The Temptations of Christ: Part 3

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Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written,

‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”

Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

Matthew 4:8-11

Through our study of the first two temptations of Christ, we can pick out two running themes. The first is that each of Christ’s temptations mirrors a temptation Israel faced in the wilderness. Christ and Israel were both tested regarding bread; where Christ placed his ultimate trust in the word of God, Israel failed to trust the Lord for His steadfast provision. Christ and Israel were both tested regarding the Lord’s presence; where Christ refused to test whether God was really with Him, Israel continually demanded that Moses give proof that God was still with them. This mirroring allows Matthew to make the case that Jesus brings to fulfillment many sub-plots running through the Hebrew Scriptures: that Jesus is the true Son, the faithful substitute and representative of a people who themselves stood in as substitutes and representatives for the world.

The second theme is Satan’s invitation for Jesus to exploit his messianic status for his own gain, outside of the Father’s will. Jesus’ miraculous power could be used to turn stones into bread; such extraordinary acts of provision could convince the Jewish people to crown him as king. If Jesus were to show that God will not allow harm to come to His anointed by throwing himself off the roof of the Temple, he could show the Temple elite that God is truly with him and convince them to follow him. Both temptations are truly tempting because they would allow him to achieve power while avoiding the arduous journey to the Cross, filled with suffering, mockery, and isolation–even if that is the path the Father had ordained for him.

Christians are too quick to use the truth of Jesus’ divinity to explain away the anguish and suffering Jesus experienced in his life and ministry. But in Jesus, the divine and human are inseparably united–Jesus’ struggle over sin was a true struggle, and his triumph over the Devil was a true triumph. None of this was play-acting.

These two themes continue in the third temptation of Christ. Satan takes Jesus to a high mountain and shows him all the powers, kingdoms, and empires in the history of the world. Satan tells Jesus that if he will worship him in the place of God, Satan will give all these kingdoms to Jesus.

In a moment of uncertainty when the Israelites thought that they had been abandoned by Moses and Yahweh in the wilderness, they turned to a golden calf, formed from melted down gold they had brought from Egypt. As recounted in Exodus 32:

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” Aaron said to them, “Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from them, formed it in a mold, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a festival to the Lord.” They rose early the next day, and offered burnt offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel.

God is so angry with Israel’s unfaithfulness that He threatens to consume them all and make a nation out of the faithful Moses. But Moses, who has been fasting 40 days on the mountain in the Lord’s presence, intercedes for Israel, and begs that God turn away from His wrath for the sake of His name.

With the third temptation of Christ, we are meant to recall not only Israel’s failure but also Moses’ successful intercession. Moses’ plea is accepted by God–though Israel is still punished for its sin, it is allowed to continue on its way to the Promised Land. In the same way, Christ is the faithful, interceding Israelite who stays true to Yahweh, and who suffers punishment for the sake of the world so that the world can be brought into union with Heaven.

In these three temptations, we see how Jesus is the true Israel who reverses the sins of the first Israel: he trusts God for his bread, he refuses to test God, and he does not fall into idolatry. But just like the earlier temptations, this temptation has an additional dimension; It is a real temptation for Jesus to exploit his messianic status for his own gain and avoid the Cross his Father is leading him to.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus refers to Satan to as the “prince of this world,” a “murderer from the beginning,” and “the father of lies.” (See John 14:30 and John 8:44). These all help us understand the nature of Satan’s offer to Jesus in Matthew 4:8-11: Satan does have some kind of authority and power in this world, it is a power rooted in accusation and violence, and his nature is fundamentally untruthful and therefore opposed to God.

In my view, this makes it likely that the third temptation of Christ was rooted in a promise that if Jesus would abandon the way of the Father–the way of the Cross and co-suffering love–in favor of the way of Satanic violence and power, he could conquer the world. Jesus would be the Greater David, who drove out the oppressive Romans by force. He would be the Greater Nebuchadnezzar, the Greater Alexander, the Greater Caesar, who conquers the world with a bloody sword.

Satan’s promises are based on lies, as all satanic words are. Satan’s rule over creation is contingent and finite, not absolute. In Jesus, God has raised up a conqueror who will blot out the satanic lies, accusation, and violence that have plagued human history, but He will not conquer with Divine Violence, but by shedding His own Divine Blood. Lordship over Creation is a precious gift from Father to Son in return for the Son’s loving obedience to the Father.

Jesus rejects the temptation to rise to power through satanic violence, and clings to the worship of his Father, even if it means that he will be led to his death as a lamb to the slaughter. As John writes in the Book of Revelation:

Then I saw in the right hand of the one seated on the throne a scroll written on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals; and I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it. And I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne. When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.  They sing a new song:

“You are worthy to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God
    saints from every tribe and language and people and nation;
you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God,
    and they will reign on earth.”

Jesus Christ is the Faithful Son, the Lion of Judah who is the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. He triumphed over the seductive lies of Satan, where Israel could not, where Adam and Eve could not, and where we cannot. In his triumph we have our hope: For freedom, for everlasting love, and for New Life that swallows up the grave.

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The Temptations of Christ: Part 2

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Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,

‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
    and ‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Matthew 4:5-7

This morning, we reflected on the first temptation of Christ, where Satan states that if Jesus is the Son of God, he will be able to turn stones into bread to break his fast. Together, we saw how this first temptation 1) mirrored the testing of Israel in the desert, and 2) was an invitation for Jesus to exploit his messianic status through satanic means–in other words, to assert his power and glory for his own selfish ends, rather than out of love and commitment to the Father’s will. Jesus was able to resist the first temptation by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, showing that the bedrock of his self-identity is trust in the Father’s provision, even though this trust will eventually lead him to the Cross, to be offered up as the true Bread of Heaven broken to give life to the world.

This evening’s examination of the second temptation of Christ will follow the same pattern. The second temptation also mirrors the testing of Israel in the desert, and it also invites Jesus to exploit his power for selfish and satanic ends. Satan takes Jesus to Jerusalem, to the top of the Temple, and tells Jesus to throw himself down, because if he truly is the Messiah then God will make sure that he escapes without harm.

In response to the first temptation, Jesus had quoted Deuteronomy 8:3. This time, Jesus responds by quoting Deuteronomy 6:16.

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Matthew 4:7.

In Deuteronomy 6, Moses warned the next generation of Israelites not to “bring the Lord your God to the test, as you did at Massah.” What is Moses referring to here?

In Exodus 17:1-7, the Israelites had just begun to receive manna from God as food for their daily needs. But they continue complaining and grumbling, because now they believe that there will be no water for them and they will die of thirst.

The hearts of the Israelites are restless and insecure. Though God has already shown them His presence and provision through the Passover, the parting of the Red Sea, and the giving of daily manna to feed them, they still do not trust that God will see to their needs. They want to test God, to see if He truly is with them. God instructs Moses to strike a rock so that water will come out of it, so that the people can drink water. Moses does so, and he names the place “Massah and Meribah.”

This is the temptation Satan is inviting Jesus into. Is God truly with Jesus, or is Jesus simply some tragic, delusional wanderer who sadly believes that he is meant to suffer to save the world? Why not test God to find out before going through all the trouble?

The Father is sending Jesus into an excruciating death, where he will be stripped of all dignity and mocked as he suffocates under the pressure of his own collapsed chest. Will God rescue and vindicate him? How can Jesus trust a Father that would lead him to that end?

Wouldn’t it be easier to throw himself down from the Temple and be rescued by angels? He would assure himself that the Father truly was with him. And such a spectacle would undoubtedly attract a crowd. Such a miracle would compel belief and demonstrate that he truly is God’s chosen king.

But being the Son means obedience to the Father’s will, not twisting the Father to support his own agenda. By resisting Satan’s temptation, Jesus shows that he is the true Son that Israel could not be. What’s more, being the Son means being struck down so that God can water the world with his life. As the apostle Paul writes:

I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:1-4

Jesus Christ did not test God, even though he would be struck down in his innocence to water a New Creation. Jesus Christ is not just the true Israel; He is the true Massah and Meribah, the struck rock that proves to a disbelieving world that God loves and will provide.

Because Jesus did not test the Father to see if He was truly with him, we who have been bought by Jesus no longer have any need to test the Father. Jesus was the perfect obedient Son that we are called to be and continually fail to be. Out of love, Jesus took on the curse of our disobedience so that despite our failure, we can enjoy the blessings of his obedience.

Because of Jesus’ triumph over the Devil, we can trust in the presence and provision of the Father when we see the water and blood gushing from Jesus’ pierced side–water and blood that slakes our thirst, and that gives us New Life.

The Temptations of Christ: Part 1

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Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

‘One does not live by bread alone,
    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

-Matthew 4:1-4

Immediately after his baptism, Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where he fasts for forty days and forty nights. As we discussed last week, Jesus’ practice of fasting in preparation for the tasks of ministry connects him to the two paradigmatic figures of the Hebrew Scriptures, Moses (who brings the Law) and Elijah (who represents the Prophets). Moses fasted for 40 days and 40 nights in preparation for the writing of the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 34:28). Elijah fasted for 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness after fleeing Queen Jezebel, on the way to Mount Horeb, where God gives him the task of anointing Hazael as king of Syria, Jehu as king of Israel, and Elisha as his prophetic successor–all of whom God will use to drive out idolatry from Israel.  (1 Kings 19:1-18).

Further, Jesus being led into the wilderness after his baptism in the Jordan follows Israel’s Exodus pattern, where the nation was led by the Spirit as a fiery cloud into the wilderness after it had crossed the Red Sea. After 40 years of wandering, the Israelites are sent into the Promised Land to found a nation that worships Yahweh and showcases His justice. In that way, Israel would be Yahweh’s Image, the Son that blesses all the nations of the earth.

These allusions frame our understanding of the task Jesus will undertake after his season of preparation. He will bring the rule of God back to the land, and He will drive out idolatry from the land, and He will choose disciples to help in that task. He is the faithful Son that Israel could not be that blesses all the nations of the earth. Already, he must be aware that this task will ultimately lead him to the Cross–the Innocent will die for the sake of redeeming the Guilty, and reconcile a broken world back to the Father’s Love.

But just as Jesus prepares to commit himself to this ministry, he is confronted by the Devil.

The Devil tempts Jesus, but not in random ways disconnected from the overall biblical narrative. The Devil’s temptations of Jesus on the issues of 1) bread, 2) trusting the Lord, and 3) worship each echo Israel’s temptations on food, testing the Lord, and worship. Further, as New Testament scholar David Seccombe argues in his book, The King of God’s Kingdom, Satan is probably tempting Jesus to achieve his messianic role by Satanic means.

“If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” Matthew 4:3.

There are a number of levels here in the first temptation.First, we ought to immediately see the connections to Israel. During their 40 years of wandering in the desert, the Israelites had many instances where they complained about food to Moses.

In Exodus 16, the Israelites begin to grumble about their lack of bread, and for the first of many times, they say that they would rather be well-fed slaves in Egypt than starve to death in the desert as a free people. Despite Israel’s ingratitude, God graciously rains bread from Heaven–this is manna.

In Deuteronomy 8, Moses explains that Israel’s hunger in the desert for 40 years was a test to see what was in the people’s hearts. The lesson Israel was supposed to learn was that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. In other words, they were to learn to rely on the Lord for their provision and sustenance, not grumbling against Him, but trusting that everything He gave them, even when they did not understand it, was for their good. Over and over again, the Israelites fail this test. (See Numbers 11 for one heart-breaking example).

But unlike Israel, Jesus resists the temptation. In his reply to Satan, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3.

But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4.

Second, we must also see that implicit in the first temptation is an offer for Jesus to exploit his messianic status without going to the Cross. If Jesus is able to turn stones into bread, then he could conceivably feed the people of Israel and thereby prove that he is Israel’s rightful King. If he fills the bellies of the Jews, they will follow him and demand that he be enthroned as the true Jewish ruler.

This is more than just a guess of what would happen if Jesus chose to feed the people miraculously–it’s exactly what happens in John 6:1-15. Jesus feeds the 5,000 by multiplying the five barley loaves and two fish. This leads to the people believing–at least for a time, before Jesus starts telling them to eat his flesh and drink his blood–that Jesus is the Messiah, and they seek to make him king by force:

When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.” When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. John 6:14-15.

Here we see two things. First, unlike Israel in the desert, Jesus trusts in the Father’s unfailing goodness towards him. Second, Jesus trusts in the Father’s goodness even if it means that He will be led to death on the Cross, even though he could prove his status as the true King of Israel by feeding the people. Jesus will provide bread for the world, but on God’s terms, not Satan’s.

After Jesus has fed the crowd in John 6 and escaped it when it seeks to make him king by force, the crowd rushes to find Jesus on the other side of the sea. There, they have this interesting exchange:

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.  Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.” John 6:25-40.

Jesus does turn stone to bread, but he does so in obedience to the Father, not out of Satanic expedience.For three days, the stone of his tomb hides within it the true Bread of Heaven–the divine life that was blessed, broken, and given to the world to nourish it with new life.

Jesus will not use his power for his own selfish benefit, but only in accordance with the word of the Father. This proves the Jesus is not only the true Israelite, but also the true Man, the true Image of God. Because of he is the Perfect Image of God, Jesus can be the true Bread that gives life to the world, the Son who stands in eternal rebuke and triumph over the machinations of Satan.

Where Are You?

Lent Devotion #4

“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. 8And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”

[Genesis 3: 6-9]

God knows everything– He is omnipotent. God created all things, and by His power everything is alive and functions. Which is why God’s question in this passage is cause for us to pause and reflect. Why, if He knows everything, did God ask Adam and Eve “where are you”? In this passage, we find Adam and his wife hiding because they are afraid. Why are they afraid? Because they disobeyed God and the consequence for their disobedience would be death. They were afraid because they sinned. This is the product of sin- sin always breeds fear and shame. The word tells us that Adam walked with God in the cool of the day. God would meet Adam and they were in fellowship. But after Adam acts against God’s commands, he hides among the trees in fear and shame.  Sin severs our relationship with God. It cuts it and seeks to isolate us unto ourselves. That is after all what the flesh wants- itself. But the remarkable response of an all knowing God was that He came and asked Adam and Eve, “where are you”. God gives them a chance to confess- to surrender. How amazing that instead of responding in wrath, God responds with a chance- a chance to redeem the relationship. As a child who has done wrong comes before a loving father, so we have been given the chance to bring our fear and shame before an infinitely loving God. This is the gospel- that while we were yet sinners, GOD DID NOT RELENT. Paul writes about this response of God in Ephesians:

 “4But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ”

During this lent season, let us ask ourselves this same question. Where are you? How is your christian walk going? Maybe you feel like you need another chance to start new. Our God is a god of second-second chances. Today God is asking you this question, just as he asked Adam and Eve. Where are you? Let us confess our shortcomings, fears, and shame to a loving father. In our hiding, God calls out for us, and as sheep we hear his voice. Let us not delay in confessing ourselves to Him. He is a good father; He will surely receive us as we are.

Prayer: Forgiving Father, help me. I have fallen so many times, and I am struggling in many areas of my life. Rescue me by the power of your blood. Here I am Lord- broken, afraid, shameful, unworthy. Help me to confess my shortcomings and find peace in your love. Thank you for your grace, Amen.

What is Lent? Jesus in the Wilderness

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And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

–Mark 1:12-13

Today is the first Sunday of Lent, which began on Ash Wednesday. In many liturgical traditions, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lent season with the placement of ash in the shape of a cross on the forehead. Historically, this ash would be produced from the palm leaves used in the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebration. The purpose of this strange ritual is to remind us that we are dust: fragile, finite, and utterly dependent on God’s grace for salvation from death.

As finite, embodied beings embedded in time, we bring order to our lives through rhythms. There are the rhythms of the day–the morning ritual of coffee and preparing for a day of work ahead, the evening ritual of turning on the TV and unwinding after a long day, the nightly ritual of a shower before sleep. There are the rhythms of the week–church on Sunday, work on Monday, meeting up with friends and family on Friday, going to the park on Saturday. And there are rhythms for the year–seasons where deadlines and reports for work are due, seasons for vacation in the summer and winter, seasons where we pay special attention to our family with birthdays and wedding anniversaries.

The Church Calendar invites us to shape the rhythms of our days, weeks, and years according to the pattern of Jesus’ life: The advent of his coming, his birth, his early years moving into his ministry, his road to the Cross, his death, resurrection, and ascension, and his sending of the Spirit. In creating this calendar, the church was following the example set by their Jewish forebears, who ordered their time according to seasons of festivals, feasts, and fasts that were handed to them by God when they were in the wilderness. By doing so, the Jews and Christians hoped to use the seasons of time to orient their lives toward the worship and contemplation of God.

It is in this context that we approach the season of Lent. Lent is a season of fasting–40 days of fasting, when we exclude the 6 Sundays that are supposed to be “mini-Easters” where we break the fast in anticipation of the Easter celebration to come. During this time, we give up “good things” that threaten to become “ultimate things” in our lives, to teach us to place our highest hopes and affections on Christ. It is a time to know Christ in the fellowship of His sufferings, humbly aware that his sufferings were orders of magnitude above our own. In particular, our suffering in pursuit of Christ should spur our recognition of our Savior in the faces of our poor and suffering neighbors, and move us to acts of charity and service.

Unfortunately, our consumer-oriented culture shapes us to see Lent as yet another opportunity for self-improvement: We give up chocolate because we know we should try and lose weight anyway.

Lent does have an element focused on the self, but our fast is for the purpose of self-examination in light of our sin and God’s holiness. Just as Moses and Elijah each spent 40 days fasting to focus on God and prepare for a special work, Christians fast not for some modern pursuit of self-improvement, but to focus on the beauty of God in preparation for the task given to us through Jesus’ Resurrection.

In other words, the Lenten fast allows us to create space to see ourselves, to see God, and to see the other.

For the next 6 weeks of Lent, we will be focusing on the sufferings of Jesus on his road to the Cross. Starting next week, we will spend three weeks examining the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness. On the fifth Sunday of Lent, we will look at Jesus’ message of the Kingdom and the Cross. And on the last Sunday before Easter, we will contrast Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem with his laments over Jerusalem’s fate.

Today, we will briefly see how Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness not only mirrors Moses’ and Elijah’s time of preparation for ministry, but also recapitulates the Israelites’ 40 years of wandering before they entered into the promised land.

Immediately after his baptism, Jesus is led out into the wilderness by the Spirit. Already, this should spark a number of associations for us.

First, Jesus’ entry into the wilderness follows his baptism. As we saw earlier, Jesus’ baptism is a reference to the crossing of the Jordan and of the Red Sea. Israel is also led into the wilderness following its deliverance from Egypt by crossing the Red Sea.

Second, Jesus is led into the wilderness by the Spirit. Israel also is led into the wilderness by the Spirit, which takes the form of a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night.

Third, while in the wilderness, Jesus faces a number of temptations, which revolve around food, trusting the Lord, and worship. While in the wilderness, Israel also faced temptations surrounding food, trusting the Lord, and worship. However, where Israel repeatedly failed and succumbed to temptation, Jesus is able to overcome the Devil.

With these parallels, God is telling us that Jesus is the true and better Israel, the successful royal priest that Israel (and before it, Adam) had been called to be and failed. Though he was fully human and tempted in every way that we were, Jesus did not fall to sin but instead emerged victorious over it.

Because of his victory, we too now have victory over sin, death, and the Devil. Today, we can share some small part of his sufferings, confident that because of the true Israelite, we are no longer just dust, but dust that has been fought for, bled for, redeemed, and that will be raised to New Life.

Did God Really Say?

Lent Devotion #3

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

[Genesis 3: 1-7]

In this world, we are always being tempted. In fact, since creation, sin has incessantly tempted us. But sin has always tempted us the same way since the garden. In this passage we see that first, Satan makes us question God’s word. Throughout scripture, God’s word is life-giving and satisfying. It is by His word that He created the world. It was by His word that the dead bones came to life in Ezekiel’s vision. It was His word that David delighted in day and night. God’s word is our source of life, and satan chooses to attack it first. Next, Satan further tempts Eve by suggesting that eating the fruit would make her like God. The root of sin has always been one thing since the beginning: Sin is when we trade God’s will for our own. Sin is when we trade God’s glory for our own (Rom 1:21-23). Sin is when we put ourselves in a place that belongs only to God. Satan tempts us with the same desire he was guilty of, wanting to take the place of God. How amazing that the gospel is Jesus STEPPING OUT from His place with God to save us. Paul writes in Philippians 2,

“Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Eventually Eve succumbs to her desires when she sees that the tree is “good for food”, a “delight to the eyes”, and will “make one wise”. The apostle John called this the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. In other words, foolishly we rationalize sin. How often do we listen to ungodly music and call it catchy and pleasant to the ears? How often do we watch sinful movies because the trailer “looked good”? How often do we sin in the name of “experience” and “living life”? Satan has been tempting us the same way since the beginning of the world, and we have consistently fell for it. “Wretched man that I am, who will save me from this body of death? Praise be to our Lord through Jesus Christ” (Rom 7: 24-25). During this time of lent, let us examine the areas of our life where we are giving into our lusts and temptations. May God strengthen us to walk according to His spirit.

Prayer: Holy Father, I am a sinner. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. It is seemingly impossible to escape the lusts of this world. I am sorry for compromising your holiness. Please let your spirit work in me to purify my desires. Give me the strength to walk according to your ways, without compromise. The same power that conquered the grave lives in me- whom shall I fear? Keep me from stumbling, Amen.

You Are Free

Lent Devotion #2

The Lord God took the man and put him to work in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

[Genesis 2:15-17]

What was the first command God ever gave his people? Most people would answer that it was to NOT eat from the tree of knowledge. Most of us look to God’s word as a list of things we can’t do. Our impression of God is that He is restricting; a strict father who is always saying no. But God’s very first words to us in scripture are, “You are FREE… (v.16).” God has commanded us to be free. God is all about our freedom. He is not a God looking only to restrict and say no to his children. His desire is for our perfect freedom, but sin would have us convinced otherwise. The great deception is that sin promises freedom but only enslaves. The good news of the gospel is that God is still about our freedom today. In fact, the gospel is all about God purchasing our freedom on the cross. In Galatians 5:1, Paul says that “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to ta yoke of slavery.” This lent season let us look to the savior who takes every burden, purchases every debt, breaks every chain, and releases every shackle. God is all about our freedom, therefore may the spirit liberate us unto himself.

 

Prayer: Jesus I am a sinner, and no matter what I do, I am only a slave to sin. But you have called me to be free. Thank you for dying on the cross for my freedom. Let your blood liberate my heart and mind, so I may be free to live as you have called me to live. Thank you Jesus, Amen.