Being a disciple 3: Transformed character

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Matthew 4:1-13

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Live the way Jesus lived

WE can speculate on how Jesus lived – how much deity He did or didn’t employ during His earthly life, whether He would have aged like us, why and how He demonstrated the character that He did.

The desert temptation is a cameo of Jesus’ mission and the character tests of His life and death.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting 40 days and forty nights, he was hungry. (Matthew 4:1-2)

So the elements are of this encounter are set out: the leading of the Spirit, a willing servant, the scheme and determination of the enemy, loneliness, and natural hardship as temptation met hunger. How did He remain true to the cause, consistent to His mission and finish His call in saving the world? Let’s see what the temptations reveal.

TEMPTATION 1: SPIRITUAL APPETITE OVER PHYSICAL

Jesus was hungry and His needs were pressing. For most of us, hardship plus deprivation multiplied by time = vulnerability. However, Jesus shows us how character steps up and comes through.

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 does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’.” (Matthew 4:3-4)

Stones to bread

Satan had got Jesus at His most vulnerable place. Jesus could have turned those stones into bread – how much more tempting does that make this situation? These temptations He faced were many times more intense than ours.

Jesus was prepared. A 40-day fast is serious-level preparation. He replies with God’s Word and with wisdom – one simple, focused answer: “Man does not live on bread alone.”

Jesus knew His mission and He knew the Cross was part of that. He also knew that He could back out. He attacked Satan by deliberately not doing, managing or working a plan out, but fought the battle from the inside out, using spiritual weapons, drawing spiritual energy from His Father. He demonstrated that being alone with His Father was choosing His place to fight the battle, the place where things really happened.

– What do you do when the enemy shows up in your life and presents you with attractive options? Are you prepared, by investing in the resources and taking up the priorities which Jesus did?

TEMPTATION 2: CHARACTER OVER EGO

Satan’s next temptation cleverly appealed to Jesus’ ability.

Then the devil took Him to the holy city and had Him stand 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’.” (Matthew 4:5-6)

This was a “Show me what you’ve got” temptation, appealing to the human desire to compete, climb the ladder of success and satisfy identity needs in seeking fame and recognition from peers. Jesus put a stop to this by answering: “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’.” In other words, He said: “Don’t be frivolous with Me.”

Jesus set out to be unnecessary and irrelevant to the world’s value system, clear about His mission to die for the world based on who He was and His call. That tells us where our compass and purpose are found. Ministry (and you don’t have to be a minister to hold up ministry) is too often tainted by the world’s ideas of fame and success – but real ministry values the development of character and doesn’t care what the world thinks.  Discipleship is a slower process than success, but it comes with a bigger payoff as people see Jesus in us and are changed by that. Just as an aside, you probably know of ‘successful’ speakers with a terrific stage presence and the ability to engage with thousands – but yet who don’t ‘do’ success and manage to divert  attention from themselves, to reveal what Jesus is doing. They are the people who have got hold of what Jesus was pioneering for us in the desert.

TEMPTATION 3: DESIRE TO WORSHIP OVER DESIRE TO CONTROL

This temptation offered Jesus a way to skip the process, avoid the pain and have the glory now.

Again, the devil took Jesus 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’.” (Matthew 4:8-10)

Why die for these people? Why assume their sin and suffer rejection and extreme pain for them? You can see how Jesus simply doesn’t fall for this particular lie. He sees victory coming, and the victory is that when we resist the devil, he must flee (James 4:7). That’s a good experience – yet we do the resisting daily because the battle is ongoing – “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left Him until an opportune time.” (Luke 4:13).

C. S. Lewis put it like this:

Taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into either a Heaven creature, or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is Heaven, that is, joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.

– Taking a snapshot of yourself and your life, which direction are you drifting  in? What will you do about it?
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