What is truth? How can you know it? And even when you think you’ve found it, how can you be sure? Is truth the same thing as facts? In a world where truth seems so unsure and elusive, are you better off just finding out the facts and relying on those?

On trial before the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, Jesus said: “…the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”  “What is truth?” shot back Pilate, then left the room with his unanswered question hanging in the air as he turned his back on the man who had claimed: “I am the way, the truth and the life.”

To Pilate, the truth was an open question. Yet his prisoner, Jesus, was Truth itself. He not only spoke it …He was it!

The quest for truth is as old as mankind itself. Yet in the beginning, when God created the heavens and the Earth and made man out of the dust of the earth, truth was not hard to find. It was everywhere! Well …almost. For in the midst of all that perfection, lurked God’s enemy. We know him as the devil, or Satan, but Jesus also called him ‘the father of lies’.

What a beginning! The perfect couple living in love, purity and innocence with their Creator, in the idyllic setting of the Garden of Eden. Such perfection!  Such beauty! Such truth!

He had watched God create a perfect world out of a formless void. Then he looked on as God made all living things – every plant and every creature. Finally, he saw God make man in His own image and breathe into him the breath of life. Adam and his wife Eve were the crowning glory of God’s Creation.

What a beginning! The perfect couple living in love, purity and innocence with their Creator, in the idyllic setting of the Garden of Eden. Such perfection!  Such beauty! Such truth!

But that most perfect of situations also afforded God’s enemy the perfect opportunity. He, who was once a glorious angel named Lucifer until he was cast out of Heaven for rebelling against God, had (and still has) one consuming passion: to destroy all that is precious to God. Were it within his power he would attack God Himself but, unable to do that, his target has always been Man – the crowning glory of God’s Creation, made in His image.

Satan knew that God had forbidden Adam and Eve to eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil – warning them that, if they did, they would forfeit the eternal life He had given them. Just one simple command that was theirs to keep … or to break. For God had not only endowed Adam and Eve with eternal life. He had also given them the gift of freewill, so that they would relate to Him, not out of slavish obedience, but out of free and loving hearts.

That freewill which was the key to God and man living together in perfect love, was also Satan’s door of opportunity. And, with Eve as his target, he wasted no time in taking advantage of it. With typical cunning, he began by casting doubt on what God had said to them about the consequences of eating the fruit of the tree. Then he used a fact (that if she and Adam ate it, their eyes would be opened), to lure them into his trap.

And right there, in that very first encounter between God’s people and God’s enemy, we see the difference between truth and fact – with the inconvenient truth, about the consequences of eating the forbidden fruit, being swept aside in favour of a much more attractive fact!

The moment Adam and Eve began giving credence to Satan’s claim that God was depriving them of something desirable, they stopped believing in His love and goodness. At that point, their next fatal step into outright disobedience was inevitable. And with that single step they exchanged the unspeakable privilege of lives that were centred on God, for the fear-ridden existence of lives centred on self.

It is impossible to overstate the effect of Satan’s dominance of the human race and the affairs of this world, since that tragic day in Eden.

With one stroke, God’s enemy had snatched away the love of God’s life: Adam and Eve …the human race …us!

It is impossible to overstate the effect of Satan’s dominance of the human race and the affairs of this world, since that tragic day in Eden. When he who was the crowning glory of God’s Creation fell, all of Creation fell with him.

How Satan wanted to believe his victory was complete and final! But it was not – for God who is love did what true love always does: He paid the price to get His loved ones back. And what a price!

Many Christians are familiar with the words of John 3:16, but how many are impacted by them? Yet, they are the movingly powerful words of Jesus Himself, speaking about Himself: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

 God’s Son, Jesus, laid down His life as the supreme expression of God’s sacrificial love for you and me.

That was the price God paid …but for what purpose? Yes, it was so that all who believe in Jesus could have the eternal life which Adam forfeited. But its scope is far greater than that: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” (1 John 3:8)

Jesus came into this world to completely and utterly undo all that Satan had done since usurping it in Eden.

When, at the age of 30, Jesus left the security, and obscurity, of his parents’ home in Nazareth, He knew it was time for Him to carry out the purpose for which He came into the world. Until that day, any threat He posed to Satan’s rule was potential. Now it was actual. Jesus was about to be seen and known for who He really was: the Son of God, the Lamb of God … the Saviour of the World.

First, He went down to the River Jordan to be publicly baptised by His cousin, John. And what a baptism that was – with the Holy Spirit descending on Him in the form of a dove, and God’s voice declaring: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased!”

But how strange that, immediately following that glorious start, Jesus was led by God’s Spirit into the desert. Not to be with God …but to be tempted by the devil. Why? Because, having come to take back God’s world and to redeem God’s people, He first had to face God’s enemy – the one who had brought down Adam in the beginning.

Jesus was not only led into the desert by God’s Spirit. He was also left in the desert – alone and very vulnerable. Forty gruelling days followed, during which He ate nothing while being constantly tempted by the devil. As each day passed and ravenous hunger took its steady toll, the Son of God became like the weakest of men – while Satan’s onslaughts continued. Yet, totally depleted though He was, Jesus did not yield to the tempter.

Finally, with Jesus at His lowest ebb, the enemy moved in for the kill. “If you are the Son of God,” he taunted, “tell these stones to become bread.”

Satan had tempted Jesus to prove a fact – but greater than that fact was a truth.

The temptation was powerful on two fronts. Firstly, because Jesus was hungry to the point of starvation. Secondly, because Satan’s taunt had called into question that which Jesus knew was a fact. He was the Son of God and the temptation to prove it was strong. “I am the Son of God,” He could have reasoned, “so I’ll prove it …and get something to eat at the same time.” Then He could have turned to the devil and said, “Watch this!” But He didn’t.

Satan had tempted Jesus to prove a fact – but greater than that fact was a truth. And with that truth, Jesus countered: “It is written, ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” He had come into the world for only one purpose – to do His Father’s will. He had no need to prove His sonship and, starving though He was, to do His Father’s will was far more satisfying to Him than the most lavish banquet.

 That stymied Satan – but he was not about to give up. He knew what was at stake and was determined to bring down Jesus, just as he had brought down Adam. So he upped the ante.

Taking Jesus to the highest point of the temple in Jerusalem, he goaded Him once more: “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

A clever ploy and a change in tactic, because this time the devil emulated Jesus in quoting scripture. So, how could Jesus dismiss it? The fact was undeniable: not only were those words from scripture, they also constituted a promise from God. If Jesus really believed it, why would he not act on it?

This time the challenge was twofold: as before, to prove that He was the Son of God, but now to also prove that He believed the truth of those words from scripture. What choice did He have but to demonstrate both His sonship and His belief in the promise by hurling Himself from the top of the temple?

At that point Jesus could have so easily yielded. Yet He remained steadfast, refusing to be influenced even by scriptural facts. Once again, He simply, declared God’s truth: “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’”.

By now Satan was desperate. We don’t know the nature of the temptations he had put before Jesus for those first 40 days in the desert, but we do know he had been unsuccessful. Now, having also failed in these previous two attempts, he played his highest card …literally. Taking Jesus to the top of a very high mountain, he showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour, proclaiming: “All this I will give you, if you will bow down and worship me.”

Imagine the prize for that enemy of God if he could succeed in getting the Son of God to worship him!

There was no more pretence now. Satan had not only played his highest card, he had also shown his hand …and unwittingly revealed the truth about what had been motivating him all along. Imagine the prize for that enemy of God if he could succeed in getting the Son of God to worship him! The consequences of that would be so disastrous as to dwarf the fall of Adam. Yet, blatant though it was, this last-ditch attempt by the devil was also very potent.

Jesus knew He was destined for the agony of the Cross. He knew He was the Lamb of God who had come to pour out his life and shed His blood. Yet, not because He had to, but because He chose to. Though the prospect before Him was fearful, the driving force behind it was His love for His Father and for us. He had come to take back what Satan had snatched away in Eden …but at the price of his own horrendous death on the cross.

Now He was being offered the prize – this world and its people – without having to pay the price. He only needed to bend His knee and worship Satan …and it would all be His! No cross and no suffering.

Whether or not the devil could be trusted to make good on his offer was not the point. Its potency lay in the fact that the kingdoms of this world were his to give. Driven by his vicious hatred of God, Satan had both the means and the motive to make that offer. The question was not, would he do it, but would Jesus take his offer and do his bidding? Just one expression of worship, and the world could be His.

Because we know the outcome, it is all too easy to play down the insidious appeal of this temptation. It was no charade, and the devil – playing for enormous odds and now down to his last desperate shot – knew its potential.

Yet, despite such a temptation, Jesus again dismissed the devil with God’s truth: “Away from me, Satan!  For it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

 After that, the devil left Him, and Jesus walked out of the desert in the power of the Spirit. As always, truth had prevailed over facts!

Never has so much knowledge – so many facts – been available to so many people, including those who sincerely seek after God. Yet, while people thirst after the knowledge of God, He and His truth have always been there. Not in the form of man-made institutions, doctrines and creeds. Not even in the form of religious beliefs or ‘Bible knowledge’. But in the form of His Spirit, whom Jesus referred to as the Spirit of truth who leads us into all truth. He is the One who reveals God’s truth to those who, like Jesus, have but one desire: to do God’s will in this world.

If that is the desire of your heart, I urge you give yourself now and always in joyful abandonment to the One who so loves you that He gave Himself for you. For the wonderful truth is that you were made by Him for Him …and no fact can alter that.

About the author

Tony Kostas

Tony Kostas was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1941, where at the age of seventeen, he committed his life to Jesus at a Billy Graham Crusade. In 1967 he founded the Melbourne Outreach Crusade, a non-denominational evangelistic outreach. This later grew into Outreach International, which is now a worldwide body of believers, who share a God-given calling and are committed to live in love with Him and with one another.

mm By Tony Kostas


Book: Led Into Love