the first test

March 5, 2017 | Matthew 4:1-11 | Lent 1

Next Jesus was taken into the wild by the Spirit for the Test. The Devil was ready to give it. Jesus prepared for the Test by fasting forty days and forty nights. That left him, of course, in a state of extreme hunger, which the Devil took advantage of in the first test: “Since you are God’s Son, speak the word that will turn these stones into loaves of bread.” – The Message

As we begin this season of Lent, the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) takes us to a familiar story: Jesus is led by the Spirit into the desert wastelands where he will fast and pray for forty days.  It is this physically weakened state of Jesus that the Devil “took advantage of in the first test” as The Message translation so aptly puts it.

“Since you are God’s Son, speak the word that will turn these stones into loaves of bread.”

The mere thought of tests takes me back to my younger days where I often dreaded participating in the universally accepted method of assessing one’s knowledge or abilities.  I remember walking out of my very first Chemistry midterm in college brimming with confidence.  I got my test scores back and I received a 97 – out of 200.  After that first semester, I would ending up transitioning into the humanities.  A medical doctor I most certainly would not become.

One thing I have learned about successful test-taking is that it is absolutely critical that you understand what is being tested.  You don’t go into a biology exam by cramming Shakespeare.  Realizing what is being tested is half the battle in one’s preparation.  Armed with that understanding, I have looked upon Jesus’ testing in the wilderness with new eyes during this Lent Season.

Through all my years in reading this passage, my focus has always been on the latter half of this temptation – turn these stones into bread.  I have often thought that was the crux of the temptation and it makes sense.  Jesus has fasted for forty days and nights.  He is weak.  He is hungry.  The devil wants Jesus to do something, perhaps to use His powers for self-sustenance.  But the main point of this temptation is not Jesus’ hunger – it is His identity.

IF you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.

Jesus’ identity as God’s Son is being called into question.  This line of reasoning is insidious, a slippery slope that – if Jesus were to fall into – would cast doubt on his true identity as God’s Son – and God’s goodness as a faithful father.  Remember that immediately preceding this testing in the wilderness is Matthew 3:13-17, the baptism of Jesus.  As soon as Jesus is baptized, he comes out of the water, the Holy Spirit descends upon him like a dove and a voice from heaven proclaims, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”  This first test, therefore, is the devil basically saying, “You sure ’bout dat?”

We see echoes of this temptation in an earlier time, in the Garden.  “Did God really say, ‘you must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” the serpent asked Eve.  You see, in the Garden, it wasn’t about Eve being hungry.  The subtle accusation in the serpent’s questioning (test) was that somehow, God was denying Adam and Eve.  Satan’s ploy was effectively to convince Eve that God the All-Benevolent Creator was actually holding out on her, that she was missing out because God wasn’t for her, because God wasn’t good.

Let me pause here and redirect your attention to our 2017 Annual Theme: Sons and Daughters, Sisters and Brothers.  That’s a lot of words and it’s not even a complete sentence.  I’m sorry about that.  But I am excited about this theme and I hope you will be too.  What I am trying to convey with SDSB is the idea that, in Christ, we are made to be Sons and Daughters of a Heavenly Father who is good, who loves us.  Moreover, as a church community our identity is also about growing as Sisters and Brothers in Christ, becoming a family of faith.  It is my prayer that we grow in deeper understanding of what it means to be Sons and Daughters of the Most High God, Sisters and Brothers through Jesus Christ.  And if the devil tried to call into question Jesus’ identity as the Son of God, then we need to be prepared for a similar testing.  But thanks be to God because in Jesus, we have One who has taken the test – and exceedingly passed.

It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.”

Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3: “It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.”

Specifically Jesus was recounting the story of Israel – recognized throughout the Hebrew Scriptures as God’s Son – and how God proved Himself faithful by providing for His child by giving them manna from heaven in their 40-year journey through the wilderness.  In giving this bread from heaven, God was trying to show the Israelites that He could spread a table of provision for them anyhow, anywhere.  God would always sustain them and care for them.  But what was crucial for Israel to know was that they needed to trust in God, to believe that there was something they needed even more than mere manna from heaven – and that was the steady stream of words from God’s mouth.

Beloved community in Christ, may Jesus’ response remind us that the same answer holds true today.  May we be known as Sons and Daughters who seek the steady stream of words from God’s mouth.  Through Scripture study, worship, prayer and meditation, let us seek to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.  And during this 40-day season of Lent, may you draw closer to Jesus.  Thanks be to God.

 

love, live, lent

“Lent is the 40 day period of fasting, penitence, and sorrow, leading up to the feast of Easter, recalling Jesus’ 40-day fast in the wilderness.” – http://www.churchyear.net/lent.html

I am writing this blog primarily for the students and staff of LinC Ministry (the youth ministry of the KUMC of San Diego).  Feel free to use, reproduce, or canonize any part of this for your own viewing pleasure.

While there are different definitions and nuances given to this unique season in the church calendar, most Christians will agree on the following bullet-points regarding Lent (in other matters, we’re more likely to kill each other).

Lent is….

  • 40 days (not counting Sundays) between Ash Wednesday (March 9) and Easter Sunday (April 24).
  • a time to focus on simple living, more prayer, self-denial.  (some even include an emphasis on giving to the poor).
  • a chance to remember Christ’s 40 days in the desert where he was tempted but sinned not.  Because the Bible records that Jesus fasted food, we can rest assured that Jesus did not forsake twitter, facebook, Call of Duty, or K-dramas.
  • a spiritual training opportunity for Christian men and women to walk more intimately with Christ,

Question: WHY did Jesus do this?

Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit and “led by the Spirit” into the wilderness where he was tempted by the devil for 40 days while eating nothing – Luke 4:1-2.

Jesus of Nazareth Spirit-filled & Spirit-led.  CHECK.

Jesus of Nazareth tempted by the devil himself.  CHECK.

Question: Why do we do this?

Let’s understand that running into the arms of God means that the devil will be coming after us with greater fury and urgency than the chariots of pharaoh chasing after the freed Israelites.  Hear Oswald Chambers:

We are apt to imagine that when we are saved and sanctified we are delivered from temptation; we are not; we are loosened into it.  Before we are born again, we are not free enough to be tempted, neither morally nor spiritually.  Immediately we are born into the Kingdom of God, we get our first introduction into what God calls temptation, viz., the temptations of His Son. – The Psychology of Redemption, 1078 R.

We will fast patiently, pray earnestly, and live simply in the hopes of being consecrated & completely sold-out to Jesus Christ.  We hope to gladly offer up our lives as living sacrifices upon the altar set up to worship the one true living God.

Question: WHAT HAPPENED after Jesus did this?

Power.  Boom.  Kabow.  The Bible teaches us that Jesus went to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.  Jesus is Spirit-empowered to do His Father’s Will.  Jesus preaches, heals and teaches with Kingdom Power and Authority.  He’s on fire.

Question: WHAT WILL HAPPEN to us?

John Wesley wrote to Alexander Mather in 1777:

Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen, such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven upon earth.

This is my prayer – that LinC Ministry will turn into a furnace where the Master and Savior of the world will fashion and forge Spirit-empowered young women and men.

So, what do we do?

  • Pick a food item or a meal (b,l,d) and fast from it.  (you can eat it on the 6 sundays during lent)
  • pray.  as a group we meet on wednesday evenings and saturday mornings but you would be wise to pray more than 2x a week.
  • read the Word of God.  do the bible reading journey.  attend the ketchup sessions.
  • save up money and ask God how you should spend it (with the one rule being that this $tash of cash can’t be for selfish gain)

Don’t call it fasting, but you can try denying yourself some stuff like various forms of electronics.  It may even benefit you:

  • you might improve your sleep
  • you just might grow that elusive fruit of patience
  • you might actually have time to pray and read the Word.

 

strength and honor,

ps

Lord, fill me with Thy Spirit.

hello, friends.

i had the privilege of leading early morning prayer today.  our scripture passages are all pre-determined so it’s hard to preach anything “free-style.”  however, i’ve never had a bad scripture passage to preach from.  i guess that shows the power and beauty of God’s word.

God’s Word needs not our embellishment

-homiletics professor @ fuller seminary

today’s scripture was almost too cool to be true.  John 3:31-36:

31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this,that God is true. 34For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

look what the latter half of verse 34 says.  of course, in this passage it is John the Baptist who is speaking, and his primary subject is Jesus Christ.  John is speaking of how God has given Jesus the Spirit without measure.

but i believe that this word applies to us as well.  in the Old Testament, God gave the people a portion of His Spirit as the seasons saw fit.  with the coming of Christ, God promises that He will pour out His Spirit on all flesh.  Peter affirms this promise when he explains that the events during the first post-Jesus Pentecost were the results of this outpouring.

back to the John passage.  i believe that God is good.  He’s even gooder than we think.  Jesus, who reigns on high, 전능하신 하나님, has freely given us the Holy Spirit to live our lives with a radical Kingdom focus.  on this day, pray for a greater filling of the Holy Spirit.  invite the Spirit to not only visit you, but to do dwell within your inner being.

at the recent winter retreats (youth & college) the Holy Spirit came in power.  let us freely ask our Abba Father to fill us with this same Spirit so that living in the Spirit is a normative part of the Christian life, not some freak show relegated to once-a-year retreats.

may God bless you and fill you with His Holy Spirit.  ask Him for more – He gives the Spirit without limit.