Wilderness Struggles

Fred Smith analyzes the issue of Christ’s firm identity.

By Fred Smith

In the wilderness Satan confronted Christ with ego satisfactions; Christ countered with spiritual objections. Satan's plan was for a quick victory that would divert him from Calvary. I think that there is a clear Satanic strategy with two focuses.

1. Make Christ doubt his divinity - "if you are God," then why are you hungry? He was raising doubts about his divine nature by offering him human satisfactions, making him settle for this life rather than the next. Satan knew he was divine but he was hoping that in his human form he could make Christ forget or doubt his divinity. When Satan took him up to the temple, can you think how ludicrous it would be for the God who came down from heaven to be impressed by standing on top of the temple? It was like Steve Brown speaking with the astronaut James Erwin. When Jim turned to look out the studio window, Steve said to him, "quite a pedestrian view, isn't it?" Jim laughed because he realized that Steve was saying once you've looked at this earth from the moon, looking at the world from a radio studio window is rather pedestrian. In the same way in the third temptation in which Satan offered Christ the dominion of the earthly kingdoms, can't you imagine the one for whom and by whom everything was made in the entire universe should be impressed by being ruler of so small a speck as the kingdoms of this world. Yet Satan wanted to see if he could emphasize the human and make him forget or doubt the divine.

2. Change the cause - Satan knew that Christ came to live a sinless life and to be a sacrifice, not an example. He didn't come to be a great teacher, nor a role model. And, Christ was not a martyr, for he gave himself to be crucified——his life was not taken from him. When Satan saw that Christ would not doubt his divine identity, then he left him. Centuries later the enemy moved to convince modern liberal theologians where he failed to convince Christ. He convinced them that Christ was not divine and that he came as an example, not a sacrifice. This is my argument with such humanistic thinkers as Tillich and others. And so it continues to this day from the wilderness experience. Some worship him while others call him a great man. But C.S. Lewis so exquisitely points out that we don't have that option. He claimed to be God --- serious stuff. So he is either a lunatic, a liar or Lord. The cause was clear and non-negotiable.

It is key to have a firm identity - we have seen how Christ stood by his firm identity — his divine identity. We saw that he understood his purpose and would not be deterred. Such an identity is important for us. It isn't just an adolescent problem of self-discovery; it's also very much a mature consideration. Who are you? What is your cause? What is your price? Christ went to the cross — how far will you go?