I have a deep fascination with behind-the-scenes documentaries. I love seeing my favorite singers in concert and cheering on my favorite teams in the stands. But almost as exciting to me is watching or reading about how these artists or athletes got to where they are, what it took, and how they did it. The amount of practicing, rehearsing, and artistry that’s required for musicians to find their voice and let it be heard. The early mornings, workouts, and wild work ethic of some of the world’s greatest athletes. The stories of setbacks. The grit to not quit. The discipline it required that others lacked. I love to marvel at masters of a craft while discovering the unseen, less-spectacular routines that got them where they are. Anyone aspiring to do what they do in public will also need to know how they live in private.
- Jesus showed us some behind-the-scenes moments of the lifestyle He lived.
He accomplished what we hope to. He shut down the lies of the Enemy and lived out His God-given purpose here on earth. He knew who He was and lived a life of confidence, peace, and joy.
It could be easy to say, “Of course Jesus knew who He was and lived out His purpose. He was God. He probably had an instant download of all the scriptures, all the right things to do, something like a Divine Dropbox that He had constant access to, so I could not possibly live the way Jesus did. After all, He is God. I am a human.”
God thought about that too.
Paul told us that though Jesus “was in the form of God, He chose not to cling to equality with God; But He poured Himself out to fill a vessel brand new; a servant in form and a man indeed. The very likeness of humanity.”1
Jesus came as fully God and fully human. He came to earth as a baby.
We know this about babies — they don’t know a whole lot. Their knowledge starts as a blank page. Children must learn how to talk, how to walk, how to say please, how to listen, how to have conversations, how to say sorry, and how to forgive. And all of this they learn and develop throughout their lives.
God thought it was important that we didn’t just learn from a God, but that we saw how a human lived on our same earth, with our same temptations and struggles, and how He grew up, learned who He was, and lived boldly as who He was every single day.
In Matthew 4, we see from Jesus how a human can combat the lies of the Enemy. This is what Jesus did in public. And then we can examine how He did it — the lifestyle of rhythms He lived out in private.
- Jesus gave us a behind-the-scenes look at His life’s structure to show us how we can know who we are and live our fullest, freest lives as well.
Jesus was alone with God in the desert, praying and fasting from food for forty days and forty nights. Though He had no other human with Him, and had no food, the Scriptures say that
He was also curiously stronger, when the tempter came to Jesus.2
The Enemy’s favorite tactic [is] to take down children of God. This is the story of when he tried to take down Jesus.
The devil approached Jesus. In this moment, the Enemy had a shot to take down the Savior of the world. If the Enemy could pull this off, he would win. Jesus came to the world to save us from the forthcoming detriment of all our sins, to heal us from the pain of our hurts, to speak truth to the lies, and to make a way for us to be forgiven, healed, whole, and close to God, the One who created us and loves us more than any human could. Simply put, Jesus came to restore our lives and our relationship with God. And that would be the Enemy’s worst-case scenario.
The Enemy saw his shot to stand in the way of Jesus and what He was put on earth to do.
So what did the Enemy do? What was his evil and powerful plan?
He didn’t come with an arsenal of rusty weapons. He didn’t come with an army of soldiers, swords sharpened, war horses galloping, or zombies from the ground with fiery eyes focused on taking this adversary down. The Enemy, with all his demons and power and principalities, decided his best plan was to try to make Jesus doubt who He was.
- So the weapons he chose were lies and doubt.
In the desert, the Enemy spoke three times to Jesus, each time starting with, “If you are the Son of God...” He tried to plant a seed of doubt about whether Jesus was who God said He is. He challenged Jesus, if He was truly God’s Son, to prove it.
Why? Because the Enemy knew what was at risk if Jesus knew who He was and lived as who He was, without needing to prove Himself to anyone.
Remember, the Enemy’s greatest threat is children of God knowing who they are.
But Jesus did not come to play.
The first temptation:
Devil: If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.
Jesus (quoting Deuteronomy): It is written, “Man does not live by bread alone. Rather, he lives on every word that comes from the mouth of the Eternal One.”3
Jesus fought what was spoken with what is written. When the Enemy comes at us with lies about who we are, we need something more stable than what we are feeling, something more certain than what is trending. We need to know what God has written. God’s words are timeless and true, all the time, in every circumstance. Theologian Henri Nouwen proposed that this first temptation was a temptation to be relevant. He said that just as Jesus was asked to “prove his power,”4 we, too, will be tempted to opt for the spectacular, to prove our relevance, and to succumb to what is showy to prove our worth. Jesus did not need to prove His power. He knew who He was.
I know I am not alone in being underwhelmed by Christ followers who trade the gospel of Jesus for a gospel of themselves. Jesus shows us how we can overcome the temptation to do the same thing.
Nouwen pointed to this temptation and wrote, “It is here that the need for a new Christian leadership becomes clear. The leaders of the future will be those who dare to claim their irrelevance in the contemporary world as a divine vocation that allows them to enter into a deep solidarity with the anguish underlying all the glitter of success, and to bring the life of Jesus there.”5
I echo this call to Christ followers. Our churches, ministries, and lives are not meant to be places of spectacle. If people are being pointed to us and not to the cross, then our systems are broken. Our most-impressive programming is pointless if it does not point people to a real relationship with Jesus.
This is not just about groups of people; this is also about us as individuals.
As children of God, we do not need to prove to the world that we are valuable. We do not need to prove our relevance.
- Our lives are not meant to be lived as a constant audition for worthiness.
God calls us His children, greatly loved, and specifically called not to impress our generation but to love our generation and point them to Him. Our audition for the world is over. Their vote doesn’t count. Our value, worth, and purpose come from God.
- Philippians 2:6–7 Voice.
- Matthew 4:3 Voice.
- Matthew 4:3–4 Voice.
- Henri J. M. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership (New York: Crossroad, 1992), 35.
- Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus, 35.
Adapted from You Are More Than You’ve Been Told by Hosanna Wong, copyright Hosanna Wong.
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How we can know who we are and live our fullest, freest lives? Look to Jesus. He did it. Is the enemy coming after you with lies and causing you to doubt who you are and what you’re worth? Look to Jesus! Jesus didn’t come to play and neither should we. Fight back with the Word of God and point to Jesus! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full