After John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River, the Holy Spirit drove Him into the wilderness for what became a defining moment in His ministry.
It involved a direct confrontation with satan.
From this strategic battle recorded in Mathew chapter 4, we gain key insights into spiritual warfare and what defines a Christian.
Both are intricately woven together.
Satan defined his battle strategy early — it was temptation (v 1). Simply, satan wanted Jesus to take a different path that would lead to spiritual devastation.
So what was at the root of his deceptive attack?
How do we define ourselves?
In verse 3, satan initiates his assault against Jesus saying, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.”
We read a verse earlier, Jesus was on the tail end of a 40 day fast. The hunger pangs, which had left three to five days after Jesus started, were now back with a vengeance indicating Jesus’ health was in jeopardy if He did not start eating.
But satan was not tempting Jesus to eat just for the sake of eating, there was a more sinister undertone.
Satan was tempting Jesus to prove His Sonship by performing a spectacular miracle worthy of the Son of God.
“Prove you are the Son of God”, satan screamed, “show me a miracle.”
But Jesus answered satan’s volley by saying “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”
To understand our Lord’s answer, we need to ask ourselves one simple question: what was the last thing God said to Jesus?
The answer is found four verses earlier in the previous chapter. This is one of the worst chapter breaks in the Bible, because clearly Mathew saw a connection between Jesus’ baptism and His confrontation with the satanic realm.
But the chapter break provides such a severe separation between the two incidents we almost miss the connection.
As Jesus came out of the water, the Heavenly Father spoke, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mathew 3:17).
While satan was trying to entice Jesus into proving His sonship by performing a miracle, Jesus answered I have nothing to prove. I am the Son of God, because GOD SAYS I AM.
It was one of the oldest tricks in satan’s bag of deception, defining your spirituality by what you do — your good works or your power. Once satan gets you on this treadmill, you can never get off and more importantly you end up losing your spiritual identity.
Whole denominations have taken to defining their Christianity by what they do (good works) and have completely lost their identity in Christ.
When you sin, waves of condemnation rain upon you — a real Christian would never do that.
This is not to say we shouldn’t have good works or miracles, but they should come out of our understanding of who we are.
Jesus answered simply, I am the Son of God because My Father says I am. From this point of understanding, Jesus plundered satan’s kingdom casting out demons and evil spirits, healing the sick and drawing people to a new life in God.
Even when Jesus had a bad day and couldn’t perform many miracles such as happened in Nazareth because of their unbelief (Matthew 13:54-58), it did not affect His understanding of Who He was.