Lenten Reflections 2012: Retreating into the wilderness with Jesus, Day 34

Day 34, Saturday, March 31, 2012

 After His wilderness experience Jesus returned to Galilee, his home. He did so glowing from being in the presence of God, and full of the anointing and power of the Holy Spirit. You would expect that people must have been in awe of Him, accepted His teachings, repented from their sins, and soon He was a great leader with a huge following. Well, the first reaction at home was great, as Luke says, “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him” (Luke 4:14-15 NIV). However, as soon as Jesus began to apply the Word of God to Himself and preached about God’s grace in choosing Israel, out of many nations, to be His people, the folks got mad at Jesus. In the same chapter 4, where we just saw people praising Him, Luke further says, “All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way” (Luke 4:28-30 NIV). They were His own people, as they knew Him and His family well. They did recognize God’s presence with Him and the anointing and authority with which Jesus spoke to them: “And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth…” (Luke 4: 22 RSV). But as I just said, they became indignant the moment Jesus proclaimed that God’s Word is about Him and for Him. He applied the words of prophecy to Himself. He also proclaimed the gospel of grace by citing the history of Israel that deals with God’s act of choosing people for His purpose and glory through His grace alone and not because of their merit. People were not ready to accept it and immediately wanted to end His life.

The world is no different today. We often expect that our life will be easy and received well once we spend time with God and are anointed by the Holy Spirit for His work. All people will just praise us and glorify our life and ministry. In fact, this is exactly the impression that many televangelists and prosperity preachers give today as they show images of “miracles” amidst huge crowds in mega cities of the majority world. They claim to be popular because God is supposedly with them and working through them. But we need to test if they’re living according to the Word and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. This Lent, we need to pause and reflect on the life of Jesus and assess our lives today in light of Jesus’ life and the Word of God. Are we applying daily the Word of God that we received in our wilderness experience in our lives or are we just listening/reading it? Satan is very happy if we only read or listen, but we will make him really mad the moment we begin to apply it in our lives personally. The world is not going to love it; in fact, they are going to hate us and shun us completely when we walk in the light of His Word and the grace brought to us through the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, miracles or no miracles, God’s Spirit and His power are always with us and He will help us lead a holy life according to His Word. The world is not going to accept us or receive us favorably if we proclaim the gospel of grace, as Jesus Himself has already warned us in John 15: 18-27. May God’s Spirit be with you this weekend. Amen.

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Lenten Reflections 2012: Retreating into the wilderness with Jesus, Day 26

Day 26, Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Word of God stained glass window at St. Ma...

The Word of God stained glass window at St. Matthew's Lutheran Church in Charleston, SC. Franz Mayer & Co. of Munich, Germany. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Spending forty days without food is not easy. The question is often raised—where did Jesus find His strength to survive those difficult days of hunger and nights of solitude in the wilderness? Both accounts of His experience in Matthew 4 and Luke 4 show us that Jesus’ capability came from the Word of God. He constantly fed on the Word and the presence of God during His hard times. The Word of God became not only the indispensable part but also the source of His daily life. This is what also gave Jesus the power to fight His own inner urges as well as the outside temptations of the devil. As we have already seen in the past few days, He always fought back Satan’s various seductions with the Word of God and was ultimately able to come victoriously out of the wilderness to accomplish the mission He had come for on this earth.

There is a second source of Jesus’ ability to fight the tempter and his diverse deceptions and that is—doing God’s will always. The devil tempted Jesus to go against God’s plan and will for Jesus and to fulfill His own desires of eating bread, show off to the world that He truly was the Messiah, and to become the King of all the kingdoms of the world, as Satan had offered Him. However, in all of these, Jesus remained committed to only fulfilling the will of God for His life. That is why, later on, when evangelizing and teaching His disciples, “Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work” (John 4:34 RSV). In fact, Jesus repeated this several times. For example, He said, “I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 5:30 RSV). And again He said, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38 RSV). Thus, Jesus made His work—the mission of proclaiming the kingdom of God—His meat and his drink. He was always so consumed with doing His Father’s will that He didn’t worry much about the basic necessities of life such as food, drink, or clothing and shelter. Nevertheless, the Father did supply these for His Son. Today, if you’re in the wilderness, what is the place of God’s Word in your daily life? Is it a prominent place or just another task in the long to-do-list of your hectic life? Moreover, what place the will of God—the mission of God—has in your life? In what practical ways are you fulfilling it? God bless!

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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.