Lenten Reflections 2012: Retreating into the wilderness with Jesus, Day 25

Day 25, Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Temptation of Jesus in desert. HOLE, WILLIAM: ...

Temptation of Jesus in desert. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 One of the ways believers can discern Satan’s temptation is by recognizing that he proposes an easy way out of the situation and/or a short-cut to achieve our goals. Satan was fully aware of Jesus’ mission and His goals to achieve that mission. Satan, therefore, proposed Jesus to reach his goals by doing a miracle of turning the bread into wine, by bowing in worship to Satan, or by just throwing himself off the cliff (See, Matthew 4:1-11). As you’ll notice, these actions would have helped Jesus to satisfy His hunger, and seemingly realize His kingdom on earth. The reason Jesus refused to accept all of Satan’s proposals is that none of them helped Him obey God’s will. They carried a very small price tag attached to them compared to the life of suffering and pain that was part and parcel of Jesus’ calling according to God’s plan. Satan often offers a huge prize for a little bowing of our heads before him, as he promised kingdoms of the world to Jesus. But Jesus knew the hidden cost of a small price tag of succumbing to Satan’s tricks—losing out on God’s plan for us.  Satan has a master’s degree in deception, as he often uses deception as a tool to lead people astray. He will always say: Look, God’s way of living in the world takes too long and requires too much effort. If you follow me, I could give the same stuff to you right now if you will just bow down to me. Satan will always encourage instant gratification. Thus his shortcuts can eventually cut short our very lives from attaining the eternal life.

If we suddenly come across an opportunity to satisfy our physical need of food, sex, power, or money, let us pause and think over it. What would have Jesus done in this situation? Would He take advantage of the situation or realize it as Satan’s plan to distract and lead us into sinning? Or may be today, some of us are going through hardships, long-term or terminal sickness in our bodies or someone we love and care about. And Satan comes along with an offer that sounds too good to be true. He provides a short-cut to success, healing, wealthy, and pleasant life at the cost of a mere bowing to his will instead of God Almighty. May we do what Jesus has taught us in the past few days—base our response to the temptations in the Word of God. God will give us victory. Amen.

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Lenten Reflections 2012: Retreating into the wilderness with Jesus, Day 24

Day 24, Tuesday, March 20, 2012

the lure of "saving"

 

We may never be tempted in exactly the same way as Jesus was during the days He walked on this earth. However, temptations come to us in so many subtle and deceptive ways that many a times we do not even realize that we’re being tempted to take a certain course of action. One of these temptations we face today is through advertisements in the media that influence our shopping habits. Studies show that every day, we are exposed to over 3000 advertisements in the print and digital media, through social networking sites, and other outlets. Most of these ads promise us the moon and ultimately solicit us to buy their stuff. Our emotional impulses lead us to act irrationally and we eventually end up buying the product of the company that does the best job of tempting us through their subtle and yet creative tempting ads. That’s why all big corporations have multi-million dollar budgets just of the advertisements. Many of us go about buying stuff without ever thinking that we’re actually yielding to Satan’s temptations daily. We don’t realize that we may be bordering on the idolatry when material stuff becomes the center of our lives rather than God. Slowly, under the spell of Satan, instead of consuming to live, we start living to consume. Many of us start working ourselves to death in order to pay for everything they want to own. As a result, the stuff we possess starts giving us meaning, status, and even our identity. We often forget that it was a function assigned to our faith—our belief in Christ used to give us meaning and identity, which no more matters when we fall prey to the temptations of consumerism.

Therefore, what shall we do when we live in a culture that tempts us to buy and consume more and more and essentially encourages us to live beyond our means. Please read what Prophet Haggai 1:5-6 said because it is so relevant for our situation: “Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” If you find yourself in that situation today, you need to “give careful thought to your ways” of spending money, your shopping habits, and your method of handling the resources God has entrusted with you. Are you being a good steward who has nothing to be ashamed of (2 Timothy 2:15)? We all will have to give an account to God of not only our sins and spiritual life, but also of our resources, finances, and spending habits. May God give us spiritual discernment to recognize the subtle temptations and power to overcome them today. Amen.

Lenten Reflections 2012: Retreating into the wildernss with Jesus, Day 18

English: The Temptation of Jesus on the Mountain

Second temptation of Christ

Day 18, Tuesday, March 13, 2012

 For the second temptation of Jesus see Matthew 4:5-6 and Luke 4: 9-12. When the devil could not get Jesus to do that was not in God’s will, he took him to the city of Jerusalem. Now the order of these temptations differs in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, but it’s of no particular significance. Each gospel writer has arranged the same material in a slightly different order to suite his purpose and audience. In what the devil thought was a better idea than the previous one; he took Jesus to the highest point of the magnificent temple of Jerusalem, and asked him to throw himself down. Interestingly, the devil himself cites the scriptures this time from Psalm 91:11-12: “For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Satan proposed that if the angels really came down to protect him from being striking against stones, he, along with many Israelites will be convinced of His divinity and start following Him. Sounds really like a neat plan until we understand what is actually in the devil’s heart.

 You see, the devil also knows the Word of God and he’s the master of deception and disguise. He uses, twists, and misinterprets the Word of God using it out of context, according to his evil purposes, and in opposition to the will of God. Since Jesus knew the scriptures better along with their original context and intent, he fought back with the same but powerful “it is written” statement in front of which Satan could not stand (see Deuteronomy 6:16). However, Satan has not relented in using this trick on Jesus’ disciples, as even today he leads many astray by misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the Word of God. If the devil comes in the form of a person who seems to know the scriptures well come along and prompts us to do something ridiculous, we all need to go back to the Bible and examine it carefully in its proper context. A lot of errors in churches today could be avoided if believers were diligent in studying and obeying God’s Word. One of such errors in the church today is going after the physical healings and miracles sans spirituality. In fact, a few preachers teach people to ask for the miraculous thus leading them to test God. Yes, miracles do happen to the believing and yes Jesus is still alive to do them. But only a faith that is weak seeks a sign and/or the miraculous intervention to believe in God and in His almighty power. Jesus told Satan, however, that His faith in God’s power is unwavering and He doesn’t need to seek or show any extraordinary miracle to prove God’s power and presence with Him. May we continue to fight the natural urge to go after signs and miracles; rather let us learn to trust in Him even when God appears to be invisible and silent. Amen.

 

Lenten Reflection 2012: Retreating into the wilderness with Jesus, Day 17.

Temptation of Jesus in desert. HOLE, WILLIAM: ...

Jesus in the wilderness

Day 17, Monday, March 12, 2012

 Matthew 4:1-4 tells us that Jesus was hungry and Satan made it a point of temptation by asking Him to make bread out of stones. Satan fully knew that Jesus was the Son of God and yet he wanted Jesus to doubt His identity in the face of hunger. For the Son of God, there was nothing wrong in being hungry and even with turning the stones into bread to satisfy His hunger. However, Jesus refused to obey Satan because He was on a mission. Jesus knew that He was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit and that it was the will of His father for Him to go hungry at this time. Jesus was fasting and praying for a spiritual work that was according to the will of His heavenly Father and Jesus had learned to do nothing outside the will of His Father. The very discipline of fasting is for the purpose of taking one’s eyes and dependency off the material necessities and to focus on God, His purpose of sending Jesus on earth, and how that would be fulfilled in the coming days as Jesus obeyed Him. Thus, any acceptance of Satan’s suggestion would have taken Jesus’ eyes off God and if He had done what Satan wanted Him to do, Jesus would have done the will of the devil instead of continuing in the perfect will of His Father.

 Jesus also didn’t fall for the temptation to prove his divinity because by His refusal to obey him, He wanted to tell the devil and thereby to all of us that to remain hungry is better than to be fed by the bread outside the will of God for our lives. The essence of being divine or, for that matter, the essence of anyone being a follower of Christ is our obedience to the Father by doing His will and not to prove who we are. Our identity is found in doing the will of God rather than in seeking or performing miracles.

 You and I may be in a place of hunger today, which means a place of need and lacking the basic necessities of life, such as food, shelter and clothing for our family. It’s in such points of need that Satan’s temptations become severe in our lives. We may even feel justified by fulfilling those pressing needs by any means for the sake of our family. The temptation may come in any form and at times may not even seem like a temptation at all. However, in such a situation, we need to remind ourselves that perhaps we’re in the wilderness and in privation under the will of God who has led us into this situation. He may have a better purpose for leading us through all this. Like Jesus, may we continue to seek to be in the will of God and choose to go hungry rather than feed upon the goodies that are independent of the will of God? Amen!

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Lenten Reflections 2012: Retreating into the wilderness with Jesus, Day 16

Slices of French Bread

Image via Wikipedia

Day 16, Saturday, March 10, 2012

 In the first temptation when the devil wanted Jesus to make bread out of stones because He was hungry, Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4: 4, Luke 4:4). Interestingly, Jesus cited Deuteronomy 8:2-3 from memory. If you recall, we saw how Jesus’ experience is very similar to the wilderness experience of the Israelites. Deut. 8:2-3 (NIV) reads,

“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.”

 Jesus must have been reading the Word of God and contemplating on Israelites’ experience in the wilderness of Sinai. That’s why, in the face of hunger and temptation, he could tell Satan that there is more to our earthly life than just our physical needs. If we go deeper in the Word of God and do in our life what it says, we, too, will soon realize that the Word is life-giving. Compared to the worldly things surrounding us, the Bible says:

“‘But the word of the Lord endures forever.’ Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you. Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Pet 1:25-2:2 NewKJV).

The Word of God can satisfy our spiritual hunger and thirst and thus we should grow spiritually. There are millions of people today that call themselves Christian, but aren’t growing at all. God has blessed them physically, financially, and in every other way, as He did the people of Israel. But as far as the Word of God and their spiritual life is concerned, they are at the same stage today at which they were 25 years ago or so. They haven’t grown. As a result, they have grown in their dependency on the material stuff that has been accumulated around them. Therefore, in the face of testing of their faith, they will not have the spiritual resources to draw from and cannot win over the tempter. Today, let us look within and in the past. What is the source of your life? Is it the Word of God? What’s exactly the place of the Word of God in your life? Is it only to be kept under the pillow, on the bookshelf, or in the suitcase when you travel? Or, has it just become a habit that you read the Word and then forget about it? How much have you grown in the Word since you became a follower of Christ? God bless! Amen.

Lenten Reflections: Retreating into the wilderness with Jesus, Day 15.

English: Illustration of "Paradise Lost&q...

Day 15, Friday, March 9, 2012

In the third temptation of Jesus, we see devil’s heart’s desire displayed unmistakably—he wants to be God. Essentially, this is what made him what he is today. Please read Isaiah 14:12-15 and Revelation 12:9, as they describe Satan’s nature and origin. Lucifer, as he’s called in Isaiah 14:12 in several older translations, used to be in the presence of God. But he could not stomach that only God was worshiped in heaven. He was proud as illustrated in Isaiah 14: 12-15 where his “I will” statements appear five times in just two sentences. “I will” often stems from a heart full of boasting. Therefore, due to his pride the devil rebelled against God, and was thrown out of His presence to become the source of all evil.

 In the first two temptations when Satan failed to trick Jesus into obedience to what he wanted Him to do, Satan showed his true colors, and wished that Jesus would bow down to him. He desperately wanted to be acknowledged and worshiped as God. For this purpose, Satan showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the earth. The Roman Empire at Jesus’ time was the greatest in history. Its geographical reach and cultural splendor remained unparalleled for a long time until it fell and what we see today is only its ruins. Jesus must have been surely impressed by the glory and splendor of the kingdoms and nations of the world and what humanity has achieved through its God-given creativity. However, Jesus also knew the depravity of human beings and the temporal nature of all that our hands have produced. His eyes were fixed on the eternal Kingdom of God which he had come to proclaim both to the kings and to the commoner. He, therefore, didn’t want to do anything with the kingdoms of this earth. He knew, as he later stated, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). That’s why Jesus responded: “Go away Satan! The Scriptures say: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him’” (Matthew 4:10). And the devil left him. In the similar temptations of our lives today where so many things are vying for our attention, adoration and adulation, let us focus our eyes on the eternal Kingdom of God. And Satan will not be able to lead us astray. Amen.