The Temptations of Christ:
Self-Promotion (All These Kingdoms)

As we approach Holy Week, let's look at the third temptation of Christ in the final entry in our Lenten series. If you haven't done so already, please read my earlier post that discusses the nature of temptation, its dynamics, and categories:

I also covered the first two temptations:

Lust of the Flesh (Self-Gratification)

Pride of Life (Self-Empowerment)

For those of you unfamiliar with the observance of Lent, read how Christians use this season to prepare to share in the Passion of Christ:

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Becoming More like Christ (A Charismatic Discovered Lent)

The third temptation Jesus faced falls under "Lust of the Eyes", or what I call Self-Promotion.

"Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 'All this I will give you,' he said, 'if you will bow down and worship me'."

Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only'." Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him."
(Matthew 4:8-11)

What Adam faced, Jesus faced…but with different results!

Consequently, the temptations presented to Jesus are also launched at us today from the same age-old platforms. Satan's methods haven't changed.

Although we've been legally transferred out of Adam and into Christ by grace, we still have to work out the reality of our Salvation in everyday life. There's no better place to gauge our progress than while in the throes of temptation, for it reveals whether we are relying on Christ's power or still reaching back into the Adamic "self" for strength.

What was really at stake in this third temptation?

God, the Son, as the Second Person of the Trinity, already owned all things.

"The earth is the LORD's, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein."
(Psalm 24:1)

To the incarnate God/Man named Jesus, the Father promised possession of all earthly nations and their inhabitants. (Psalm 2:8)

Why was this statement necessary if, in essence, God, the Son already owned them?

God, the Son did not become incarnate on earth for His benefit, but ours.

As our "final Adam", His mission was to regain the authority forfeited to satan by the first Adam (Genesis 1:26-28). The way to get it back required not a sell out, but a Cross.

It's important to note that satan's deal to Jesus did not involve relinquishing one iota of that original authority. He would give the substance and glory of the kingdoms, but not the authority to rule them.

Imagine driving a new Mercedes around town. You are free to drive it as much as you want and anywhere you want, but the title remains in someone else's name.

Some people are content with this arrangement, but God doesn't work that way. When the Father gives a gift, he grants the title so that the person also has authentic authority to manage it.

Satan tempts us with all kinds of breathtaking kingdoms, but not with the legitimate authority to govern them!

When the lust of our eyes causes us to take something out of the will or time of God, we won't have the grace to take care of it. Subsequently, what we grabbed will eventually spiral downward and come to ruin, regardless of our efforts.

For instance, although many well-meaning people spoke against our marriage in the beginning, my husband and I knew God had called us to each other. Confidence in the will of God has not only given us courage to press through difficult times, but divine authority to overcome the challenges and stay together.

If you presumptuously propel yourself into a relationship, ministry, or career, then you alone are responsible for maintaining it. God will not bless what He has not authorized.

In the Old Testament, we read of a mighty man named Esau, Jacob's brother. As he approached home after a long, unsuccessful hunting venture, he smelled a savory meal being prepared by Jacob near the tents. Fatigued and famished, he begged for a bowl. The sly Jacob asked for something in exchange—the coveted birthright. Esau—driven by a momentary need to satisfy his ravenous hunger—agreed.

The birthright belonged to the oldest son. Upon his father's death, that son received a double portion of the inheritance and assumed authority as head of the family. In those days, a family was similar to a tribe—hundreds of people (kin and servants) were under the leadership of the patriarchal head. (Genesis 25:27-34)

Self-promotion tries to vilify whomever it has to step on to get ahead, and attempts to justify the bridges it burns to gain rewards.

In the Christian world, such lust-driven people often appear calm and unruffled, like swans gliding across a lake. They set up scenarios to put themselves in leadership and persuasively pull others to their side in a so-called 'crisis'.

They gain their little "kingdoms" illicitly and maintain them through subtle manipulation. Yet underneath it all--just like the swans' webbed feet below the surface of the water--they're paddling hard.

How did Jesus answer the tempter? "Worship God alone!"

Self-promotion is self-worship (self-exaltation).
Satan did it (Isaiah 14:12-15). Eve desired to be as God (Genesis 3:5-6); and we follow suite anytime we promote ourselves instead of waiting on God to exalt us in due time and in His way…a way that never circumvents a cross!

"And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me." (Matthew 10:38)

To be spiritually fit (the meaning of the Greek word worthy), there has to be a willingness to be humbled and follow Christ's attitude:

"Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2)

God's way for His only begotten Son required a self-emptying before ascension; it is no different for His adopted sons and daughters today.

Simeon was a sorcerer with a popular following. One day he encountered the power of God when Peter and John came to town.  (Acts 8:9-24)

Under Phillip's earlier preaching, Simon had believed the Gospel and renounced his sorcery, but when Peter and John came to Samaria to lay hands on the converts to receive the Holy Spirit, Simon obviously saw a power he had never encountered! He was amazed at the signs and wonders that far surpassed his former level of dark sorcery. He brazenly sought to "buy it".

Peter said, "You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you.

"For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity."

And Simon answered,"Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me."

Nothing that really comes from God can be bought, bartered, or sold.

However, the exchange of currency for the deceptive substitute can be a number of things…your marriage and family, your health, your finances…even your eternal state.

Those who give in to the lust of the eyes (self-promotion) are, as Peter said, "in the gall of bitterness", which is envy.

The "bond of iniquity" is twistedness (the biblical meaning the word). It denotes a life where unchecked sin has so wrapped itself around a person's life that it literally becomes a part of them. Temptation no longer comes from without, but from within. In other words, iniquity continuously overwhelms and controls the person, and can even be passed to future generations.

Observe that Simon had confessed Jesus Christ and been baptized, but becoming a Christian did not automatically remove the inner debris and its effects from his life. That's why we are to systematically renew our minds, continue in repentance, and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal and deliver us from the twisted ways we used to think and feel…those imaginations from our old life that can still rise up and lead us to exalt distorted ideas over God's Word. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Absalom was David's third son. He was very handsome, with long, flowing blonde hair. It was not enough for him to be a privileged and celebrated prince; he wanted to be a king. He also became enraged when his half-brother Amnon raped his sister, Tamar, and King David did not avenge her honor. (2 Samuel 13-18)

Seething with bitterness against his father and hatred for Amnon, Absalom arranged a banquet for his brothers. He commanded his servants to wait until Amnon was drunk and then slay him. Afterward, Absalom fled the palace and found refuge with his grandfather for three years.

In a shallow and contrived reconciliation, Absalom returned to Jerusalem at David's public request, only to be shunned afterward. During this time, Absalom grew in popularity and would sit at the city gate and help citizens resolve what he claimed were issues King David did not want to address. His willingness to mediate, along with his continual criticism of David's leadership, won over the hearts of the people.

Absalom staged a coup and succeeded in driving his father out of Jerusalem. However, based on the advice of a false counselor, the prince failed to attack the fleeing king when vulnerable. This error in judgment allowed David to regroup and resupply east of the Jordan. David returned to win the day and re-enter Jerusalem.

In the ensuing skirmish, Absalom's long hair was caught in the limbs of an oak tree as he was dashing under it on his horse. Joab, David's general, found the defenseless prince dangling from the tree and slew him.

Absalom's example warns us that the assets we use to gain a dishonest advantage can also dangerously snare us.

Korah, a Levite and cousin to Moses and Aaron, was wealthy and influential. The Levites were honored among the Israelites as keepers of the Tabernacle and ministers to the priests. They were divided into three groups:

Gershonites (the tent and its hangings)
Kohathites (Ark, Table, candlestick, altars, vessels, Veil)
Merarites (boards, pillars, bars, sockets and pins of the Tabernacle)

Korah was envious of Moses' leadership and the promotion of Aaron's family to the priesthood. He was also insulted that his cousin Elzaphan had been put in charge of the Levites. (Number 16)

Korah stirred up discontent until he had 250 leaders from among the various tribes at his side, along with two others prominent representatives—Dathan and Abiram.

They approached Moses and said, "You take too much upon you, seeing the entire congregation is holy, and the Lord is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?"

Korah was complaining that Moses was too much of a big shot. He argued that since others in the camp were obviously good and gifted leaders, it was only fair for Moses and Aaron to share the limelight, and quite hogging all the power.

God was angered, and gave Moses these words to Korah at the door of the Tabernacle:

"Seemeth it a small thing unto you that the God of Israel hath separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself to do the service of the tabernacle of the Lord, and to stand before the congregation to minister unto them?

And He hath brought thee near to Him, and all they brethren the sons of Levi with thee: and seek ye the priesthood also?" (Verses 8-10)

In the end, the earth opened up and swallowed up Korah and his insolent crowd. Note that Korah was a Kohathite. Of all the Levitical duties, theirs was to carry the very presence of God in the midst of the nation!

That privilege, however, was not enough for Korah. As long as another family member, Levite, or Israelite walked in greater authority and prominence, he spewed infectious discontent.

Modern day Korahs may be truly blessed, but in their eyes" it's not enough". Serving God becomes routinely mundane, as Korahs take their focus off the Lord and onto others.

Jealousy and covetousness do not wallow isolated within a person. The offended one will seek others who will share the burden of the offense and join in the murmurs, couching them in "legitimately sounding concerns". Eventually, the true colors of the usurper will surface and a 'showdown' ensues.

All unrepentant Korahs will tumble into a chasm carved out by their own bitterness and envy, still swinging their ill-gotten censers. Those who cling to Korahs, although previously warned, will fall with them.

It's wonderful when God calls a man or woman to serve, yet turns pitiful when he or she is pushed into a certain role by family expectations or tradition. However, the ministry becomes lethal when self-assumed!

"James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus, saying, 'Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.' And He said to them, "What do you want Me to do for you?"

They said to Him, 'Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.' But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?"

They said to Him, 'We are able.' And Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared."

Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John. Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, 'You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them.

But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many'."
(Mark 10:35-45)

Matthew's account (20:20) observes that James and John's mother made the request. This is not contradictory; perhaps mother and sons asked at the same time. The important thing to observe is that the mother wanted to secure notable positions in the coming Kingdom for her sons, and the boys liked the idea.

Jesus quickly replied that only the Father determined positions in the Kingdom. He then expressed concerned that his disciples were only looking at the glory and not the responsibility associated with promotion.

A wise old man who had been in ministry for over thirty years once said, "New levels, new devils".

How true! Promotion assumes maturity and the ability to effectively handle far more that what challenges you at your current level. That's why you must not let others push you into advancement or casually reach for it yourself.

"But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy." (1 Peter 4:13)

We all want the goods that come with being joint-heirs, but only those who suffer as Christ will reign with Christ.
(Romans 8:16-17)

Every real promotion first requires us to drink from a cup that prepares us to steward it well. Joseph endured much. From age seventeen until age thirty, he was thrown into a pit and then sold into slavery in a foreign land. These circumstances seemed to mock God's earlier promise to him of future promotion and power.

Nevertheless, Joseph remained faithful to God and flourished wherever he was, always serving his taskmasters in excellence. Suddenly, he was chosen to be Prime Minister of Egypt. Joseph was second only to Pharaoh and governed in a time of great famine, but his wise planning ahead of time resulted in sufficient grain storage for the land.

The brothers who threw him into the pit thirteen years earlier traveled to Egypt to buy grain. The cup of suffering that Joseph drank tempered him to forgive and serve his brothers, rather than exacting revenge. This, in turn, allowed Israel's lineage to survive and multiply--first in Egypt and then in the Promised Land.

Years later, God stepped into human history and into a particular race—the Israelites. And within that thriving nation of Israel, he came forth from the tribe of Judah.

The ingredients in our "cup" may be distasteful and hard to swallow, but we must remember our preparations serve a much higher purpose beyond ourselves. In Josephs' case, it was the preservation of the known world and the coming Messiah's natural lineage.

Esther was stunning, yet her gift of beauty was not only for bringing pleasure to the eyes. It was used to open a door of promotion that put Esther in a favorable relationship with the very man that saved the Jewish race from destruction, but only after she was willing to lay down all privileges that came with her assets in order to obey God.

If your promotion does not come with a Cross, it is not genuinely from God.

"If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?" (Luke 9:23-25)

The word "life" in this passage is psuche, a Greek word denoting the "lower life ruled by the emotions or intellect; the soulish realm of living versus the spiritual which is governed by God, not by how one thinks or feels."

When the Bible talks about the "God-kind" of life or higher life, it uses the Greek word Zoe.

These two words make a great study through the New Testament and clears up misconceptions of what it means to lay down one's life (psuche) and gain (Zoe).

Now read the passage again and the interpretation becomes clear: If you want to go through life controlled by your lower life—the seat of your intellect and emotions alone—you'll lose what you so desperately wanted to keep and more.

However, if you surrender the self-absorbed life to Christ's higher life, you will sanctify body, soul, and mind.

"And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
(1 Thessalonians 5:23)

Beware the seductions of satan that tempt you to by-pass your cross. Yes, for a time you may appear successful, but only because you sold out to satan to get to pretend to rule a few kingdoms during your time on earth.

The questions are…

What did you have to do to get where you are?

Did you compromise your integrity and faith along the way?

Will you be called upon to do it again in order to keep what you've gained?

The Father grieves when we still choose serfdom under satan when Jesus won such a costly victory over it!

God is an extravagant giver and desires to bless His children—exceeding abundantly beyond anything we ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20)

Jesus has already advanced us so high that we sit with Him legally before the Father as a joint-heir. The Hebrew concept of a joint-heir is not a 50/50 split, but 100% yours and mine—take what you need when you need it!

"And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus."
(Ephesians 2:6-7)

"And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places…

"Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:

"And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all."
(Ephesians 1:19-23)

We do not have to "step" outside of Christ to promote our agendas and ourselves; we already rule and reign with Him eternally, and have all things that pertain to life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3)

Right now, though, in time and earthly space, our situations may look quite different. Our humbling always serves a specific, divine purpose. God the Son humbled Himself in human flesh in order to accomplish the Father's plan of Redemption. Therefore, settle the fact that God is neither punitive nor wasteful in His dealings with you.

"Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time"
(1 Peter 5:6)

He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able to bear. Your self-emptying for God always involves redemption for others in some aspect, whether you are aware of their situations or not. It's never fully "just about you".

"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."
(1 Corinthians 10:13)

When tempted, let's determine to cast our gaze from the seducing elements of the temptation, and look for the exit sign God graciously provides!

Godly promotion is not generated on earth (although the blessing may flow to you through a yielded vessel); hence, seeking to advance ourselves through the vain devices and plots of man is sinful and destructive.

"For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south."
(Psalm 75:6)

Are you eager to be noticed by God?

"..but to THIS man will I look, even to him that is:

poor (humble)
and of a contrite spirit (emptied of self before God; surrendered)
and trembleth at my word."
(Isaiah 66:2b)