Lenten Reflections 2012: Retreating into the wilderness with Jesus, Day 22

Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness

Day 22, Saturday, March 17, 2012

We have several things to learn from the temptations of Jesus Christ. One of them is Jesus’ attitude during the temptations and the way He handled the situation. Jesus didn’t complain about being tempted, instead He showed a positive attitude. Jesus didn’t doubt His own identity, as the Son of God sent on a mission. Whenever Satan tried to raise doubts through his temptations, Jesus declined his offers by keeping His eyes fixed on His mission that was of higher good and spiritual nature than the material needs of his own or the stuff he was being offered. Therefore, when He was offered bread, power, or possessions, things that were material than spiritual in nature, Jesus thought in terms of the mission and the kingdom of God that was inaugurated by Him on earth. He evaluated the offers in light of His higher mission and the values of the Kingdom. He kept love as the supreme operating value of the Kingdom of God. Jesus’ kingdom would not be forced with power or compulsions upon people but attract them in by the force of His unceasing love.

 Satan continues to tempt His people today just as He did for all the saints in the history of humanity. However, our temptations are not unique, as Paul said In 1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” Thus, whatever situation we may be in today it has already been faced by God’s people several times in the past. Jesus’ apostles, too, fought among themselves for power and positions and they often wanted Jesus to use force to defeat Satan (see Mark 9:33ff; Matthew 16:21ff; Luke 9:51-56). When we face the similar temptations in our personal and church life, Satan will try to divert our attention from our highest purpose and mission. He wishes that we forsake the kingdom values of love and take our eyes off God’s mission for petty things such as a position of authority over others. He wishes that keep ourselves busy with work, job, activities, programs, and look for ways to control others by our power and positions. Therefore, we need to adopt the positive attitude of Jesus and keep our eyes fixed upon our higher calling, our mission that God has sent us on, and practicing the most vital virtue of the kingdom of God—love. It is this attitude of love that will help us relinquish offers of power and positions and keep us focused on God, His mission, and His Kingdom on earth. Amen.

 


Lenten Reflections 2012: Retreating into the wilderness with Jesus, Day 21

Day 21, Friday, March 16, 2012

 Jesus calmly confronted Satan in the wilderness and was able to come triumphant out of this experience because of His dependence on God’s Word. In the last temptation, Jesus had to finally rebuke Satan and charged him to leave Him alone (see Matthew 4:10). Satan left Him, but Luke adds a very significant little detail that is not found in any other gospel. He writes: “And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13). You might recall that at the beginning of this Lenten devotional we saw that Jesus’ temptations were not limited to just three mentioned here. In fact, He was tempted throughout His earthly life and yet remained sinless. There is an absorbing theological debate about the issue whether Jesus could have sinned or not or whether he was capable of sinning. We don’t want to digress into this dispute now. I would rather leave it for some other day, God willing.

 Luke 4:13 is clear that Satan only temporarily departed from Jesus in the wilderness, but just because Jesus prevailed over him does not mean that Satan threw up his hands and quit forever. Jesus encountered the devil and His tricks all through His ministry in one form or the other. Sometimes the temptations came in the form of His enemies and occasionally in the form of His own disciples. For example, do you remember what Jesus once said to Peter, when he wished that Jesus would not die? – “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16: 23 NIV). Temptation is not a sin, and in Jesus’ case God’s Spirit initiated and permitted Satan to tempt Jesus. Luke also tells us that temptation is not a once and for all event. No temptation is resisted permanently not to be tempted again by the same kinds of temptation or to fall into a similar one time and again. Luke says that Satan always looks for an opportunity to tempt us at the point when we may be in the most vulnerable situation. For example, at the point of Jesus’ most vulnerability in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked his disciples to “pray that you may not enter into temptation.” However, he went further ahead of them and prayed for the removal of the cup of suffering that he knew He had to come to drink (Luke 22: 39-44). The book of Hebrews (4:15) tells that Jesus was tempted in every area and thus He is able to help us when Satan brings before us the temptation that we thought we had resisted one and for all. May we take refuge in Jesus when we are tempted and learn from His experience? Amen.

English: Christ is tempted by Satan. The engra...

Lenten Reflections 2012: Retreating into the wilderness with Jesus, Day 20

Day 20, Thursday, March 15, 2012

In the third temptation of Jesus (please read Matthew 4:8-10 and Luke 4:5-8), the devil showed Him the glory and splendor ofThe Temptation of Christ (detail 6) the kingdoms of the world and then revealed his inmost desire—to be worshiped as God or to become God. From the beginning, the Bible describes Satan telling lies to humanity about God and about becoming God. He wants to be God and falsely promises others to make them into gods. Satan also offers shortcuts and easy options in life.

In the Garden of Eden, he told Adam and Eve subtle lies that they “will not die” and that they “will be like God” (Genesis 3:4-5, RSV). Satan knew that Jesus was on earth in order to establish His kingdom and to be the King. So, he offered Him a shortcut saying something like this, “Look, you don’t have to really go through all this suffering, you don’t have to really die a cruel death on the cross to establish your kingdom and to be recognized as the King of the world. I’ll offer you all that if only you would bow down and worship me!” However, as we have seen earlier, Jesus knew Satan’s lies and knew that His kingdom was not of this world. He preached about the Kingdom of Heaven. That’s why, later on, Jesus reminded His disciples the true nature of Satan who “has nothing to do with truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44 RSV). Unfortunately, throughout history far too many people have fallen prey to the devil’s lies and deception. Adam and Eve surely did thus leading humanity into sin. However, Jesus Christ commanded Satan to leave by quoting the first of the Ten Commandments from the Word of God (Matthew 4:10, see Deuteronomy 6:13; Exodus 20:3-4). And the devil left him.

 But now, there are so many lies and deceptions that Satan still continues to spread even in the church and through the so-called Christian preachers. There are millions of Christians today that live believing his lies and being deceived continuously. He continuous to promise the worldly stuff, power, and positions to people and many fall for it. So, how can you and I stand firm in our faith in the midst of lies, deception, and deceit being persistently projected into our homes through all kinds of media, including the Christian ones? If there is one thing we can take home from Jesus’ temptation, it is this: be well-grounded in the Word of God. Study the Word, properly, systematically, and thoroughly. There is no dearth of biblical resources and tools at our disposal these days, but there is no replacement for a personal time spent in the Word of God for ourselves. And then complement it with prayer asking the help of the Holy Spirit to live daily by Word . Amen.

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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.