I have written on this subject before but certainly not recently. This post from 2009 focuses on the nature of sin as the easy way out. Stealing is easier than hard work, one night stands are easier than putting time and effort into a relationship, etc. Just about every example of sin that can be listed involves an easier or quicker way of getting something that would take time, effort, patience or involve suffering to obtain otherwise. Is also involves settling for less than what God has in mind for us were we to to do it his way instead.
I want to focus here on Jesus’ responses to each of Satan’s suggestions. Read the story in Matthew 4:1-11 and notice some things with me. Jesus had been fasting for 40 days. Satan knew he was physically hungry and suggested he turn stones into bread. The purpose of fasting, virtually unheard of anymore among American believers, is to deny the body. It is an act of self-sacrifice that reminds us there are more important things than the physical self and a method of training that ignores the body in order to focus on the spirit. Jesus was tempted to eat because of his hunger but responded “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” He is quoting Deuteronomy 8, a passage that explains to the Hebrews why they ate manna in the wilderness 40 years. Jesus carries the connection between actual food and spiritual food, specifically bread, into the New Testament. It’s a connection between their story (the Hebrews) and our story (Christian believers, the descendents of Abraham in the faith if not the flesh).
Jesus also demonstrates the need to read, understand and memorize scripture. Two of the most basic tenants of the Christian faith are to read the Bible and pray. We sometimes get the misguided notion that as we mature in our Christian walk or advance in “position” in the church we can cut back on reading and prayer. The idea is that as we get closer to God those things are less necessary. The opposite is actually true. Jesus was coming under attack at this point in his life because his earthly ministry was about to begin. If there is no kind of opposition or attack in your life then you must not be doing anything that concerns the enemy. Doing big things for God will require more time in scripture, pray and meditation, not less. As always, look at Jesus. He was the incarnate Son of God, the second person of the trinity. You can’t get closer to God than that and he read the Bible and prayed every day.
When Satan tempted him to throw himself from the peak of the temple Jesus told him “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” and when offered him the kingdoms of this world if he would bow and worship Jesus replied “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only you shall serve.” These are taken from Deuteronomy chapter 6. We do not live under the Old Covenant but there is so much of the Old Testament that applies to our faith. Jesus relied on these passages from the writings of Moses to defend against the attack of Satan. We can learn a lot about God by reading the Old Testament. We will fail in our attempt to follow each of the Ten Commandments but they show us what God is like and teach how to live and treat one another. What does it say about God – and about us – if he commands that we not kill each other? The tenth commandment to not covet shows us that sin takes place in the mind and the heart rather than in our actions only, an idea that Jesus carries forward in the Sermon on the Mount.
Here’s the real point: the only way to respond to attacks of Satan or even the troubles of life with the words of hope found in scripture is to have spent time in the scriptures in the first place. “I have stored up (hidden) your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” -Psalm 119:11 Jesus was intimately familiar with the written word in a way many of us today are not. The reason we practice things like fire drills is so we can instinctively respond during an actual emergency without having to think about what to do. We need to practice reading and praying before we need to use them in an emergency. If we make a habit out of daily walking in faith that’s how we will respond to any and every situation.
I have been physically ill for much of this week and there hasn’t been a new post since Monday. I’ve been digging in the archives and to be honest probably don’t post “reruns” often enough. It’s been six years since this post was published. There is constant turnover online as blogs disappear and new ones are created. I certainly have many more friends and followers today than way back when. And of course some things are worth repeating. From July 2008, here is Lessons from the Garden of Eden.
7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. 8 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. -Gen. 2:7-9
Lesson 1: We are special to God. Human beings are made in God’s image and likeness (Gen 1:26-27). What does that mean exactly? I’m not even sure. People will tell you what it means, but truthfully, we don’t really know for sure. We do that no other being in creation is described this way. Continue reading
First, let me put in a good word for Bible Gateway. They rolled out a major site redesign earlier this year and added a ton of interactive features. You will notice the Bible Gateway Verse of the Day on the left-hand side bar and a Bible Gateway Blogger Grid badge on the right. Scripture references in my posts are linked to the Bible Gateway site, in ESV, but there are many other English versions and other languages available. I use the site every day and will continue to, don’t get the wrong idea.
I also get a plethora of email from Bible Gateway and recently decided to participate in a scripture memorization type of Bible Study. Continue reading
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak,slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. -James 1:19-20
There is such a thing as righteous indignation but that is reserved for, well, the righteous. Which is not us. I’m offering this as a timely reminder in an age when lots of people, Christians included, are carrying signs and share every waking thought on social media. We to need to be very vocal about the Gospel and keep everything else behind closed doors. Some conversations need to stay within the walls of a family’s living room or take place in the context of a Sunday School class. Some conversations need to not take place at all. What the world needs to see and hear is a group of people conforming to the image of Christ who are meek and humble in their behavior but bold with sharing the Gospel.
Jesus practiced what he preached, perhaps the greatest understatement ever made, and of course what he preached was the Gospel. “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” Mark 1:14-15
Jesus preached the Gospel.
Let’s deconstruct that passage. Jesus said “the time is fulfilled.” His first century Jewish audience would have been familiar with the many messianic prophecies. Jesus didn’t spend a great deal of time trying to convince people he was the Messiah; by contrast he told his disciples to keep to themselves even as they began to figure it out. Without announcing that Messiah (or Christ in the Greek) was present he began his first sermon by declaring in effect “now is the appointed time, today is the day of salvation.” Continue reading
Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee is a half-hour daily radio program that takes the listener on a 5 year journey through the entire scripture. I discovered McGee more than a decade after he had passed, but through the miracle of radio broadcast his ministry lives on still. The full audio collection has been available for years on CD – or I should say many, many CD’s. The study notes and outline for the entire series makes a very large single volume.
Check this out – the entire audio series plus notes and outlines in pdf can now be purchased on a single 8GB flash drive. Click here for ordering information – the cost is a mere $35.
Start Studying, from the article So You Want to Be a Pastor by Dave Bruskas of Mars Hill Church. I particularly enjoyed this take on importance of scripture, just thought I’d share. His next piece of advice is to start evangelizing. There are many pastors but evangelistic pastors are few and far between.