eat of, except one, and didn’t even have to work to get the trees to produce fruit! Adam and Eve were completely comfortable in who they were; no insecurities. Yet, when they came face to face with Satan, they were slaughtered. Satan challenged the very identity in which they were comfortable, and they completely failed the test. They didn’t stand on God’s word. They didn’t remember who they were. They didn’t remember who He was and is.
Then we come to the Second Adam, Jesus. As Ryan pointed out last night, if you’ve grown up in church, you’ve heard the Matthew 4:1-11 text preached a thousand times from a thousand different angles, but almost never in context. We tend to isolate this text from the events preceding and following the temptations of Jesus. But the context is crucial for our understanding. Immediately before Jesus’ time in the desert, He was baptized, when God declared that Jesus was “His Son, with whom I am well pleased”, and the Holy Spirit rushed over Jesus (Matt. 3:13-17). The felt-board Jesus concept has left us with a pretty picture of a dove flying and resting on Jesus’ shoulder, but that is far from what actually happened. When the Spirit rushed over Jesus, it was like David before Him (1 Sam. 16:13). In that moment, God announced Jesus as the Messiah and as King.
It’s immediately after this, that Jesus is “led by the Spirit” (Matt. 4:1) to the wilderness to be “tempted by the devil”. This was no accident, this was no random occurrence. It wasn’t bad luck that Jesus was in the desert, a seemingly God-forsaken place, when He was tempted. He was in the desert, to be tempted by the devil, according to the sovereign plan of the Father and by the moving of the Holy Spirit. This confuses many of us, because God does not tempt anyone and is not tempted Himself (James 1:13). Russell Moore provides valuable insight into this in telling us that what Satan meant as a temptation, the Father meant as a trial. While Jesus’ humanity was absolutely tempted by the devil, the Father intended this as a test to prove Jesus’ identity as His Son. And where Adam, in the midst of all of the comforts of Eden, failed miserably, Christ, in the middle of a God-forsaken wasteland, stood strong in His identity as God’s Son, proving His identity as Messiah and King.
We live in our own type of Eden. Don’t get me wrong, it’s far from perfect. But in America, we have access to almost anything we need or want in life. We go to stores to buy food, not really conscious of all the work done to make it available. We have hundreds of different ways to communicate with each other, without getting off the couch, or even having to make a phone call. We have several options for school and work. While I don’t doubt that most of us work, and work hard, there’s a measure of comfortability that when compared to most places, makes the U.S. seem like paradise. But I can’t help feeling that for all our comforts, and maybe because of them, we lose focus of who we are. We lose focus of whose we are. We spend so much time getting dizzy from focusing on the plethora of “trees” we can eat from, that we lose sight of the One who made them.
Fortunately, Jesus not only stood strong in the desert to create a cool parallel between Himself and Adam, but He stood strong for us. If you confess Christ as Lord and Savior, He stood strong for you. It is in this strength, that your identity as someone created in God’s image, loved by God, and redeemed by the Messiah is firmly rooted. It is in this confidence that we find the ability to pick up our Swords and fight, knowing that our victory is solidified in Christ Jesus.