A Year of Listening to Jesus 1/4

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Matthew 4:7

After Jesus resisted the first temptation, Satan came back at him with a second temptation. This time Satan changes tactics and actually quotes scripture to Jesus. After taking Jesus to the top of the Temple he proposes a challenge, “If you are the son of God, throw yourself down from here”. Then quoting Psalm 91:11, 12 he says that angels will protect him.

The temptation strikes us as odd. What is so tempting about throwing yourself off the top of a building just so angels can rescue you? Actually the temptation has nothing to do with the thrill of base jumping. It is actually a temptation to doubt the word of God. It is Satan’s basic tactic that he uses time and again. Consider what Jesus has just gone through. When he was baptized by John the voice from heaven spoke and said, “This is my beloved Son”. Now Satan is trying to cast doubt in the mind of Jesus. “Are you really the Son of God?” “How can you be sure?” “Why don’t you jump off here and prove it since the Bible says he will protect his Son?”

In order to try to get Jesus to do something rash, Satan takes scripture out of context. Psalm 91 is about the protection of the Lord as you go about your regular, normal, daily life. It never considers that you might decide to take a flying leap of a building. So Jesus responds with a scripture quote of his own. “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test”. There is a difference between faith and presumption. Faith is about trusting what the Lord has said. Presumption is expecting God to do what we want for our own ends and desires. The frightening thing is that our presumption is often based on a faulty understanding of God’s Word.

Jesus demonstrates his unswerving trust in the words of the Father. He knows that he is the Son of God. That has been made clear in the declaration at his baptism. There is no need to do something to make God prove what he has already declared. Jesus also demonstrates, once again, how important it is to be well versed in scripture and why context is so critical to knowing the will of God. A sound knowledge of scripture comes in very handy when facing temptation. There is power in the Word of God to protect us from falling into the snares of the Devil. But you must be a student of the Word because Satan will twist it and seek to knock you off course.

A Year of Listening to Jesus 1/3

But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4

Following his baptism by John, Jesus went into the dessert to face a series of temptations. Scripture often refers to Jesus as the Second Adam and his temptation in the wilderness is a key reason for that title Where the first Adam failed miserably in being obedient to God, Jesus, the Second Adam, demonstrated his unfailing obedience to the Father by handling every temptation the devil threw his way. This first of those temptations ties directly to the temptation faced by Adam and Eve.

Adam and Eve were told not to eat from one particular tree in the garden. They had access to everything else but that one tree. They suffered no hunger of any kind. They had not area of life that they faced deprivation. All they were asked to do was trust the word of God and not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The serpent convinced them that they could not trust the word of God, that God was not concerned about their best interest and was only trying to keep them from experiencing something wonderful.

Jesus is in the dessert on a self imposed fast. He has no food, no water, no lush surroundings. He faces deprivation on every level, and he is also being tempted to eat. But he makes it clear that what matters most is not food that is a delight to the eyes and good to eat. Rather what matters most is to feed on the very words of God. Adam and Eve doubted the word of God and it led to the expulsion from the garden and our sin nature taking hold in every human being. Jesus fed on the word of God and it opened the door to our salvation and rescue from sin and death.

We live in a time in which biblical illiteracy is higher than it has been for generations if not centuries. We also live in a time when people are as confused as ever about what it means to be a Christian and what following Christ looks like. There is a vital connection between those two states of affairs. The failure on the part of many Christians to know and understand the most basic of biblical stories and teachings is a direct cause of the sad state of Christianity in the west today.

The lack of vitality and consistency in the faith is a result of people not feeding on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. We have more resources to study the Bible at our finger tips than every before yet take less and less advantage of those resources. A daily feeding on the Word of God is the first step in a vital and vibrant relationship with Jesus. I wish I could say that this devotional was sufficient for that purpose but this is only a snack compared to the feast that is available for you if you would consistently and systematically study and apply the Bible to your life.