“We’re All in this Together”

(Luke 4: 1-13) 1 Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2 where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry. 3 Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.” 4 But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone.’” 5 Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. 7 I will give it all to you if you will worship me.” 8 Jesus replied, “The Scriptures say,

‘You must worship the Lord your God

    and serve only him.’”

9 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! 10 For the Scriptures say,

‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you.

11 And they will hold you up with their hands

    so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’”

12 Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’” 13 When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came.

I was in a conversation not too long ago, in which I was listening to someone share with me about her current troubles and frustrations with life.  As I responded with the typical, “I understand” and “I know how you feel,” I felt as though I seemed apathetic…like I was simply filling the silence with meaningless responses because I didn’t know what to say, which was not the case at all.  Because so many seem to respond to the heartache and woes of others in much the same way, I felt the need to explain to this person why I actually do understand her, and how much I do actually know how she feels.

Sometimes people need to know your story, to hear your temptations and even your failures, because they long to have that connection with someone else…to know that they are not alone in their trials and temptations.  In the midst of drowning in a sea of guilt, people find comfort in knowing there’s a survivor in the distance…someone with a lifeline…a way out. 

This description of Jesus being tempted by Satan is strangely comforting to me, because I love knowing that my Savior, the Word in flesh, in all of His perfection and divinity, He was tempted.  Not only was He tempted, but the Spirit of God led Him into the wilderness to be tempted.  Why?  Why would the Holy Spirit wish to test Jesus in such a way?  It’s not that there was ever any doubt that the Son of God would resist the cunning words of Satan, rather it was done so that we could and would have that point of connection with Him.  He was fully human, and because temptation is such a monumental part of our existence…we are surrounded by it, and at times we are consumed with it…Jesus had to experience it.  In Christ, we find not only our Savior, fully God, righteous and blameless in every way, but we also find a man, filled with compassion and empathy, tested and tempted, who we may always look to as our example of victory and hope.  He is our survivor in the distance, reaching out to us through the storm.

(Hebrews 4: 14-16, The Message) Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank you for the grace that comes to us because Jesus understands our temptations.  He was victorious, therefore we too can be victorious!  Help us to remember that sometimes the best way to help someone else through their temptations and failures is to be transparent enough for them to see that we have also had our own share of tests.  Lord, we are all working toward the same goal…to one day look upon Your face.  May we always, “take the mercy, accept the help.”  Amen.

A Mile In Your Shoes

“Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:17-18)

One of the most awkward things we do in life is meeting new people. When you first meet someone, you don’t have any knowledge about them beyond a cursory visual inspection. First conversations can be strained or stilted, and we will often fall into typical conversational rhythms about the weather, jobs, sports or even the news. There is no established rapport, so it is difficult to know how to steer the conversation.

Eventually, though, you find some sort of common ground, a shared interest or experience, and this thing that you have in common gives you some insight into who this person is and how they think. Some relationships never develop beyond that initial acquaintance, but when you share several things in common with someone there is a greater potential to have a meaningful relationship with that person. I’m sure we can all think of a friendship that is especially close because of how much you share in common.

That is one of the reasons that I am so grateful that God sent Jesus to come to Earth and live as one of us. When I think about trying to establish a relationship with God apart from the Incarnation, it just doesn’t work in my head. What does a finite, ignorant, weak creature like me have in common with an infinite, all-knowing, all-powerful God? I know the Bible teaches that I am in some way made in God’s image, but from my perspective it must be a very poor, distorted reflection. He and I are so unlike, despite all my efforts to be more like Him!

But that’s where the genius of God’s plan for salvation shows.  Jesus came to live as one of us.  He was “made like his brothers in every respect.”  He learned to walk & talk…just like we do. He had family and friends who supported him at one time and disagreed with him the next…just like we do.  He experienced joy and sorrow, peace and turmoil, love and disappointment…just like we do. It’s true that all the details of his life do not match the specifics of our own, but that does not mean that he can’t relate to us. When we cry out to the Lord, he knows what we are thinking and feeling not because he is God but because he has been there himself.  He has walked that road.

God went out of his way to reveal himself to us throughout the Old Testament. Jesus willingly gave up his position and authority in Heaven to clarify that revelation and intercede on our behalf. The Holy Spirit has come to empower us and serve as our advocate and helper.  It seems that God will stop at nothing to reach us. So while we may go through times when God does not feel near, that doesn’t mean that it is true. God is near. He is willing and able to help.  So when you are being tested, tempted, and pushed to your very limit, know that Jesus has been where you now stand and is ready to show the way beyond the current circumstance to a place of victory! 

Prayer: Father, thank you for sending your Son to walk a mile in our shoes. Thank you for being willing to meet us where we are and show us the way beyond the hurt and temptation. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen!

Full of the Holy Spirit!

(Luke 4:1-14 ESV) 1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” 4 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.'” 5 And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6 and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'” 9 And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ 11 and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'” 12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'” 13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. 14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country.

This is a very familiar passage of Scripture. It usually evokes one of two different responses. First, there are those who read this and are inspired by the fact that Jesus overcame every temptation the devil threw His way. The sentiment is…”If Jesus could overcome then so can I.” The other response is one of frustration. Comparing themselves to the “perfect record” of Jesus, this group of people think that they can’t overcome anything. “Jesus batted 1000% and I can’t even keep my thoughts pure for 10 minutes!”

As I read this passage today, I kept noticing the references to the Holy Spirit. (1) Jesus, FULL of the Holy Spirit… (2) LED by the Holy Spirit… (3) Jesus returned in the POWER of the Holy Spirit. The simple reality is… Jesus lived, moved, breathed, walked, talked, made decisions, thought, according to an inner influence of the Holy Spirit. The nature of the Spirit indwelled every part of Jesus!

I’ve enjoyed a pretty exciting life. Military kids AND preachers kids have at least one thing in common… they’ve moved around a lot! Moving causes one to realize that there are many different ways of doing things. Speech is different. Traditions are different. Cooking is unique. Mindsets are different. Some parts of the country are more conservative, while others are predominately liberal. Some areas have higher concentrations of baptists and others have a higher population of catholics. But, with all the differences, there are also many similarities. Peel away the learned behaviors and we discover we are more alike than we realize.

When one does life in many locations, they must adjust to the nature of the current culture. I don’t mean you have to try to be someone other than yourself; you don’t have compromise your core belief system, but you do adjust your actions to respect your culture. As an example, when I visited Korea we removed our shoes before entering the sanctuary. For me, it was a temporary adjustment that helped me relate to the Koreans I was visiting. For those who have become life-long missionaries there, what was a temporary adjustment for me became a second nature to them.

When scripture records that Jesus was full of, led, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, it is saying that the totality of His life was influenced by an inner nature that infilled Him. His identity was consistent with the Father AND the Holy Spirit. Jesus often reminded His disciples, “When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. … 38 I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.” (John 8:28, 38 KJV) And likewise, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (John 6:63 KJV)

It is true that Jesus was the only perfect man. He was sinless. But, it is evident that He relied upon the influence of the Holy Spirit. Shouldn’t we do the same? Before Jesus left earth He declared, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. … 25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:16-17, 25-26 ESV)

Be FULL!

PRAYER: Father, I pray for a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit today. May my every thought and action reflect His nature in me. Amen.