The Temptation of Jesus

Luke 4:1-13

Jesus answered, “It is written…” (Luke 4:4, 8 NIV)

Many have written about temptation in general and this temptation of the Lord Jesus by Satan specifically. The typical approach is either that it is an important part of the doctrines of sin and temptation, or that we can learn “practical lessons” about how to overcome temptation. Usually, Christians are drawn to the second approach, because too often Christianity is reduced to a “do it yourself” (DIY) method that concentrates on “practical” 3 to 12 step plans that usually neglect the Triune God. But that is a topic for another time. Yet, I purposefully mentioned this matter, because few are aware of how their reading, interpretation, and ideas of the nature of the Christian life are skewed by a demand for what is “practical”, so that they fail to see God’s glory in Christ. Their approach to the word becomes human-centered rather than Christ-focused.

In this article, I want to present what is far less considered; that is, the importance of this section to Biblical theology, which wants to know and to tell the story of God’s glory in Jesus Christ. When we know this, then the passage can enrich our systematic and practical theologies.

  • Jesus came as God’s new man, the last Adam. The first Adam yielded to the temptation by the devil against the word of God. Adam the first fell in the Garden of Eden, where he was richly provided for by the Lord. He had all the food he could eat in the lush vegetation of the Garden nearby him. However, the first Adam disobeyed God, and we all sinned in him, and the reign of death began (Romans 5:12-14). Jesus Christ, the last Adam, went into the wilderness to do the will of God. Adam was told not to eat the fruit of one tree; Jesus was led by the Spirit not to eat any food, while in the desert. He would have to conquer a temptation about food to show that he was the obedient Son who could provide salvation to his people (Hebrews 5:8-9). That obedience required living according to the word of God.
  • Jesus came as the new Israel, the Servant of the Lord. God had brought Israel out of Egypt to serve his holy will to bring blessing to the nations. However, Israel was quickly side-tracked. Though God provided them with food every week, in the wilderness they complained against the Lord and his rich provision. For this reason, Jesus went into the wilderness where he lived in submission to God’s directives, without food. In the wilderness, Israel fell into idolatry (Psalm 106:19-22, 28-29). In the desert, Jesus refused to worship anyone but God alone. Israel forgot God’s miracles for their benefit. Christ did not put God to the test as they did (Psalm 78:40-41). (You can study this out more, by carefully reading Psalms 78 and 106, as you meditate on this passage from Luke.)
  • Jesus came to establish God’s kingdom, which involves the power of the Spirit (Matthew 12:28). Therefore, when the evil one tried to mislead him with the kingdoms of the world, he had no interest. His mission was to proclaim God’s kingdom, to tell people how to enter God’s kingdom, to describe the people in God’s kingdom, and to show the superiority of God’s kingdom to anything on earth (Matthew 13:44-46). He could hear the temptation about the kingdoms of the world and their authority and splendor and see all that as an enticement away from God and what is best… to idolatry. The new age of the Spirit, the kingdom of God, and the new covenant are of far greater value than any trifles of worldly authority and splendor. Jesus made the choice for the glory of God’s heaven, and so was prepared to preach the kingdom of God to others. From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 4:17 NIV). To follow Jesus requires repentance from the pursuit of worldly splendor, in order to live for the glory of God.

So then, let’s us understand that this account of Jesus overcoming temptation is more than a manual on resisting temptation. It shows his glory as God’s obedient, trusting new man, servant, and preacher of the kingdom. And as we behold his glory, we reflect it and are transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory.

Grace and peace, David

Psalm Eighteen (Part One)

Psalm 18:1-3

For the director of music. Of David the servant of the Lord. He sang to the Lord the words of this song when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. He said: I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies (NIV).

The Psalms tell the story of God’s reign in song. They show God at work through his anointed king, usually David, and great David’s greater son, the Anointed One (Messiah). At times, we hear of David’s struggles, sin, sorrows, and repentance. At others, we are called to join in the celebration of God’s victories, which involve the salvation and deliverance of his people from their enemies.

In Psalm Eighteen, David celebrates how God had delivered him from the hand of all his enemies (title of the psalm). At a quick glance we might assume that this referred to the end of his life, but nearly the same words are said when he became king over all Israel, following years of struggle with his father-in-law, Saul, and other rebels against God’s choice of David as his king (2 Samuel 7:1). David is about thirty-seven at the time he wrote this. He had ruled over Judah for seven and a half years, but finally, the Lord had set him up as king over all Israel. A study of 2 Samuel 7 will show that the Lord made a covenant with David, that the Messiah would come from him. Then end of this psalm is definitely Messianic, as we will see.  David’s great task became restoring the worship of the living God in Israel. To do this, he wrote many songs for public worship. Notice how the title informs us that this psalm was for the director of music. Since the Lord had brought David through many troubles to the throne, David rejoiced about God doing the same thing for Israel through the Anointed One. He glorified God, calling himself only the servant of the Lord.

Observe that David sang to the Lord the words of this song. The heart of a person set free has a song. The believer sings to the Lord. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and they will trust in the Lord (Psalm 40:3 CSB). Thanksgiving for mercy and grace received causes those set free from sin and death to worship. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Colossians 3:16 ESV).

David wanted his people to share his joy, and to prepare them to trust the Lord throughout difficult times that would certainly come. The key to all this is his love for the Lord (18:1). David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). He set his inner person on seeking the glory of the Lord. He wanted everyone to rejoice in God’s overflowing goodness, and so he gave himself to compose songs for worship for his own soul and for others to sing with him.

Are our hearts filled with songs for the Lord? Are we thankful for how he has delivered and continues to deliver us? If our songs are absent or faint, we ought to examine ourselves to find the cause of our spiritual disorder. The life of faith is meant to be a walk of thanksgiving and joy! David sought to rekindle this in his people. May our souls be filled with refreshing experiences of God’s goodness to us!

Grace and peace, David

The Holy Spirit (Part Twenty-eight)

John 7:37-39

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified (NIV).

Presently we are investigating what God says in the Bible about the Holy Spirit. As Spurgeon said years ago, “the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity” (New Park Street Pulpit, Number 1). So then, with this good purpose in mind, we will continue with this study about the Holy Spirit.

Every pastor or teacher should explain the direction of his teaching ministry from time to time. This allows people to grasp the larger context of his presentations, or to use a common illustration, it enables them to see the tree and the forest. Our method of approach in this study about the Holy Spirit is primarily that of Biblical theology—viewing God’s revelation of his person, words, and saving activity from the standpoint of God’s progressive opening of his truth to his people in redemptive history. So then, starting with the pivotal text of Acts 1:1-9, we have studied the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament Scriptures, the work of the Spirit in giving the Scriptures to us, the Holy Spirit and salvation, the Holy Spirit and Christ, and now Christ’s promise of the outpouring of the Spirit, which will lead us, God willing, to the Pentecost and its meaning. Then we will be in a position to study the new covenant ministry of the Holy Spirit.

The setting of these verses is a response by the Lord Jesus to the events of the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. That festival was a happy time for God’s old covenant people—a time when they remembered their journey to the Promised Land. During the festival, there was a ceremony when a priest poured out water from a golden flagon, while a trumpet sounded joyfully. It seems that the people also sang Isaiah 12:3 in connection with that ceremony. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation (NIV). On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus called out to the assembled people these memorable words that are recorded in 7:37-38. These verses are his promise of the Holy Spirit to all who believe on him. Notice the typical context. Christ’s people will be on a journey to the eternal Promised Land. As God guided them with the cloud, so the new covenant people will receive the Holy Spirit.

Regretfully, believers have not thought much about the promise of the Holy Spirit in its connection with God’s storyline in the Bible. (Remember, God’s word is the true story of God’s glory in Jesus Christ.) What did God the Father promise about the Holy Spirit? What did Christ promise? Here will see that Jesus promised that he would give the Holy Spirit to all those who come to him. The Holy Spirit would then live in each one. And we will learn about the power of this ministry. For now, read the above promise and meditate on its significance. What does the Lord Jesus want us to learn? What ought we to learn about the greatness of our God? Let our minds be stretched as contemplate this promise.

Grace and peace, David

The Holy Spirit (Part 15)

John 14:6-11

Have you ever toured a mansion? Sharon and I have been on several tours. A typical tour goes something like this. You purchase your tickets at a welcome center, walk to the mansion, and then wait. Finally, a tour guide appears, gives a lot of instructions, and walks you through. Some rooms are roped off, so that you can just look in, and of course, you can’t touch anything! Other rooms might be dimly lit, and you wish you could enter fully in with a bright light and really enjoy the riches displayed in such rooms.

The believer in Old Testament times lived in a dimly lit chamber. They had great blessings as God’s people (Romans 3:1-2; 9:4-5). But they could not see them clearly or experience them fully. They had to wait for the coming of a great light, the Lord Jesus Christ (Isaiah 9:1-7). Listen to what the Spirit reveals about the level of insight that the prophets, who spoke the word, had. Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things (1 Pt 1:10-12 NIV). The prophets received and spoke God’s word, but unless the Spirit explained it to them, they could not understand it. They were before the Light of the world came, and lacked events like the resurrection and the Day of Pentecost to understand what was met. They had an ignition key but no car. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets cf. Eph 3:4-5 NIV). Some truths simply were not revealed until the new covenant age began. You might desire the next generation cellphone, but until it’s on the market, you can’t have it or use it. Many of the truths about the Holy Spirit had to wait till after the ascension of Jesus the Messiah.

From these texts, the church has long recognized the truth of the greater light of the New Testament Scriptures. Consider the words of Augustine. “The New Testament is in the Old concealed, and in the New, the Old revealed.”

“The Old Testament may be likened to a chamber richly furnished but dimly lighted: the introduction of light brings into it nothing which was not in it before; but it brings out into clearer view much of what was in it but was only dimly or not at all perceived before. The mystery of the Trinity is not revealed in the Old Testament; but the mystery of the Trinity underlies the Old Testament revelation, and here and there almost comes into view. Thus the Old Testament revelation of God is not corrected by the fuller revelation which follows it, but is only perfected, extended and enlarged” (Warfield).

Our next subject in our series on the Holy Spirit is the Person of the Spirit of God in the dimly lighted chamber of the Old Testament Scriptures. Obviously, we cannot speak in detail about this. Whole books address this theme! But in some glimpses of his glory as God that the Spirit gave in the Old Testament Scriptures, we may learn more of God and all that he is for his people. So then, we’ll take the rope down and with the light of Christ explore a little of this dimly lighted room.

Grace and peace, David

A Picture of What Might Have Been

DSCN2766Judges 1:1-7

I think in every human heart there is a desire to know what might have been. Everyone makes countless choices daily. Most are seemingly minor and we give no thought to them. Others are more major, and they can trouble us, especially if the decision produces consequences we do not like. Then we ponder, “Did I make the right one? What if I had done such and such instead?” Yes, it’s that “what if” that troubles us.

Judges is not the book in the Bible that you read if you are looking for peace and encouragement. The book disturbs people greatly, because of its record of the sins of people and God’s judgments on those sins. Yet it is part of the story of God’s glory that leads us to realize why people need God’s king. The old covenant people of God (Israel) had been given many opportunities and advantages to live with God in peace and joy. But the first section of Judges (1:1-3:6), reveals their failures and judgment that fell upon them, because they did not in faith obey the Lord. In other words, we see the cause of Israel’s spiritual decline after the time of Joshua. As a contrast to the rest of the section, in the opening verses the Holy Spirit records how Israel should have acted after the death of Joshua.

Before we come to the text, we must remember a crucial difference between Israel and the church. The church is God’s spiritual nation, which is not of this world, and since it is not of this world, it does not fight with the weapons of this world (Jn 18:36; 2 Cor 10:3-6). However, Israel was a nation like the other nations of the world, except that they were to live for God’s glory and had God’s word and promises and the way to live with God (Romans 3:1-2; 9:4-5). Since they were a physical nation, they had to use worldly weapons to maintain their existence. Their enemies, the Canaanite people groups, were to be removed from the Promised Land, because of their total wickedness. During the time before Christ’s death and resurrection, God let the nations walk their own way, and this they did, turning their backs on God, and in the process committing great acts of wickedness (Acts 17:26-30; Romans 1:18-32). The Canaanites were notoriously wicked in their rebellion against God, and God decreed that their civilization was to end (Deuteronomy 7:1-5). Again, this is uncomfortable, since people do not like to hear about judgment, until they have a deep and bitter experience of the ruin that sin causes.

The Lord caused Israel to prosper when they submitted themselves to him (1:1-2). The people started the post-Joshua period with a wise request. They did not allow the passing of their leader to deflect them from their duty. There was still much land to be conquered and effectively occupied (cf. Joshua 13:1-7; 23:1-13). As you can read in Judges 2:10ff, this did not last long, but at least they started out in the right way. Some don’t even make it this far! Godly leadership is a good gift from God. We ought to be concerned about the next generation.

They recognized God’s rule over their nation. This is the important point. Here is the theme: The Lord’s kingship over his people. In this event, they wanted to do as he pleased, instead of pursuing their own pleasure. When God’s people have this desire, they are showing the character of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:5-7). The sons and daughters of God are to act like the Son of God.

The Lord graciously responded to their request. The Lord provided them with an answer. He specifically directed that Judah was to act first. The Lord used means in this answer, for Judah was the most powerful tribe, and the one God had already chosen to lead (Numbers 2:9; cf. Genesis 49:8-12). The Lord promised them the victory: “I have given the land….” As ruler over all things (Ephesians 1:11), God assured them of triumph consistent with his purpose and promise.

We should lay hold of this truth in our own lives (Romans 8:37). The truth of who and what we are in Jesus Christ frees us to trust in our sovereign Lord, even when life seems to be against us. The promise of victory is just as sure to us as we walk by faith (1 Jn 5:4).

Grace and peace, David