Freedom. It’s always been complicated for the human race. Sometimes I wonder if we even know what it truly is. We make our choices freely and then our choices make us, building our existence around us. Choice by choice. And underneath every choice we make, there is something making us… making us whole or making us less, making us free, or shackling us to ‘our freedom’. It’s always been complicated for the human race.
Underneath all our small decisions there lies this one core choice: the one choice underneath all other choices, the one decision fueling or failing every moment, every thread of our existence after that one.
It is not, as we often assume, the choice to be good, to be righteous, to be religious, to act justly or unselfishly. These are all symptoms, not root causes, signs of the shape of our soul within. In the end every garden of decision, every incidental choice, every fork in the road is like a mirror shining light into the core of who we are, and the paths we choose are symptoms of the shape of our beating heart centre within.
Underneath all our decisions is just one simple choice: God, or not. God on the throne of the human heart and a life lived in partnership and presence with Him, or something else, someone else, usurping His place on that throne, emptying our human heart of His presence.
The choice between God and everything else is ultimately the only choice we ever make in small ways or big that matters, because it sets the course for the rest of our lives, the trajectory of our path. This is the only choice that makes us, makes us whole or broken, living or dead, alive or slowly dying from the inside out.
God knows this.
Jesus knows this.
He knows it also, the one who slides between light and dark and whispers into the air questions questioning everything. The one who skulks and slinks, strumming the strings of humanity’s weakness. The hiss on the wind, winding himself around our souls.
This one choice, choosing God over the absence of Him, is the choice the Satan most works to undo in us. The Satan knows that if we choose God we will choose wholeness, and a whole human being is the enemy of darkness. His animosity to the Imago Dei within humankind is strong and violent and far reaching.
And the Satan doesn’t change his tactics much, when he’s on a good thing he sticks to it. From the dawn of time in the Garden to the temptation of Christ in the desert, to now, here, today in all our hearts and minds, in every lonely desert day of our souls. How he loves to use our questions against us, to haunt us with our angsts twisting us inside out, fanning doubt, fostering fear, enflaming ego.
Outright lies are far too obvious, he prefers the subtlety of twisted truth, of plausible deception, fostering uncertainty, cultivating confusion, undermining trust.
“Did God really say” he had hissed in the Garden long ago, “you will not surely die- you will be like God, knowing good and evil..” (Genesis 3:1-4) “You will be like God” he had said. That’s just it though, ironically they were like God, these first humans, made in His image, in His likeness, breathing His Breath, stewarding the earth in partnership with Him. They were the very image and likeness of God, His representation on earth. But the moment they listened to the devil’s wiles their birthright as children of God, the Imago Dei within them began to disintegrate. The Accuser used the very thing they were to twist them into something less.
And herein lies the achilles heal of all humankind: our authentic spiritual longings get twisted up around our identities and become the root source of all our pain. We reach past God, grabbing at other things to fill the place in our hearts only His love can truly fill.
All our right spiritual yearnings become twisted soul drivers and the Accuser, the hiss on the wind winds us round and round and twists us inside out. Doing anything to keep us from being fully human, anything to keep us from realising and reaching for the love of God, the only thing that can bring us wholeness, peace and true fulfilment.
And the fruit of all our striving withers on the tree, because we choose again and again the tree of our own strength, our own wisdom, our own will, rather than choosing Him; His way, His truth, His life. The tree of life, wholeness and peace.
All this deception and desire, relinquishing and reaching in the Garden at the dawn of time forced humankind out of the Garden with God into the desert of our broken souls.
And there in the dust and heat millenniums later Israel tries again and again to be faithful to God, to be human once more. God called them out of slavery and gave them laws, gave them a new story, but nothing but wholehearted devotion to God could breath life back into their empty shells, could heal their fractured human identity; God at the beating heart core of their being, God on the throne of their human hearts, the love of God coursing through their veins.
And that was the one thing, even with all their laws and codes and sacrifices, they failed to do. They could not keep God on the throne of their hearts. They try and fail, try and fail, try and fail, history repeating itself like a droning drum beating time to a throng of betrayal.
Then this day, in the desert heat of the Palestinian the wilderness, onto Israels stage and into Israels desert, into the deserts of all human hearts walks Jesus, the Son of Man, the Son of David, the child of the people of promise…
…Emmanuel, God with us.
He had come, fresh from the river Jordan, fresh from the waters parting, the Spirit descending, Heaven seeping into earth and God declaring ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’ (Luke 3:22)
God knew who Jesus was before Jesus had even begun to prove it and Jesus knew He was loved and therefore knew He had nothing to prove; To anyone. And in knowing He was loved, Jesus trusted God, wholly and completely, even as God lead Him out into the wilderness, into the desert of humanity’s long history of deserting God. YHWH Himself comes to do what we couldn’t: To resist.
‘Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting for forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.’ Matthew 4:1-2
Nothing to prove. To anyone. Or anything.
‘The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God…’ Matthew 4:3
The Hiss on the wind, he speaks as if it were a question, the Father-ship and love of God, speaking doubt into the air in an attempt to tear the edge of truth, to entice the pride of human identity.
He tempts Jesus with the truth of who He is, His true identity as the Son of God… If you are God’s son, prove it! The accuser goes straight for humanity’s achilles heal and attempts to use who Jesus is to twist Him into something less, attempting to twist His identity away from God and in on itself.
The Satan doesn’t change his tactics much, when he’s on a good thing he sticks to it. It worked with Eve and Adam, it worked in the desert with Israel. Both listened to the hiss on the wind, and leaned, grasped, lunged for what they thought would make them whole, prove their worth, fill their void. They replaced God with a piece of fruit, a golden calf all borne on a fear that they were not enough without it, that God didn’t love them, that He does not provide what we need: food, love, wholeness, fulfilment. It worked so well every other time, this doubt wedged into truth,‘If you are the Son of God’.
But that’s just it. Jesus, had no doubt. He had nothing to prove. He’d come fresh from the river Jordan where he’d passed through ‘Red Seas’ from death to life, been anointed with water, Spirit and light and bathed with words breathed into time ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased’ Luke 3:21-22
He knew who He was.