Been there. Done with that.
Have you ever had a made up mind to do anything, i.e. exercise, eat healthy, limit your screen time, quit drinking, or to...fill-in-the-blank? Have you ever purposed in your heart to live for Christ, spread the Gospel, turn away from sin and live a righteous life? Then, out of nowhere, while you’re minding your business, walking in your new resolution, some blast from the past or sniper from the present comes along and offers you reasons as to why you should make a different choice?
Recently, I read a familiar passage in the Bible where Jesus famously rebukes Peter saying, “Get thee behind me Satan!” This rebuke, found in Mark 8:31-33 KJV, seems to come out of nowhere. In the preceding passages, Jesus is having a conversation with the disciples where they are discussing who they think Jesus really is, and Jesus reveals to them that He is the Messiah. The scripture in Mark doesn’t give a word for word record of the conversation but it does recap that Jesus explained to the disciples that although He would suffer persecution and be killed, He would ultimately rise from the dead after three days.
Is it Peter or something else?
According to Mark’s account, Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him. In response, Jesus turns and says to Peter, “Get behind me Satan! You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns,” Mark 8:33 NIV. But why would Jesus speak to Peter so harshly?? Peter isn’t Satan, Peter is a disciple. So why would Jesus call him Satan?
This reminds me of when Jesus was tempted by Satan after He had spent 40 days and 40 nights fasting in the wilderness, Matthew 4:1-11. If you read it, you’ll find that Satan tempted Jesus with all that was in his power to offer Him, the things of this world. First, he appeals to His most immediate need; after fasting for 40 days the Bible tells us Jesus was hungry. So, Satan challenges Jesus to turn stones to bread. Jesus refuses. Next, Satan challenges Jesus to prove He’s the Son of God by throwing himself off the highest point on the temple in order to force God to raise up angels to save Him from harm. Jesus refuses. Then, Satan shows Jesus ALL the kingdoms of the world and all their splendor and tells Jesus they are His if He will bow down to him. Jesus refuses. Finally, Satan departs from Him and the angels attend to Jesus.
Two concepts married together: A made up mind and temptation.
Back to the blast from the past… This is, I believe, was the sensation Jesus had in Mark 8:33. Remember, He’s just revealed the truth of what is to come and here comes Satan, acting on Peter, to temp Him with thoughts of turning back or making a different choice. If you believe that Jesus was a flesh and blood man when he walked this earth then you must appreciate what it took for Him to submit to the plan that God had for His life. God’s plan for Jesus wasn’t that He live long and prosper and have children and material possessions too numerous to count. God’s plan for Jesus was that He be rejected, persecuted, and killed.
What would it take for you to be able to come to a point where you could willingly accept that certainty for your life? We probably can’t imagine it. But whatever it took for Jesus to resist Satan’s promises, it wasn’t easy. So, when the temptation comes again through Peter, as well-meaning as it was misguided, Jesus had to nip it in the bud immediately and directly.
This action is something we should learn from Jesus. Speak directly to Satan and resist him, no matter what form he takes. God gives us the authority and the power to do this when we are first obedient. James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” The Bible doesn’t tell us we won’t be tempted, it tells us we won’t be tempted beyond our ability to resist, 1 Corinthians 10:13. The Bible also reminds us that we are all tempted in accordance with what is appealing to us as individuals, James 1:14. Finally, regarding temptation, the Bible tells us to avoid it, Proverbs 4:14-15; Luke 22:40; Matthew 6:13.
Why avoid temptation? Because, although we are new creatures in Christ and able to resist temptation, it will be very hard to do so because the thing we need to resist will be the very thing we think we want the most, Matthew 26:41.
Choosing to believe Christ and live according to the principles set forth in the Bible is not for the faint of heart. In fact, it’s impossible to live as a Christian apart from the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the leading of the Holy Spirit, and the grace of God. Why? Because our very nature is perpetually at odds with the Will of God for our lives. But, if we remain faithful and endure until the end, the glory of God will be revealed within us because His word is true and endures forever.