Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

27. Jesus the Servant

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So the last time we left Jesus, the Pharisees were plotting to kill him because he had healed, once again, on the Sabbath. Because of this Jesus was quick to get out of Dodge. Not because he didn’t want to die, but because it wasn’t time for him to die yet. After he left he was followed by a large crowd and Jesus healed everyone who was ill. Not just some, the text actually says all. This account is also found in Mark but we will be reading the account found in Matthew because it includes a bit of Messianic prophesy that is worth checking out:

Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. He warned them not to tell others about him. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

“Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.

He will not quarrel or cry out;
no one will hear his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he has brought justice through to victory.
In his name the nations will put their hope.”

(Matthew 12:15-21)

I specifically want to look at the bit of prophesy that is given to us. It comes from Isaiah 42:1-4. This particular passage is about someone God calls, “my servant”. This title, “my servant” is a special title of honor that was used to describe the likes of Moses, Joshua and David. It was also used in Isaiah 42:1-9, 49:1-7;50:4-11; and 52:13-53:12. Now Israelites always assumed that they were the servant described but because of their wayward actions and blatant refusal to follow God and instead turn towards idols, they lost this honor of being God’s servants. Instead, these verses describe one person in whom God would find no fault- a perfect prototype of what a follower of God should look like. They are describing the Messiah, himself! The reason that Matthew, whose readership was mostly Jewish, often includes prophesy about the Messiah is to show them how Jesus is the 100% fulfillment of these prophesies. In other words, they didn’t have to keep looking for the promised Messiah because he was here as evidenced by their own Scriptures.

There are three times when Jesus is described by God as, “the one I love, in whom I delight.” The two other times occurred at Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3:17) and at the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:5).

Here’s a little rabbit trail for us to go down. No where in the Bible does it explicitly say that God is triune, or 3-in-1. This is a concept that was presented by early church fathers. One of the verses they use to support this idea (which for the record, I believe in) is verse 18 from our passage today, ” I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations.” Here we see the Father conferring the Holy Spirit on the Son. 3-in-1. Three persons of God, in one deity; somehow each unique, yet joined together.

Verse 18, and also 21, is interesting because God is clearly concerned about “the nations”. He is concerned about all peoples, not just the nation of Israel. He came to them first because he wanted them to be his people of promise but because they rejected him time and time again, he opened salvation to the world. This was a foreign idea to the Jews even though it was right there in Scripture. It’s like they picked and chose which descriptions of the Messiah they liked and conveniently forgot about the parts they didn’t. God clearly cares for Gentiles, or non-Jews… which is very good news for me!

The next part, “He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets,” refers to his silence during his trial before the crucifixion. Jesus remained silent despite his accusers and their false accusations, despite the fact that he could have said one word and thousands of angels would have been there in an instant to rescue him. He was silent except for a few answers to questions.

Verse 20 is one of great mercy and grace,

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory.”

One of the things the Pharisees never got was Jesus’ unending grace toward sinners. We can learn a lot from Jesus here. His job until he returns is to be gentle and love the sinner. I think here of the Westboro Baptist church. These people are not doing God’s work. God’s work, until Jesus returns, is to love on people. That doesn’t mean we overlook the sin. What Jesus did was look beyond the sin and saw the hurting person underneath. Hurting people are like a reed that is already bent from life’s windstorms or a candle struggling to stay lit. In mercy Jesus sat with these people, took the time to hear and really understand these people. And when I say “these people” what I really mean is you and me. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). It doesn’t matter if we’ve wrongly gotten angry or if we’ve killed someone. We deserve a traitor’s death. We are no better or worse than anyone else and to assume otherwise is to fall into the trap of self-righteousness. Thank God, for his mercy and love! Thank God, for his patience with us! This is how he deals with us and this is how we are to deal with each other. Now there is a time when Jesus will come again and reign victorious over Satan and Evil. At that point it will be Jesus’ job to dole out justice to non-belivers and believers alike. It is never our job. It is never our responsibility to judge others. Period.

I’ll step down off my soap box for now. Until next time when we look at the commissioning of the the twelve apostles…

The End.

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23. Jesus Casts Out a Demon

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So Jesus has just healed two blind guys and now we see him confront a demon who is possessing a man. The event is recorded in Matthew:

While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”

But the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.” (Matthew 9:32-34)

This time it’s just three little verses but there is a lot going on here. Once again, we have a text that is fairly straightforward. There was a guy who was possessed by a demon and the demon wouldn’t allow him to speak. The man was brought to Jesus, he drove out the demon, and then the man could speak. The crowd was amazed but the Pharisees were angry. See? Straightforward… or is it? I think we need to discuss something here that few Americans are comfortable with- demon possession. Yes, my friends, it is real and I believe that it still occurs today, though we (especially the Western culture that we embrace) tend to ignore or deny it’s reality. I don’t claim to be an expert on demonology but I can tell you what I do know.

Satan and his demons are real. You don’t have to like it, you don’t have to feel comfortable discussing it, but you do need to recognize their existence. As surely as God and angels exist, Satan and demons exist. We know from reading in the Bible that there is some kind of hierarchy involved- there are demons that are in charge of other demons. There is even a chief demon, his name is Beelzebul (Matthew 12:24). We know that at least some have names, like Legion (Mark 5:9). We know that somehow they can possess a body. I don’t understand how this can happen or why it happens, I just know that it happens. And without going into too many details, I would venture to say that while I was working in the church, I met one or two people who were at the very least heavily influenced by demons if not possessed. They weren’t physically impaired like the mute from our story, but spiritually there was a darkness surrounding them. There was just something not quite right and they would go out of their way to stir up trouble and dissension- almost as if driven by some force.

I know all this probably makes most of you uncomfortable. It made the Pharisees uncomfortable too. They could no longer ignore the power of Jesus but instead of ascribing that power to God, they said that his power comes from Satan. There’s a big, BIG problem with that. You know that God forgives sins but did you know there is one sin that is unforgivable? “Whoever blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin,” (Mark 3:23-29). Now what exactly does that mean and what does that have to do with the Pharisees? Let’s look at the context in which the verse is written:

And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”

So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.” (Mark 3:22-29)

We see that the situation is the same. The teachers of the law were accusing Jesus of getting his power from Satan. Jesus refutes the Pharisees with sound reasoning and then we see the line about the unforgivable sin. So what does it mean to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit? It means giving Satan credit for that which the Holy Spirit does. That is bad news for the Pharisees. Very. Bad. News. For those that are guilty of this sin, we are lead to believe there is no hope for repentance. That may make some of you very uncomfortable- the idea that God won’t forgive this sin. But if you think about it, if you are to the point that you are denying the work of God and saying that Satan is doing good and casting out demons and healing the sick and raising the dead, then you are probably beyond help.

It may be a few days before I get the next post up. After two shorter passages, we are coming into a long one, 47 verses actually. It’s going to take a lot of prep work so don’t think I’ve forgotten about y’all. I’m just studying and reading up for our next journey together.

The End.

8. A Super Secret Midnight Meeting

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Ok, so I don’t know if it was at midnight but it was a super secret meeting; A night time theological rendezvous of sorts between Jesus and a Pharisee named Nicodemus. Let’s look at the text from John 3:1-21:

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,  that everyone who believesmay have eternal life in him.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

You may have already guessed it but this is where we get the term “born again Christian.” But what does that mean exactly? What is a Pharisee? Why did Nicodemus come by cover of night? We will explore these questions and possibly some more as we dive into the Word.

Let’s talk about Nicodemus for a minute. John says that Nicodemus was “a Pharisee…  a member of the Jewish ruling council,” (v.1). The Jewish ruling council was called the Sanhedrin. It was kinda like our Congress or Senate in that it was made up of a bunch of people, then men, that made laws. They also were in charge of enforcing laws and had their own police force. The Pharisees were kinda like a political party, like our Democrats and Republicans. The Pharisees were one of three or four (depending on how you qualify major) major parties of the day. The Pharisees were known for strictly keeping the laws of Moses and other oral traditions that were supposedly passed down from Moses. This is not a bad thing in and of itself. God, himself, demands that we adhere to the law but the Pharisees took it too far. They made ridiculous rules that made it almost impossible for the common person to follow. In fact the name Pharisee means “set apart” and that is what the Pharisees did. They set themselves apart from the common people by making it difficult for them to be “ceremonially clean” or righteous in God’s eyes. The put a “fence around the Torah” in that they set up laws meant to keep you from breaking God’s laws. For example, God’s word says not to work on the Sabbath. They Pharisees made a law that stated you couldn’t even touch something that could be used for work on the Sabbath. God’s law doesn’t say that and Jesus took issue with them because of it. Pharisees also had a problem with Jesus because he was showing them up with his knowledge of the Scripture and with his miracles. Instead of seeing him as the Son of God and embracing him as such, they viewed him as a threat.

Let’s get back to Nicodemus. He was a Pharisee but this passage suggests that he was genuinely curious about Jesus. Now if you notice Nicodemus came at night. Night time back then is different than the night time of today in that night time back then was pitch black- it was great for sneaking around in. There was no light pollution from the next street over that would have given a little light. The fact that Nicodemus comes at night brings up two points. 1- he was probably not willing to be publicly associated with Jesus and 2- his desire to know more about Jesus was greater than his fear of the dark. Remember, we are talking about pitch black conditions, there could have been wild animals out there or any kind of bad guy out there. Once the sun went down back then, most people stayed indoors because it was dangerous to venture out.

There are a couple things I find interesting about this story. First of these is that Nicodemus calls Jesus “Rabbi”, or teacher. This is a sign of respect and obviously Nicodemus sees Jesus a little differently then your run of the mill Pharisee. Second, Nicodemus acknowledges that the Pharisees recognize that Jesus is from God, even if they don’t believe that he is God yet they still conspire against him! What is that all about?!?  In a way I can sympathize with the Pharisees in that they were dealing with something brand new in Jesus. Never before had they experienced the Son of God. We often take for granted concepts that were new and innovative back then. On the other hand they had him in the flesh; they saw his life and his miracles and his teachings, they were eye witnesses and still didn’t get it. And yet that happens all the time these days. I would be willing to bet that many people are willing to agree that Jesus probably came from God but still don’t care about what he says.

Jesus tells Nicodemus that, “no one can see the kingdom of god unless they are born again,” (v. 3). Nicodemus is clearly confused, his mind is only focusing on what he knows, which is physical birth. He’s not thinking about a spiritual rebirth because, remember, this is a new concept to him. He doesn’t even know what spiritual rebirth is… yet. Jesus goes on to explain yes, there is only one physical birth. This is probably what he means when he says, “born of water,” referring to a woman’s water breaking before giving birth although it could mean baptism. I think it means the former though and he is showing a contrast between the two kinds of births. But there is also another kind of birth that happens when the Holy Spirit is born in your soul. This is what he is talking about when he says “born again.” We all have experienced the physical birth, but not everyone will experience the birth of the Holy Spirit. Only those who experience this second birth, “can enter the kingdom of God.”

Then Jesus gives a little lesson on why some people are reborn and some are not:

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit. (v. 8)

I think Jesus is saying that the Holy Spirit already knows who will respond to the Gospel and that is who it enters. And though you can’t physically see the Holy Spirit, you can see the effects of the Spirt. These are evidenced in what are known as the Fruits of the Spirit. A Spirit filled person will be full of, “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control,” (Galatians 5:22-23). You can see the effects of these things. This is how you can “see” the Spirit.

Nicodemus still doesn’t understand and asks, “How can this be?”

I used to think that Jesus was angry when he replied to Nicodemus, but now I think there is pity and disappointment in his voice when he says, “You are Israel’s teacher and do you not understand these things?” Remember Nicodemus is a Pharisee; they were highly educated teachers of the law and yet they just don’t get it. Jesus goes on and says (in my own words), “You’ve seen and heard eye witness testimony to the miracles and teaching that my disciples and me are doing and yet you don’t believe it. If you can’t believe what you eyes have seen and your ears have heard, then how do you expect to believe the stuff you can’t see and hear with your own eyes and ears? Because you don’t believe what I have said, I will be hung up on a cross to die and everyone who believes that I died for their sins will have eternal life.” Now again, that is my own interpretation of what Jesus says to Nicodemus but I think it is pretty accurate.

Then Jesus goes into that famous verse that almost everyone knows; God loves people so much that he sent his one and only Son to earth, so that whoever believes in him won’t spend an eternity in hell, but will spend eternity in heaven with Jesus. God didn’t send Jesus to earth to send everyone to hell but to save everyone from hell. He did this because everyone who doesn’t believe in him is going to Hell without trying. This is the Good News, the Gospel of Jesus!

So what happened to Nicodemus? Well, we can assume that at some point he was reborn because after Jesus was killed, Nicodemus helped to bury the body of Jesus. This would’ve been a big deal to Nicodemus because it would have made him “ceremonially unclean” or unrighteous in the eyes of his fellow Pharisees. Remember, they prided themselves on being meticulous law keepers. We can assume then that at the very least Nicodemus was deeply moved by the teaching of Christ if not a believer at that point.

What does all this mean for us? I will admit that there have been times when I have come to Jesus undercover of night, afraid of what other people might say if they knew I was a Christian. What kind of faith is that? If I am being honest with myself it’s not a very good kind of faith. This is at best one step away from disowning Jesus of which Jesus has to say this, “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” It is time to be bold for Jesus. You can do this without shoving Jesus down non-believers throats. It’s offering to pray (and then actually praying) for your friends and family. It’s being excited about the things you are doing that grow your faith and then telling people about it when they ask what you are up to. For example, when your neighbor asks how things are going, let them catch your excitement for Bible Study, participating in your church, etc. Why would they want to be involved in something that you yourself are not excited about. It’s being willing to share your faith stories when they happen. It’s being willing to say, “God healed my mom’s cancer” or “God took my mom home, and I will praise him anyway.” It’s praying for these people on a regular basis for an opportunity to share the Gospel, the Good News that Jesus loves them, that he died for them, that he rose again from the dead for them and that he want to forgive their sins and live forever with them. How will they hear if we don’t tell them? Isn’t that exactly what Jesus did for Nicodemus? All he did was tell him the truth the rest was up to Nicodemus.

Dear Jesus, Thank you for being willing to speak to us even when we come to you by cover of night. Thank you for your power to change lives. Thank you for dying for loving us even to the point of death on a cross. Help us to be brave, even when we are afraid, so that we can tell a world bound for hell about the eternal life you provide. I pray that you begin to soften the hearts of those we see everyday and start to prompt them to speak with us about their questions. Give us the answers to help them know you, Lord. In Jesus’ powerful name we pray, Amen!

P.S. Because this was a longer study today, I will give you a couple of days to digest before I post again. Look for me again on Tuesday,

The End.

The Temptation of Christ, part 2

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Last time we looked at some background about this passage and the first temptation. To read it click here. As a refresher, let’s reread the passage from Luke 4:1-13

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.

The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”

The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

The second temptation

While the first temptation was about Jesus’ physical being, the second is focused on his authority as the Son of God. Satan takes him to a high place and instantly shows him in some kind of a vision all of the the kingdoms of the world. Then he says something that may come as a shock to us. Satan says, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” This is a brazen thing to say to the Son of God! Hold on a minute… You mean to tell me that Satan has authority over something that Jesus doesn’t? In a way, yes. Jesus eventually is given authority over the earth but right now it belongs to Satan. In 2 Corinthians 4:4 Satan is called the “god of this age.” And if you notice Jesus doesn’t refute Satan’s claims. I think he knows that God, the Father had given this world to Satan to rule… for a while. In short, Satan is tempting Jesus’s with his authority, or apparent lack thereof.

Again, Jesus comes back at him with Scripture; with what will later become known as the Great Commandment, “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only,” (Deuteronomy 6:13-14). He rests firm in the knowledge that yes, he doesn’t rule the earth… yet but his time is coming and that worshiping the one true God is more important than temporal glory. Jesus also knows that eventually he will be given all authority in heaven AND on earth (Matthew 28:28). When he comes back to rule them, it will be a perfect Kingdom, not the broken kingdoms that Satan has control over and it will be a Kingdom that has no end (Daniel 7:27).

The third temptation

Satan isn’t dumb. In fact he’s very smart. This time when he tempts he does it by quoting Scripture to Jesus as a reason for sinning. Since Jesus keeps throwing Scripture in Satan’s face to rebut his temptations, Satan is going to throw it right back at him. This time he tells Jesus to jump off the temple so that God can perform a miracle and send angels to save him before he hits the ground. He uses a passage from Psalm 91:11-12 to back up his claims. He quotes it correctly, but he quotes it out of context. The Psalm is about God protecting his people, not about Jesus. In other words Psalm 91:11-12 was not prophesy about Jesus that needed to be fulfilled. It was a general statement about the Israelites.

There is something else about this third temptation that I would like to point out. Satan has no qualms about taking Jesus to the holiest place on earth at the time. Satan took Jesus to the house of God so what makes us think that Satan isn’t able to enter our church doors? Scary to think about it, but it happens. Dissension, judgmentalism and complacency are just a few examples of how Satan has entered our churches. Think I’m wrong? Look around and I’m sure you will find the pharisees of your church who think that rule keeping makes them better than everyone else. Look further and you will see the petty arguments that divide congregations, sometimes to the point of collapse. And then there are those who are fine with the status quo. They are satisfied with their own salvation but don’t really care about a dying world bound for hell. These are all symptoms of sin. Sin is the result of temptation. Temptation is from Satan. See how it works? We are allowing Satan in our lives and therefore into our church bodies. He is trying to tear apart Christ’s mission at HQ and he’s succeeding more than we would like to admit. It is time we started using the power that we have to combat him. And how do we do this? By putting on the full armor of Christ! No, it’s not literal body armor, it’s more like soul armor:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6:10-18)

We have the strength and mighty power of God! We just don’t know it or use it! If we do the things found in this passage we will access a power that we have never known before. So what is this formula for battling Satan?

  • belt of truth
  • breastplate of righteousness
  • feet clad with readiness
  • shield of faith
  • helmet of salvation
  • sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God

Notice that all of these things are defensive items, except for the word of God. It is our method of offense! We have no idea how important the word of God is until we start to use it and see it in action! This is the reason that I have started these studies. I don’t know about you but I am tired of being impotent in the battle against Satan when I have the tools for victory right at hand. How about you? Are you sick of losing battles to Satan? These studies are meant to equip the average person with knowledge about God and his word so that you can not only know about God but use this knowledge to empower yourself in the name of Christ!

There is so much more I could say about this passage but I don’t want to bore you to tears. If you want to read a fascinating article on the Matthew version of this passage, visit Bible.org. I hope you are enjoying these as much as I enjoy writing them.

The end.

4. The Temptation of Christ

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4. The Temptation of Christ

The Temptation of Christ… Now there’s a juicy topic! Seriously, though, it may not be as exciting as the Hollywood flick, The Last Temptation of Christ, but it is still an interesting topic of study. It’s got drama, it’s got the struggle between Good and Evil, between God and Satan. I don’t know about you but there is something very calming and at the same time frightening about the whole thing. I love that Jesus understands the struggle I face when I am tempted. It is also horrifying to me that in a single instant, Jesus could’ve blown his mission (and my salvation) for all eternity.

Matthew, Mark and Luke all record this incident in their Gospels. Matthew and Luke are almost identical. The only real difference is the order in which the temptations occur. Mark barely mentions it all so I am opting for a version that gives details. Last time I picked Matthew’s account so this time I’ll pick Luke.

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.

The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”

The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

The first lesson that comes to mind is that right after we make a life change toward God, Satan often steps in to try and wreak havoc in our spiritual lives. Do you want to know what Jesus did right before he was tempted? He was baptized. He made a public commitment to God and the next thing you know he is being tempted by the devil. Isn’t that the way it seems to go? I don’t think it’s by chance that the Gospels are ordered this way. I think it’s actually how it happened, Jesus was baptized, then he was tempted.

Here’s something that can be troubling if we don’t understand what it means. Notice Jesus didn’t just accidentally wander into the desert. “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” (v. 1) The Holy Spirit led him there! Does this mean that God leads us into temptation? I thought he was supposed to, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one,” (Matthew 6:13), not deliver us to the evil one. In Matthew’s account it says that Jesus was, “led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil,” (Matthew 4:1) So what’s that all about? Well, the answer I believe is in the word that is translated “tempted”. In Greek, the word for tempted also means tested. My Bible adds a footnote to this effect and I’m not sure why they just don’t have it written as he was led to be tested. It makes more sense that way in my opinion. Especially in light of James 1:13, “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.” So I think it means that the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tested.  This test was God allowing Satan to tempt him in his humanity.

Something else that bothers me is the boldness of Satan to confront Jesus himself. Simply put, that took balls. Did Satan really expect Jesus to cave in and commit sin against himself or was he just having a bit of fun trying to frustrate Jesus with something he knew he had the power to do but not the authority to do? I don’t think Satan really expected Jesus to sin but it points out something quite obvious: if Satan is bold enough to tempt Jesus, what makes us think that he isn’t going to tempt us? In fact, it’s when we are at our weakest, that he uses our weaknesses against us. That’s dirty pool! But no one ever said Satan is fair.

The first temptation

There is lots of fascinating stuff going on in this passage. Not the least of these is the first temptation of hunger. Is it a sin to be hungry and want to eat something? No. But it would’ve been sin for Jesus to eat something while he was supposed to be fasting. It’s not clear if Jesus fasted for a literal forty days or if the number is symbolic. Regardless, the idea here is that Jesus had been in the desert practicing the spiritual discipline of fasting for a long time and he was hungry and his time of fasting was not over. In simplest terms, if God is telling you to fast for a period of time and you eat during that time, you are sinning. And so this is what we see here. Satan comes to a hungry Jesus and says, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread,” (v. 3). Note, he never says, “If you are hungry…” He’s not calling into question Jesus’ hunger; of course, he’s hungry. Satan is instead questioning Jesus’ authority to turn the stone into bread. There is a difference. I don’t know about you but when I am tempted it is almost always an issue of authority. In other words, it’s my decision to control what I do, not God’s. In Jesus’ temptation Satan basically says, “Since you are the Son of God (and have the authority) you have the ability to eat, so eat.” It’s a compelling statement and I’m not sure that Jesus did have the authority to sin. I think that’s how Satan is trying to trick him into sinning.

So how does Jesus resist the devil? He doesn’t pray for help. He doesn’t even tell the devil no. He quotes Scripture. Jesus uses God’s own word to refute the devil. This is why studying and knowing the Scriptures is so vitally important! Not only does it tell us how to live and love; it gives us power over Satan… but only if we know it. There is a reason why we are told to meditate on Scripture. Read this passage from Psalm 1:

Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night. (NIV)

You could read it like this,

You will be blessed by not sinning when you delight in the law of the Lord, when you meditate on it day and night. (My Version)

So let’s take a look at what Jesus says to Satan. Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 8:2-3: “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Ok. So he only quoted the last part of verse 3 but I wanted you to see the context of his answer. Yes, physical needs are important but not as important as spiritual needs. We need God, and we should hunger and thirst after Him. Instead we find all kinds of stuff to try to replace God. We decide that we know what’s best for us and we forget God.

Next time, we will look at the next two temptations. In the next two the devil raises the stakes and we will see how Jesus responds. Spoiler alert: Jesus wins!

The End.

3. The Baptism of Jesus

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The baptism of Jesus is a little blip in the grand story of Jesus. Let’s take a look and see why this might be important enough to be in three out of four gospels. For the purpose of our study we will be using the account found in Matthew because it is the most detailed and the other two versions do not differ much. If you want to read them you can click on their respective links, Mark 1:9-13 and Luke 3:21-22.

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son,whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13-17)

I don’t know about you but this passage raises some questions like, “What is baptism?”, “Why is baptism important?” and “Why did Jesus need to be baptized?” These are great questions and if you think of anymore that I don’t answer here, please feel free to ask them in the comment section below.

Let’s address the first question first: “What is baptism?” Literally, the Greek word for baptism means “to wash.”  Some religions just sprinkle water on the head, some pour water over the head and some dunk the whole body under water. Some churches, like mine for example, dunks the whole body three times, once in the name of the Father, once in the name of the Son, and once in the name of the Holy Spirit. I don’t think anyone knows for sure exactly how the first baptisms were done. And to be honest with you, I don’t think it really matters how you are baptized as long as you are baptized.

Why is baptism important? Some religions believe that the physical act of baptism is what saves your soul and that is why some perform infant baptisms. This is not what is taught in the Bible however. The Bible teaches that, “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God,” (Ephesians 2:8). This presumably can only happen once a person reaches an age where they can have faith and understand, at least on a basic level, the concept of sin and the need to be rescued from that sin. Since infants are unable to make that decision, it is pointless to baptize them. Baptism is not some magical spell by which we enter the kingdom of God. It is an outward symbol of inward repentance, of turning from our sinful ways, of washing away the sinful self. It is announcing to the world that you have decided to become a follower of Christ, a Christian. It is also where we get the term “born again”.

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:1-8)

Being baptized symbolizes a rebirth, a dying of the the old sinful self and a birth of a new justified self. I could go on here but I’ll save it for a later time.

So, if being baptized symbolizes a change from sinful life to a new life, why did Jesus have to be baptized? Well, the real answer is I don’t know and I’m not sure anyone else is 100% sure either but I can tell you what they say and what I think.

They say (they being biblical scholars) Jesus’ baptism shows God the Father’s approval of Jesus. This is obvious because God comes right out and says it after Jesus is baptized, “This is my Son,whom I love; with him I am well pleased,” (v. 17) They also say that Jesus’ baptism marks the consecration and validity of his ministry. In other words, the work he was about to do is holy and set aside for him. They also say that the Holy Spirit equips him for ministry when he descends like a dove. I think “they” are right in all of these things but I think they are missing an important aspect of Jesus’ baptism. Could it be that the baptism of Christ signifies a change from a simple baptism of repentance to a baptism of the Holy Spirit for all believers? Again, I’m not saying that it’s a magic formula to receive the Holy Spirit; I’m talking about an outward symbol of an inward change- one of the hard heart to a heart for God AND a spiritless soul to a Spirit filled soul. Again, this is just my own thoughts. I could be wrong about this but it seems to me that Holy Spirit was definitely working in the lives of believers even before Pentecost happened, when the Holy Spirit settled on the disciples in a powerful and visible way. Please feel free to leave questions or comments below!

Father, thank you for sending your Son to not only die for us but to live for us as well. Jesus, Thank you for being obedient to you Father in all things even to the point of death on a cross. Spirit, thank you for indwelling in us and equipping us for your work. Amen.

The End.

Your Great Name Devo

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Lost are saved; find their way;

at the sound of your great name

All condemned; feel no shame,

at the sound of your great name

Every fear; has no place;

at the sound of your great name

The enemy; he has to leave;

at the sound of your great name

Jesus, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us,

Son of God and ManYou are high and lifted up;

and all the world will praise your great name

Redeemer, My Healer, Lord Almighty

My savior, Defender, You are My King!

Most everyone calls me Geanna but the people that are closest to me have special names for me. My kids call me Mommy and my husband gets to call me Honey. In fact a lot of people are known by several names or nicknames and these names mean different things to different people. For example, when my kids call me Mommy, I hope they associate me with a loving authority figure. When my husband calls me Honey I hope he associates me with a loving spouse. So my question is what do we associate with the name of God? Is it just a word we use when we swear? Or is there something more in the name of God? Is there really power in just the sound of his name?

There are actually lots of names for God in the Bible and maybe someday I will do a series explaining some of them. There are just too many to do here right now but they are beautiful and each describes an attribute of God. But the one I want to begin with is the one that I believe is at the root of all the others. Let’s look at the Bible passage first. The context of this passage is as follows: The Israelites were in slavery in Egypt. God tells Moses to go to Egypt and demand that the Pharaoh set them free. Moses is afraid and starts making excuses like, “I don’t even know your name. What if the ask me your name?”. I think you are caught up now so let’s jump back into the text:

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘I Am the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’

“This is my name forever,
    the name you shall call me
    from generation to generation.

I am. Really? That’s the big, fancy name of God? I’ve got to be kidding you, right? Nope. That’s it. I even checked my Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon and that is the correct translation. Sounds simple, right? But think about it some more. I am. That’s actually quite significant. One way to take it is that God is always in a present state of being. He always is in a state of is. Not was, not will be, but is. I’m about to get a little trippy with this next explanation but I’ll try to be as clear as I can. Back in my college theology classes I remember a discussion that kinda blew my mind. It was about how God is outside of time. We can never fully understand God because we are bound by time- minutes, seconds, hours, days… you get the idea. But God created time when he created the sun and the moon (bear with me you non literal Creation believers). “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day,” (Genesis 1:3-5) Day is a measurement of time, God created day, therefore God created time. But God “is” before time. In fact he always “is”. In once sense he never was or will be because he just always is. Crazy, I know. It makes my brain hurt too. Talk about time travel- He is now, just as he is yesterday, just as he is tomorrow.

Another way to think about it is that maybe there just isn’t a human word perfect enough to be used for God’s name. We can describe him with words like, Redeemer, my Healer, Lord Almighty, My Savior, Defender, my King… the list goes on but aren’t these just human ways to describe an indescribable God?

But I still didn’t answer the question- Is there power in the name of God? In John 17:11b-12a Jesus prays, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me.” There is further evidence of power in the name of God found in Acts 4:5-10. Peter healed a lame man and the Pharisees didn’t like it one bit so they took Peter and John into custody…

The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there,

and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family.

They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people!

If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed,

then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,

whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.

I just want to add a Hallelujah! to the end of that. Preach, preacher! Yes, there is great power in the name of God and in his son, Jesus. There is healing power, there is protective power, and there is saving power, too! “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved,” (Joel 2:32 & Acts 2:21). Have you called on the name of the Lord? Is he your Healer, Protector, and Savior? If not, won’t you please consider it?

I could go on forever if I were to keep picking apart this song. For example, the line that says, “All condemned, feel no shame” Well, that’s a whole post in and of itself. I know I have a lot to be ashamed for in my life but through Jesus, my shame has been taken away. You can read about it here. But for now this is…

The End.