Dusting for fingerprints

April 18, 2018

There are three types of fingerprints according to "Scientific American": imprints, patent fingerprints and latent fingerprints. Imprints are just that, imprints of your fingerprint patterns left on soft surfaces. Patent fingerprints are those left by dirty hands, visible to the naked eye. Latent fingerprints are invisible to the naked eye, but show up when you dust for them. These fingerprints are formed by the oil and sweat your skin produces.


To work off this analogy, the Scriptures teach that the Slanderer (the literal rendering for the Greek word typically translated Satan) has left latent fingerprints on every one of us ... visible not by dusting, but by our consistently selfish approach to life. And when the Slanderer comes to try and tempt Jesus, we learn something by watching Jesus battle externally what we face internally.


You're never going to be directly tempted by Satan, but when you understand that the temptations you face internally are a function of Satan's "fingerprints," and not just something "wrong with you," than you're ready to learn from Christ's own trial. 


Luke and Matthew both record the temptations of Jesus out in the wilderness. In each gospel, it is clear that the Spirit of the Father is leading the Son into trial, a trial with Satan that hadn't happened since the beginning of the world. You can read Luke's account here. I want to offer several thoughts:


1. Jesus did this for us. The primary reason we have these stories of Jesus is to show us that the Son of God, in full submission to the Father's will, would surrender his glory and suffer hunger, temptation and ultimately the cross to crush the work of Satan. As the author of Hebrews wrote, "Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—" (Hebrews 2:14). He was perfect, so that we may one day be like him--so great is the love of God.


2. Refuse Satan's conversation. I think Satan didn't care whether Jesus really turned stones into bread and satisfied his hunger or not. It certainly wouldn't have "proved" anything to the one Jesus later called the 'Father of Lies." Instead, I think Satan's pulling out the old "Garden trick": Just get 'em talking. But Jesus refuses to converse with the Liar.


To paraphrase Chrysostom, you have an adversary more bent on your ruin, than you are on your salvation. Satan's will is undivided and completely opposed to the goodness of God. Our wills are mixed. Jesus doesn't hold a conversation. Instead, he wields the word of God as the true sword of the Spirit. Remember, there are no innocent conversations with the Devil: he is trying to steer everything to your destruction. The same can be said for his ally born into your heart, an ally Paul calls 'the flesh.' Thus in Jesus, we see a holy example of how to battle the inner ally of Satan, commonly called our sin nature. 


And take heart in this: Your "sin nature" is not the real you. Sometimes, especially in Reformed circles, we get so focused on ensuring that we all understand our absolute fallenness, that we forget to leave space for the "otherness" of our own fallenness. If you're often defeated and conquered by this nature, I want you to be personally encouraged knowing that if you are in Christ, this fallen, alien, nature will one day be removed from your body completely. You will be fully freed from the enslaving power of sin.


3. Learn simple verses. In each temptation, Jesus responded with just one verse, or a part of a verse. I've often felt like I didn't really read the Bible or 'spend time with God' if I didn't read a bigger passage. Now, as a I read, whether in short or longer passages, I'm asking the Spirit to to speak to me, and rebuke my own sin nature, through one simple verse or phrase. I noticed this while reading Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas, as well. He recounts how the German pastor and spy against the Nazi's, would spend 20 to 30 minutes each morning, including those spent in prison, waiting on the Lord to speak to him by meditating on just one verse. 


To take this one step further, and put it into practice, why not start today with one that Jesus quotes? 

  • Are you tempted into issues of physical weakness, vanity or fear about how you'll make it financially? Spend time with this verse, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.

  • Are you tempted to live for the pleasure and power which Satan offers through this world? Spend time with this verse, "‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’"

  • Are you tempted to test God, wanting him to prove his presence through answers to your prayer or a miraculous re-ordering of your life? Spend time with this verse, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test."

4. Lastly, remember that temptation is a bribe. Satan is the ultimate mafia boss, seeking to ensnare us in a web of corrupt offerings, so that we would pay loyalty to him. James Comey wrote this about the mafia and it reminded me of how Satan works, "The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth." Satan tries to bribe Jesus by offering him everything the 'Son of God' must deserve.


Remember this: every temptation you have, flowing out of the devil' ally, your own sin nature, is like an unholy bribe. He offers to give you what you want, so that you'll give him what he wants--your worship, your loyalty, your service. Or, put less abstractly, your time, your thought life, your priorities, your goals in life, your dedication, your true love.


Temptation is not you, making a moral decision in a spiritual vacuum. Rather, it is the Devil, present indirectly through your sin nature and the spiritual authorities, powers and corrupted cultural elements of our world, forcefully and relentless seeking your ruin. However, the less you start dealing, the more you feel the power and sway of temptation in your life. Life for the Spirit. Walk in the Spirit. Follow Jesus, and you'll soon see that you can't also follow Satan at the same time. 


And on those days, when you've taken the bribe (again), fallen (again), and all seems lost, preaching the closing promise of Romans 16:20 to your own soul: "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you."

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