The writer of Hebrews says that Jesus was “tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin.” Christ was tempted the way we are, yet our temptations are never as strong as His. That’s because we give in before they reach their full strength. Then temptation is no longer temptation, it’s sin. The extremes of Christ’s temptations are something we would never experience, because we are too weak. Yet He can sympathize fully with our own struggles with temptations. He is our example of ultimate endurance, and He is our source of comfort and mercy in our time of need. In order to find that comfort, we have to seek to draw near to His heart.
To understand better, let’s examine the wilderness temptation of Christ in Matthew 4. The first part of that temptation was to turn rocks into bread. The miracle itself of turning rocks to bread wasn’t the sin that Satan was tempting Christ to. It’s the trust in bread to fill Christ’s hunger that was the temptation. Jesus had to resist the temptation to believe that the bread itself was His greatest need, and we have to resist the same temptation. Humans are amazing at taking the most mundane things and believing they are of the utmost importance. But Jesus reminds us that “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every Word that comes from the mouth of God.”
The question is, are you present as you are hearing the Word of the Lord? Are you paying attention? It’s easy to live the church life and ignore the reading of Scripture, and we forget that the Creator of all things is lovingly speaking directly to us. Don’t get distracted, don’t zone out, don’t forget where life actually comes from.
It is an awesome responsibility to sit in the pews of the House of the Lord and have the King of kings and Lord of lords speak directly to our hearts and offer us His salvation. What a privilege that we don’t have to go to great lengths to search for the Word of the Lord. He gives it directly to us! What a gift! Don’t lose sight of how precious that is!
God makes His Word accessible and present to us. Pay attention!
Let’s face it, the Christian life is hard. Relationships take work. Christians forget. Sometimes it is tempting to go back to the days when God was not the center of our lives—to backslide. We all are faced with tremendous pressures to drift away from intimacy with Jesus and the community of the church. However, the Lord invites us to pay attention, to move forward, to draw near, and to live lives of worship.
As we continue our Lenten journey seeking to draw near to the heart of God, I want to ponder the glory of Christ. One good definition of the word “glory” is, “the visible manifestation of the attributes of God.”
The Transfiguration is one of the very few instances where a human was allowed to actually see the glory of God. One is Moses on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 33-34), another is Elijah at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 19), and then there was Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9). They saw the full divinity of Jesus revealed, and it was staggering!
The full revelation of the glory of God gave Moses direction and determination, it gave Elijah courage and purpose, and it filled the disciples with all they would need to face the ordeal that Jesus knew was coming. Jesus knew that you can’t receive the full glory without first enduring the cross.
Our sin and shame keeps us from fully embracing the revelation of God’s glory, and it causes us rather to hide in fear. However, now that Christ’s work as our Great High Priest has been completed, we no longer have to hide from the glory of God. In 2 Corinthians 3, the Apostle Paul reflects on the way Moses could see the Lord face to face, but the rest of the Israelites could only see Moses’ reflecting the glory of the Lord from behind a veil. Paul says that through Christ, the veil is removed, and we can stand fully in the presence of the Living God.
In order to go from fear to the fullness of God’s glory, the action we need to take is to turn our faces to Him – repentance. We have to say along with Moses, Elijah, Peter, James, and John, “I want to see your glory!” Let’s seek Him with unveiled faces and repentant hearts.
Christ’s sermon in Luke chapter 6 is full of surprising statements that seemed to his listeners (and even to us!) to turn the world upside-down! He was tearing apart the assumption that there is a connection between material blessing and spiritual blessing. Just because someone is rich doesn’t mean they are spiritually blessed. In fact, Christ says it is the poor who have a claim in the Kingdom of God. That’s not to say that all poor people are saved and all rich people are lost. It just means there is no connection between economic status and spiritual status.
Paul’s and Silas’ missionary travels outlined in Acts 16 demonstrate that there is no single type of person who follows Christ. In just one city called Philippi, we see Lydia, a wealthy merchant, following Christ. Then, between Lydia’s house and the synagogue, Paul and Silas speak to and convert a slave girl, for which they get thrown in prison. Then, when God opens the doors of the prison, the jailer also is converted! Talk about three people from three very different walks of life, all brought into fellowship with Christ and each other through His saving grace! In the next chapter, when Paul and Silas have moved on to Thessalonica, they are described as “the men who have turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).
We need to be aware that following Christ will almost certainly change our lives drastically. We might change careers and income brackets, and most definitely our relationships will change – friends may become enemies and enemies will become friends.
But Jesus defines all this upheaval as blessing! “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets” (Luke 6:22-23).
So regardless of how your life is now, whether you are experiencing material blessing or hardship, remember that this life is only temporary. God is preparing to turn this world upside down, and material status will not mean anything in that day. Your responsibility now is to steward any material blessing in such a way that the Kingdom of God will flourish in spiritual blessing to all those around you. We are first and foremost citizens of God’s eternal kingdom, and we hold all the things of this earth loosely, in the hope of being used mightily for God’s eternal purposes.