If you know the story of how Satan tempted Jesus three times in the wilderness, you’ll remember one of His responses: “you shall not tempt the Lord your God…” It’s easy to think that we would never fall for a trick like that. But what exactly was it that the devil wanted Jesus to do?
1. To treat the promises of God like a childish game. The devil took God’s holy promise of protection (found in Psalm 91) and reduced it to a dare, a mere game.
2. To doubt His identity as if He had to prove to the devil that He was really God’s Son: “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written…”
3. To manipulate God into rushing to His aid, just because “it is written.”
Most would agree that point number one is a terrible temptation that would work only on immature or false believers. But what about point two? How many times do Christians want to “prove” how spiritual they are? This temptation works on the insecure, the people-pleasers. Being admired by others means more than seeking the quiet contentment of knowing that God is pleased with them. They’ll go out of their way to perform some sort of public good deed, which they then have to pretend was spontaneous and from the heart. But God sees their game, and the praise of others is all the reward they get. Unfortunately, this affects everyone no matter how long they’ve been saved, how much they know the Bible, or what their title in church is. To our shame, all of us can remember times when we’ve fallen for this stupidity.
But point 3 is the most dangerous of all. It can appear like real faith, but is degrading and disrespectful to God. A person with a secret sin can say, “God has to bless me, I’m going to make a sacrifice and go on a fast in the faith that I’ll get this new job! I’ll pray every night at midnight, I’ll go to church as often as I can, I’ll read my Bible every morning and God will be faithful to His word to bless me, because I’m using me faith and His word can’t lie!” He looks so on fire for God. But he has no intention of killing his old life. He still loves his secret sin. He may suspend that sin for a while and even ask God to forgive him, but he never hates it enough to repent in true sincerity. As he fasts, prays and reads his Bible while ignoring the condition of his soul, he treats God with the worst form of contempt: “You are the All Powerful God. I believe you keep your Word. I will continue to serve my flesh, and I demand that you serve me.” Satan’s thoughts exactly.
Tempting God, or putting Him to the test, is trying to manipulate God to perform for you. You may look committed, but it’s all for show. Christians like this will go so far as to cry out in boldness, “Oh Lord, I don’t accept these attacks of the devil!” and turn around to please the devil the same day. Any repentance is just a religious rite to alleviate guilt, and then they’ll scour the Bible to justify why God has to bless them, like expert lawyers compiling arguments to trick their opponent into handing over what they want at minimal cost. “I have rights before God!” Sure you do…
If you think God wants business partners that haggle with Him, go right ahead and tempt (test) Him. But what God truly wants is relationships. He wants bonds of trust and understanding and obedience based on love. He wants to envelope us with His goodness and power – but sin has to be hated and killed. It’s so simple. We can’t demand His word to come true if we won’t follow it! Psalm 34 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Why would anyone manipulate a good God who already wants to bless us? How in the world do we think we can “trick” God into blessing us? And more than anything, how dare we treat the God of all Creation as our slave? If you’ve been doing this and haven’t realized it, untangle yourself from the devil’s trap and run to Him in repentance now.
You search the Scriptures, because you think in them you have eternal life. These are they who bear witness of Me. Yet you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. “I do not receive honor from men. But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in My Father’s name, but you do not receive Me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? John 5:39-44, MEV