As Christians, our lives follow a process of preparation that we can observe in the scripture. In many ways, we follow the same course of preparation that Jesus followed, and that we can observe in the Gospels. We can see ourselves, and recognize not only the process, but actual events in our lives can parallel what happened to Jesus in remarkable ways. He was tempted in every manner as we are, yet without sin. He lived as an example to us, and all the lives of people in the scripture are given to us as examples, upon whom the end of the ages have come, and are now coming.
One thing that I noticed or recognized some time back, which is an example of this fact, is a particular temptation that came to Jesus when he was in the wilderness that also comes to each of us, as Christians. There are some very high profile examples of this that I have observed, and I have also observed it in my own life, and in the lives of others close to me. It seems a universal part of the process that we go through. I will attempt to explain this in as few words as possible.
You have noticed that a lot of the high profile people in society, in music, the arts, entertainment, and public office are identified with Christ, and claim to be Christians. Especially in the USA, we see this as fairly common, and it tends to make us think that whatever these people are doing is representing the Lord in these positions of influence. You have heard it, “Hey, you know XYZ is a Christian.” Strangely, it seems to legitimize our personal identification with the Lord. We take comfort from the fact that we can't be insane in being Christian because, after all, there are a number of prominent persons that are well respected, and they, too, are Christians.
Don't look back at me as if you don't know what I am talking about. 🙂
Where does the urge come from to shore up our insecurities with worldly legitimacy? But that is a different message… Suffice it to say we need to resist this urge, and not take the legitimacy that this world offers as actual evidence of authenticity.
Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and went out in the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He was there 40 days, without natural sustenance, and was going through a process of proving. With the idea in mind that our lives mirror His life on the earth, we also are going through a process of proving, and the elements of His proving hold inestimable value for us. On this, I think we can safely agree.
As I was meditating on this, some years ago, I believe the Lord showed me something in it, accompanied by an impression that surprised me. It had to do with the temptation where Jesus was taken up to a high mountain and shown the kingdoms of this world, and their glory. He was advised by the devil that He should bow down and worship, showing deference to the kingdoms of the world, their glory, and the one who was in control of all of this, the devil himself! Jesus did not worship the devil, but rather responded with a clear answer, that you shall only worship the Lord God, and only serve Him!
As this was being revealed to me, I felt that the Lord told me that for all people who recognize their calling in God, those who know who they are (keep in mind He had just come from the test where the devil was trying to get Him to prove His identity – as God's Son), this test was imminent and was waiting next in line for those who pass the test of not attempting to prove themselves. That is another message too, and one worthy of contemplation.
This second test, the offer of the glory of this world, a place within it's kingdoms, and natural legitimacy, was being given to Jesus. It is also being given to us. Once you realize that you are God' son or daughter, that you have been called from eternity past by Him, and that this is your primary identity, you are on your way to the offering of this world's glory. Can you see how the process works?
I felt that the Lord told me that there were few who passed this test. It may also be that He was inferring that there are few who pass it the first time. As I contemplated this, my mind went back to times when I recognized the power that was available to me, the influence with other people, based on the revelation I had received. I recognized that I could have serious influence with these things…. and I was tempted to take it for myself. I was going through the same test the Lord had gone through at that time, yet it was only later in retrospect that it was recognizable to me.
It would be fairly easy to look around you today, and see MANY who call themselves Christians, who have obviously failed this test. With the climate of weakness and immaturity that so marks our times, it seldom goes unchallenged. Perhaps it's because of our insecurities that we want to identify with those around us who have taken on board this age's offers of legitimacy. This is a place where the impact of the failed test unfurls and really causes it's devastation. The called one fails the test, takes the devil up on his offer of the glory of this world, and then becomes visible and (apparently) legitimate on a broad stage. The insecure and / or ignorant Christian, in present insecurity, takes in wholesale what is being espoused by the believer who is being animated by the spirit of the age, and both mouthpiece and earpiece are made into slaves. No doubt about it, what you get from Satan will serve his purpose.
While their are false brothers around, with much the same outcome, I want to stress that this is not what I am addressing. I am speaking to and about believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. I am talking to those who take in wholesale what is being held forth by those who this world calls legitimate, authentic. I am talking to those who are doing the influencing from these platforms and stages of this world. And I am saying to both, repent.
The scripture is clear that we should not believe every spirit(ual influence) that comes along, but try the spirits, to make sure if they are from God or not. Sometimes, as we are growing in maturity, we sense a spiritual influence. We rightly sense the influence is spiritual, but we fail to test it to see it's origin, and simply say “the Lord told me” or “I am feeling led in this way.” We must not simply be led, or hear a voice, we must go on to test these influences to determine their origin. And once we understand the origin, we must follow if it is God' leadership, or resist if it is some other spirit.
Don't get me wrong, I believe completely in the necessity of being led by God, by the Spirit. So many of us, however, are being led by the wrong spirit.
That may sound like a prideful statement, but I don't mean it that way. I am not boasting in some ability I have to discern. I am as weak as anyone, perhaps weaker. You can know all sources by the thing they produce, and I am simply saying evaluate the outcomes. Hold these things before God, and think them through carefully. I have (and will continue) to do this in my life and spheres of influence, and at no time or maturity level will it become unnecessary. I have seen, and continue to see, where I have missed the mark and where I was led by a mixture of influences, or the wrong spirit altogether. I have also been able to see where I was being led by God. You remember Paul's admonition not to begin in the Spirit and end up in the flesh. Such mixtures are no less likely now than then. I think we have to be honest, I have to be honest about my own weakness, frailty, and propensity to miss the mark on this. It is present in all of us. Help us Lord!
I am in no way suggesting that we should back off on the idea that we need the Lord to lead us in the here and now. We need it more and more. Our recognition of our need gets more central with maturity, not less. The need is and has always been central to our advance in God, but we grow in our ability to recognize it. How in touch are you with your need for the Lord's leadership?
I want to encourage you to evaluate the voices, the influences, and the leading you are getting. This is in obedience to the scripture, and will doubtless save you a lot of misery and clean up. We should not be tentative, always doubting, but we should evaluate, and ask the Lord to make His leadership clear to us. We need Him to teach us discernment.
What if Jesus had taken the bait? He would have allowed them to take Him and by force make Him king, an attempt that was yet future at the time. That was the payoff or setup on this temptation. Because He passed the test, He could recognize that this was a trap. If we don't recognize and pass the test, we stumble into believing that any attempt to expand our influence is coming from God. Not true. Let me say that in a different way. Not every offer to expand your influence is coming from God.
Lord, help us. I am asking You to give us eyes to see and ears to hear. Let us see things as they are, not as they appear. Forgive us for wanting our own (independent) legitimacy. Also, forgive us for trying to shore up our insecurity with the influence of Christian celebrities. Forgive us for departing from Your leadership, and from doubting Your calling and Your ability to bring us into it in Your timing, as we rushed ahead into error and folly. Cleanse us and help us to pass these tests. Let us have our senses exercised to (accurately) discern both good and evil.