House of Doubt:Formula Detox

Empty Promises

A universal challenge to the existence of God is on the problem of evil or dysfunction in the world.  Either God does not exist or if he does exist then he is certainly powerful but not willing to exert power to show he exists and cares.

A micro version of this is in this encounter between the Cynic of Cynics, Satan, and Jesus who according to historical Christianity is God “made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written:‘He will command his angels concerning you’ and ‘with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test”(Matthew 4:5-7).

There is an objective truth for all persons that do not intrinsically have divinity: There is a God and we are not him.

But the challenge that brings out this response is that if Jesus represents God as his king on earth (I find it unlikely that Satan knew of Jesus’ divinity) then he should perform in such a way because God would have to perform thus by default.  Satan was operating in his temptation with a “should formula”.  In that “should” would be a premise on the rights of the human person who walks with God to be exalted in a way that is commanding and not surrender.

made him stand on the parapet of the temple— What happens here is a lifting up of Jesus that is other than the cross.  Jesus said that he would indeed be lifted up and draw all men to himself but this was in the cross.  This is not fun or tantalizing but in the sacrificial love of Jesus and how we are instructed by the gospel it is essential.  It should also be noted that the days of this same temple are numbered because The Temple, Jesus would die and rise as the ultimate center of holy awe.

He will command his angels concerning you— This is pointing to a kingdom that is centered on the self.  This reminds me of many errors out there on the fringes of Christendom like the Prosperity Gospel.  The premise is that the heavens center on what is good for our flesh.  Though Satan uses true scripture he was of course deceitful in how he uses this.  Satan is trying sell a guarantee off of a formula that supposedly makes God man’s servant.

You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test— The point here is that God and his holiness, while an objective truth, can be personally known in an internalized way.

Like I said, Satan did not have a full understanding that Jesus is Lord and could be known universally throughout the world but at some level must have known about the cross and was maybe afraid of its power.

But if you are reading this and are an inquirer of the Christian faith I can tell you that you do not have to be afraid.  If Jesus literally will help you out of your own concrete and bad circumstances I cannot say.  But what I can say is that if your turn to Jesus and embrace the message of the cross you will find life because you will find Him.  But along the way you too may be tempted to reduce God to a formula.  Say yes to Jesus instead.  If you, like me, have bought into fringe formulas then I urge you to take a lesson from my own Hard Knocks University: ask Jesus to detox you of them to instead know him “in the power of his resurrection and in the fellowship of his suffering” (Phillipians 3:10).


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