Friday, March 21, 2014

Temptations of the Spirit-filled Jesus

One Year Bible
New Testament passage for Thursday, March 20, 2014:  Luke 4:1-30

Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into[a] the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry.  Luke 4:1-2 (NKJV)

Defining Moments

Can you remember the crucial moments in your life?  Decisions or events that set the course of your future? In the broad scope of time, there are events called hinges of history -- turning points.  Like hinges of a door, history turns on these axes -- 9/11; Dec, 7, 1941; many more.  On a personal level, there are building blocks of experience that made you the person you are.

Jesus had crucial turn-point moments in His life.  One came at the very outset of His public ministry.  Having been baptized by John, He stepped onto the stage of history full of the Holy Spirit.

Beginnings are always important.  We can often tell the nature of a race or sporting event by the way it starts. The first steps of Jesus' public ministry tell us much about the pattern and practice of His life.  They also tell us what to expect and how to act as we follow Jesus.

From Blessing straight into Battle

Jesus began with BLESSING.  At the Jordan River, He was baptized by John.  The Holy Spirit descended on Him like a dove.  Scripture says that "the heaven was opened." (Luke 3:21)  This is more than a whispy parting of clouds.  It speaks of a violent ripping open such as is described elsewhere as "rend the heavens" (Is. 64:1).  A "closed heaven" became an "open heaven" by a violent ripping back by the Father that changed history. The Father spoke blessing on His Son.

We all want our lives to be an endless succession of blessing upon blessing.  The very first step of the Spirit-filled Jesus, however, was into BATTLE (Luke 4:1).  While our destiny is unending blessing, our immediate experience may be battle.  Like Jesus, we are born into warfare.

Choose Your Weapons

As Jesus entered the three years of ministry that changed history, He had to choose His methods.  Like anyone who sets out to win a war, He had to choose His weapons, and define His strategy.  That is exactly what the three temptations are all about.  Satan came tempting Jesus to take three alternative paths toward accomplishing His mission.

1. The "stone to bread" option.  

Jesus could buy men's loyalty by giving them a loaf of bread.  Material benefits might win a few, but in the long run, they will not stay.  Even though Jesus had the ability to make bread materialize out of rock, He chose to win us "not by bread alone, but by the words proceeding out of the mouth of God."

2.  The "cut the corners" option.

Jesus knew that He was destined to rule the entire world.  Satan offered a compromise that would get the job done quickly and "easily."  Satan offered Jesus fulfillment of His mission the easy way -- "just bow down and worship me."  The Rhinestone Cowboy sang to us, "there'll be a load of compromisin' on the road to my horizon."  Not so with Jesus.

Satan confuses us with the grey of compromise.  We then lose the ability to see the black and white of God's will.  We must never lose the confident assurance of "Thus says the Lord!"

3.  The "showmanship" option.

Our world is full of fake facades.  Image becomes everything.  Satan tempted Jesus to do an amazing act that meant absolutely nothing.  Jump off the pinnacle of the Temple!  Jesus refused to win people by glitzy showmanship.

Setting Your Course

When Jesus withstood these three temptations, He was setting His course.  He operated on the basis of the Word of God and refused to be swayed by easier options or pragmatic short-cuts.

How have you built your life?  It is never too late to set the right course.  Even though the battle may be intense, the rewards are eternal.  The turning points are really building blocks.  If we choose God's weapons and use His strategy, we will always win in the greatest battle of life.

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