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Real Men Carry Their Crosses – Dealing With Temptation III: Boastful Pride of Life (Matthew 4)

November 22, 2012

The second and third temptation of Christ follow the same basic format of the first - Satan comes to Jesus with the suggestion that He satisfy or exalt Himself outside of God’s plan, and Jesus responds to the temptation with the truth of God’s Word.

Temptation #2: The Pride of Life (Matthew 4:5-7)

To recap the first temptation, Satan tried to get Jesus to submit to him rather than stay submitted to God by appealing to Jesus’ bodily desires and questioning God’s goodness and care.  Jesus responded with God’s Word: food isn’t primary to our sustenance – God is.  After this, the devil took Jesus to Jerusalem, right to the pinnacle of the temple, and tempted Him a different way.  For context, the “pinnacle of the temple” in Jerusalem could’ve been either the southeast corner (almost a 450-foot drop overlooking the Kidron Valley) or the southwest corner (more visible to more of the city but not as high).  Regardless of which corner they stood on, the point remains – it was high enough to kill in a fall and it was visible enough to be seen by many.

In this attempt to get Jesus to sin, Satan says,

“If you are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU’; and, ‘ON THEIR HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.’”  (Matthew 4:5-6)

Essentially, Satan says here, “Since You’re God’s Son, prove it to everyone now!  Everyone will know that You are the Christ when they see you survive such a fall, borne up by the very angels of heaven!”  I can almost hear Satan chiding Jesus, “Aren’t people supposed to know who You are?  Isn’t this why You came?  This will make the statement You want!”  Think about this.  Satan’s temptation is for Jesus to throw Himself off the temple top.  Why?  What does it accomplish?  Look at the word ‘for’ in verse 5 – it means ‘because’ and begins Satan’s reasoning: “Jump, because God has promised to save You.”  There’s no real reason for Jesus to do this except that God has promised to protect His people.

Notice that Satan appeals to pride here.  He tries to get Jesus to presume upon His Father’s power and display Himself to people.  Jesus’ identity had already been revealed at His baptism and it would be revealed publicly time and again throughout His ministry (ultimately in His death and resurrection); and Jesus would be exalted publicly, but these things were for God to do in His own way in His own time.  But again, Satan tries to get Jesus to step outside of God’s plan for Him and bring about the plan on His own schedule, in His own way, without the suffering of the cross.

Notice also that Satan uses God’s own Word to justify the sin he’s presenting to Jesus.  He quotes Psalm 91:11-12, twisting an encouragement to trust God into a justification to test God.  Psalm 91 was written about God’s faithfulness in protecting His people.  Satan says, “Since You’re God’s Son, You can count on God’s protection here! It is written! He has declared He will protect His people!”  Remember that Jesus wouldn’t use His own divine power (which He set aside in taking on humanity) to satisfy His bodily desire, but rather chose to trust the Father for provision and sustenance.  Here Satan appeals to that trust in a twisted way.  Since Jesus wouldn’t satisfy and exalt Himself with His own power, Satan tried to get Him to satisfy and exalt Himself using the Father’s power.  Satan takes this promise from God to His people and tries to get Jesus to handcuff His Father with it, holding God to a promise though it would be used out of its context for purposes outside of God’s timeline and plan.

This is how the temptation of the “boastful pride of life” works.  We find ourselves so often tempted in our pride, desiring exaltation in the eyes of others and ourselves, and often we misuse Scripture to justify it.

Pride by itself begins with “I” at the heart of every thought, word and deed.  Anytime a temptation starts with “I deserve [blank] because I’ve done [blank]…” or “I deserve [blank] because I am [blank]…”, it is appealing to pride.  Even in the case of something so “little” as beaking off at someone who opposes you, or swearing at someone under your breath for cutting you off on the road or in the grocery store line, it is your pride, tempted and stirred, that motivates your behaviour.  Often, we say in these circumstances, “They did [blank], so I couldn’t help myself…”, or, “They did [blank] so they asked for it…”  But let’s turn this around and start with “I”, because this is always where it starts; let’s call it like it truly is:  “I did [blank] because I was offended…”  Period.  Yes, it’s always that simple.  The temptation says to you, “You don’t deserve that.  You deserve better treatment than that.  You deserve to be able fly off the handle at that person because you’ve been good for such a long time, and you didn’t start it, after all; you were wronged!”

Isn’t this true?

What’s interesting is that often we are convicted of this kind of behaviour; we know it’s wrong, so we need a justification for it.  There is often a need for two types of justification – one justifies your reaction in your own eyes, and the other justifies your reaction in the eyes of others.  Depending on who you are and depending on who the others around you are, you may use a normal justification, like, “Well, they deserved it because of what they did to me,” or you may need to “spiritualize” the justification a little bit.  The truth is that there really is no justification for lashing out, picking fights, doing things that are wrong in retaliation; there really is no occasion crazy enough to justify sin in your reaction.  So this is where we add the spiritual wrinkle.  Too often, justification sounds a lot like Bible verses;  “Well, that person should know we’re supposed to treat others as we want to be treated.  Right? ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’?”  Or even, “Well, he deserved it.  ‘Eye for eye’, you know…”  Or we comfort ourselves with, “Well, I’m a Christian so I’ll be forgiven.  But I pity that guy because he’s gonna get roasted!”

So there are a couple of components to what we see in the second temptation of Jesus.  First, there is the appeal to pride, and then there is the appeal to Scripture to anchor the sin that pride wants to work out.

Here are some honest examples of this in my own life.  I’ve caught myself in the past wanting God to perform miracles at my request in the eyes of others so they will stop ridiculing me for “believing crazy things” and see me as one to be respected, as one with an “inside track” with God.  At times, I have wrestled with desires to become prosperous in the eyes of the world so I would be respected and possess tangible reasons for others to follow me…oops, I mean, follow God.  I would look at all the rich men of the Old Testament, and the great kings of Israel, and say, “Lord, give me that kind of wealth that I might have that kind of stature.  Then I would have such influence in bringing people to You.”  This is the same kind of thing Jesus faced in this temptation on the temple mount.  Satan actually uses Jesus’ faith in His Father as a hook to get Him to reject God in favour of Himself.  Unlike Jesus, we fall in the face of this kind of temptation all the time.  It is very effective.

There is a movement afoot today in North America that says, “You are a child of the Most High God, and He has declared (it is written!) that He will give you an abundant life!”  If you are in Christ, this statement by itself cannot be denied.  But “abundant life” is then defined as a life without suffering or persecution, as a physical life of health, wealth and respect.  The misused scripture is often something like John 10:10, “…I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”  The exhortation with this message is to give to such and such a ministry or program in order to unlock the “blessings of God” onto your finances or relationships or whatever, as though God is somehow obligated to give you the very things that feed your pride and nourish the very thing that seeks your destruction.  The boastful pride of life sounds like this:  “I want…I want…I want… and You, O God, must give because I worship You, and You promised (it is written!), and You said You’re not a liar so You better prove it to me and everyone else who is watching, or You’re going to look bad and then I might not want to worship you anymore…and others won’t want to either!”  Put another way, it says, “Give me what I want or else!”  This is abuse of Scripture to justify self-worship!

Jesus’ Response to the Temptation of Pride

Here’s how Jesus responded to Satan’s attempt to get Him to force God into performing a miracle that wasn’t according to His purpose and plan:

“On the other hand, it is written, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.’” (Matthew 4:7)

Jesus used scripture properly to refute scripture used improperly.

Whenever anyone uses scripture to support something unscriptural, they ignore other scripture that speaks to the contrary and clarifies the intent of the scripture in question.  This isn’t a case of scripture contradicting itself, but rather a case of scripture interpreting and clarifying itself.  For example, if Jesus says, “…I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10), but also says, “In this world you have tribulation…” (John 16:33), and, “…not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions,” (Luke 12:15), and, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.  For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:23-25), how can we conclude from all these taken together that material abundance in this life is what Jesus is talking about in John 10:10?  Once we take scripture as a whole, putting together the whole puzzle, then we have a proper interpretive framework for any individual verse.  A big part of dealing with temptation is knowing what God has said in His whole Word and handling it correctly.  As we’ve discussed before, temptation always begins the same way, “Has God really said…?  No, God really meant something else…!”

So, when you’re tempted, discern what temptation is saying to you.  Is it saying, “[insert your name], it is written, ‘God created man in His own image’ (Genesis 1:27), so you are God-like.  Therefore, you are awesome and worthy of love and worshi…er, respect.  Start by treating yourself as though you are God-like, and others will too.  And since your Father owns the universe, and since He ‘is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think’ (Ephesians 3:20) and since Jesus said, ‘Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do…’ (John 14:13), get on the program of making yourself awesome!  After all, He wants you to ‘let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works’ (Matthew 5:16),”?  This is pride twisting scripture to justify itself.  Think this is a ridiculous example?  It happens all the time.

Another example of this is the one who really wants to go on a trip or buy a computer or car but doesn’t have the money to do it.  Ignoring scriptural teaching on debt, we will go and buy the thing on credit and call it a “step of faith”, vowing to use it to help people or whatever other “good” purpose eases the conscience.  I did this with my second car!  It happens all the time!

Satan’s temptation of Jesus was even more subtle than the temptations we’ve just described, but the principle remains.  Often, even scripture (always misused) and “faith” (always undefined) are used to tempt us to turn away from the very One scripture and faith are supposed to point us toward – Jesus Christ.

Trust Rebuts Temptation

Jesus’ rebuttal to Satan’s first temptation was trust in God (Mt.4:1-4; Dt. 8:3).  Satan responded by tempting Jesus to “trust” God sinfully, turning trust into a reason to test God.  Jesus’ rebuttal to Satan’s second temptation was again trust in God.  Jesus said He would not test God, referencing the time Israel tested God at a place called Massah.  Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 6:16, but Exodus 17:1-7 records the event itself.  Israel was journeying through the wilderness, according to God’s command, and ended up in a place where there was no water.  God did provide water for them, but Israel had already begun complaining, quarrelling and testing God.  They concluded that God had brought them out of Egypt and into the wilderness to kill them with thirst.  Verse 7 tells us how they “tested” God:

“…they tested the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD among us, or not?

In referencing Israel at Massah, Jesus shows us what “testing” God is all about – “Let’s see if God is real or not, because I’m not getting what I want.”  Satan had Jesus in a place (the temple) that had always been where God was near for Israel, and was trying to get Jesus to test His Father’s nearness by carrying out a different plan than the Father had for Him.  Jesus wouldn’t bite.

Testing God and asking for affirmation

But didn’t even Gideon put out a fleece to see whether or not God had really spoken to him (Judges 6:36-40)?  There is a difference.  Gideon was asking God to affirm that it was indeed God speaking to him something specific and out of the ordinary.  Here in Matthew, Satan wanted Jesus to force God into the spectacular to prove Himself, thus validating Jesus’ trust, as opposed to merely affirming an instruction.  God had already made explicit that Jesus was His beloved Son at Jesus’ baptism a short time earlier (Matthew 3).  Jesus already had His instructions, and was following them.  He didn’t need God to prove Himself to Him.  I’m reminded of two passages (Matthew 12:38-45; 16:1-4) where Jesus was asked for a sign, and He responded the same way: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah…”  In both contexts, the hypocritical and legalistic religious leaders, whose hearts were far from God and were focused on themselves (i.e. very proud), asked Jesus for a sign to prove Himself.  Rather than give them a sign to say, “See?  I am the God-man Messiah!”, He rebukes them for the cynical, disbelieving, “prove it!” attitude and says they will receive no sign.  He knew they weren’t going to believe even if they did see a sign.  I remember a conversation between two men I knew, where one said, “If God is real then He should just show Himself to me to prove it.”  The other asked, “If He did would you repent and turn your life over to Him?”  The first man’s reply was telling.  He shrugged, “Mmm, probably not.”

This wasn’t Gideon’s heart.  Gideon said, “God, please confirm for me what it looks like You’re telling me.”  He never put God on the witness stand in the court of his own heart, folded his arms and said, “You better prove to me that You are really God by giving me what I want.”  But when Satan tempts Jesus, this is exactly what he is trying to get Jesus to do.

And when you and I are tempted with pride this is where we are headed.  It starts with the elevation of self in our minds and hearts.  Then, when our plans are frustrated, we grumble against God, and in our hearts we put Him on the stand and say, “My life isn’t what I want.  Prove Yourself to me or I may turn away.  Give me what I want and that will be sign enough.”  But this is never sign enough.  It really isn’t proof of His existence or His love that we are looking for here, but rather the things we have really set our affections on.  Such a trap this is!  Before long, after pointing our fingers at God and accusing Him of being unloving, we bitterly turn away and “conclude” He doesn’t exist – to our own detriment and destruction by the way, not God’s.

Dealing with tempted pride is really a matter of trust, just like any other temptation.  Jesus exhorted His disciples in Matthew 6 to, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness…” (vs.33).  This is to be our focus, not our own deal.  Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote,

“…God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Pet.5:6-7)

When temptation says, “You, my friend, can use God to accomplish your ends,” you respond with faith that says, “God cares.  God is sovereign.  I will wait for Him.”

“Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD.”  (Psalm 27:14)

Will you wait for His timing and His ways?

hold Him higher,

jae

Real Men Carry Their Crosses – Dealing with Temptation II: Lust of the Flesh (Matthew 4)

November 22, 2011

Carrying on from Dealing with Temptation I: Intro, we know that Jesus defeated temptation by humble obedience to His Father’s purpose and calling to Him.  Where temptation told Him to serve and satisfy Himself, Jesus answered that He would only serve and satisfy the One He loved, the One Who loved Him.  No offering in the world could push Jesus off the hill He would die on.  Building on this, let’s look at the nature and source of each temptation in Matthew 4 (cf. Luke 4).

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the apostle John described the offerings of the world:

“…all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.”     (1 John 2:16; italics and bold added)

Satan tempted Jesus in each of these areas – with food (to stir up lust of the flesh), with fame (to stir up the pride of life), and with wealth (to stir up lust of the eyes), and when we really look at our lives, we notice that we also are likewise tempted.

Before we get going, let’s carry into our discussion an understanding of what “lust” is.  “Lust” is really just the longing for what is forbidden.  Lust is a matter of the heart; it is the desire of the heart for what is forbidden.  It isn’t the object we desire that is the problem; rather it is the consuming desire for some forbidden thing which excludes God and His purpose for us that is the problem.  “Lust of the flesh” is the heart-longing for the things of the body that are forbidden.  “Lust of the eyes” is the heart-longing for things we see that don’t belong to us or are otherwise forbidden. The “Pride of Life” is driven by lust for self-exaltation, which is forbidden.  There are lots of different desires that come from the body and there are many things we desire as we perceive them with the eye.  Think about what your body desires – food and drink, sleep and rest, sex and other kinds of pleasure or comfort.  Think about what you see that you might desire – a piece of art for your home, the latest iphone or some other tool, the money to pay for the things you want, even a potential spouse.  None of these things is evil or wrong in and of itself.  The desires of the body are God-given, and the desire for quality and beauty is God-given; they are created into us.  We must not dishonour God with the philosophy of the gnostics where anything spiritual is good and anything physical or material is evil.  This just flat out isn’t true.  But we must be careful to understand that the desires created into humanity have been corrupted by sin, and our corrupted, sinful desires seek to be satisfied apart from God’s design.  Godly desire turns into sinful lust when we seek to satisfy that desire outside of God’s provision for it.

One more note on lust – the first and greatest commandment is to love God with everything you are (Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37).  Desiring God is the foremost desire created into humanity, and is the intention for the heart of Mankind.  When we desire anything, even “good” (i.e. not obviously sinful) things, more than God, this is a desire that is lustful; it is a misplaced, forbidden desire.  We are all guilty of lust.  Thanks be to God for His Son, who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29)!

Temptation #1:  Lust of the Flesh (Matthew 4:3-4)

When Jesus had been out in the wilderness for forty days and nights, Satan came to Him with a suggestion:

“If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”    (Mt.4:3)

 Jesus was hungry and physically weak, and Satan attacked at Jesus’ human weakness.  It isn’t a sinful thing to be hungry or tired or weak, and it isn’t a sinful thing to provide food for the body.  But here Satan tried to get Jesus to pick up the divine power He had set aside in becoming a man and provide for Himself in a way that God hadn’t ordained for Him.  Satan wasn’t just saying, “Feed yourself because you need it”, he was saying, “Surely, God’s purposes are subservient to your body’s needs.”  You can almost hear Satan saying, “After all, God gave you the need for food.  Surely He doesn’t intend for you to actually starve!”

This is the same message we face daily when we are forced to choose between what God has said and what our bodies are saying.  Just like with Jesus, you may be tempted to reject God with food being the excuse.  For example, your body tells you that you’re hungry and need to eat right now.  But you don’t have any food or any cash to buy food.  So you walk into a grocery store and steal something.  This is a bit of a contrived example, but I’ve seen people who were in no danger of starving pick food out of grocery store bulk bins to satisfy some sort of food desire.  Even if you were really starving, stealing is against God’s Word, which really means it’s against God’s character, against the nature of the One whose image you bear.  God is a giver, not a taker, and so His children are to be; like God is, so should those be who bear His image.  So hunger doesn’t justify stealing.  Bodily need never justifies rejection of God’s Word.  Instead, God exhorts us to trust Him to provide for us.  God says that He will supply all your need according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).  Trust Him and satisfy your needs within the framework of God’s provision.  This is the difficulty.  When we don’t know God, we don’t trust Him.  We see instead the heart using normal bodily needs to override the proper order.

Sex is probably the most familiar context for the word “lust” today, and sex is perhaps the greatest bodily tool of the heart for getting us to reject God.  It is something our world calls a physical need, but is it really?  Does your body need sex to survive?  I hear men all over the place saying, “Yes!”  But it really isn’t, is it?  I’ll suggest sex comes from a natural urge, but just because there’s an urge to do something doesn’t make it a need.  Let me also suggest humbly (I certainly know the power of the sexual struggle) that the man who says, “I need sex or I’ll die” is still really just the little boy who “needs” that toy for Christmas or he’ll just wither up and die.  And furthermore, just like with food and all other desires of the body, there is a proper place to satisfy that desire.  God says marriage to one woman (for men, and one man for women) is the appropriate context for sexual satisfaction.  Our hearts say we should satisfy sexual desire whenever we want with whoever will consent, and it is here we are forced to choose between God’s Word to us and our own word to us.  Here is an obvious situation where the heart uses a God-given bodily desire to draw us away from our Creator and our purpose, and to wreak havoc and destruction like we have little capacity to understand. And as we’ve discussed already, God is the One who has created these desires into us and has also provided the context for the fulfilment of these desires; He knows better than we do what we truly need (Matthew 6:8) and what we really don’t.  We need to trust Him with it and take Him at His Word.

Return to Eden

Food and sex are just a couple of examples to illustrate how the heart hijacks God-given bodily desires.  When we face temptations in these areas, we have opportunity to replay  the scenario in the Garden of Eden where Satan said to Eve, “Surely God didn’t say…” and “God’s intention for you really isn’t good…” Temptation is really the suggestion that we believe the lies and reject God like Adam and Eve did.  But understand what this is!  When Adam believed Satan and did what Satan wanted, he gave over to Satan the authority over creation that God had given to MankindIn Christ, we are given this authority back! 

 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ…in all wisdom and insight, He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention, which He[God] purposed in Him[Jesus Christ], with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth…In Him[Christ], you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory…He [God] raised Him [Christ] from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only this age but also in the one to come.  And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”    (Ephesians 1:3, 9-10, 13-14, 20-23)

“For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.”   (Romans 5:17)

“For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.  And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.”   (Romans 8:19-23)

 

When we are tempted, we have opportunity to relive the fall, or we have opportunity to live the restoration of Mankind, which God has given us in Christ!  And let me say clearly, there is no restoration apart from Christ.  If you are reading this and you are not in Christ, if you have not submitted your life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, I implore you, do it now!

Jesus’ Reply to Temptation of the Flesh

Jesus’ reply to Satan’s temptation tells us clearly what God has purposed for all humanity regarding provision for His body:

 “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”   (Mt.4:4)

 Memorize this and use it in your fight against lusts of the flesh!  Food is important to our physiology, but it doesn’t trump God’s Word to us.  Sexuality is important to our identity as human beings, but it doesn’t trump God’s Word on its proper place.  God is primary, and the physical part of our existence is subservient to Him.  Jesus refused to step outside God’s purpose and path for Him, even when His very life appeared to be on the line.  The fate of the whole world literally rested on Jesus’ decision in the face of temptation.  It looked like the fate of the whole world may have rested on whether or not Jesus received the food He needed to stay alive; after all, if Jesus died before His time, where would redemption be?  But Jesus never wavered.  He knew what the real decision was.  Instead of saying, “I need to protect myself and provide for myself or I will die”, He said, “I will trust My Father to take care of Me and provide for Me.”  When we ignore what God has said about how we should live, when we give in to the demands our hearts make on behalf of our bodies and when we satisfy those desires outside of God’s provision for us, we declare that God is insufficient for us, that He hasn’t provided sufficiently for us, that He is wrong about what we need, that He is in fact a liar.  No sir, biology never overrides theology.  The life of faith is the life that embraces and receives the truth that God sustains us even in the face of circumstances that appear to be to the contrary.  There are so many accounts of this truth in the lives of people around you, and in the writings of men and women throughout history (an amazing example is the account of Yun Kim in the book The Heavenly Man).  To see this in our own lives is merely a matter of receiving this truth from God in Christ, and stepping out in faith.

When we believe God, that we live not merely on physical food but according to His sustaining Word, we come against temptation with a powerful weapon; when temptation says, “You, my friend, can’t trust God.  You must take care of yourself,” you respond with faith and temptation is rebuffed.  It will come again and again, so you must be vigilant, but the response is the same each time: “God has spoken.  God has made me.  He is sufficient.”  As Asaph wrote:

“Whom have I in heaven but You?  And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”   (Psalm 73:25-26)

When temptation comes, we have the opportunity to relive the fall and submit ourselves to Satan, or we can live the restoration of all things by submitting ourselves to Jesus Christ.

“Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?”   (Romans 6:16)

Whose slave are you?

hold Him higher,

jae

Real Men Carry Their Crosses – Dealing with Temptation I: Intro (Matthew 4)

September 9, 2011

If you’re anything like me, you have battled and are battling temptation on a daily basis; temptation to do things part of you doesn’t want to do, and temptation to be someone most of you doesn’t want to be.  Matthew 4 records an amazing account of Jesus being tempted by Satan.  In this account, we see God’s blueprint for us in dealing with temptation in our own lives.

The temptation of Jesus took place right at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  Before Jesus performed any healings or signs and wonders, He was baptised in the Jordan river (Matthew 3).  This is incredibly fascinating when we understand the OT significance of the event and location, but for brevity, let us just summarize this event as the clear declaration of Jesus as the promised Messiah, the God-Man sent to save His people from their sins.  Here, Jesus identifies Himself with humanity and the sin of humanity He would bear about three years later. Here also, God the Father and God the Holy Spirit identify Jesus clearly as God the Son.

After this “inauguration”, Matthew tells us Jesus was ‘led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil’.

Now, we must understand that in leading Jesus to be tempted in the wilderness, God didn’t tempt Jesus, but rather positioned Him to be tempted by the devil.  God never tempts anyone with evil (1 John 2:16).    So when you are tempted, know that it isn’t God that tempts you.  Instead, we are tempted by our own evil desires (James 1:14), often stirred up by the offerings of the world and by the enemy.  (Note that Jesus was tempted by an external source – Satan – whereas we are tempted by an internal source – sinful desires emanating from sinful nature.  As we discussed previously, Jesus did not inherit sinful nature from a human father, so he couldn’t be tempted from within.  But in His humanity via external means He was tempted in every way as we are (Hebrews 4:15).)

We must also understand that not only can God not tempt anyone, but He Himself cannot be tempted with evil (Hebrews 4:15; James 1:13).  There is nothing in God that could ever possibly want anything that is evil, and therefore evil can never be tempting to Him.  The fact that Jesus was tempted shows us that though Jesus is fully God, He set aside the use of His divine power (Philippians 2:6-8) to be tempted in His full humanity, just like we are tempted in ours (Hebrews 4:15).  This is so that He could Himself be legitimate payment for the sin of humanity.  This is important because as we battle temptation, we need to understand that Jesus faced the same temptations we face and defeated them.  This gives us hope because we know that since He defeated sin, sin is ultimately destroyed in His children. In the short-term, we know that we can defeat sin when it rises up in us because we know Jesus helps us!

“…since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:18, italics added)

Matthew tells us that Satan, ‘the tempter’, came to tempt Jesus after He had fasted forty days and forty nights.  Jesus was hungry, and Satan came and began tempting Him with food.  Satan’s next temptation was with fame and status, and his third temptation was with material prosperity.

We will look at each actual temptation more in depth next day, but there’s an overarching theme to be understood here.  The object Satan used to tempt Jesus really isn’t the issue; food, fame, and wealth aren’t evil in and of themselves, and having any of these things isn’t wrong in itself.  These were only lures to pull Jesus into the real sin – rejecting God in favour of these things.

See, Jesus was sent with a purpose.  We’ve discussed it already.  He was sent to save His people from their sins.  In order to do that, He needed to live a completely sinless life totally as a man with no use of His divine power to “cheat” at living righteously.  If He used divine power apart from His dependence on the Spirit of God, this would be sin because it wasn’t God’s plan for Him, and sin would render His death useless – He would die for His own sin and therefore couldn’t pay for the sins of humanity!  Satan knew this and he tried to derail Jesus from His purpose.  Food, status and wealth really weren’t the issues at all.  Satan was using those things as lures to get Jesus to reject God’s path and purpose for Him.  The only way for Jesus to sin would be to treasure those things rather than God Himself.  The greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37).  To break this and love food, status and wealth with all our heart is sin.

Satan wasn’t disbelieving who Jesus was.  He knew well who Jesus was.  He knew that Jesus was to be exalted by God after walking the path God set out for Him.  But Satan tried to get Jesus to exalt Himself before God’s appointed time and apart from God’s appointed process.  Satan was saying, “Hey Jesus, you’re God in nature, so do all this for yourself!  Do it now!  Don’t wait!  Prove to everyone who you are right now!”  Jesus resisted Satan, obeyed His Father, and God did exalt Jesus after He died for the sins of humanity, raising Him from the dead, seating Him at His right hand as Lord of all, and putting all His enemies under His feet (Psalm 110:1; Ephesians 1:22; Philippians 2:9-11; Hebrews 1:3, 2:8, 8:1).

Jesus knew His Father’s will for Him would be the road of suffering, because they had people to save, and freedom is always bought with blood.  Knowing that the divine plan of redemption would be to walk the lonely road to the cross, to His own death, Jesus fully surrendered Himself to the Father’s will for Him.  Jesus is awesome in His resolve to follow God and pursue His purpose!

The Bible says that when Jesus found Himself in the form of a man, He did exactly what fits the design of Mankind: He humbled Himself and became obedient, even to the point of death (Philippians 2:8).  He set aside the use of His divine power, which He had from eternity past as part of His divine nature, and humbled Himself, becoming completely dependent on God in the power of the Spirit to live His life as a man.  He met the most intense temptation possible, alone in the wilderness and physically weak from hunger; He met this intense temptation as a man and defeated it.

Jesus submitted Himself to be led by the Spirit, even when the Spirit led Him into the wilderness, even when He was being tempted, even when He was being crucified for you and me.

And this humility and submission is the key to dealing with temptation.

You and I are also born for a specific purpose, and sin in us tempts us to reject God’s purpose for us.  When we are tempted, sin rises up in us and beckons us, sometimes gently, often with a tantrum, to reject God’s path for us and do things our own way.  But the first thing to understand about following Jesus is that we live by actually following Him, by humbling ourselves before Him, by surrendering ourselves to Him and submitting ourselves to live by the power of the Spirit.  You’ll follow Him through tough things where you’re tempted to let yourself out of suffering, where you’re tempted to reject God’s Word to you and His path for you because it’s hard.  But Jesus provided the means and power of victory, and showed us how to live it.  He rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and He has sent His Spirit to live in us (John 14:16-17, 16:7-15).  By submitting to the leading of the Spirit and having Jesus live in us by the Spirit, we resist temptation, “putting to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13).  “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” ( Romans 8:14).  The proof of whether or not we are children of God shows up in whether or not we are led by the Spirit of God!

Now, this won’t be perfect.  We will fall and give into temptation from time to time, but as we practice focusing on Jesus and surrendering to Him, we will grow in Him and grow in our ability to surrender our desires to Him for His desires for us.  Theologians refer to this process of growth into Christ-likeness as “sanctification”, and this sanctification is something that Jesus works in all His kids.  But during this process there will be times we fall, and this is where we must trust that Jesus has paid for all our sin, past, present and future.  Because of what Jesus did for us, and because of our standing in Him when we trust Him as our Saviour and Lord, our standing with God is secure; it doesn’t depend on “how well we do”, on how well we resist temptation, on how well we obey.  It is the gift of grace, which God has freely bestowed on us in Christ (Ephesians 1:6).  He died so you don’t have to.  He defeated death so you can live.  He conquered sin so you can put it to death by the power of His Spirit in you.  Resisting temptation and defeating sin is a result of our trust in Jesus that He actually did what He said He did, and is a fruit of the work of the Holy Spirit in us.

Now, how can we practically surrender ourselves to Jesus, follow the Spirit’s leading, and deal successfully with temptation?

1.  Understand and believe that Jesus is who He said He is, and that He died to set you free!  When you put your trust in Him, you are no longer a slave to sin, bound to give in to temptation…unless you want to give in.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

“God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”  Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Galations 4:4-7)

2.  If you’ve put your trust in Jesus, understand that He is working in you this very moment to accomplish your sanctification!  Focus on this amazing truth, that God is at work in you!

Jesus loves His people and died for us, so that He might sanctify us, having cleansed us by the washing of water with the word, “that He might present to Himself the Church in all her glory, having no spot of wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:26-27).

3.  Be renewing your mind daily!  Spend time with Jesus, in His Word and in every day life.  Offer your whole self to him, read your Bible to be able to watch Him and listen to Him, and ponder His calling on your life.  Humble yourself and give yourself to Jesus.  Fill your mind with Him.  Being with Him is becoming like Him..

 “…I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)

Jesus was at all times led by the Spirit of God.  No temptation could push Him off the hill He was to die on, because of His great love for His Father.  For us, dealing with temptation requires the power of the Spirit of God in us to grow in us a love for God that makes us willing to turn away from sin into His loving arms.

 

at His feet,

jae

“Therefore…let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Real Men Carry Their Crosses – Encounter of the Kings (Matthew 2)

August 23, 2011

“Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.  We are far too easily pleased.”             ~ C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (1949)

Matthew’s second chapter tells of Jesus’ birth and the visit of the Magi.  Of particular interest to me in this passage is the reaction of Herod the king to Jesus’ birth. Why? Because our fallen nature reacts to Jesus the same way.

Without going into a really detailed history of Herod, let me just say that Israel was under Roman occupation, and Herod was made king over Israel by Rome (37BC – 4BC).  In those days, Rome allowed its citizens to practice their own religious and philosophical views, but maintained strict control.  Jews were allowed to govern themselves according to their law, but they reported to the Roman-appointed King Herod, know as Herod the Great.  This Herod began the Herodian dynasty of “client kings” in Rome (37BC – 92AD).  He was known for his fondness for opulence, his many spectacular building projects (including the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem), and his cold brutality in protecting his position and power, even banishing and executing several members of his own family.  Though Herod wasn’t Jewish (probably of Idumaean descent), he knew the Jewish scriptures well and was very familiar with their customs and beliefs, including their anticipation of the Messiah, the one who would be born “king of the Jews”.

Enter the Magi. These guys were probably magicians or astrologers from Persia. Their understanding of Jewish scripture is probably traceable back to Daniel’s time when the Medo-Persian empire conquered Babylon and inherited the Jews that were in exile there.  They showed up in Jerusalem asking, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? We saw His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:2)

When Herod heard this, he was “troubled”.  In fact, this was such big news, the entire city was “troubled”. The word here gives us a picture of agitated or roiling water.  The always power-oriented Herod, the current king of the Jews, freaked out at the threat of a new king on the scene.  Herod called the Magi in and told them to find this anointed child so he could go and worship him too.  They found Jesus, but God warned them in a dream not to go back to Herod because Herod’s real intention was to kill this new heir to the throne.

When Herod realized the Magi weren’t coming back, he sent his troops to Bethlehem and had them kill all the baby boys in the area who were two years old or younger, just to make sure he got the one who threatened his throne.  He didn’t even get Jesus, because God told Joseph to take the family to Egypt.

Now, the fallen nature in us is just like Herod when we encounter Christ.

Jesus threatens the rule of our sinful nature over us.  We are held captive by a brutal king like Herod, one who is willing to kill and destroy to protect its reign.  This king is sin.  The throne of sin is our heart.  When we oppose it, sin rises up with such ferocity and brutality, shaking us from one extreme to the other, shouting and screaming at us to do what it wants, that we are powerless to do anything other than what it demands.  This is the state of humanity without Christ.

But when Jesus calls you, when He arrives in your city as the One promised to deliver you from sin, the One to save His people from their sin (Matthew 1:21); when Jesus shows up, the true King of kings (Revelation 17:14; 19:16), the sin-king is threatened mightily.  Sin in us trembles in terror when Jesus shows up.  Jesus has ultimate power, the power to destroy sin in anyone, and sin recognizes certain death when it sees it.  The last thing it wants is to give up rule over you to Jesus.  So, like a cornered animal, it attacks and tantrums and makes a terrible racket so you’ll back down and not welcome Jesus Christ as the true king of your life.

This enemy inside tells you Jesus doesn’t want what’s best for you.  It tells you He’s a liar and a thief, robbing you of all the fun you could have if you run your own life. It tells you it will share power with you.  It tries to entice you with sex and money and power and the admiration of others.  It intensifies internal conflict, trying to make you feel bad by telling you that you’ll have to reject friends if you surrender to Jesus.  It tells you that you’ll hurt people, that you’ll be alone, that you’ll be a loser.  It tries to focus you on the wounds you’ve already received in the world, telling you that now it’s time to look out for yourself, that it’s not the time to give yourself to someone else as king.

Like Herod, sin tries to wipe out all threats to its reign in your life.  It keeps you under such oppression and such a heavy burden that you can never really control yourself.

It amazes me that in our society, we laud self-governance and the freedom to choose for ourselves so much that we rise up and bluster with indignation at anyone who suggests we submit ourselves to anything, and yet we don’t realize that we can’t even control our own lusts for sex, money, power, or even something so ridiculous as that last piece of cake!

Just like the Magi didn’t see Herod’s real intention to kill Jesus instead of worship Him, we don’t see sin’s intention and control over us.  We think we’re in control of ourselves, that we’re “good people”, but if this were true, why do we hurt loved ones when our pride is threatened? If this were true, why is obesity such a problem in the West? If this were true, why do “good” men stand aside and allow evil to happen in their communities because they are too busy being “good” in front of the television set, at the office or on the golf course?  If this were true, why are our children so often victims of negligence, why do families break up, why are our daughters used and destroyed by “good” men?  We equate peace in our personal spheres and emotional comfort with being in a good place, and we equate the ability to discipline ourselves in daily tasks as being in control of ourselves as though these daily tasks aren’t a means to satisfy our own desires for “stuff”.  But when you’re at peace with your internal “king Herod”, you’ll be emotionally comfortable; when your daily tasks are to exalt yourself, your internal “king Herod” will applaud your discipline.

This is why it appears that some don’t struggle.  Look at their lives.  Are they opposing sin in the heart, or are they going along with it?  Even a brutal dictator is happy with you when you do what he wants.

Let me illustrate this with a story.  A God-fearing man went duck-hunting with his boss.  Their truck got a flat tire, and while the man was changing the tire, he hit himself with the tire iron.  Cursing under his breath, he noticed the boss observing and apologized.  “I’m an atheist,” the man’s boss began, “and I don’t have trouble with my tongue like you do.  You’re a Christian.  You’re not supposed to talk like that.  What’s the deal?”  The man, humbled, said he had no answer.  Later, they shot two ducks. One fell dead into the water, but the other fell and scrambled into the reeds.  They collected the dead duck but the wounded duck was never found.  On the return trip home, the man looked at his boss.  “I have an answer for you now,” he said slowly and thoughtfully.  “I’m the wounded duck.  You’re the dead one.”

If you have received the free gift of life in Jesus Christ, the struggle with your sinful nature will reflect the desire of your new heart to kill sin in you.  You won’t be perfect, but you’ll be fighting against your “internal Herod”.  You won’t let him back on the throne, but by the Spirit of God that Christ gives, you’ll resist your old nature and kill it, bit by bit, battle by battle.  The absence of war between you and your old nature is a very bad sign.  The peace and discipline that results from peace made with sin is a counterfeit peace and counterfeit discipline.  Keep waging the war against the illegitimate king, dear brothers and sisters, by the power of the Sovereign King.  Jesus has conquered sin; now you’re in a “mop-up” operation to clear it all out.

God wants what’s best for you.  He wants you to be free from the shackles and ugliness of sin.  When He says, “Don’t”, it means, “Don’t hurt yourself, Dear One. I love you.”  When Jesus says, “Come to Me all you who are weary and heavily burdened, and I will give you rest…” (Matthew 11:28-30), He means to give you freedom and rest from sin’s heavy oppression and deception, and from its ultimate consequences.  We don’t have to be under submission to the dictator “Sin”, but freedom from sin means surrender of the throne of our hearts to the gentle Warrior-King, Jesus Christ, who has fought for and who has won our freedom by His death and resurrection.

Don’t react to Jesus like Herod did.  Impeach your internal “Herod”.  Dethrone him.  In Jesus’ name, cast him down and throw him out, and recognize Jesus as your king!

at His feet,

jae

Real Men Carry Their Crosses – Jesus, the Power to Change (Matthew 1)

August 18, 2011

Going forward we’ll be looking at manhood as God has defined and displayed it in Jesus Christ, but it’s critically important for us to understand all  of who Jesus is.  He is not merely a good man and a good example to follow.  He is God in the flesh, and as such He is to be worshiped. He is the one who saves us from the penalty of sin, He is the one who reconciles us to God, and He is the power by which we shed the sinful man we were and become the kind of man God has purposed us to be. It is imperative we understand all of who He is.

Matthew starts his gospel with a clear declaration of who Jesus is. He does it by beginning with a genealogy of Jesus, and what this genealogy tells us about Jesus is astounding.

In the first sentence of the book, Matthew refers to Jesus as “the Messiah”, “the son of David”, and “the son of Abraham”.  Then over the next 14 verses Matthew lays out the lineage from Abraham through his sons and their sons until he ends up with “Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.”  The references to Jesus as the “son of David” and the “son of Abraham” are significant because both show Jesus’ legitimate genetic claim to the throne of Israel; moreover, those titles both show Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promises to David and Abraham regarding the Messiah.  This in itself is brilliantly fascinating but, for brevity, we will spare those details right now and focus on the last point about “Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born…”

Jesus, son of God

Matthew’s genealogy carries an interesting twist.  He begins with “Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.” (Matthew 1:2).  This is the format for genealogies – “so and so is the father of…is the father of…is the father of…etc.” But right at the end, Matthew ends with Joseph, the man who acts as Jesus’ father on earth, and Matthew doesn’t say, “…Joseph, the father of Jesus.” Instead, he calls Joseph, “the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.”  This is no coincidence.

Many are familiar with the concept of the “virgin birth”; Jesus was conceived in Mary by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18), not by a man.  This detail isn’t just something to amaze and confound; it is necessary for what Jesus came to do.

The apostle Paul is very helpful here.  In his letter to the Christians in Rome, he explains how rebellion against God and the propensity to rebel was passed on to us all through the sin of the first man, Adam.  In the beginning (another story familiar to many of us), Adam rebelled against God, the result of which was separation from God and the consequent expulsion from the garden paradise they were given to live in and care for.  Genesis 5:3 hints at what Paul tells us pretty clearly in Romans 5:12-21, that the corrupted, sinful nature of humanity is inherited from our fathers.  The Bible tells us that the issue with our sin isn’t merely an external issue of wrong actions, but it is an internal issue of a sinful heart.  An apple tree isn’t an apple tree because it produces apples; it produces apples because it is first an apple tree. In the same way, we aren’t sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners.  The source of sin is actually our very nature, and so rebellion against God in its various forms is a natural fruit of our natural condition. We know this deep down and show it when we see something like greed in the marketplace.  Though we acknowledge it is wrong, we shrug our shoulders and say, “That’ll never change. It’s just human nature.”  Indeed.  Fallen humanity really can’t help but sin because it is the natural thing for us to do.  This is why it is so hard (impossible really) to choose right over wrong; it isn’t in us to do it!  And this is why Jesus told Nicodemus he needed to be “born again” (John 3).  We need to be re-born or re-created with a new nature.

Back to point, it is necessary that Jesus be born of God as father and Mary as mother.  That Jesus didn’t have a human father means that He didn’t inherit a sinful nature, but instead He retained the nature of His Father (God), which He already had from eternity past.  But that He was born of a woman means that He did take on full humanity in all of its sinless infirmity, such as hunger, thirst, and even the capacity to be tempted.  God cannot be tempted with evil (James 1:13), but Jesus, in His full humanity, was tempted in every way as we are tempted.  Unlike us however, Jesus never yielded to temptation and never sinned (Hebrews 4:15).  That Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the woman Mary means that Jesus is at the same time both fully God and fully Man. This is extraordinary, and is precisely what God had promised from the very beginning.

After Adam disobeyed God, God cursed the serpent and promised Satan’s destruction:

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” (Genesis 3:15).

The seed of the woman would be struck on the heel, the very instrument used to strike the head of the serpent.  This is a promise from God of the coming Messiah, the one who would destroy the power of Satan and sin and death over fallen humanity, and this promise is given right at the time humanity was plunged into depravity and despair.

Jesus, Immanuel

Matthew goes on to tell us that Joseph, Mary’s husband, was told by God to name the baby “Jesus”.  The reason is given in verses 21-23 of Matthew 1: “…for He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew makes clear this was a fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14, a prophecy made centuries earlier: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel.”  “Immanuel” means ‘God with us’ (Matthew 1:23).  In the beginning, when humanity was morally pure, God and Man fellowshiped together.  When Man rejected God, their fellowship was broken because God’s complete holiness and perfection is unapproachable by any imperfection and corruption.  But in Christ, Man is restored to fellowship with God; in Christ we have communion with God. In Christ, God is with us!

First-century Israel was waiting for a promised son of Abraham, the promised son of David, to restore Israel to their land and to the political pre-eminence it had enjoyed under Moses, Joshua, David and Solomon. This expectation was based on the promises made to Abraham and David, among others. They were waiting for Messiah, the anointed one, the God-Man, but they hadn’t discerned the kind of freedom He came to bring. They were waiting for freedom from Roman rule, but Jesus came to bring freedom from Satanic rule.

Jesus is the anointed God-Man (Messiah), the one God promised to Humanity in the beginning to destroy Satan (Genesis 3:15), the one promised to Abraham to make him the father of a great nation by faith (Genesis 12:1-3; 22:17-18; Romans 2:17-29; 4:1-25; 9:6-8,23-33; 11:25-26), the one promised to David to make him a house with everlasting rule (2 Samuel 7:11-14), the one who would save His people from their sins so that once again God could dwell with men.  Jesus is the descendant of Abraham and David by birth AND He is also the source of Abraham’s great nation and David’s everlasting rule.  Truly, all the promises of God find their “yes”, their guarantee, in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Now, what does that mean for us?

Well, remember the bruised heel and bruised head thing?  A head wound is fatal; a heel wound isn’t.  In the event of Christ’s crucifixion, we see the destruction of Satan and of the power of sin in us.  Jesus died, Satan “bruised his heel”, but His death wasn’t final, the wound wasn’t fatal.  God raised Him up again.  But in that event, Satan’s destruction was final.  The wound was to his head, to his source of authority, and ultimately to his source of life.  When we come to Christ at the cross and receive Jesus as Messiah, the one who saves His people from their sins, believing that He is God of very God, Lord of all, believing that in Him we are freed from sin and reconciled to God, then we are re-born!  A new nature is created in us, a new nature that loves Jesus and wants what God wants!  This new nature bears new fruit, and by God`s Spirit we kill off the old nature that bears bad fruit.  This is a process (theologians call it
‘sanctification’), but in the meantime we are assured of our standing before God because of our standing in Christ by faith, not by works as though we could earn God’s favour.  It is a free gift to those who simply receive it (Romans 5:15-18)!  Because of this gift we press on boldly, beating out the power of sin in our lives by the Spirit of God that lives in us.  This process begins the moment we surrender ourselves to Christ and receive new life from Him.

This is the first step in becoming a real man – being reborn with a new heart, with a new nature!  It is impossible to be a real man, the kind of man God designed us to be, when we are dead to God and alive to all the things He did not design us to be!

So, as we begin our look at Manhood from the perspective of the perfect man, Jesus Christ, let us remember all of what He is; let us remember that He is God, and as such He is our King, our Ruler; let us remember that He is also fully Man, and as such is sympathetic with our weakness, having been tempted just as we are, though He never yielded and was wholly without sin (Hebrews 4:15); let us remember that He came to save us from our bondage to sin and bring us to
fellowship with God; let us remember that He is our strength to destroy sin in us, and that this happens through constant fellowship with Him.

After all, you are what you eat; you become what you read and think about; you become like who you spend your time with.

 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16)

at His feet,

jae

Real Men Carry Their Crosses – Introduction

August 6, 2011

Wow! Time flies. Truly, “Man is short-lived and full of turmoil. Like a flower he comes forth and withers.” (Job 14:1)

Over the last year or so, the growing burden on my heart has been for men to understand and grow in true manhood – the kind of manhood that God intends for His men;  the kind of manhood that God wields in His world-changing power in a way that heals the sick, binds up the wounded, frees the oppressed, stands against the oppressor, reclaims the ground given up by complacency and apathy, and gathers the little children into its arms and says, “You’re safe here”; the kind of manhood we see in precious few today; the kind of manhood we see when we look at Jesus Christ.

As I look at my own life, I see indeed it is full of turmoil, as Job said many millennia ago. I see that so much of this turmoil is caused by my own failings as a man, by my own inability to live as God has purposed for me as a man.  And as I look around, I see a hurting world with no real sense of identity or purpose or hope. A closer look tells a simple “cause-and-effect” story: where men do not understand masculinity and live like men, where you and I do not understand masculinity and live like men, the body-count rises and the destruction is devastating, felt deeply in every corner of humanity…in every corner. Women and children bear the brunt of misplaced and misunderstood manhood, and the result is fearful or calloused femininity, and childhood that never matures for lack of love and affirmation, vision, purpose, and the invitation to adulthood that children yearn for. For things to change, men must step out first; we must humble ourselves before our Creator so we can humble ourselves before our wives and children, and begin repairing the damage that has been done.

So let’s have a long, lasting look at Jesus Christ, and see what it is to be a man according to God’s own definition and design, and see in Him the power God has revealed to accomplish this transformation in us, the power to deal with bitterness and unforgiveness, temptation and ego, and the worldly whisperings that work to drive us to our own destruction.

We’ll just start in the beginning of the Gospels in the book of Matthew and work our way through over the next little while. We’ll break it up into smaller chunks so there isn’t so much reading at one time, and so we can take something with us into each day to meditate on and pray through, asking God to change us and make us more like His Son by the power of His Word and His Spirit.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”                                                                             ~ Jesus Christ (Matthew 11:28-30)

at His feet,

jae

That’s My King!

October 8, 2010

S.M. Lockridge (1913 - 2000)

It’s been quite a while since the last post as it has been a very, very busy summer and the fall so far hasn’t been much different. But God has been faithful, teaching and chastening and loving. I will endeavour to write again soon.

But in the meantime, God has so greatly lifted up my eyes and refreshed my spirit through a part of a sermon by S.M. Lockridge. Lockridge, born in 1913, pastored Fourth Ward Baptist Church in Ennis, Texas, beginning in 1942 before moving on to service at Calvary Baptist Church in San Diego, California from 1953 to 1993.

I found this clip of preaching, visual effects and musical background to be very encouraging and refreshing as the focus is 100% on the true King, Jesus Christ. It’s my understanding that this video was made by the Church worshiping together at Granger Community Church in Indiana. Check it out!

hold Him higher,

jae

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.     (Psalm 121:1-3)

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