Tempted, but not Wandering, in the Wilderness

November 22, 2017 at 3:54 pm | Posted in Luke | Leave a comment
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And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,

Luke 4:1

At first glance it may seem very strange that Jesus would be led BY THE SPIRIT into a place of temptation rather than straight into His public ministry. Believers today receive the Holy Spirit upon salvation. One of the Old Testament pictures of our salvation was when the Israelites left Egypt and went out into the wilderness before getting to enter the promised land. That sequence may also have been arranged by God partly to foreshadow Christ’s foray into the wilderness after He received the Spirit.

In Matthew we are shown Jesus going to Egypt for safety the way that Jacob and his sons did after Joseph was taken there, but Luke did not record that event in His life.

Jesus did not go into the wilderness because He was being chastened for provoking God the way the Old Testament Israelites did. He did go into the wilderness to be tested, though.

Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered. And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread.

Luke 4:2-3

Satan is always subtly playing to our pride. He knows the power of pride because it led to his own downfall. One of the reasons that the devil is often depicted today as this caricature in a red suit with a tail and a pitchfork is because there was a time when it was thought that the best way to combat him was to attack his pride by making him look silly. The Bible does not portray him as being that easily defeated. Christ defeated Satan, and withstood his temptations, by exercising humility and proclaiming the Word of God.

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Does “Everyone” Include Satan?

July 21, 2017 at 10:01 am | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: We were telling our children that God loves everyone, but then they asked, “Does God love the devil?” What should I tell them?

Answer: First of all, you are correct in telling them that God loves everyone “in the world” (John 3:16). Of course, we also need to let our children know that God loves in greater ways than we do, and that God is so much greater than, and different from us, that it is possible for Him to harmonize His will and His feelings in ways that are not possible for us. In other words, God’s feelings are perfectly controlled, and are more holy than ours, so it is possible for Him to love His enemies (Romans 5:8) and hate His enemies (Psalm 5:5, 11:5) at the same time.

When it comes to the devil (and the angels for that matter), the Bible does not give us specific information on God’s “feelings” about them. He created them, and the angels obey Him, which must please Him, and He is love (I John 4:8), so it is possible that He loves them, but the Bible never really emphasizes that, as far as I know. Satan and his demons, on the other hand, disobeyed Him, and He cast them out, and He has not devised a plan of redemption for them the way that He has for us fallen human beings, so it is probably reasonable to say that God does not love them in the same way that He loves us (if He loves them at all).

What I would emphasize to children is that the devil made a horrible choice in trying to make himself equal to God (Isaiah 14:12-14) and he paid for it. Still, he does not want to be forgiven. He hated God first without a cause, and that will never change. Our first ancestors, Adam and Eve, committed the same sin: disobedience and self-idolatry (and, sadly, we still do it too, every day). But the fact that God was still willing to die for us, and forgive us, shows how great His love for us truly is. Meanwhile, no matter what His feelings toward Satan are, because He loves us, He will one day imprison Satan forever and ever in order to protect us from him (Revelation 20:3-10).

Did the Devil Flood Livingston Parish?

September 13, 2016 at 3:30 pm | Posted in The Flood | 3 Comments
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If you are truly a Christian, then you have to have a certain level of loyalty to God. After all, He is your Father, Savior, Redeemer, and Provider. Therefore, it is somewhat natural to want to stick up for Him when others might question His actions. This can be a good thing, but it can also be problematic when our loyalty tips over into finite rationalizations. In other words, we want to give people a high opinion of our God (to “glorify” Him), but we also want to be honest. In other other words, God doesn’t need a PR agent.

We have seen this dynamic at work in the wake (pun intended) of the recent flooding in Livingston Parish, Louisiana, and the adjacent parishes. “God is all-powerful and omniscient, so how could all this devastation have happened on His watch?” we are afraid someone will ask. And the all-too-often-heard rationalization-in-advance is to blame-shift onto Satan. “God didn’t send all this rain into these too-narrow rivers, creeks, and bayous. God doesn’t ‘do evil.’ The devil did this for evil, and God will turn it around and use it for good.” It sounds helpful. It even sounds hopeful. But – and this is what really matters to God – is it true?

Does the devil control the weather? I want to be cautious here, and admit that Satan is certainly powerful. He is so much more powerful than any human being that we can not even make a proper comparison. However, he is a pipsqueak compared to God. As a created being himself, it is certain that Satan is neither omnipotent nor omniscient, and can only be said to be “omnipresent” in the limited sense that he may have demonic agents feeding him information and doing his bidding in all parts of the world. The only place to find reliable information about who can control the weather – God and Satan, or God and God alone – is the Bible.

Now, my wife made an excellent point when we discussed this. What the devil CAN do is this: He can seize upon the opportunity created by the aftermath of the flood and tempt people to become discouraged, to become bitter, to give up, to look for escape from their troubles in sinful habits and addictions, to turn away from God, to become divisive and petty, and (his specialty) to become proud – proud of their community, proud of their neighbors, proud of their church, proud of the way they themselves behaved in a crisis, and even proud to be a Christian (oxymoronic as that is!)

However, the Bible evidence is nearly incontrovertible that God is in charge of the weather – even the extreme weather events that we call catastrophes. The only possible support for the counterargument that I can find is the account of Job’s children, who were killed, as part of a challenge between God and Satan, with a “great wind” that blew their house down on top of them. However, even in that instance, the same account calls the lightning which took out the sheep and the servants the “fire of God,” so, presumably, Satan, acting under God’s permission, had to borrow some weather elements from God, or, perhaps, ask God to use them Himself.

All of which gives me the confidence to say that, no, the devil did not sneak around God’s throne, weasel himself into the royal Heavenly restroom, and break the plumbing, spilling four trillion gallons of rain right on top of southeastern Louisiana in a 24 hour period. It may not sound sentimental, and it may give ammunition to amateur skeptics and those bitter at a God too great for us to “figure out,” but, as His children, we are to rejoice over the fact that God is supremely in control of all events in, and beyond, this world, and that what He does is always right and always good, weather whether we like it or not, or weather whether we understand it or not.

For the the glory of His name, and for the good of His Son and His Son’s redeemed people, God flooded Livingston Parish, Louisiana, on the weekend of August 13-14, 2016, and He did not choose to fill us in on what the kids call “the deets.” It may be a hard truth, but it is a true truth, and for those who suffered in it and through it, we are better off facing this truth. As the old song says, “When the levee breaks, mama, you got to move.” Some folks move to Chicago, some folks move into their neighbors’ homes, and some folks move into a FEMA trailer. But all of God’s folks need to move closer to the true God of the Bible, and need to move into the lives of their neighbors who have not yet met the Savior and tell them the good news that the God of the flood will forgive you for your sins and give you eternal life when – AND ONLY WHEN – you repent, believe the Gospel, and trust His Son.

Scorn, Schemes, Scoundrels, Schizophrenics, and Scares

September 25, 2013 at 1:30 pm | Posted in Nehemiah | 2 Comments
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And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, that I may build it.

Nehemiah 2:5 (emphasis added)

Moreover I said unto the king, If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over till I come into Judah;

Nehemiah 2:7 (emphasis added)

Nehemiah’s “send me” became his “give me.” Perhaps it would be good for us to sometimes pray as volunteers before praying as beggars. “Let my friend be saved” becomes “give me an opportunity to share the Gospel with him.” “Heal my eyes” becomes “Lord, I repent of using my eyes to look with lust; help me to use them to see people’s needs.” I’m not saying we should try to bribe God. He knows our hearts. But Nehemiah had been fasting, praying, and planning for four months before his emergency prayer to God in the presence of the king.

Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven.

Nehemiah 2:4

The journey to Jerusalem took approximately two months, and Nehemiah traveled with a military escort, including some of the king’s officers. It must have been discouraging for him to see that there were enemies waiting for him when he got there, but there will often be enemies waiting when we set out by faith on a journey to do the will of God. We must not mistake the successful arrival at the place of battle for the victory itself. Recovering from an illness is not the victory; it’s only the successful trip to get back into the fight.

These were Nehemiah’s enemies:

But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? will ye rebel against the king?

Nehemiah 2:19

Sanballat held an official position in Samaria, and it is very common for worldly officials to oppose the work of God when money is at stake. Tobiah was an Ammonite: a sworn enemy of the Jews (Deuteronomy 23:3-4). The devil opposes anything and everything Godly. Tobiah was related to some of the workers by marriage. Therefore, he had a “foothold” to try to interfere with the work, and he gathered intelligence. The devil is in the intelligence-gathering business. He can’t read our minds, but he doesn’t need to do so. He can learn everything he needs just by hitching a ride in the back seat on our way home from church. That’s why it’s important to prepare your weapons for battle in church, not just to have a party. The devil can spoil a party, but he can’t overcome a vigilant Christian warrior. Too many professing Christians are like dogs after a bath. They feel like they’ve been scrubbed clean during church and they can’t wait to get back in the mud.

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Geshem represents the flesh. The devil and the world will always try to enlist the flesh. Our flesh is weak, and it is a burden which must be borne and battled throughout the life of a believer.

Notice the tactics of opposition in which the world and the devil enlist the flesh to help attack the work and the workers of God:

Scorn

But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews. And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned?

Nehemiah 4:1-2

Mockery and ridicule must not deter the work of God.

Schemes

But it came to pass, that when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites, heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up, and that the breaches began to be stopped, then they were very wroth, And conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it.

Nehemiah 4:7-8

In spiritual warfare, our enemies will set traps. They spend time and effort planning and plotting.

Scoundrels and Schizophrenics

And Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall.

Nehemiah 4:10

A scoundrel is someone who is deceitful and unreliable – someone who will lie to get out of work. A schizophrenic is someone who is afflicted by the coexistence of disparate or antagonistic elements. Christian workers can be infiltrated and influenced by lazy and double-minded enemies of the work of God.

Scares

And our adversaries said, They shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease. And it came to pass, that when the Jews which dwelt by them came, they said unto us ten times, From all places whence ye shall return unto us they will be upon you.

Nehemiah 4:11-12

Fear of God is the friend of faith. Fear of failure is the enemy of faith. Nehemiah and his helpers had started a project so big and so daunting that only God could finish it, and they trusted Him to use them to do so. Don’t be ignorant of the devices of your enemies. You know who they are (world, devil, flesh), and now you know their tactics.


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