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Tag: sin

Facing Temptation

Last Sunday we spent some time looking at the baptism of Jesus. And of course, one of the big questions that comes out of that story is “Why did Jesus need to be baptized anyway?” 

John the Baptist had been baptizing people as they confessed and repented of their sin. But as the sinless Son of God, Jesus had no sin to confess or repent of. He had lived his life in perfect obedience to God and so baptism would seem really unnecessary. John the baptist even said to Jesus….

“I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?”

15 But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.”

Matthew 3:14b-15a

And that’s the key right there… Jesus had to carry out all that God required. 

Namely, that Jesus identify with sinful man – taking our sin upon himself as if it were his own. This was a key part of God’s plan to redeem mankind. This would be one of the first steps in Jesus’ journey to the cross where he would ultimately give his life as the payment for our sin.

And of course, as Jesus obediently submitted to the will of His Heavenly Father in baptism, both God the Father and God the Holy Spirit expressed their approval of what had just happened – in a very dramatic way. The Holy Spirit descended like a dove and settled on Jesus and God spoke from heaven saying “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

This was very clear affirmation for all those who witnessed this – that Jesus was indeed the Son of God and that He was doing exactly what his Heavenly Father wanted Him to do. This was almost like a commissioning of Jesus as be began to carry out His life’s mission.

However, there was one further step of preparation before Jesus could begin his public ministry. In the very next verse, right after God said “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” – we read this:

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil.” Matthew 4:1

This may seem like an odd thing for God to do – right after He declares his approval and the joy He has in His Son, why would the Holy Spirit then lead Jesus out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil?

What’s that all about? Is this like a test – some kind of final exam for Jesus before He begins his ministry? Is this another necessary part of God’s plan to redeem mankind? Is there something else going on here? How does this all fit together?

Well, that’s exactly what we want to look at this morning.

Today we’re going to be looking at Matthew chapter 4 – verses 1 through 11. We already read verse 1, but let me read that again together with verse 2 now because these two verses kinda set the stage for the rest of the passage.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. 2 For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry.

Matthew 4:1-2

First of all, you’ll notice that Jesus was led “by the Spirit” into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. God intentionally brought Jesus into a place where he would be tested & tried by Satan Himself.

Now to be clear, God was not doing the tempting, but He did intentionally bring Jesus to a places where he would be subjected to temptation. The question is why? Well, the short answer is that we’re not specifically told. The Bible doesn’t explain God’s motives and reasonings in this instance.

However, I think we can deduce a few possibilities.

One reason could be that this was a necessary part of Jesus’ growth and development in his relationship with his Heavenly Father. You’ll remember that as a human, Jesus had to grow and learn – which is hard for us to wrap our heads around, I know. But Hebrews 5:8 reminds us:

8 Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. Hebrews 5:8

Now of course, that’s not to say that Jesus had been disobedient previously, but it seems that the depth of His trust and dependance on God grew as Jesus went through difficult things – which is just how our faith grows too! 

I think that most of us would recognize that the most difficult times in life are usually the times that cause us to draw close to God and to trust in Him. When things are going good, we tend just to rely on our own strength. But when life gets hard, we realize how much we need to trust in God. And so these difficult times in our live are really a blessing because they teach us to stop relying on ourselves and instead to put our trust in God.

And so for Jesus, these forty days and forty nights fasting in the wilderness – spending time alone with God in prayer – would no doubt serve as a unique classroom for Jesus to learn even greater dependance on God. And I think we’ll see some of the results of that as keep going through this passage.

Another purpose for the Holy Spirit to lead Jesus out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil could be that this was yet another way in which Jesus would identify in every way with mankind. Two weeks ago we read Hebrews 4:15 which says….

15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. Hebrews 4:15

In his humanity, Jesus experienced all the same testings as we do. When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, Satan did his best to draw Jesus into sin, just like he does with us. And so Jesus knows what it’s like for us to face the schemes and lies of the devil – because he faced them himself! And what’s more, He had victory over them. This verse in Hebrews tells us – and our passage today affirms – that Jesus did not sin.

And I think that one of the key applications of this passage for our lives is to see how Jesus did that. Jesus models for us how we can stand against and have victory over the temptations that Satan sends our way.

And so with that in mind, let’s take a look at the first of these temptations and see how Jesus deals with it.

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Saul’s Schemes, Plots and Plans

For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been working our way through 1 Samuel chapter 18 – and we’re discovering that King Saul had quite a complicated relationship with David.

On one hand, David was his most successful military commander! Ever since David killed Goliath and began serving in Saul’s army – David has had nothing but success! No matter what Saul asked him to do – he did successfully! Whether he was playing the harp for Saul or leading the men into battle, David served Saul both faithfully and successfully.

But on the other hand, David’s success was increasingly concerning to Saul. Saul feared that people were starting to like David more than they liked him. David was becoming quite a popular celebrity… What if they decided to make David king instead of him?! Saul’s jealousy and fear had begun to undermine Saul’s relationship with David.  In fact, it got so bad, that Saul determined to kill David!

Now of course, Saul can’t let on to anyone how badly he wants David dead! After all, everybody loves David! The officers in Saul’s army love David because he wins every battle. The people of Israel and Judah love David – even singing songs about how successful David is! Even Saul’s own son Jonathan is best friends with David and has made a lifelong pact with him to support David as the next King of Israel. 

So how can Saul kill David without causing a riot in the streets, mutiny in his army, or ripping his family apart!?

The fact is, he had already attempted to kill David once and had failed. You’ll remember last week that we read in 1 Samuel 18, verse 10 & 11….

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Symbols of Hope

Last week we started looking at the Christmas story. Mind you, we didn’t get very far. We started in Genesis chapter one and we made it all the way to Genesis chapter 3. There’s just 927 chapters to go before we get to the part about the baby in a manger. But that’s ok. You’ve probably heard that part of the Christmas story before anyway.

You see, most people are familiar with the shepherds and the wisemen and the angels – but they might not have heard the parts of the Christmas story that come before all that.

Because as we talked about last week, the whole Bible is the Christmas story. It begins in Genesis with Adam and Eve and it goes right through to the end of time in Revelation. All of history is the Christmas story. 

And so we started in the Beginning – when God created the heavens and the earth. And He set up the perfect design for the perfect life. God designed life to operate by three basic principles that would make life on earth awesome and amazing. And these were the three principles.

#1. God is the source. #2. God is the authority. #3. Life is all about relationships.

And with these three principles in place, Adam & Eve enjoyed a perfect life. 

With God as the source, Adam & Eve had everything they needed. God gave them life, God gave them an amazing place to live, God gave them delicious food to eat, a fulfilling job to do – He gave them close relationships – both with Himself and with each other. It was really the perfect life.

As long as Adam & Eve looked to God as the source of all they needed and as long as they recognized that God was their authority (living within the bounds that He had set), their relationships would be sweet and life would continue to be amazing. That was God’s design. That’s how God intended the human experience to be. That’s the kind of life that God wanted you and I to live.

But unfortunately, as we talked about last week, one day that all changed. Adam & Eve decided to reject God as their source and to reject God as their authority by taking and eating the fruit from the tree that God commanded them not to eat – and as a result, their relationship with God and their relationship with each other was broken. Life would become very painful and hard for Adam and Eve, and all of Creation would suffer.

In fact, to this very day, we suffer the effects of sin in the world. All of us have broken relationships both with God and with each other. Our experience is far from the perfect life that God intended for us to live! But the good news is – there is Hope. The entire Bible is a History of Hope. One day, God would undo the damage that was done in the garden of Eden and we would again experience life as God intended it.

And that part comes a little later in the story, but today, we’re going to continue looking at God’s story, the Christmas story – to see how God continued to give mankind hope throughout the course of history – even as they struggled with the consequences of their sin.

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The Need for Hope

We are now just two days away from December and the Christmas season is upon us. We’ve got snow on the ground, some of you have your Christmas trees up already, and as we just witnessed moments ago, today is the first Sunday of Advent. And so rather than continuing our study of Samuel through December – I thought I’d take a short break and do a series of Christmas messages.

Quite often I shy away from a lot of seasonal-type messages – just because we hear the same things year after year after year. But this Christmas, I do want to take the next four weeks to tell you the Christmas story – the whole Christmas story. I think sometimes we get gypped and we only hear part of the story. We hear about the angels, about the shepherds, about having no room at the inn, about the wisemen, but we miss out on all the stuff that happens before that.

So I want to start us off today, not with the wisemen, not with the shepherds, not with Mary & Joseph – not even with the prophets that foretold the birth of Jesus. Instead, I want us to start in the beginning. Literally. In the beginning – Genesis 1:1 

Because that’s truly the beginning of the Christmas story. In fact, the entire Bible is the Christmas story. Everything that happens in the Old Testament is a lead up to the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Everything that happens in the New Testament is the result of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

So this Christmas I want us to take a look at the big picture. I want us to try to see what God was doing right from day one. Because Jesus’ birth didn’t just happen. In fact, all of history didn’t just happen. God wasn’t just making stuff up as He went along. Before He even created the world, God had a plan. And that plan involved all the stuff that we read about in the Bible – everything from Adam & Eve in Genesis all the way to the end of time in Revelation. God had and still has a plan. 

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The Lepers and the Famine

This morning I want to continue on in our story of Elisha. We’ve been going through some of the incredible stories of the Bible and last week we looked at how God, through Elisha, caused an iron axehead to float in the Jordan River. The ax had been borrowed to cut down trees for a new building where Elisha could meet with some of his students – a group known as the ‘sons of the prophets’. Their existing building had grown too small and so they set out to build another. But as they were chopping down trees by the Jordan River, the axehead flew off the handle and landed in the water. Of course, iron tools back then would have been terribly expensive to replace – putting the young man who had borrowed the ax in quite a predicament with whoever loaned him the ax!

But mercifully, God bent the laws of nature so that the iron axehead floated to the surface where if could be retrieved! And we were reminded once again that our God is the God of compassion and mercy. As we read in Matthew 10:29, if God cares about even the little insignificant sparrow, we can know that he certainly cares for us.

So that was last week’s incredible story – not overly dramatic, but certainly a great illustration of God’s mercy and kindness.

Now today, our story is on the opposite end of the dramatic spectrum. While last week’s story was primarily about the mundane activities of life – this week’s story includes the siege of a city, assassins, deadly stampedes, human cannibalism, and lepers. It’s pretty much the opposite of mundane! And like last week’s story, today’s story is again, perhaps not the most well-known story in the Bible – in fact, when I was talking to Brian and described to him the story I had in mind, even he wasn’t overly familiar with it – so you know it must be obscure!

But this story is found in 2 Kings chapter 6 – it begins right in the same chapter as the story of the floating axehead. It’s a significantly longer story than last week, so I won’t read through the whole thing at once, I’ll just read a few verses at at time and point out a few things as we go along.

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Freedom from Sin

Last week we asked the question: “What Good is the Gospel?” When we think about sharing the ‘good news’ of Jesus Christ with others, exactly what good is it that we sharing with them?

And I think most of us would quickly point to an eternity in heaven with Jesus as the first and most obvious answer to that question. After all, having the hope that when we die, we won’t be eternally condemned as we deserve, but rather, we have the assurance of eternal life with our Creator – that’s some pretty significant good!

But what if there is even more than that? What if our salvation is more than just a get-out-of-jail-free card? What if there is some significant ‘good’ to be had right here and now – BEFORE we die and see Jesus face-to-face?

Well, actually, that’s just what the Bible teaches! According to the Bible, eternal life doesn’t begin when we die – it starts right from the moment when we accept Jesus as our Saviour. The Gospel brings about a radical life-change immediately. We don’t have until wait to get to heaven before we experience the goodness of the Gospel!

And so last week, we did just a quick overview of just four incredible benefits of the Gospel. And I won’t rehash them all today, but just in point form, here are the four things we looked at.

#1. Jesus’ death paid the price for our sin

#2. Death and sin are both defeated.

#3. God lives within us.

#4. Our lives have meaning and purpose.

Now of course, this is not an all-inclusive list of the goodness of the Gospel – this is just a sampling! And we’re going to dig into these benefits over the next few weeks to see just how good they really are and how they can radically transform our lives right here and now.

So I am really excited to spend the next few weeks with you examining the question: What Good is the Gospel? And I trust that as we look at all this, we will be reminded all over again of why the Gospel is such good news!

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