Christianity 201

November 4, 2015

Was it Necessary for Jesus to be Tempted?

Today’s devotional by Richard Reed was recommended; it appears on the website My Christian Space. Click the title below to source and definitely take some time to look around the other resources on this fine website, including the one for a previous chapter of Matthew linked within the article.

Matthew Chapter Four, The Proven Heart…

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” NIV translation
– Matthew 4:1

The translation of the Greek word to tempted is unfortunate and is better translated as tested. The idea of temptation is that someone can be bribed or talked into evil and the simple fact of the matter is that there was no chance that that was going to happen to Jesus.

Testing, on the other hand, was used by God many times to prove what was in the heart of man. In chapter 3, we saw that Jesus was identified with man and so a part of that identification was the fact that He would have to go through the same things as the rest of mankind. This proving of what is in the heart of man was not for God’s sake as He already knows what is in our hearts.

So, why was it necessary to prove the heart of Jesus? We see the answer in the fact that it was the devil that was to test Jesus. You see, up to this point, Satan (who does not know everything) thought that he had a chance to defeat the plan of God because he did not know what was in the heart of Jesus. After this testing, the handwriting was on the wall and Satan knew that there was no chance for him and that he was doomed.

Matthew 4:2

“After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” NIV translation

Before the testing came, Jesus had to be identified with the greatest of men.

He fasted (no food or drink) for forty days and nights which identified Him with both Moses and Elijah.

Moses fasted for forty days and nights when he went up on the mountain to receive God’s commandments.

The prophet Elijah did the same thing when his life was endangered by Ahab and Jezebel. He fasted before the Lord appeared to him to strengthen him.

This reminds us that the purpose of fasting is to focus our minds on the things of God and trusting in Him. Today, the practice of fasting is often used as a badge of superiority by some believers. This was not its purpose throughout the Bible as it was to be a very personal thing between a man and God. As we shall see in Jesus teaching (chapter 6), it was not even to be known to others that a man was fasting.

March 28, 2014

Did Jesus Experience Spiritual Formation?

Nearly two weeks ago, we asked the question, Was Jesus Ever The Recipient of Grace? The purpose of that question, and the one today is not to go off on tangents or formulate some weird doctrine, but simply to get us thinking about the implications of certain scriptures.

Spiritual formation is a term that some find particularly upsetting; probably because the term went into widespread use with a particular movement they object to, The Emergent Church. But the term spiritual growth — or it’s aim, spiritual maturity — has been around much longer and means the same thing. In a familiar passage we learn that,

Luke 2:52 …Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. (NIV)

The purpose of this sentence is to provide narrative structure linking a passage showing Jesus in the temple at age twelve — Luke is the only gospel writer to include this — and the beginning of his ministry in chapter 3.

But in Hebrews, the King James introduces the idea of Christ being ‘perfected by his sufferings.’

Hebrews 2:10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

I can hear some of you asking, “Wait a minute! He was already perfect wasn’t he?”

Yesterday, someone suggested to me that this is analogous to the rest of us being formed and shaped through testing, trials and tribulations. But was this true of Jesus? If so, is this referring to unwritten things that happened between age twelve and age thirty; the period Luke sums up in a single phrase? Or is it saying that Jesus experienced ‘sufferings’ even as he pursued his earthly ministry; trained disciples; healed the sick; taught in parables; and challenged the Pharisees?

The answer is probably neither.

Rather the ‘sufferings’ of Jesus almost always refer to his suffering in the humiliation and pain of his death on Calvary.  The NLT renders the same verse,

Hebrews 2:10 God, for whom and through whom everything was made, chose to bring many children into glory. And it was only right that he should make Jesus, through his suffering, a perfect leader, fit to bring them into their salvation.

The last phrase doesn’t occur at all in the KJV but introduces the idea that the perfection of Christ is in the atonement; that Christ becomes our perfect sacrifice, but this can only take place after (i.e. through) his suffering and death.

The NIV blends the two. In this he becomes perfect through completing God’s ultimate plan and purpose:

Hebrews 2:10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered.

So how do we resolve this? Was Jesus spiritually formed by the hard times in his life?

Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that this was part of the whole humility of Christ, to be found in the human condition (i.e. “found in like manner as we”) and coming as carpenter and an itinerant rabbi and not a king (i.e. “taking on the form of a servant.”)(Both ref.’s Phil. 2)

But no in the sense of what is happening here is that we’re confusing two different ideas and we think the text is talking about something that more often applies to us not Him, namely that we are perfected by our sufferings.  We get that from:

Romans 5:3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;

II Cor. 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

James 1:12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

I Peter 1:7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

I Peter 5:10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

For the Christ-follower, this is simply the way it is; these are life principles.  But while the language is the same, I don’t believe the Hebrews passage fits the same pattern, and therefore I don’t believe that Christ was being shaped or formed by his circumstances or challenges the way we are. This seems to rob him of the divinity he possessed, at the very, very least, at the outset of his public ministry. (I phrase it that way only because some do not ascribe to Jesus an awareness of his divinity at earlier stages. I’m only making a concession here, I personally believe the Luke 2 passage is included to give us an insight into his full knowledge of his unity with God the Father.)

Some of the less common translations flesh this out to various degrees.  The Amplified Bible:

Hebrews 2:10 For it was an act worthy [of God] and fitting [to the divine nature] that He, for Whose sake and by Whom all things have their existence, in bringing many sons into glory, should make the Pioneer of their salvation perfect [should bring to maturity the human experience necessary to be perfectly equipped for His office as High Priest] through suffering.

This ties in well with Hebrews 4:15

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.

The Voice Bible seems to suggest a perfecting taking place,

10 It only makes sense that God, by whom and for whom everything exists, would choose to bring many of us to His side by using suffering to perfect Jesus, the founder of our faith, the pioneer of our salvation.

But in a narrative section that precedes it, states,

Here is God’s Son: Creator, Sustainer, Great High Priest. Jesus has to take on our feeble flesh and suffer a violent death. He suffers for what we need.

So again, he is our perfect sacrifice; he is not being shaped by things taking place in his earthly ministry, but he is becoming — as the writer will say in the verse from chapter four above — our perfect High Priest in death.

Jesus was the perfect man already. He didn’t need to be refined the way we do. His earthly existence did not shape him but it did make him perfectly able to identify with our condition. His submission to death made him the perfect sacrifice and thereby he is the perfect completion of God’s plan.

 

March 30, 2013

Stuck In Saturday

 

This is based on a section of the book Plan B by Pete Wilson and appeared on his blog a couple of years ago and also at Relevant Magazine.  You can click here to read it at source.

The other day I stood in line at my local coffee house. I was in a curious mood and just watched the four or five people in front of me as we stood in this unusually slow line.  Their body language and facial expressions said it all. There were hands on the hips expressing disgust at the current inconvenience, some were rolling their eyes as they glanced up momentarily from texting on their cell phone here was the predictable looking at the watch and then looking at the line and then looking back at the watch.

Most of us do not like waiting for anything.  We live in a day of fast everything and waiting for anything seems like a major inconvenience.  I must confess I don’t like waiting either.  I don’t like standing in line for my favorite cup of coffee, flipping though magazines in the waiting room of the doctor’s office and I sure don’t like waiting in traffic.  And if I can just be honest with you, I don’t like waiting on God either.

Lewis Smedes described waiting like this: “Waiting is our destiny. As creatures who cannot by themselves bring about what they hope for, we wait in the darkness for a flame we cannot light.  We wait in fear for a happy ending that we cannot write. We wait for a ‘not yet’ that feels like a ‘not ever.’”

This is what we often see in the anatomy of hope. There is an event that takes place that sucks the life out of you.  Something goes horribly wrong:

A dream dies.
A relationship ends.
A job dissipates.
A desire is crushed.

You’re left there standing, waiting, paralyzed by hopelessness.    You start to wonder…

Did God forget his promises?
Does God know?
Does God care?

Luke 23:44-49

44 It was about noon, and the whole land became dark until three o’clock in the afternoon, 45 because the sun did not shine. The curtain in the Temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, I give you my life.” After Jesus said this, he died.

47 When the army officer there saw what happened, he praised God, saying, “Surely this was a good man!”

48 When all the people who had gathered there to watch saw what happened, they returned home, beating their chests because they were so sad. 49 But those who were close friends of Jesus, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance and watched.

Notice how Jesus’ closest followers react.  The gospel account says they “stood at a distance and watched.”

Have you ever been so hopeless you couldn’t do a thing?  You couldn’t get mad or fight or even cry?  Have you ever felt so hopeless you didn’t have the energy or passion to even get ticked off?

I believe this is the emotional state of Jesus’ followers.  Nothing seems to be happening.  They feel hopeless, as if they’re completely alone.

Now, we know the end of this story.  We know that God was in fact doing his best work yet.  But there would be a waiting period.

It was Friday, remember, when Jesus was crucified.  But the paralyzing hopelessness the disciples experienced continued to intensify as they moved into Saturday.

I think it’s interesting that we don’t talk a lot about Saturday in the church.  We spend a lot of time talking about Good Friday, which of course we should.  This is the day redemption happened through the shedding of Christ’s blood.  It’s a very important day.

Nobody would argue that Easter Sunday is a day of celebration.  We celebrate that Jesus conquered death so that we can have life.  It doesn’t get any better than Easter Sunday.

But we don’t hear a lot about Saturday do we?   Saturday seems like a day when nothing is happening.  In reality, it’s a day of a whole lot questioning, doubting, wondering, and definitely waiting— a day of helplessness and hopelessness.  It’s a day when we begin to wonder if God is asleep at the wheel or simply powerless to do anything our about our current problems.

While we don’t spend a lot of time talking about Saturday, I think so much of our life here on this earth is lived out feeling somewhat trapped in “Saturday.”  I’m trying to get to a place in my life where I can embrace “Saturday.”  I’m trying to get to a place where I can view it as a type of preparation for what I believe God might be doing in my life.

You may currently be in the midst of a horrible, out-of-control situation.  You feel as if God is not there, that there’s nothing that can be done.

But here is the message of the gospel for you while you’re stuck in your helpless, hopeless Saturday life: God does his best work in hopeless situations.

We worship a God who specializes in resurrections.  He specializes in hopeless situations.  After all, at Easter, we celebrate the fact that he conquered death— the ultimate hopeless situation— so you could have life.

His followers were dejected and dismal and hopeless— and then Jesus rose from the dead.  God did the impossible and in a matter of hours the disciples journeyed from hopeless to hope-filled; from powerless to powerful.  They saw him risen and everything changed.  The story of our salvation was born out of extraordinary uncertainty.  But that’s the way hope works.

And no, that doesn’t take away your cancer.
That doesn’t erase the bankruptcy you’re in the midst of.
That doesn’t heal your broken relationship.
That doesn’t replace your shattered dream.

But it can remind you that while life is uncertain, God is not. While our power is limited, God is limitless.  While our hope is fragile, God himself is hope.

Your world may feel chaotic, especially when you’re stuck in a Saturday struggling hopelessly and waiting desperately.

But no doubt about it, God is still in control. And one way or another, Sunday will dawn.

February 9, 2012

God I Need Patience, and I Need It in a Hurry

Late last year the blog Reign of Faith began a series of articles under the series title Breakthrough.  We’re going to use one here today and another tomorrow.  This one appeared mid-January under the title Breakthrough: Patience.

The element of patience, spoken of in a prior post, is vital to, and on, your journey towards breakthrough. You may feel as though your journey is taking a long time. Maybe you are questioning if you will ever see the promise fulfilled. These feelings and thoughts are from the enemy. He hopes to cause a spiritual abortion within you through your feelings, thoughts, words and actions. Remember, the enemy cannot harm, curse or disable you, but he can get you to harm, curse, or disable yourself.

Maybe you have been waiting months, or even years, for manifestation. I understand how frustration can begin to surface; however, you must rebuke your flesh and subject it to the power of your spirit.

For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. (Hebrews 6:13-15 NKJV)

Your breakthrough is going to come after your patience has been tested {probably multiple times}. Things are going to seem like they are “going your way” and then take a so-called “turn for the worst”. People around you may begin to place pressure on you, treat you unfairly. Many things can and will happen and they are designed to test and perfect your patience.

Even Jesus, the Son of God, endured a test of His patience, steadfastness, endurance, and conviction.

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. (Matthew 4:1, 2 NKJV)

Take note. When did the enemy show up? He began His attacks right after Jesus spent 40 days fasting. The enemy is not going to attack you when you are already headed down the path of destruction or when you are already off course. His attacks will come when you are seeking after God, pressing towards the mark, praying, fasting and getting new revelation. Also notice that verse 2 emphasizes the fact that He was hungry. Satan knows the points of weakness in your flesh {not to be confused with your spirit}. On your journey, before your breakthrough, when you are about to receive, he will send something your way that he knows would have typically bothered you. If worry concerning your finances is something you have done in the past, then he may throw something your way which requires you to pay money you did not feel comfortable giving up. If you are not subjecting your flesh to your spirit, then this may get you in a frenzy.

Learn to recognize areas where you previously struggled. When the enemy attacks those areas, you will be able to recognize those attacks and cast them down. Remain patient throughout every test and trial. Your patience will help propel you forward just like your faith and obedience.

Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him. (Matthew 4:11 NKJV)

Jesus withstood all attacks from the enemy. He was not drawn away by the lust of the flesh (1 John 2:6) nor did He grow weary in well doing (Galatians 6:9). He continued resisting the devil, whom had no choice but to flee (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8,9).

You will reach the point that God has promised you. Remain faithful, obedient, and patient!

Mission Statement: Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of the Christian blogosphere.  An individual article may be posted even if some or all readers might not agree with other things posted at the same blog, and two posts may follow on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives.  The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we can see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading.