Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry. 3 And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” 4 But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’” 5 Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.” 8 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ “ 9 Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:‘He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you,’ 11 and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” 12 And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ ” 13 Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.
Recently I have been pondering an issue which is related to what God says about is. That issue is one of identity. Identity is a very important aspect of the Christian life. It is vital that we know who we are in Christ. The Lord laid on my heart a few points about identity, specifically from Luke 3 and 4. From these point, I hope you will see how Jesus established and kept His identity.
Your identity ultimately comes from God
Luke 3:21-22 says “When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened. And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.” Here we see that Jesus had His identity publicly confirmed by His Father and the Holy Spirit at the River Jordan. Jesus already knew who He was. Indeed before the world existed, Jesus had honour and majesty in the Father’s presence (John 17:5). Again in Colossians 1:16, we learn that all things in heaven and earth were created by Him, and for Him. However here, Jesus is being empowered by the Spirit and endorsed by the Father – for the benefit / witness of the people who were present and also for our benefit in this present day as we read the Scriptures. It is God who says to Jesus “You are My Son in whom am well pleased.” Jesus was about to enter into His public ministry, and shortly face His biggest test.
You cannot depend on your experiences to live in your identity
What do I mean by this? Well, I have mentioned how important it is for us to know who we are according to God’s word. However, when tempted and tried by Satan himself or tested by the circumstances of life, you have to to go to that next level to be victorious. That next level is wisdom. Wisdom is the skilful use of knowledge in life’s various situations. Notice as we enter Luke 4, that Satan tried to tempt Jesus along the line of “If you are the Son of God” (v3,9). Jesus didn’t reply by saying “Well Satan, weren’t you there at the River Jordan when the Spirit descended on Me, and My Father confirmed Me as His Son?”. Jesus knew that relying on His experience was not enough. He had to skilfully use the word of God to defeat Satan. Recalling experiences, great as they may be, will not of itself activate God’s power. How many Christians today are depending on some experience or event to get them through trials or temptations? We should never be caught in the trap of saying “God saved me 10 years ago so I am OK” or “I overcame temptation yesterday, so I will be OK today.” No – we can’t depend on our experience. We have to instead depend on the word of God. Jesus quoted the Scriptures 3 times (v4, 8, 12). He did not depend on His great experiences. Neither should we. In living out who we are in Christ, we must learn to skilfully use the word of God as He shows us here.
You do not have to prove your identity to keep it
When Satan tried to overcome Jesus in the wilderness, He was trying to get Him to prove who He was – “If You are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread (v3). If You are the Son of God, jump down from the temple (v9). Satan knew that if Jesus took the bait of trying to prove who He was with the stones, then He would be distrusting in His Father’s provision by using His power in a selfish and sinful way to satisfy His hunger. Jesus was not about to fall into that trap just to prove He was God’s Son. Jesus was secure in Himself and instead applied the word of God – “man shall not live by bread alone…”. By doing so, Jesus was saying in effect “Satan, I do not have to obey you to prove anything”. Satan also knew that if Jesus threw Himself down from the temple for angels to save Him, then Jesus would be sinning – by presumptuously endangering Himself and acting outside God’s will. Again, Jesus didn’t take the bait. Rather, He skilfully used the word of God, and resisted the temptation of proving who He was. We as Christians should take the bait either. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be in situations that will tempt us (e.g. sexually) just because we believe that we are strong enough to resist. Instead we should ask God for wisdom and act in obedience, depending on the Lord to strengthen us. Satan will always try to feed us with the lie – “do this or do that…you are a Christian aren’t you?” It is only by the word of God and a close relationship with Christ that we can overcome.
Your identity doesn’t depend on your background, circumstances or what others think about you
After Jesus overcame Satan, He came to His home town of Nazareth and entered the temple. He read from Isaiah 61:1,2 – asserting His identity as the Anointed One, the Messiah sent by God the Father to save and deliver mankind from sin. He continued to teach, and the people in the synagogue were amazed and very much impressed. However in the midst of them experiencing such power and grace in Jesus’ words, there were doubts. “Is this not Joseph’s son?” In other words “Yes, He says He is the Messiah, yes His teaching is so glorious that we are in awe…but…isn’t this Joseph’s son…the same boy who grew up amongst us in humble surroundings” The people were hindered in their faith because they didn’t think the Son of God could come from such lowly beginnings. They expected the Messiah to be born in a stately palace, and be schooled at the feet of the great teachers in Jerusalem, not in Nazareth! They stumbled in their faith and Jesus rebuked them for it (v24, 25). Jesus is the Son of God and this was a fact, even though He was born in a manger to poor parents and raised in Nazareth. Who Jesus was, as He stood in that temple, was not determined by His place of birth, social status or education. He stood as the Son of God – regardless. He was not intimidated by the familiar faces around Him.
In the same way today, your identity as a child of God, a believer in Jesus, is not dependent upon your past, your education, circumstances or any other economic / social / physical condition. It is dependent on the will, grace and love of God, as revealed in His word – the Bible. Do not let a circumstance or person cause you to doubt who and what God says you are in Him!
As Jesus continued to rebuke the people, the frailty of human nature is shown. Love and admiration quickly turned to hatred. Not long after being in awe of Him (v22), the same people wanted to throw Him off a cliff to kill Him (v27)! This reminds me of how the Jewish people turned on Him at His trial. Soon after throwing down their garments on the road for Him and crying “Hosanna” (Mark 11:8-10), they eventually turned against Him, crying out “Crucify Him!” (Mark 15:13).
What if Jesus had based His identity on the opinions of these people? One day He would have had joy and peace at their admiration, only to be crushed by their rejection the next. Jesus knew better than that. He put His confidence and trust in His Heavenly Father. He knew that the Father’s love for Him was perfect and unconditional. He knew that He was sent for a purpose. We too must not let our confidence be based on people’s opinion of us. People change. Opinions change. Let us be secure in God’s love. His thoughts and purpose towards us are perfect. There is no variation or shadow of turning in Him!
Don’t be fooled. Satan knows your identity. You better know it too
Jesus escaped the attempts of the people to kill Him, and continued on to Capernaum. As He delivered a man possessed of a demon, the demon cried out “Leave us alone Jesus! Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God!” That is amazing. The demon knew who Jesus was, yet some of the people he was teaching and preaching to couldn’t accept it.
Satan and his kingdom also know us as children of God. He knows that what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross of Calvary. He knows the victory, power and authority that Jesus has given us. How sad it is then if we as Christians do not know what Jesus has given to us, and how to use it for His glory. Satan will always try to keep us in ignorance, knowing that it is our ignorance that will give him a foot-hold in our lives. It is ignorance of our identity and position in Christ that can separate us from Him. That is why Ephesians 4:18 says some are “alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them.” 1 Peter 1:14 says “…not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance..” We have a duty to learn and apply the word of God to our lives. Let us not be ignorant, but knowledgeable and wise in the word of God, knowing who we are in Him!