Saturday, November 10, 2012

Preview Luke 4

Preview – Luke 4

My preliminary thoughts on the passage to be preached this Sunday

Lord willing we have another exciting day in God's house tomorrow.  This week we're studying Luke four.  In Luke chapter four Jesus is tempted in the wilderness.  How is it that God could be tempted?  If it is impossible for God to sin, then would it stand to reason that He could also not be tempted?  This is certainly a mystery but I think we find a helpful solution to this question when we consider Jesus' humanity.

We have to be careful however, not to be too bold in our understanding of the temptation of Jesus because the mystery of the incarnation leaves many things beyond the capabilities of our minds to understand.  But we can be certain Jesus was tempted.  The first verse of Luke four says that He was tempted by the devil. 

The humanity of Jesus allows for the possibility that He was tempted.  We have already discussed that in the incarnation Jesus chose to limit His attributes as God in order to condescend to take the form of a man.  God does not learn, grow, and gain in wisdom and favor with God and man.  These are things that Jesus was able to do because he limited the scope and power of His divine attributes in order to exist from moment to moment as a man.  Let me explain how it works.

Its a mystery.

But maybe we can understand slightly more than that.  At times Jesus would access divine power in order to perform miracles but it seems clear that aside from the specific times that He chose to access this power, He was limited to the attributes of a man.  This only begins to explain what we cannot understand: the nature of Jesus' existence as fully God and fully man.

However, if we accept that Jesus, as a rule, limited His power to that of a man, it seems reasonable that as a man He could be tempted.  Tempted in the sense that an appeal was not only made to His senses and desires but impacted them.  The existence of a sinful desire would not be part of the temptation because that would have involved sin.  A short and practical definition of temptation could be this; we're tempted when we are presented with sin in a way that appeals to our flesh.  This definition would fit because he was presented with various sins that would appeal to the flesh, but He did not have a sinful desire for those things and He did not in any way sin by allowing Himself to walk unwisely into temptation. [The flesh here meaning his physical body - not "the flesh" as representing sinful passions.]

Understanding the limitations Jesus put upon Himself as a man and the nature of temptation helps to make this text more clear.  But mystery remains when contemplating the force of a temptation that in one sense could never have caused Jesus to sin.  God cannot sin and Jesus was and is fully God.  We will likely be amazed at the full realities of the temptation of Jesus when we get to heaven.  For now we can trust the word of God that Jesus was tempted in all ways as we are and yet He was without sin. Hebrews 4:15

Why would it have been a sin to eat?  It seems that maybe the overall temptation here was to do things the easy way and shortcut the overall plan that Jesus had.  Jesus came to suffer as a man and to die on the cross for sin.  The Holy Spirit led Jesus to the wilderness and the Triune God had a purpose and plan for the period of fasting and reflection.  It is not wrong to end a fast.  But it looks as if in this case Satan is rearing up in rebellion again and seeking to tempt Jesus to the easy and fleshly route out of suffering.  "Just turn the stones to bread and eat, you don't need all of this fasting, prayer, and reflection!  Enjoy yourself!"  This could be what Satan was tempting Jesus to do in the first temptation.  This would seem to fit also with the temptation to commit idolatry and become the ruler of all the kingdoms of the world.  It would be a shortcut to a wonderful life of fleshly comforts.  I'm not so sure about the third temptation.

We all know what temptation is like.  This is as familiar to us as breathing.  We are tempted and our flesh wells up within us saying, "I want that." [Just as when Kip offered to throw in the model boat with the Tupperware set and the wife was tempted.. maybe not just like that.]  At this point we are tempted.  I depart from describing the temptation of Jesus at this point and stand on the more solid understanding I have of my own experience and the Bible's descriptions of how believers deal with sin. 

When we are tempted the flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh and we often are inclined to sin and have a desire for sin well up within us.  Mentally we struggle with holding onto the truth that we already know so well and begin to perform mental tricks to give reasons to sin.  Maybe we deny it is a sin.  Or maybe we reason that the sin is impossible to resist, or that God will understand that we sinned because no one is perfect.  Our hearts are drawn powerfully to the sin because of the remaining sin that is still in them.  And yet we may still at this point resist sin.

The response of Jesus is highly instructive.  He is our example and we would do well to follow in it when we are tempted.  Jesus quotes scripture to engage His mind and heart in resisting the presentation of sin to His flesh.  He quotes form Deuteronomy 6 and 8 and buttresses his mind and heart with the strength of God's powerful and living word. 

How will we also do this if we do not know God's word?  How will we do this if the only scripture we've memorized has been for the purpose of doctrinal battles?  How will we do this if we've failed to spend time becoming deeply familiar with the themes and teachings of scripture?  We won't.  In order to have a remote chance of using scripture in our times of temptation we must have it well memorized and well studied.  The flesh will do whatever it can to avoid quoting scripture in a time of temptation.  Oftentimes our hearts and our flesh will be so deceitful and wicked that we may even make excuses to avoid recalling scripture that directly deals with our immediate temptation.   But we must make every effort to discipline ourselves to memorize, meditate on, and study applicable scripture for the express purpose of fighting sin. 

Yes memorize scripture to defend doctrine.  Memorize it in order to see it's beauty.  Memorize it as a godly hobby and way to spend time with friends and family.  Memorize it for many good reasons.  But do not fail to memorize it in direct relation to the sins that so easily ensnare us.  We love Christ and we want to be like Him.  So we ought to memorize scripture and unsheathe it quickly in our fight against sin, just as Jesus has demonstrated.

Other thoughts:
Why did the Pharisees get so angry with the comments about Elijah and the widow?
Is the Physician heal yourself comment fulfilled when he was mocked on the cross, "He healed others but couldn't save Himself?"

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