Friday, June 29, 2012

Tempting Jesus

During a VBS lesson this week, the teacher gave a lesson on the temptation of Jesus found in Matthew 4. While speaking about the 3rd temptation, an astute 4th or 5th grader asked a very insightful question.
If Jesus is God and is already in control of all things, then how could Satan tempt him to be king? Wasn't he already king?
Here is the text of Matthew 4:8-9:

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”

Satan's Offer

Satan probably doesn't know quite what this temptation means to the God-man; he can only think of himself. There is some sense in which Satan has dominion over the earth, though it is ordained and limited by God's absolute sovereignty.

Satan's Dominion: 2 Cor 4:4, Eph 2:2
Christ's Victory: Luke 10:17-18, Col 2:14-15, John 12:31

He is asking Jesus to commit the very same sin that brought his fall. Satan wants to be exalted above God, and that is the essence of Satan's offer: he will trade his hollow scepter for the golden crown.

Jesus' Temptation

How could this actually be a temptation for Jesus? Jesus knows he will be king over all:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high [Hebrews 1:1-3].

But of the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions” [Hebrews 1:8-9].

But the glory that leads the Son of God to that eternal kingship is through the cross. The reality of the crucifixion, of bearing God's wrath, of dying for the sins of world had a deep impact on the soul of Jesus. He asked the Father if there was any other way [Matt 26:39]. The Son of God and the Son of Man would truly be crushed.

And so the real temptation before Jesus was a short-cut. He could claim dominion over what God was giving him without taking the path of pain, reproach and death. If he made a simple concession, he could be king now.

Jesus knew God's Word, God's will and lived to fulfill his Father's will. And because Jesus worshiped and served the Lord our God only, he could be our substitute and offer God's kingdom to his followers.

I am thankful for VBS and the thoughtful children we've been blessed with. I pray that God would grant and grow a child-like faith in all of them.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fierce Wolves

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted [perverse] things, to draw away the disciples after them. [Acts 20:28-30]

What are these ‘perverse things’ which are a disturbance and a danger to the church? One of the major characteristics of false prophets in the Old Testament was their amoral optimism, their denial that God was the God of judgment as well as of steadfast love and mercy. They were guilty, Jeremiah said to the people, of ‘filling you with vain hopes … They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, “It shall be well with you”; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart they say, “No evil shall come upon you.” ’ Similarly, God complains: ‘They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace.’ Such talk was, to say the least, a grave disservice to the people of God. It gave them a false sense of security. It lulled them to sleep in their sins. It failed to warn them of the impending judgment of God or tell them how to escape it.

Stott, J. R. W., & Stott, J. R. W. (1985). The message of the Sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7) : Christian counter-culture. The Bible speaks today (199). Leicester [Leicestershire; Downers Grove, Ill., U.S.A.: Inter-varsity Press.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Participating in church leadership exposes you to an order of magnitude more criticism than normal. There are many encouraging resources for those enduring the hardship of excessive criticism.

C.J. Mahaney

John Newton

Whoever . . . has tasted of the love Christ, and has known, by his own experience, the need and the worth of redemption, is enabled, Yea, he is constrained, to love his fellow creatures. He loves them at first sight; and, if the providence of God commits a dispensation of the gospel, and care of souls to him, he will feel the warmest emotions of friendship and tenderness, while he beseeches them by the tender mercies of God, and even while he warns them by his terrors.

I have been thirty years forming my own views; and, in the course of this time, some of my hills have sunk, and some of my valleys have risen: but, how unreasonable within me to expect all this should take place in another person; and that, in the course of a year or two. (And Piper spoke to the men asking them if they expected people to change because "they attended my class" on that subject for two weeks)

Of all people who engage in controversy, we, who are called Calvinists, are most expressly bound by our own principles to the exercise of gentleness and moderation. . . . The Scriptural maximum, that "The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God," is verified by daily observation. If our zeal is embittered by expressions of anger, invective, or scorn, we may think we are doing service to the cause of truth, when in reality we shall only bring it into discredit. [And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to every one, an apt teacher, forbearing, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will." (2 Timothy 2:24, rsv)]

As to your opponent, I wish, that, before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord's teaching and blessing. This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write. . . . [If he is a believer,] in a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts. . . . [If he is an unconverted person,] he is a more proper object of your compassion than your anger. Alas! "He knows not what he does." But you know who has made you to differ.

C.H. Spurgeon

5. For Spurgeon a key to his perseverance in preaching through adversity was that he had settled who he was and would not be paralyzed with external criticism or internal second-guessing.
One of the great perils of living under continual criticism is that this is a constant call for you to be other than what you are. And, in fact, a humble saint always wants to be a better person than he is. But there is a great danger here of losing your bearings in sea of self-doubt. Not knowing who you are. Not being able to say with Paul, "By the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). Spurgeon felt this danger keenly.
In comparing one ministerial identity with another he reminded other pastors that at the last supper there was a chalice for drinking the wine and there was a basin for washing feet. Then he said,
"I protest that I have no choice whether to be the chalice or the basin. Fain would I be whichever the Lord wills so long as He will but use me ... So you, my brother, you may be the cup, and I will be the basin; but let the cup be a cup, and the basin a basin, and each one of us just what he is fitted to be. Be yourself, dear brother, for, if you are not yourself, you cannot be anybody else; and so, you see, you must be nobody ... Do not be a mere copyist, a borrower, a spoiler of other men's notes. Say what God has said to you, and say it in your own way; and when it is so said, plead personally for the Lord's blessing upon it" (see note 69).
And I would add, plead personally the Lord's purifying blood upon it too, because none of our best labors is untainted. But the danger is to let the truth paralyze you with fear of man and doubt of self.
Eleven years later in 1886 he struck the same anvil again:
Friend, be true to your own destiny! One man would make a splendid preacher of downright hard-hitting Saxon; why must he ruin himself by cultivating an ornate style? ... Apollos has the gift of eloquence; why must he copy blunt Cephas? Every man in his own order" (see note 70).
Spurgeon illustrates with his own struggle to be responsive to criticism during the Downgrade controversy. For a season he tried to adapt his language to the critics. But there came a time when he had to be what he was.
"I have found it utterly impossible to please, let me say or do what I will. One becomes somewhat indifferent when dealing with those whom every word offends. I notice that, when I have measured my words, and weight my sentences most carefully, I have then offended most; while some of my stronger utterances have passed unnoticed. Therefore, I am comparatively careless as to how my expressions may be received, and only anxious that they may be in themselves just and true" (see note 71).
If we are to survive and go on preaching in an atmosphere of controversy, there comes a point where you have done your best to weight the claims of your critics and take them to heart and must now say, "By the grace of God, I am what I am." And bring an end to the deranging second-guessing that threatens to destroy the very soul.
C.S. Lewis

"It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which,if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilites, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendors." [From The Weight of Glory]