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God’s Word for You

Luke 4:5-8 The compass of religion

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, October 19, 2017

5 The Devil led him up to a high mountain and in a mere moment showed him all the kingdoms of the world. 6 The Devil told him, “I will give you all this power and the glory of these kingdoms. For it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want. 7 So, if you worship me, it will all be yours.”

Matthew presents this temptation third, and in Matthew’s case we know that it was indeed the final temptation because Jesus answered him “Away from me, Satan!,” and the Devil left him (Matthew 4:10-11). I think Luke has brought it forward to this middle spot for literary reasons, since in Luke the location of the temptations is: the desert, a high mountain, and then the highest point of the temple.

The temptation here is for Jesus to throw aside his Father’s plan and embark on another one, a completely different one. The Devil might be “the prince of this world” (John 12:31), but the kingdoms of the world are not his to offer to anyone. He was trying to get Jesus to step away from the cross, and into his snare.

Sure, this could have been a chance to overthrow the mighty Roman Empire, but earthly empires fall. Even this empire to replace Rome that the Devil offered to Jesus would crumble one day (Arminius, also called Hermann the German, had defeated three Roman legions in a German forest just twenty years before). But anything done apart from the will of God, even a compromise, violates the will of God. This is the danger with theologians who want to mix human effort with the will of God for our salvation. Whether this is thinking that God gives me a “push” toward salvation, or whether this is thinking that I need to make a decision in order to become a Christian and be saved, it is a compromise that has listened to the Devil. It might seem to be a good thing, but it’s not the will of God.


Think of the many paths of religion as a compass with all the degrees around the circle. That means 360 different paths (although there are many more, but this is just an illustration). But there is only one ‘degree’ or path to heaven. The devil doesn’t care if you head the opposite way, into atheism, or if you veer off to the left into some pagan worship or off to the right into Islam or some Eastern religion. He is delighted to get Christians to head more or less toward Christ, but then to get us to veer just a little bit away—one or two degrees—into the realms of good works or making decisions. But what did Jesus say?

8 Jesus answered him, “It is written: ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”

Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:13. There is only one path to heaven. This is the same thing he told the disciples in the upper room: “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The “only” here in Jesus’ answer and the “except” from Jesus in the upper room tell us that we must not try to add or subtract anything from what Christ has accomplished. To add to the work of the Lord with my own good works is to veer off the path to one side. To subtract from the work of the Lord by saying we don’t need him is to veer off to the other side. The way to eternal life is not difficult for us at all; it’s simply putting our faith in Christ and in Christ alone. Trust in him. “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him” (Nahum 1:7). That’s what faith is: it’s trust in Jesus. And what does God do through our faith? He cares for us, and he gives us everything we need, for this world and for the next. That’s what it means to be a child in the Kingdom of God.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

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Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.