3 Temptations

I had a conversation with a pastor friend recently that gave me a new sense of caution against three temptations. (Credit to Rev. Matt Johnson.) You could call them “3 temptations of ministry” or “3 temptations of leadership”…the truth is they apply to everyone. Why? Because Jesus, God Himself in human experience, was tempted in these three ways.

Then the Spirit led Jesus up into the wilderness so that the devil might tempt him. After Jesus had fasted for forty days and forty nights, he was starving. The tempter came to him and said, “Since you are God’s Son, command these stones to become bread.” Jesus replied, “It’s written, People won’t live only by bread, but by every word spoken by God.” (Matthew 4:1-4 CEB)

Temptation 1: Appetite
The tempter says, “Feed yourself.” Jesus says, “God feeds me.”

After that the devil brought him into the holy city and stood him at the highest point of the temple. He said to him, “Since you are God’s Son, throw yourself down; for it is written, I will command my angels concerning you, and they will take you up in their hands so that you won’t hit your foot on a stone. ” Jesus replied, “Again it’s written, Don’t test the Lord your God.” (Matthew 4:5-7 CEB)

Temptation 2: Affirmation
To really understand the impact of how Jesus is tempted here, we must remember what He just went through prior to the Spirit leading Him out into the wilderness. Jesus rises out of the waters of the Jordan, baptized by the humble servant John the Baptist, and the Spirit descends upon Him. The voice of God the Father speaks over Him, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” The temptation is simple: “prove it.” Jesus, in a sense, says, “God alone tells me who I am.”

Then the devil brought him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. He said, “I’ll give you all these if you bow down and worship me.” Jesus responded, “Go away, Satan, because it’s written, You will worship the Lord your God and serve only him.” (Matthew 4:8-10 CEB)

Temptation 3: Ambition
The devil tempts Jesus to redirect His worship, His loyalty, the orientation of His life and work in order to achieve a seductive reward – position, power, status. Jesus simply declares the singular and unchanging loyalty and purpose of His life – to worship and serve God alone.

The encouraging picture of triumph after consistent resistance:

The devil left him, and angels came and took care of him. (Matthew 4:11 CEB)

Three questions:
1. In what way are you tempted to satisfy your own needs rather than letting God?
2. From what voices other than God’s do you seek affirmation? (Hearing God’s affirmation through others is more than ok, since He often works in that way. It’s important to be honest about whose is motivating us.)
3. What are you living for?

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Remember Your Story

missional orientation

Your story, the story of who and whose you are, is important. It is important for you to remember and for others to hear.

What is your first memory of a God consciousness?

When did you experience grace in greatest measure?

What key events shaped you?

What were the greatest blessings, tragedies, lessons?

Your story is like a photo album. These memories make up your life and give direction for your future. But it’s a photo album that you need to be able to access regularly. Don’t keep this photo album on the external hard drive where it can be forgotten or, worse, corrupted. Keep it on your phone, on your photo stream, where you can easily look back and remember or share with others.

 

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First Things First

I’ve heard Jesus paraphrased as saying, “If you want to be first, be last.” I have thought about this and for a long time strived for it – being last so that in the Kingdom of God I could be first.

But then it hits me. The subject hasn’t changed. When we want to be first we try to be first. Then along comes Jesus and says, “If you want to be first, be last.” So, because we still want to be first, we try to be last. But the subject is still “I want to be first.”

What did Jesus actually say? Not “If you want to be first, be last.” But rather, “But many who are first will be last. And many who are last will be first” (Matthew 19:30 CEB), and then “So those who are last will be first. And those who are first will be last” (Matthew 20:16 CEB). These are not statements about motivation and attaining something. They are facts about a certain reality. In fact, in Matthew at least, these two double statements are the intro and conclusion to a parable on the kingdom of heaven.

“The kingdom of heaven,” says Jesus, “is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard.” (20:1) He goes on to describe this shocking experience in which workers are hired at three hour intervals throughout the day, and the lazy bums that didn’t look for work until the end got paid the same as the early birds. And what’s more, they got paid first. It’s outrageous!

Jesus wasn’t actually addressing motive. He was describing an alternate reality, a new kingdom. So the question is not do you want to be first? It’s for what kingdom do you want to live?

So, first things first. It’s time to change the subject.

The Witnesses Are Running

 

Thank you Allen Newton for sharing this video at last week’s ILI Regional Conference in Montgomery, AL.

I always read Hebrews 12:1-2 and picture a football stadium. But the position of the “cloud of witnesses” is significant. They are in the stands. The field is the realm of mortals still working through the plays of life. The stands are for those saints throughout the ages who rest from their offensive and defensive labor to cheer us on as we run in the footsteps of their past. Surely there are some in the box seats waving through the windows – Moses, Elijah, and King David perhaps.

However…this beautiful video seems to be a little closer to the heavenly reality on earth. The saints are on the field. The witnesses are running with us! And praise God that though we cannot see, our faith is the substance of those things that are surrounding us, supporting us, and sustaining us as we work plays beyond our capacity.

I don’t watch this and empathize with the adult players, simply wishing I could cheer this boy on. I empathize with Jack, a boy running his heart out well beyond his capacity and running the play of his life believing that the miracle he is seeing is a reality. He’s actually making it to the end zone.