Close Your Church for Good, Chap 1. Sec. 4. (I concluded the last section with two key questions about the premise of this book. I now begin to defend the premise that there are Satanic influences in the church.)
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The place to start is the Garden of Eden. God created the heavens and the earth, and all the celestial and earthly bodies to fill them. At the pinnacle of creation, God created Adam and Eve. They were given authority over the earth, to tend the plants and animals, and multiply upon the earth. But Satan, in the form of a serpent, was also in the garden. How he came to be present in God’s good creation is a subject for another time. Satan questioned Eve, challenged the instructions and intelligence of God, and ultimately deceived her into eating fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. As a result, they brought death upon themselves, a curse upon creation, and surrendered dominion over the earth to Satan.
For the next several thousand years, the story of Scripture reveals a constant struggle between the plans of God and the perversions of Satan. God sets something in place, and Satan twists and perverts it so that while it still resembles the original plan, it accomplishes the exact opposite of God’s intent. Eventually, the new Adam, Jesus Christ, enters the story. Among other things, He comes to win back dominion. And so, as in the beginning, Satan sets out to turn Jesus away from the instructions and plans of God.
Satan uses against Jesus the same methods and same tactics he used with Adam and Eve. He questions the word of God and challenges the authority of God. And ultimately, Satan brings three temptations before Jesus. According to Luke 4:1-13, the first temptation was for Jesus to satisfy His hunger by turning stones into bread. In the second, Satan promised to give authority over the nations to Jesus if Jesus would just worship Satan. Finally, Jesus was tempted to perform a great miracle in the sight of the worshippers in the temple courts by throwing Himself from the pinnacle of the temple so that angels would rescue Him before He struck the ground.
The temptations were not just attempts by Satan to get Jesus to do something contrary to the will of God. On the surface of the temptations, there is nothing overtly “sinful” about them. Satan was not asking Jesus to murder someone or commit adultery. After all, if Jesus is hungry, and He has the power to make stones into bread, what’s the harm? Later in the Gospels, Jesus turns water into wine at a party and multiplies five loaves and two fish to feed a hungry crowd. Is this first temptation so different? If Jesus could multiply fish and loaves of bread to feed hungry people, and turn water into wine to give people more to drink, what’s the harm in transforming a few stones into bread to satisfy his own hunger?
The same dilemmas exist with the next two temptations. One of the goals of Jesus was to regain authority over the nations of the world. And now it was being offered to Him. Finally, during His ministry, Jesus performed many miracles in the sight of people, and one of the reasons was so that they would recognize Him as the Messiah. What’s the problem with one more?
Ultimately, the temptations are not about the action that Satan suggests. They are actually all very good and noble actions. If Jesus were a pragmatist — if the ends justified the means — then there would be nothing to stop Jesus from doing what Satan wanted. But Jesus knew that God’s will must be done in God’s way. And He also knew that there are no shortcuts to accomplishing the will of God. The reason Satan’s temptations would lead to sin is not exactly in the outcome, but in the methods and motives required to reach those outcomes.