victorious in our salvation

In Luke chapter 4 we are given insight into the human and divine nature of our Savior as Jesus is led into the desert by the Spirit.  During forty days of fasting (or at the conclusion of them depending upon your understanding of the text) Jesus is tempted by Satan.  “‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.’  Jesus answered, ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’  The devil then led Him up to a high place and showed Him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.  And he said to Him, ‘I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.  So if you worship me, it will all be yours.’  Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’  The devil led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the highest point of the temple.  ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down from here.  For it is written: ‘He will command His angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’  Jesus answered, ‘It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’  When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left Him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:3-13).

Much could be said about this event in Jesus’ life and ministry.  The fact that it occurred (when you consider Matthew’s account) immediately following the baptism of Jesus is significant.  Jesus’ discipline and complete and total reliance upon God in fasting during this time powerfully speaks to us.  Jesus’ response to each test while abiding in God’s Word is crucial.  Certainly Satan’s distortion of Scripture in Jesus’ testing is something that should be emphasized.  But what I’d like for us to consider are the reasons behind the specific ways in which Jesus is tempted/tested.

“If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”  Notice Satan’s condescension: “If….”  Did Satan know that Jesus was God’s Son?  Absolutely.  Did Jesus know?  You better believe it!  Was there anyone else present for this conversation besides the two of them?  No.  So why begin with question?  He’s testing Jesus’ character!  And why bread?  Because of Jesus’ hunger?  Yes.  But even more so, if ever there was going to be a moment where Jesus was susceptible and fragile in His humanity this would have been it.  Our Lord, however, stood firm.  And why the temptation of the kingdoms of the world?  Power.  Prestige.  Authority.  Ego.  The temptation of salvation while falling from the pinnacle of the temple?  Along those same lines: Pride.  Arrogance.  Ability.  Worth.  The writer of Hebrews acknowledges that Jesus was “tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).  And we see this reality clearly lived out in our Lord’s life in His testing.  But in doing so, do we to see our own humanness as we are tempted by Satan every day as well?

John the Apostle writes, “For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world” (1 John 2:16).  Precisely the three areas in which our Savior was tempted.

We are in such dire need of salvation.  So God sent us Jesus.  But He sent Christ not only to save us, but to show us.  To show us how to live victorious in our salvation.

Glory to God!

Jason

the voice of wisdom

Wisdom.  Wisdom is not on our radar often enough.  We make choices based upon our feelings.  Our emotions.  Our own merit.  Upon how we are affected.  Upon our own understanding.  Certainly these are a part of the decision-making process.  But what about discernment?  What about wisdom?

And what about when we make poor choices?  Tragic choices?  Intentional choices?  When we sin?  When we doubt?  When we lash out in anger?  When we respond selfishly?  Self-servingly?  Worldy?  Where is wisdom then?

In the book of Proverbs wisdom is often personified.  And wisdom is a woman.  Read into this whatever you like….  But it’s extremely interesting as the voice of wisdom speaks, she constantly calls for humility.  She appeals to discernment.  She pleads for fidelity.

“Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out, in the gateways of the city she makes her speech…” (Proverbs 1:20).

She goes to where the people are.  There is never any doubt as to her message.  There is no question as to the need for wisdom.  The need for discernment.  Only the question of whether or not we will listen.

Do we seek wisdom from God?  From His Word?  From His Spirit?  From His Son?  God never contradicts Himself.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  His character, His nature, His being, His purposes, are never changing.  He is constant.  He is true.  He is just.

Wisdom pursues His will for our lives.  Wisdom requests His will.  Wisdom seeks His will.  Wisdom accepts His will.  Wisdom is discerning of His will and does not confuse His will with our own.  Wisdom acknowledges His infiniteness.  And our finiteness.

The Apostle Paul when writing in regard to the ways in which God has acted upon behalf of humankind, speaks of the wisdom of God and His graciousness revealed to us in and through the Gospel of Jesus.  “It is because of Him (God) that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is our righteousness, holiness, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).  You see as believers true wisdom is found only in Christ.  Only in life lived in Christ.  Only in discerning God’s will for our lives and having the courage and faithfulness to pursue His will.

As Christians the voice of wisdom calls to us.  She calls us to right thinking.  To objectivity.  To faithful living.  To pursue the will of God.  To where true wisdom lies.  In God.  And in Christ.

But the question remains: Will we listen? 

Glory to God!

Jason

more like our Father

There have been plenty of times in my life when my mother has said to me, “Jason, you are just like your father.”  Depending upon what I was doing at the time and the tone of her voice it’s been pretty easy to discern whether this was a good thing or not.  After sharing a kind word or observing my meticulous way of doing things (which can sometimes be a curse rather than a blessing) she’ll smile and say: “You are just like your father.”  Other times, perhaps after a bit of sarcasm or bout of stubbornness: “You are just like your father!”

The writer of Hebrews affirms Jesus as “the exact representation” of God’s being (Hebrews 1:3).

The Apostle Paul writes, Christ “is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).

Jesus Himself asserts, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father” (John 14:9).

Christ represents God in every way.  His being.  His nature.  His heart.  So much so that to see Him is to see the Father.  We too often think of Jesus as an idea, rather than as a person.  But it proves difficult to follow an idea.  “I am the Way.  I am the Truth.  I am the Life” (John 14:6).  The way to God.  The truth of God.  The life that only God can give.  All found not in the idea of Jesus, but rather, in the person of Jesus.  He comes that we might have life.  That we might have true, full life (John 10:10).  And that we might follow Him.

Aren’t we created in the image of God?  Sure we are (Genesis 1:26-27).  But in order to reveal Him.  To reflect Him.  To represent Him, in our lives, we must be shaped more and more into His image.  And more and more into the image of His Son.  The One whom we follow.

Jeremiah speaks on behalf of God and describes the Potter as He shapes the clay (Jeremiah 18).  Of course Jeremiah is referring to God and Israel, but don’t we fit into the illustration as well?

As we live life, God the Potter shapes us.  He molds us.  More and more into the people He desires for us to be.  The Potter shapes the clay by applying pressure to the areas that need to be changed as the Potter’s wheel turns.  Our role in all of this?  To be moldable.  Pliable.  To not resist the changes the Potter is making within us.  Too often we refuse.  We are made uncomfortable by the pressure applied.  By the changes made.  And yet what God is doing is shaping us.  Shaping our lives.  Shaping our hearts.

As He does and as we willingly allow Him to work within, I picture Him with a smile as He says: “You are more like your Father every day!”

Glory to God!

Jason

the greater story

One of the connections that God has made possible in our life as His people is the connection to the greater story.  We connect to the epic story of God.  Because we belong to Him through Christ, His story is ours, and our story becomes His.  The Apostle Paul writes, “You are sons and daughters of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ….  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 4:26-29).  We can trace our spiritual lineage to the promise and action of God at work within humanity because in Christ we are a part of the greater story.

Hebrews 11 is a chapter that we love dearly.  Great heroes of faith are placed before us systematically one right after the other.  By faith Noah….  By faith Abraham….  By faith Isaac….  By faith Jacob….  By faith Moses….  Immediately when their names are mentioned we know their stories.  We know their history.  We know the magnificent ways in which God worked through the lives they lived.  And yet somehow the writer of Hebrews declares that “only together with us are they made complete” (Hebrews 11:40).  Because the story lives on in us in radically revealed ways, as those who live this side of the cross of Jesus.

We love a story.  Think about the books we read or movies we watch or stories we tell.  We love a great story.  The Gospel is the greatest story ever told.  And we are a part of it’s legacy.

Glory to God!

Jason

He brings us near

When you get right down to it the Christian faith is about nearness with God.  Certainly we are in need of salvation.  We are in need of forgiveness.  We are in need of the strength that only God can provide.  But when we look objectively at faith (and life) we begin to see the innate need each of us has for nearness to our Father.

And I believe this is a struggle for many.  Because God seems so very distant.

As God descends upon Mt Sinai He does so in power.  He had delivered Israel with power out of their slavery in Egypt.  There was no doubt to any of them that He alone was God.  As He leads them to Mt Sinai to engage in covenant with them He establishes a boundary around the mountain.  No one was to come near.  They were all to be kept at a distance.  The glory of God encompasses the mountain in thunder and lightening and fire and trumpet blast.  The mountain shook violently.  Smoke billowed from the mountain “like a furnace” (Ex 19:18).  “To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain” (Ex 24:18).  “When the people saw the thunder and lightening and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear” (Ex 20:18).  And they stayed at a distance….

However in Christ we have a different reality.  If we’ve learned anything from the Gospel of Jesus, anything from what God has accomplished through our Savior, anything from the cross and resurrection of our Lord, it is that our Father desires closeness with us.  He wants us near.  He has come near to us in Christ and so desires for us to engage Him in a close, intimate relationship in this life.

Read these powerful, comforting words from the Hebrew writer of our present reality in Christ: “You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: ‘If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.’  The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, ‘I am trembling with fear.’  But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.  You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant…” (Heb 12:18-24).

Our reality in Jesus is of a God who brings us near.

Glory to God!

Jason

a spiritual kingdom

To have “eyes that see and ears that hear” is to consciously acknowledge the Kingdom and Spirit of God.  To view life and all that it contains through the lens of faith, and in harmony with the Word.

AW Tozer asks, “Why do the ransomed children of God (that’s us) know so little of the habitual, conscious communion with God which Scripture details and offers?  The answer is our chronic unbelief.  Faith enables our spiritual sense to function.  Where faith is defective the result will be inward insensibility and numbness to spiritual things.  This is the condition of vast numbers of Christians today.  No proof is necessary to support that statement.  We have but to converse with the first Christian we meet or enter the first church we find open to acquire all the proof we need.

A spiritual kingdom lies all about us, enclosing us, embracing us, altogether within reach of our inner selves, waiting for us to recognize it.  God Himself is waiting for our response to His presence.  The eternal will come alive the moment we begin to reckon its reality.”

The writer of Hebrews puts it this way: “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).

Glory to God!

Jason