Wednesday, September 21, 2016

21 September 2016
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God…” Luke 4:1-3 (NRSV).
Let us lie in wait for the righteous man,
because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions;
he reproaches us for sins against the law,
and accuses us of sins against our training.
He professes to have knowledge of God,
and calls himself a child of the Lord.
He became to us a reproof of our thoughts;
the very sight of him is a burden to us,
because his manner of life is unlike that of others,
and his ways are strange. Wisdom of Solomon 2:12-15 (NRSV)

                        Good morning, welcome. Today we join Jesus as He is being tempted by the devil. The three temptations are categorized by John in 1 John 2:16 and point back to the Devil’s original line of attack in Genesis3:6. They are the same temptations we face pretty much every day in one form or another: desires of the flesh; desires of the eyes; and pride of riches.
            The idea of forty days in the wilderness points back to Israel’s forty years wandering. God intended Israel to be His servant, demonstrating His presence to the nations. He now intends the same for Jesus; the devil seems anxious to ensure Jesus’ failure as well. He is attempting to entice Jesus to validate His position and His ministry by dictating the terms. This may be seen as a test of Jesus’ commitment to the Father’s will. He has already been validated by the only one who matters. The devil wants to know-will He stick to the plan, or not?
            Once again we have a nice little picture of our own conversion. We are saved, validated, and empowered and the devil wants to know-will you stick to the Father’s plan? The Father’s plan is my primary point here. For Jesus it was our salvation. For us it is the same as it was for Israel-demonstrating the Kingdom presence and extending the Father’s invitation. Once Jesus rejects the devil He becomes the Father’s plan; our salvation. We become the Father’s plan by resisting the devil. Here’s what I mean by that.
            Most commentators will tell you Jesus defeated the devil by quoting scripture. This is true on the surface, but much more is required. The devil himself quotes from the Psalms-here is what it says. Jesus’ reply-do not put the Lord to the test-goes deeper-here is what scripture means. The devil is proof-texting to make his point. Jesus, applying the text to Himself, becomes the point. Jesus interprets scripture according to what He knows the true will of God to be. Remember, it is God’s will Jesus is about.
            This is important-the devil is attempting to separate Jesus from the Father, to entice Jesus to act on His own. He uses the same tried and true tactic on us. It worked on the first couple and it continues to work today. When we try to resist by simply quoting a verse or two, as if it were some sort of magic talisman given to ward off evil, we will fail. We must be united to the Father; committed to His rule and His plan and the leading of the Spirit in our lives. Jesus calls this abiding. John calls it walking as He walked; walking in the light. Paul calls it the new creation, dead to sin, alive to God, and teaches us to set our minds on things above, to live by the Spirit.
            This is why I say quoting scripture is not enough. We must come to the point where our natural behavior is obedience; where our character has been so completely formed by God our first impulse it to say ‘No, I’m not doing that and here is why’. This is spiritual formation, discipleship. And I will say it again-our spirit, our character, will be formed one way or the other. We must make a conscious decision about how we will be formed and we must make that decision as often as necessary. Will it be separation, or unity?
            Of course, scripture plays a key role in the formation process. Meditation-holy daydreaming-opens us up to new ways of thinking. Study helps us dig through layers of meaning for a deeper understanding. Memorization facilitates both and helps keep our minds focused, providing a handle we can grasp when our thoughts and feelings wander off. This is how we move from quoting scripture-“if anyone is in Christ; a new creation” to being scripture-“the new creation has come, and it is me”. Try it for yourself. There’s a ton of scripture memory stuff out there, apps and hard copy both. The Navigators Topical Memory System has been my favorite for years and still is. But like the commercial says, there’s an app for that.
            Finally, let’s take a quick look at the difference between temptation and testing. Temptation seeks to separate us from God and has its roots in evil. Testing seeks to prove commitment and strengthen character and is permitted by God for that purpose. Make no mistake; Jesus was being tempted. He was also being tested. Remember, the Spirit led Him into the wilderness after He was confirmed as Son of God. We will be tempted to evil and we will be tested for our commitment to God’s plan and purpose. One we must avoid, the other we should welcome.
            May the Lord strengthen and protect you all this day. JRG


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