Matthew 4:1-11 The Crises of Temptation

Study Notes on Matthew’s Gospel: The Crises of Temptation

Matthew 4:1-11 (NIVUK): “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted (tested) by the devil. After fasting for forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.

The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’ Jesus answered, ‘It is written: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”’

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘“He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”’

Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”’

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’

Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”’

Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.”

Discussion

This is an amazing confrontation between God and Satan and this account, which could only come from Jesus, provides us with guidelines on how we can also deal with temptation.

The first thing to notice about this confrontation with Satan is that it comes right after the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. At His baptism, Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit with the strength to undertake His ministry. We know it was immediately after His baptism because we are told this in Mark 1:12 – ‘At once the Spirit sent him into the desert. ‘

I think it has been a common experience of many Christians that after a successful spiritual activity there is often a period of vulnerability, which can involve a direct attack by Satan, or by others acting under his prompting.

Now, a quick word about Satan; I believe Satan is an active, intelligent being who is always prowling around seeking to disrupt the way God’s people respond to the will of God. Clearly, from what the Bible tells us (especially Jesus’ own words), Satan is not simply, the personification of evil.

In these verses (Matthew 4:1-11) Satan comes to Jesus to temp Him to sin. It should be remembered that the word ‘tempt’, in a biblical sense, can mean either a ‘tempting’ to do wrong or a ‘testing’, which leads to something good.

One writer has expressed it this way: “From God’s viewpoint, all this is a test; it is a way to prove that the Son is worthy to be the Saviour. But from the devil’s viewpoint it is a temptation – tempting the Son to be unworthy.

Now, whatever happens in our lives the things that come our way to entice us, the devil’s purpose is to draw us into sin and God may allow them as ways of proving and strengthening our faith.”

If we look at James 1:13-15: “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed (Satan’s prompting can often be involved in this process.) Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

God does allow ‘trials’ to prove righteousness but He will never entice someone into sin. In Luke 22:31-32, we hear Jesus say to Peter: “‘Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’” This is a good example where God allowed the disciples to be tested, knowing that at the end of their trials they would be strengthened.

The First Temptation of Jesus

“The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’ Jesus answered, ‘It is written: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”’

Did you notice that the first word said was ‘if’. In the same way, Satan tempted Eve and  he used the same tactic when he tempted Jesus and likewise will do the same when he temps us. He always begins by trying to create doubt about the reality of God’s Word. In these verses, Satan implies that Jesus status as God’s Son needs to be proven.

The temptation presented to Jesus was to use His divine power to satisfy His hunger, to turn stones into bread. Satan was in effect saying that God had let Jesus down by not providing Him with food and Jesus could address this issue by using His own power and there was no need for Jesus to depend on His father.

“It was an urging on Satan’s part for Jesus to sweep aside every human want by a divine act. It was a temptation to really exercise a personal selfish authority to do what would satisfy His own want because God in some way let Him down. Doesn’t Satan tempt us in a similar manner?” In summary, at the heart of this temptation, Satan wanted Jesus to distrust the Father’s care.

Jesus’ reply: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Jesus was declaring that the guiding motive of His life was to do the will of God and to trust Him to meet all His needs. In essence, a man is better off obeying the word of God and to count on the providential sustenance of God than he is to let his own desire and lust cause him to grab satisfaction that he knows is against the will of God because he thinks he deserves it.

In Matthew 6:31-33, we read a good summary concerning God’s providential sustenance: “So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

The Second Temptation of Jesus

“Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘“He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”’

Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”'”

Here we have an example of Satan using Scripture (Psalm 91:11-12), however, he leaves the last part of verse 11 out.  (‘For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.‘)

Satan is saying to Jesus – ‘why not let God prove that You are His Son by doing a miracle Himself’. The sin involved with this temptation is first not trusting God in the right way, and more than that, it is the sin of presuming upon God – testing to see if He would really do, what He said He would do.

As Jesus had said on a number of occasions, He was not interested in performing signs and wonders, such as jumping off the temple, just to impress people. He had come to tell people that the kingdom of God was near, that there was an urgent need for repentance, to make God known and to reconcile man to God. Secondly, Jesus knew you should never call upon God’s power to test God. That is, you don’t put pressure on God to force Him to take care of you, for selfish motives.

Faith that depends on sign and wonders isn’t faith, it’s doubt looking for proof. When Jesus returned to His home town, Nazareth, there was an expectation by the people that He would perform miracles. Luke 4:23, “Jesus said to them, ‘Surely you will quote this proverb to me: “Physician, heal yourself!” And you will tell me, “Do here in your home town what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.”’ Yet we know from Mark 6:5-6, that there was little faith to be found in Nazareth: “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few people who were ill and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.”

In reply to Satan’s second temptation, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:16, by saying: “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'” We don’t create an unnecessary test of God’s justice, mercy, compassion and love by putting our lives in unnecessary danger (physical or spiritual).

The Third Temptation of Jesus

“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”’

Satan offered to Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. Jesus deserved them and they were going to be His anyway, as we read in Psalm 2:8, “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.”

One commentator has explained it, as follows: ‘Satan’s temptation was to compromise God’s plan and to achieve similar ends by other means and this alternative would have meant avoiding the cross.’

Yet, the nations and the earth is only a small part of creation and Jesus is responsible for all of creation – seen and unseen. Consequently, this temptation, shows the devil grasping at straws, it could never have substance in the eyes of our Lord and God. Yet, it provides for us a good example of how Satan works on our ‘the ends justify the means’ mentality.

Jesus, the loyal servant of God the Father makes no deal with Satan. Jesus would never ever compromise the single most important reality in all the universe and that is that God and God alone is to be worshipped.

Another aspect of the temptations of Jesus, is that they provide an example of how Jesus, as the sinless man, full of the Holy Spirit, could resist the false arguments and deception of the devil.

Conclusion

There are a number of points we can take away from this study: Satan uses a number of standard deceptions, depending on our individual weaknesses. The devil will tempt us to distrust God’s care for our well-being and to encourage us to sort out our own problems without His involvement; The second type of temptation is to get us to test God’s love and power – along the lines of: ‘If you really loved me then you would do this good thing for me or my family’. The third, and very successful temptation in today’s western culture, is to follow the ways of the world and to allow God to be replaced in our hearts by earthly desires. That is, we remove God from His rightful place of worship.

However, we should remember that we have available to us, the power of the Holy Spirit to guide us and we also have access to God’s word as found in Scripture, which we can use when confronted by these types of temptations.

In Hebrews 4:15, we have these great words: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin.”

In addition, we can be confident that we will not have to face overwhelming temptation that will break us, for Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation (or testing) has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

The Triumph of Jesus

“Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! …  Then the devil left him.”

In the three temptations, Satan was asking Jesus to prove He was the Messiah – the King of Kings, and in a way he received the proof – in these few words: ‘Away from me Satan!’  Satan was given no choice but to leave – he had been defeated.

In summary, we too can be victorious over Satan by depending on the power of God’s Spirit. We can resist the devil by standing firm in our faith: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”

And in James 4:7, we read: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

In Christ, we can resist the devil’s temptations – just as Jesus did!

References: 

  • Bible Study Notes prepared by the late Rev. Eric Bird (mostly used for framework and headings). His notes were, in turn, based on the following primary source: “The MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Matthew, Volumes 1-5″, published by the Moody Bible Institute. [Note: I don’t fully endorse Dr John MacArthur’s work, so I’ll try to steer away from any detailed references or quotes.]
  • Extensive on-line searches – especially in the area of translation variations.
  • Notes on Matthew’s Gospel as compiled by Fr. Bernie Patterson, sourced from multiple references.
  • Overall – I’ve selected material, which fits into my view of Matthew’s Gospel – naturally!

Any comments?

Hope Beyond CURE – a book written by David McDonald

 

HOPE BEYOND CURE

I was recently given a book to read, with the title ‘Hope Beyond Cure’. The person who gave me the book thought it might be helpful, in regards to how I’m managing my life with terminal cancer.

A few details about the book: It’s written by David McDonald, who has been in Christian ministry for more than two decades – as a pastor of Crossroads Christian Church (Canberra, Australia) and a chaplain to the Brumbies Super Rugby Team, until a diagnosis of stage 4 lung cancer (in December 2011) shook his world.

It’s a short book of only 91 pages, with 7 chapters (Hopeless, Shattered dreams, Searching for hope, Faith, Hope, Love, and Now). It’s well written and makes for an easy read. Published by Matthias Media in 2013 (www.matthiasmedia.com.au).

Well, in a sentence, I couldn’t really identify with some of David’s early reactions to his diagnosis. I think that’s just me (most people would identify with it); we are on different roads, in a journey to the same place. Overall, I think it’s an excellent book for anyone with a terminal disease – each one of us may react differently in terms of details but we all face the same basic questions.

A few quotes from the book, will provide you with a better idea of the style of David’s book.

Yet when the prognosis is bad, when all attempts at medical intervention have been exhausted, when prayers have not been answered as we might wish – what then? Is there still hope?

Death will not have the final say because there is hope beyond cure. I know, because I am living in this hope.

In the chapter on Faith, David talks about his doubts and belief. It’s a good discussion for those people who are struggling with the basic questions about our faith in Jesus, the Christ.

On a personal level, call me strange, but these sorts of questions, didn’t appear on my radar screen: ‘Is there really a God? Do I trust Him? Can I face death without fear of what lies beyond? Can we believe in the resurrection of Jesus?

I went straight to verses like Romans 8:28, And we know that in all things (the good and the bad) God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’ I’ve never let go of the promises of God’s Word, and as time goes on – the stronger my grip – and this is not by my strength but by the strength given to me (assisted by lots of prayer), by God’s Spirit.

Yet, there were some really good points to be found in this chapter on Faith; on page 40, such as: “Reading the Bible provided competition for my doubts and fears. When I ignored God, my fears and uncertainty grew. When I read the Bible listening to God speak, he provided answers and strengthened my faith. It was a battle.”

One point I fully endorse, is found in these statements (p77): “Having cancer intensifies life’s urgency. I can’t simply put things off until tomorrow, or next year, or some time in the indefinite future. If something really matters, then I need to do it now. … It’s about focusing on how and where I can make a difference that will count for eternity.”

What’s David’s current situation? He is now classified as NED (No evidence of disease re scans), and he continues with three-weekly courses of chemotherapy, on the assumption that cancer cells are still present. Wow, I think to myself – all those years on chemotherapy – he is a real champion. I could never do that – ten doses at a time (thirty weeks), is my ‘maximum’ limit.

In summary, I can recommended this great little book to anyone who has a terminal illness or who is providing care for someone who does.

[David has a blog: www.macarisms.com

I had a quick look – he posts very readable articles – and he talks about this book, and his progress since it was published.]

What does the Bible tell us about the end-times?

Over the next few days – I’ll briefly cover some of the material to be found in the Bible, concerning the last day. Then, I hope to draw all the material together in a general summary.

Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians covers some aspect of the last days, Chapter 4, 13-18 & Chapter 5:1-11 ” Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

The main point I would like to pull out from this portion of Scripture is that times and dates will not, in general, be reveal. However, we – the children of the light – will not be surprised when the ‘Lord himself comes down from heaven’. However, those who are not followers of Jesus will be saying that it appears to be a peaceful and safe time – the calm, before their spiritual storm.

Any views, or questions, on the above verses?

“Prepare yourself – I am returning”

I’ve always struggled to find a central theme for this blog.

Now, I think I’ve found what will be my central issue for discussion, in the immediate future.

A few weeks ago, we (my wife and I) had a visit from a couple who had recently returned from overseas, missionary work. Over dinner, I was asked what I was going to do, regarding ministry. A question, I always find hard to answer – as I’m often searching and seeking direction from God on what it is, that I should be doing for Him.

The following days were soaked in prayer; again seeking Jesus’ direction for my life, and for His help in identifying those good tasks He has prepared in advance, for me to do.

The consistent answer, which I received was: “Prepare yourself, I am returning.”  Questions still remain as to what ‘prepare yourself’ actually means – but I hope to explore this particular issue over the following months.

No one, will know, the exact time and date of God’s return – when the days, as we know them – end. However, there will be signs that the season is close.

I look forward to God’s return;  there is an air of immediacy in Revelation 22:12-21 (NIV): ‘ “Look, I am coming soon!

My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.”

In what ways would you prepare yourself for Jesus’ return; if you felt that His return was very close?

Christian Spirituality (some bookish thoughts)

[Draft]

A friend lent us a book, ‘Stirrings of the Soul – Evangelicals and the New Spirituality’by Rev Michael Raiter – BA, MTh, DipA (Theol), DipEd [Currently – Principle, of Bible College of Victoria, Australia] (c) Matthias Media 2003, published by: The Good Book Company (UK).

I don’t usually read that many books these days, using most of my time to read Scripture, however, I have an interest in the Anglican approach to spiritual matters, as expressed within the Australian/UK  evangelical scene. Consequently, I took some time over the last week to read this book – to be honest, the author spent so much time on the general background of both old and new spiritually I found little detailed analysis that was helpful to me.

It was only when I reached page 193 [The book has only 252 pages.] (The start of a chapter – with the title: ‘True Spirituality: Listening to the Apostle of the Spirit),’ did I start to find the start of a real ‘spiritual’ discussion. Another aspect (which always unsettles me) was the paucity of scriptural references. True there was a sprinkling of ‘short’ references to a few verses in Genesis, Ecclesiastes, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Peter. The author centred much of his discussion on spirituality as discussed by Paul, in various chapters of Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Corinthians (sounds like a lot of material, but in reality each reference comprises only of a few verses); however, as Paul does in his various letters – the sections discussed were, in general, the same or similar themes – expressed in slightly different ways for Paul’s respective audiences.

I’m of the opinion that any discussion of Christian Spirituality should contain an exhaustive analysis of John’s Gospel, and his letters. In John 3:10-13, we read: “Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony. But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven. … “.  Nicodemus, to whom Jesus was talking, was a Jewish religious leader, who would have known the Hebrew Scripture, better than most – but having an excellent intellectual knowledge (of the Bible) does not help anyone to understand spiritual truths.

I don’t think it unusual that you don’t see a lot of discussion on the last half of John’s Gospel; starting with verses like John 14:20-21 “When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”

To understand what Jesus is saying – ‘you are in me, and I am in you’; and, He says again in 14:23 – “Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.” Requires an understanding that comes only from the Holy Spirit (and not from any intellectual analysis of the Greek words used [ 🙂 ]; it is true that the Father and Jesus will come and make THEIR home with each one!

The book does not cost a lot to buy, that’s good, but I can’t recommend it. However, it’s very well written – the language is concise, and his ideas are well set out – making his overall argument easy to follow. In summary, I think it’s better to read John’s Gospel, within a bible study group, assisted by a good commentary – and, lots of input from the Holy Spirit – perhaps, a better use of your time?

[If anyone has read this book and has a different view – I’m quite prepared to discuss any issues.]

Serving a Sovereign God – what does it mean?

At times, when I’m tired the language of theologians is way, beyond me!

I was glancing through a recent edition (February 2010) of Southern Cross (monthly newspaper published by Anglican Media Sydney, Australia), when I spotted an articled, with the title, ‘Serving a Sovereign God’ written by Rev. Dr. John Woodhouse, Principal of Moore Theological College.

In the first instance I thought to myself – this should be a good article, however, by the time I was half-way through it, I was started to think that I had no real understanding of what he was trying to say; either I’m not very educated in the finer points of the English language, or his terminology was so esoteric it’s beyond my understanding.

The lead-in comment to the article is: “John Woodhouse argues that if we truly believe in a sovereign God then the way we live as Christians will be radically different.” Okay, I believe – totally, in the sovereignty of God – then, how will my life be radically different, compared to what it is now? Is his argument centred on the premise that, in general, we as Christians don’t truly believe in God’s sovereignty, we only think we do?  Well, when I finally made it to the end of his article –  I was more confused then when I started.

***

This is my starting point: I firmly and unshakably believe and hold the view that God has power and control over every entity, inside and outside of the known universe. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is outside of His authority – He knows all things, in eternity and over all of time – nothing happens outside of His knowledge; and, more importantly, nothing happens which is outside the scope of His power to change, in any way. Did I leave anything out?

A third of the way in; I read: “One way to characterise certain Christian movements is precisely in terms of this truth (God is sovereign). Terms like ‘Reformed’ or ‘Calvinist’ mean many things but they generally mean an embracing of this doctrine. … Those who do not accept this doctrine in its fullness may be variously described, but typically they are called Arminian, … “.

Immediately, on reading these statements I wondered if I was going to get a different flavour of a ‘free will’/’predestination’ debate –  which, is a much flogged horse, long since buried in desert pasture – isn’t it?

Yet, reading on, I stuck something I could not only understand, but also agree with: Labels (Calvinist and Arminian) are distasteful – partly because they point of differences, but ignore what we have in common. They tend to oversimplify and therefore create caricatures of positions.”[Anyone, wanting to find out what these two movements are about; there’s plenty of material on the ‘net, and Wikipedia has a good, but limited summary.]

In the past, I used the terms Calvinist and Arminian; even said nonsense sentences like, ‘I’m a Calvinist looking back and an Arminian, when looking forward’. I now think they are useless terms, and avoid using them – much better to use the various verses in Scripture to illustrate what God says about being responsible for our actions; and, what He says about choosing His ‘sheep’.

The Rev. Dr. John Woodhouse then looks at two areas of our lives and how they relate to the belief in a sovereign God: prayer and evangelism.

Immediately, the Rev Dr John forgets his previous statement on labels, and writes:“If you have an Arminian prayer life (What’s that, I ask?), then you may think there is a tension between believing in the sovereignty of God and praying. After all, if God is in control of all things, and knows all things, what can possibly be the point of praying?” He starts his response, by saying, ‘We are to pray because we believe in the sovereignty of God … ‘ Now, I’m really confused – Scripture is full of verses which talk about prayer, in particular, Matthew’s Gospel contains a fairly detailed section on prayer – maybe, some of those verses, to illustrate this point, may have helped me?

I’m patient, so I struggle on – to read (and yes, another label): “The extreme Arminian prayer is the prayer that is thought to be effective in proportion to the amount of faith with which it is prayed … “. What do you think, how about the case of a prayer where there is no faith at all, compared to a prayer with  just a little faith – now, what does Jesus say about this case, does a mustard seed come to mind?

He concludes this section by saying: “What we believe about the sovereignty of God will be demonstrated in our prayers.” I agree with this statement, but so far this article has not contributed to my obviously poor understanding of this issue.

Now, onto evangelism, some introductory comments made by the writer: “Evangelism is necessary because God is sovereign – not despite that fact. … Evangelism is urgent because God is sovereign – not despite that fact.” I’m feeling terribly tired now, I really am lost – I think I need a lot more explanation to understand, any of this.

What I mean, by using the words ‘I’m lost’, is to say I can’t find an application of these statements to my own life. I’m trying to acquire an understanding of the writer’s message which can be applied to my Christian life – and, I need simple examples – more importantly, I need references to Scripture – because then I can put the material into a known context.

Summary

The point to my post is this: sometimes theologians become so engrossed in the battle that rages within intellectual arguments, that the spiritual realities get lost in the codified language, they use.

I think, it’s a lot better use of time to prayerfully read Scripture, either alone or in a Bible study group, then to spend a lot of time reading about things, like – what Calvin wrote about pre-destination. The same Holy Spirit is in you, as was in Calvin – Jesus loves you so much that whatever knowledge you need to follow Him, will be given to you – even if a theologian thinks your prayers ain’t perfect – whose are?

Psalm 5

I’ve used the New Living Translation, this is another great Psalm written by David.

“O Lord, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning.
Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for
I pray to no one but you.
Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.

O God, you take no pleasure in wickedness; you cannot tolerate the sins of the wicked.
Therefore, the proud may not stand in your presence, for you hate all who do evil.
You will destroy those who tell lies. The Lord detests murderers and deceivers.

Because of your unfailing love, I can enter your house; I will worship at your Temple with deepest awe.
Lead me in the right path, O Lord, or my enemies will conquer me.
Make your way plain for me to follow.

My enemies cannot speak a truthful word. Their deepest desire is to destroy others.
Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave. Their tongues are filled with flattery.

O God, declare them guilty. Let them be caught in their own traps.
Drive them away because of their many sins, for they have rebelled against you.

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever.
Spread your protection over them, that all who love your name may be filled with joy.
For you bless the godly, O Lord; you surround them with your shield of love.”

Discussion

A verse from this Psalm (along with a number of others) is used by Paul in his letter to the Romans, as follows (Romans 3:5-26, NIV), I’ve maintained the context by presenting a number of verses. In addition, these verses, present an outline of the truth that our righteousness comes from our belief in Jesus:

… But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” Why not say—as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say—”Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is deserved.

What shall we conclude then? Are we any better Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”  “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. (Psalm 5, verse 9)” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.” “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Don’t you agree, that the above verses offers such great, and sure hope to all, who believe in Jesus and love Him. I, as a sinner could never do any good, which would be accepted by the, one and only, righteous God. I could never earn my way into His presence by doing ‘good’ things – I am so forever grateful for this amazing grace, freely given by God.

God’s guarantee

 In writing some comments on Selwyn Hughes’ study for today, from the current issue of  CWR’s publication ‘Every Day with Jesus’; I was struck by this great verse – which, I think is very well expressed in, the New Living Translation, as follows:- 

 Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 4, verse 30 (NLT): “And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.”

The New International Version (NIV): offers this translation: ‘ … do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.’

The way, this verse is presented in the New Living Translation, really brought home to me – God’s guarantee that those who believe in Jesus will be saved.  I think it’s a fantastic verse – worthy to be committed to memory. It may also help us, to recall the rest of what Paul is talking about, in his letter to the Ephesians.

Another set of great verses, from the same Chapter, are these (vs 17-24, NLT): “With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.

But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.”

Clearly, when we follow Jesus, we must leave behind our old sinful habits. We must let God renew our thoughts and attitudes – and, we must put on our new, righteous and holy nature.

Yet –  why is it – that so many, who call themselves Christians, want to continue to live ‘for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity’?

These ‘hoplessly confused’ people often try to re-define what lustful pleasure is, in terms of the cultural standards currently adopted by this materialistic world  – as if, God has no foreknowledge of the twists and turns that this modern world would employ to justify their behaviour!

 

Psalm 2.

PSALM 2

As mentioned in another post Psalm 1, and 2 form an introduction to the Book of Psalms. Psalm 2 is important, as it is an example of how Jesus has carefully woven His role into the fabric of what we call the Old Testament.

I’m interested in your views on this Psalm – do we, standing nearly two thousand years after the birth of our Christ, read too much into these words written many years before His birth? I think the answer is clear upon reading Acts13:30-37 (see below) – we are also told that Psalm 16 verse 10, does not refer to David but Jesus. Likewise, the substance of Acts 4:23-27, further proves that the Holy Spirit spoke through David about the coming Messiah. Many, (early) Hebrew teachers agreed to the view that this Psalm, in particular, provides us with an insight into what the Messiah would be like, however, recent Jewish scholarship appears to be only focused on disproving the Christian viewpoint.

Psalm 2 (New Living Translation – NLT)

Why are the nations so angry? Why do they waste their time with futile plans? The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the Lord and against his anointed one. “Let us break their chains,” they cry, “and free ourselves from slavery to God.”

But the one who rules in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them. Then in anger he rebukes them, terrifying them with his fierce fury. For the Lord declares, “I have placed my chosen king on the throne in Jerusalem, on my holy mountain.”

The king proclaims the Lord’s decree: “The Lord said to me, ‘You are my son. Today I have become your Father. Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, the whole earth as your possession. You will break them with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots.’”

Now then, you kings, act wisely! Be warned, you rulers of the earth! Serve the Lord with reverent fear, and rejoice with trembling. Submit to God’s royal son (pay homage in purity), or he will become angry, and you will be destroyed in the midst of all your activities – for his anger flares up in an instant. But what joy for all who take refuge in him!”

As discussed above, verses from this Psalm are found in the New Testament: Acts, Hebrews and Revelation; I’ve included additional verses as required to provide the context, as follows:

Acts 4: 23-27 (NLT):As soon as they were freed, Peter and John returned to the other believers and told them what the leading priests and elders had said. When they heard the report, all the believers lifted their voices together in prayer to God: “O Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them – you spoke long ago by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant, saying,

 ‘Why were the nations so angry? Why did they waste their time with futile plans? The kings of the earth prepared for battle; the rulers gathered together against the Lord and against his Messiah (anointed one).’ [from Psalm 2:1-2]

“In fact, this has happened here in this very city! For Herod Antipas, Pontius Pilate the governor, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were all united against Jesus, your holy servant, whom you anointed. But everything they did was determined beforehand according to your will. And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word.  Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

Acts 13:30-37 (NLT):But God raised him from the dead! And over a period of many days he appeared to those who had gone with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to the people of Israel. “And now we are here to bring you this Good News. The promise was made to our ancestors, and God has now fulfilled it for us, their descendants, by raising Jesus. This is what the second psalm (verse 7) says about Jesus: ‘You are my Son. Today I have become your Father.’ [or another translation expresses these words, as ‘Today I reveal you as my Son.’]

For God had promised to raise him from the dead, not leaving him to rot in the grave. He said, ‘I will give you the sacred blessings I promised to David.’ Another psalm [Psalm 16, verse 10] explains it more fully: ‘You will not allow your Holy One to rot in the grave.’ This is not a reference to David, for after David had done the will of God in his own generation, he died and was buried with his ancestors, and his body decayed. No, it was a reference to someone else—someone whom God raised and whose body did not decay.”

Revelation 2:24-28a (NLT):But I also have a message for the rest of you in Thyatira who have not followed this false teaching (‘deeper truths,’ as they call them—depths of Satan, actually). I will ask nothing more of you except that you hold tightly to what you have until I come. To all who are victorious, who obey me to the very end, To them I will give authority over all the nations. They will rule the nations with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots. They will have the same authority I received from my Father,”

Finally, In Revelation 12:5 and 19:15, we find references to, ‘rule all nations with an iron rod’.

 

Reflection on Psalm 2
“Why is it, that those who are made by You, want to flee from your love?
Why is it, that those who are appointed by you, want to lead others in rebellion against you?
Why is it, that those who are imprisoned by sin, want to remain in their bondage?

I know that You rule in heaven and your will is done – your Word never returns unanswered.
We see your anger, roam rightly through the words of your Testament, you plait your own whip.
Everyone, now knows that your anointed one; your High Priest is glorified and honored in the City of Peace. 

I believe in Jesus; and through Him You are my Father.
I believe, I will see a new heaven and a new earth – there will be no rivals claiming possession.
We, my brothers and sisters, will share in Your Son’s inheritance and His authority.

We have all been warned of your judgement – from the rulers of the mightiest nations to leaders of the desperate and poor.
There is shelter to be found in Your loving embrace, there is joy to be found in serving You.
I understand Your anger with those who follow their own paths, and ignore You: You, who stands with outstretched pierced hands, offering eternal peace and love.”

Any comments?

Faith embraced in times of trouble

Browsing through the various internet news services I came across this title: ‘Faith embraced in times of trouble’(By John Stapleton, March 24, 2008, The Australian newspaper), I thought, well, that has long been the case.

Further into the article (follow the link for full details), I read the following: “In his homily during Easter Sunday mass at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, Cardinal George Pell emphasised the broad appeal of his faith to a standing-room only congregation.

He was applauded when he welcomed a delegation of Muslims from the group Affinity Intercultural Foundation, which he said promoted “the worthy project” of friendship between the faiths.

“Christians don’t believe that Easter is for Christians only, as Catholics don’t believe that Easter only brings salvation to Catholics,” he said.

It brings about the possibility of eternal life for all good people. There are many rooms in the father’s house after death.”

Cardinal Pell urged everyone to be “agents for the spreading of goodness” and said that God’s grace was not limited by accidents of birth.

Let’s have a look at the quote Cardinal George Pell uses, regarding ‘there are many rooms in my Father’s house’. It comes from John’s Gospel, Chapter 14, now-  the context is that Jesus is talking to His disciples – not a crowd of visiting religious dignitaries, so the following verses provide the back drop to this statement; plus, I’ve included the verses that follow on, which also provided the setting for Jesus’ relationship with His Father (Verses 1-10, NIV):  “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God ; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you (the disciples + followers of Jesus). And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (These key words are often passed over by many.)

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?”

As you can see, Jesus words are directed to a specific group of people – His words were not directed at a general crowd of diverse peoples!

Next, let us look at the words ‘the possibility of eternal life for all good people’. For this, we can go to Luke 18:18-19 (NIV): “A certain ruler asked him (Jesus), “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.”

The sad outcome is that Jesus said that there are no good people, so for everyone who does not qualify as ‘good’ (and no one does); and, they are not subject to the mercy of God through Jesus (I use these words to cover both ‘belief in Jesus’ and ‘His sovereign will’ on whom He will have mercy on): then there is no possibility of eternal life – now that’s a bit different to what Cardinal George Pell implies – don’t you think?