The Temptation of Jesus

Jesus tempted by SatanI 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.

Not What I Expected

bibleFirst, 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

The Anger of Man

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

jesus_teachingJesus 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

Read & Share File: When the Pastor is Terminated

Screenshot 2014-09-04 at 6.32.35 PMResearch indicates that as many as four in ten pastors will be forced to leave a ministry at least once during their career. Hershael York and Jeff Iorg outline how to prevent terminations that are often unnecessary and offer advice on how to deal with conflicts when they do arise in this article via Baptist Press.

On the list of top 15 reasons pastors are fired/ forced to resign, only two are related to sin on the part of the pastor. Ethical conduct comes in at #8 and sexual misconduct #10. Many times issues relate to personal communication skills or a few disgruntled members that spiral out of control. Sometimes it is simply time for one’s ministry to come to an end in one place and move on to something else. But the old saying is that figures don’t lie; nearly half of all church pastors will deal with these issues sooner or later. The advice in the BP article is sound and it wouldn’t be a bad idea for church members not in the pastorate to give it some consideration.


-Hershael York is a preaching professor at Southern Seminary as well as a currently active church pastor. Jeff Iorg is president of Golden Gate Theological Seminary. The image above and original text of the article are copyright 2014 Baptist Press. 

The Opposite of Fighting the Culture War

Sturgis The other day we looked at what happens when Christians choose to fight the culture war. Be careful, the culture may fight back. I saw this story and thought “That’s exactly the opposite of fighting the culture war.” See what you think.

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally takes place each August near the small town (pop. < 7,000) of Sturgis, South Dakota. The very first “Black Hills Classic” held in 1938 featured 9 racers and a small audience. Today it one of the largest motorcycle rallies in the world and provides a significant source of income to the town. I ride a motorcycle but would stop short of calling myself a biker. On the one hand I’d like to go at least once, and of course ride the whole trip up (as opposed to driving a rig with my bike in a trailer, setting up camp somewhere and riding the last few miles). On the other hand, once you get to Sturgis there is really nothing going on but sin and debauchery. It is also known as the Devil’s Playground.

So the way to fight the culture war would be to set up booths, tents and signs on the major routes just outside of town and shout names, wave Bibles, tell bikers they were riding two wheels to Hell, and hope they pull over, find Jesus, then turn around and ride back home. But what if we saw the Devil’s Playground as a mission field? What if we offered the chance to win a new Harley Davidson motorcycle in exchange for listening to a 3 minute testimony? And what if the result was 513 people making professions of faith?

Enter the Dakota Baptist Convention. Please read this full story via Baptist Press. We can fight the culture war or we can share the Gospel and lead people to Jesus. The choice is ours.. the choice is yours to make.

This is What Happens When You Fight the Culture War

Way back when in 2008 I posted Should Christians Fight the Culture War? Perhaps that’s a good place to start. This is an example of what happens when we do try to wrestle with flesh and blood rather than powers and principalities.

Video via CNN, no explicit language or images

In Warsaw, Ohio a strip club owner staged a protest outside of a local church during service on Sunday morning, complete with topless protesters carrying signs. Apparently New Beginnings Ministries has been protesting outside of the local strip club for years, taking pictures of customers license plates and calling the girls that work there things like tramps and whores. Church Pastor Bill Dunfee says it is the responsibility of the church to spread the Gospel, uplift the name of Jesus and confront evil. The confrontation of evil has resulted in a small crowd of strippers, employees and friends of the Foxhole Club to assembling a protest of their own. Be careful when you fight the culture war, the culture may just fight back. Continue reading