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.

A Defense of The Apostle Paul

PaulSaul of Tarsus developed quite a reputation in the world of the early Christian church, zealously hunting down those who taught and preached in the name of Christ. He was on his way to Damascus, with arrest letters from the Jerusalem Sanhedrin in hand, when he had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. As the Apostle Paul he became one of the most prolific church planters and writers of the first century; 14 of the 26 New Testament books are his letters (epistles) to various individuals and churches.

But here’s the rub: Do we today make too much of Paul? Does our attention become Paul-centered rather than Christ centered? Just because he wrote many epistles that become a major component of the New Testament, is everything Paul wrote the Word of God? Which is why I propose a defense of Paul to consider and respond to these criticisms. Continue reading

Discussion: The Altar

altar prayerDoes you church have an altar (or more than one altar) in the sanctuary? Does each service end with an altar call style invitation? What are we being invited to do at the altar if/when we get there? I would like to put aside personal feelings, experiences and what any particular local church does or doesn’t do and look into the Bible as we analyze the purpose of the altar. Ultimately I would like us to answer this question: what is the place of the altar in the New Testament church? Continue reading

Book Review: God is Near

No, I do not presume to write a review of my own book. Below is the review and recommendation of Steve May, a pastor friend in eastern Kentucky. I also look forward to Denise Spencer’s review next week on Internet Monk. 

God is NearClark Bunch is a Baptist preacher with a passion for writing and teaching. This is his first book but he writes daily for his blog The Masters Table (themasterstable.wordpress.com).

Clark is a graduate of Shorter University holding a Bachelors of Science degree in both history and political science. He has been the lead pastor to one church and was on the teaching faculty of the Oneida Baptist Institute (a private Baptist Boarding School with over a 100 year history in southeastern Kentucky). Presently Clark is the Director of Men’s Ministry and works with the youth ministries of the Trinity Baptist Church in Calhoun, GA. Continue reading

Is Jesus Radical?

radicalLet’s begin by defining our terms. Most people have a concept of radical that may be hard to put into words. You could be a radical thinker in a good way that doesn’t involve overthrowing the government (but that’s one possibility). Miriam-Webster’s online dictionary gives 3 definitions, these are the two that apply to our discussion:

1) very new and different from what is traditional or ordinary
2) having extreme political or social views that are not shared by most people

Radical describes something new, different, or views that are not shared by most people. I contend that Jesus was radical from man’s point of view, but not from God’s.  Continue reading

What Shall We Do?

Peter preaches In the first chapter of Acts, Jesus told the Apostles to wait in Jerusalem for the promise. He then ascended to Heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father. In Acts 2 they were gathered in one place and the Holy Spirit filled the entire house. Each one filled with the Spirit began to speak in tongues, and they went out into the streets of Jerusalem. This event is known as Pentecost and is still celebrated 50 days after Easter Sunday. Some in the crowd that day objected that the Apostles were merely drunk and Peter responded with a turning point sermon in the history of the church.

Continue reading

Academic Discussion: Predestination

TULIPWe started the Academic Discussion series last Friday, and since then have examined issues like the age of the earth and the rapture. Up until now I have played the devil’s advocate so to speak and approached the arguments from both sides. This difference with this topic, predestination as defined by 5 point Calvinism, is that I take a position and feel very strongly about it. Although I have had a few heated discussions, I still believe the issue is ultimately academic.

This page at Calvinist Corner provides an excellent summation of Calvinism at a glance. Arminianism is generally considered to be the opposing view. A more extreme opposing viewpoint would be Pelagianism (which denies original sin and a host of biblical tenants). The reason I consider this argument to be purely academic is that each of these positions considers the nature of God’s salvation. At the heart of the debate is our understanding, or rather defining, of predestination. Did we choose God or did he choose us? Do we have the ability to choose God, or are we in our nature so depraved it is not a choice we could ever make? And why would I even stir this particular pot? Continue reading