This is the season for saying thanks-having the attitude of gratitude.  For many, being thankful can cause quite an internal conflict.  I’m talking about many of us who find it difficult to accept a compliment.  On the other hand, there are many of us who seek the approval of others for validation.  The strange thing is, that in most cases, this is the same person.

We can spend hours discussing why so many Christians externalize the reconciliation of their worth.  For some, it’s growing up with critical, negligent or abusive parents, teachers, coaches, friends, etc., hoping to gain their ultimate approval, but never really measuring up.  There will always be something you could have done better or someone who just outshines you.  Even when you are more capable and may have made the best contribution, someone else ends up getting the “glory”.  Either way, there is always something or someone out there to confirm the unworthy feelings inside.  The reality is that life just isn’t fair, although, we are wired to survive.  So, we spend our lives trying to establish our value and work harder to prove ourselves competent, successful and worthy of approval.  The End.  : (

Sadly, that is how it does end for so many, even Christians.  Yes, those who have confessed Christ as their Savior and have spent their lives doing their best to honor Christ, hoping that when it is all done and the day of reconciliation has come, the words from our Lord will proclaim over you, “Well done good and faithful servant!”   The problem is that we are not 100% sure we will be able to live up to the expectations of a Holy God in order to be acceptable in His eyes.  Too often we are reminded why we have these doubts every time we fail.  Every day we are tested in how we speak to our spouses and children, how patient we are in traffic, how careful we manage our finances and resources, the amount of time we spend in God’s Word and presence, with the results of our shortcomings that never seem to end.  Sure we try to do better and maybe we are doing better than we used to or better than some others we know, at least enough to feel OK for a while.  But the truth is that we cannot bear the reality of our own identity.  We will fall short when we are tested, and Satan’s active cosmos in this world is always there to remind you that you are not worthy of God’s love, or anyone else’s for that matter.  “No matter what you do, what you acquire or how popular you try to become, you know what’s inside your heart—you are a sinner who will never be good enough!” speaks our accuser.

I’m sure by now you are enthusiastically overwhelmed with gratitude and joy!   Don’t worry; you will be, as you follow along with me for a moment back in time when Satan himself confronted Jesus.  This journey takes us to a time before Jesus had done anything worth acknowledging in his public-life ministry.  If you have a deep sense of calling to live out your life-mission, then take note of our Christ-model as a prerequisite in moving forward in your God-given commission.

Just before Jesus launches into His public ministry-mission, God gives us a picture of Jesus’ understanding of who He is.

“When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.
And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’” (Matthew 3:16-17)

At this point, Jesus had not performed any miracles, He had no followers, nor had He completed his mission to subject Himself to dying on the cross for the sins of the human race.  He was human and still had to accomplish His mission, which He had not even publically began.  It didn’t matter; He still receives his Father’s affirmation that He is deeply loved and that He brings His Father great pleasure.

From this point He is lead by the Spirit to the wilderness to be tested by Satan in how well He truly believes this unconditional passionate affirmation of who He is.  The satanic tactics were geared up to destroy His identity and belittle His worth—the same three temptations that Satan uses through our culture to threaten us with.

Temptation-Threat-Tests (T3 Tactics):  Matthew 4:1-11

#1 (You Have to Perform to Be Approved)

Satan tells Jesus to prove himself, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.” At this point, what real achievement had Jesus accomplished?  What impact had He made to the world? He didn’t have a single follower.  In the eyes of our culture, He was a loser who had nothing. In addition, He was starving after fasting forty days—not really poised to defend a status of strength.  So what does He do?

“But Jesus told him, ‘No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)

Basically, Jesus reminded Satan that our value is based on our Father’s affirmation that has already been spoken to us, regardless of our lack of performance!

#2 (Your Value is determined by Popularity)

Another specific example of how Jesus responds to Satan calling His worth into question, by pointing out that Jesus was all alone with no one to serve or honor Him. Again, Jesus stands firm, illustrating to us that we should never question what the Father has spoken.

“The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God!’” (Verse 7)

#3 (You Are What You Have)

“Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him the kingdoms of the world and all their glory. ‘I will give it all to you,’ he said, ‘if you will kneel down and worship me.’”  (Verses 8-9)

Maybe it’s tempting to avoid the sacrifice of surrendering external values and the suffering of humility, but it all comes down to where you place your source of validation.

“’Get out of here, Satan,’ Jesus told him. ‘For the Scriptures say, you must worship the LORD your God      and serve only Him.’” (Verse 10)

Once we can truly accept the reality that we will never measure up to the perfection and holiness required from our Holy Father; and surrender to His preemptive passionate love for us, knowing that He provided His perfect Son to bear the weight of our fallen identity, then we will be in a position to be truly grateful, regardless of how we fall short.  The Father knows we are going to mess up, that is why we have great cause to be indebted with an attitude of gratitude.

“For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was His plan from before the beginning of time—to show us His grace through Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 1:9)

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