1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” 7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 9 and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” 11 Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him. [NRSA]
Jesus is tempted physically, theologically, and psychologically during his time of retreat, fasting, and preparing for the ministry ahead.
We come to this season of Lent and have a lengthy time we can choose to focus on our spiritual self or we can disregard this opportunity as usual time. If we do the latter then we can expect nothing more of ourselves or God in the opportunities for Christian living and in ministry in the days ahead. Christian faithfulness begins in grace and is fortified, clarified, and strengthened through spiritual practice.
Spiritual Sweat Equity
We are saved by the grace of God in Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, but we mature in faith in how we respond to the grace given us in Christ.
Imagine of Adam and Eve were given grace to continue living in the garden of Eden, and God restored them, the tree in the center of garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, would continue and they would continually be tempted by it.
Temptation to choose our own path over the path of Christ is ever before us.
Jesus’s temptations were physical, spiritual, and psychological. How are our temptations any different.
- First it is good news to know that Jesus in his humanity was tempted, in every way, just as we are tempted.
- Second, it good to see that Jesus finds a way to overcome temptation, in every way.
- Finally, Jesus gives us the model of how to deal with temptation in our lives and struggles.
What are our temptations?
So often the season of Lent is associated with giving up particular foods for a season. If the goal is to deny ourselves for a season only to resume the consumption we are avoiding in the end, then we miss the mark of Lent. For example, is giving up chocolate, carbs, meats, alcohol, the path of salvation? What is the deal about fasting in the first place.
Fasting is a practice of denying regular foods to fill that void with the spiritual food of God. Once filled spiritually we can reflect to see if we need what gave up in the first place.
Jesus was tempted to eat bread during a time of fasting. Forty days was an incredibly long time to go without eating and somewhere along day 39-40 a crusty loaf of bread would be even more tempting. What would be the harm? What is so special about the number of days?
Forty days in the ark, Forty years in the wilderness, Four hundred years in captivity as factors of long periods of time. Forty days is long enough for us to develop a good habit or change a bad one. The issue is not the number of days but the vow or covenant that we make with God to use periods of time to strengthen our spiritual self. Breaking the fast is cheating.
Cheating is destructive to our self and to God.
Cheating is taking the easy way out. Cheating is taking what we perceive is our to take without asking or beyond boundaries. Cheating defeats the very purpose for journey we begin.
Did you know that Girl Scout cookies come at the exact time that the typical person begins to break their New Year’s resolutions of dieting. Research is done to know when people are most vulnerable and to entice something that is tasty in exchange for a change of heart, character, and spirit.
No discredit to the conscientious scouts selling them, the GS cookies are delicious, but are they worth the breaking of the fast? Temptation is seldom as dramatic as eating bread on the last day of fast.
Temptation comes every time we open our checkbook, debit or credit card, or withdraw cash from our account. The power of money and time represent the expressions of our labor, skills, and resourcefulness. The old saying is true, “It’s not what I would do if millions were my lot, its what I do with the dollar that I’ve got.”
Temptation comes when we are vulnerable. We look in the mirror and see disappointments, doubt, and inequalities and there are products, services, and promises to make our lives better, to be more attractive, to be liked and approved at every turn.
Social media is built on the corruption of the exchange of likes and approval. The social power to say that someone is funny, thoughtful, politically savvy, or DIY skilled or crafty.
More that food or social approval
More inclusive and significant is our devotion to feed, drink, nourish our spiritual selves in a world of greed, power, deceit, power, leverage, an the like.
But what are we to do about it?
Look to the example of Jesus.
With every temptation Jesus drives away the devil with appropriate words of scripture.
This assumes two things, first that we have studied the Word enough to know what is appropriate for our spiritual diet, and Secondly, resourceful and familiar with the Bible enough to connect the temptation and spiritual fight with the strength of God in the moment that is needed.
So here we are in a season of fasting when we need to be taking on the spiritual practices of
- Bible Study,
- Singing the scriptures,
- reading and searching to
- build our spiritual vocabulary and
- filled our spiritual wallet, and spiritual medical cabinet
- with the things of God,
- with the word of God,
- with the presence of God.
We are five days into LENT, this is the time to start
- If you don’t use a daily devotion guide, start one
- If you use one, read the whole chapter instead of the one verse
- If you are not in a bible study begin one
- If you are read and reread the portions
- If you can’t read then sing the hymns of the faith
- If you can’t sing, then serve those in need
- If you can’t serve those in need then begin to pray
- Pray praise of Praise to God
- Pray for forgiveness and the needs of others
- Pray for God’s will and work to be done
- Pray for strangers and new relations God will be leading you into.
- Pray for God to give you strength and heart.
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