Priestly Compassion

Hebrews 4: 15

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize without weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

Two ideas strike me about this verse: Jesus’ compassion and his sinlessness. The two work together for our good. Jesus was in all manner tempted just as we are and yet did not sin. He knows the temptation of sin and is compassionate towards us. He knows exactly what we go through. Yet he was able to face those temptations and turn away. His success should bring you hope rather than condemnation because if he did it (and he did) then he is able to help you withstand the pressures of temptation.

When you talk to Jesus about some habit or challenge you are facing, he is able to understand completely. But do not stop there. Go on to ask his help in overcoming the problem. He overcame so you also can overcome. Tap into his strength and wisdom. Don’t stop at his compassion. Move on to his power. Even though we have a high priest who is able to sympathize with our struggles, that does not mean we are supposed to fall to them. Our high priest is an overcomer and intends to lead you into overcoming as well. Let Jesus show you the path to your victory over temptation and every other challenge of life.

Land Mines

Matthew 9: 13                  KJV

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

This is part of the Lord’s prayer; you probably recognize it. Many people can quote this passage and many of us learned it in the poetic King James Version. For myself, learning it as a child, it took years for me to untangle the meaning from the pretty prose. The Lord’s prayer was a saying, almost a slogan but it didn’t have a lot of meaning for me for many years.

This, the Lord’s Prayer has been taught on extensively. Knowledgeable preachers break it down into its constituent parts and teach us how the individual parts combine to outline a form of prayer. Today I would like for us to think about this one little section and consider what it means and also what it means to our lives individually.

There are some passages of scripture that are hard to read in any version other the King James when you were brought up with it. I still hear this passage in King James language though I have used the New American Standard Bible for forty years. Let’s explore a couple of other versions though. The Names of God version reads, “Don’t allow us to be tempted. Instead, rescue us from the evil one.” The New American Standard says, “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Can you see a difference from our traditional understanding.

Here is the question which frames comprehension of this verse, “Would Jesus pray asking God, the Father, not to lead us into temptation as if sometimes He does lead people into temptation?” “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone” (James 1: 13). Father God never leads people into the way of temptation, so, what was Jesus asking the Father?

Jesus taught that upon his exit from the earth, the Father would give us another helper and that helper, the Holy Spirit, would guide us. So, it is perfectly correct to think in terms of allowing ourselves to be led by God. This is how I would phrase today’s verse in modern English as I think about the Holy Spirit guiding my steps, “Father, lead me away from temptation.” I may, under my own power, be headed right for trouble but we can enable the Godhead to intervene and lead us away from the path of destruction.

I want you to notice also the second part of the verse. Here is the Names of God version again, “Don’t allow us to be tempted. Instead, rescue us from the evil one.” Jesus recognized from where temptation comes, the evil one. So he petitioned the Father to lead us away from the evil one, so as to rescue us from his temptations. Remember who tempted Jesus in the wilderness. It was the devil. Jesus’ prayer asks the Father to steer us away from the traps the devil has laid so that we will not be tripped up.
When you see this passage of scripture in modern language and in context with other scriptures, it takes on entirely new meaning. Sometimes it seems like the world has been sown with land mines. Jesus constantly intercedes for us asking the Father to navigate the mine field for us. That is good news, isn’t it?


John 14: 30

I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me; but that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do.

Who killed Jesus? Some people say the Jews, other argue the Romans while the best answer may be you and me. However, the right answer is no one. Jesus gave up his spirit. He gave his life on the cross. The Jews tried many times to take him but he would disappear and they were never able to lay their hands on him. Jesus tells us in this verse that because he loves the Father and because the Father commanded him, he, Jesus chose the cross. He gave up his life out of his love for the Father, his devotion to God’s commands, but also so that all the world would see and know this love which changes the world. He sowed his life into this world so that all would see and would have the means to turn to God and be saved. What a choice.

I want you to see one other thing in today’s verse. Jesus was clear on his position with the Father. He also knew, without any doubt, that Yahweh is the benevolent Father. Jesus’ belief in the Father’s love and in His power never faltered. However, he was also cognizant of another authority, the ruler of the world. He was talking about Satan and though Satan had legal authority Jesus says, plainly, “he has nothing in Me.” You’ve got to love that.

This goes along well with yesterday’s Word of the Day. We get to choose whose back yard we play in. Jesus knew Satan had nothing in him because all the days of his life he served his father and his father alone. Jesus had to deal with hardships, he battled temptation but he knew that, although Satan had authority, position and even some power, he could not exercise any of it over Jesus because Jesus was founded in God. Yahweh was (and is) Jesus’ fortress. He is Jesus’ strength and the authority that Jesus has in the Father trumps anything Satan ever threw at Jesus. Sure, Jesus had to fight temptation. He resisted to the point of sweating blood but his Father empowered him for just such a stand of faith. Jesus exercised his partnership with the Father and he was always victorious. And, that is another way we know that Jesus gave his life rather than anyone taking it from him. No one could take his life because he was in the Father and the Father in him and they are an unbeatable pair.

Now the story gets even better. We have the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. If we work with them and connect with their life within us, we can have the same power partnership that saw Jesus through the toughest of times. Really, we have an even more powerful union because we have Jesus in addition to the Father. All of the power of the trinity resides within us right now. There is nothing we need that we do not already have. The trick is for us to learn to work with the Trinity the way Jesus did with the Father.

Are you rejoicing yet? The power of the Father, the glory of the Son and the creative energy of the Spirit are intertwined with your spirit right now. I want you to practice feeling your spirit. You know how to check your body. You know how to check your emotions. We need to be experts at connecting with our spirits. What is going on in your gut right now, non-biologically? What sensation is right behind your belly button? Do you feel peace, anxiety, rushed? When you have that sense of inner calm, how does that feel? Can you sense your spirit? Get accustomed to checking your spirit routinely and then branch out into the interwoven presence of the Holy Trinity within you. This is your power source. This is the boardroom of the partnership. You will feel the Lord within you and you will hear his voice. The more you hear his voice within you, the easier it will be to navigate all of life’s adventures.

Desert Days

Luke 4: 1 – 2

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led about by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days; and when they had ended, He became hungry.

I want you to notice a few words in this passage, those being, “being tempted by the devil.” You see, right after this verse begins the telling of the three temptations with which we are all familiar. Has anyone else missed this part though, that he was tempted for 40 days before those famous three temptations? It certainly had eluded me.

Here is another question for you. How did the devil tempt him? Jesus wandered around in the desert, presumptively alone, for 40 days not eating. As if that was not enough, apparently the devil was pestering him the whole time too. Do you think the devil appeared to him? Did he just whisper in Jesus’ ear? We know next to nothing about this forty day period.

I also find it interesting that he wandered around in the desert for forty days being led by the Holy Spirit. That is very reminiscent of the forty years the Israelites roamed around in the desert though they were led by God. Were they also tempted in the desert for those forty years like Jesus was for the forty days he was in the desert? Jesus never failed, he never gave into the temptations. He made it to the promised land without succumbing to the devil’s machinations. It is as if he put to right the disastrous journey of the Israelite nation by making his forty day sojourn.

Whatever the devil dishes out, there has always been the power available to overcome him. The Israelites had God with them. He was in the cloud by day and the pillar by night. Somehow, though, they were unable to connect with the power which accompanied them day and night. Jesus showed that people can overcome the temptations of the devil. He connected with the power which accompanied him, namely, the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gave him company so that he was never really alone and he empowered Jesus with everything he need to succeed.

All the Israelites had and all that Jesus had is with us today too. We can access the power of the trinity at all times because they are always with us. We no longer need wander around in the desert lost, alone and afraid. We have a redeemer and a comforter. We have an overcomer. They have led us to the oasis. Hallelujah.

Word Power  

Luke 4: 1 – 13

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led about by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil.  And He ate nothing during those days; and when they had ended, He became hungry.  And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”  And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”  And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment.  And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.  Therefore if you worship before me, it shall all be Yours.”  And Jesus answered and said to him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’”  And he led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; for it is written, ‘He will give His angels charge concerning You to guard you.’ And ‘On their hands they will bear You up lest You strike Your foot against a stone.’”  And Jesus answered and said to him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”  And when the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.

This is an important story because it shows how the devil tempts and how Jesus fought those temptations.  Ephesians 6: 17 says that the weapon we have is the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.  Jesus, being our model, demonstrated how to defeat the enemy.  I want you to see and recognize the weapon of His warfare.  Jesus defeated Satan with the Word of God.  Notice that after Jesus fended off two of Satan’s attempts with the Word, Satan quoted from the 91st Psalm to try to deceive Jesus.  But Jesus knew the Word.  He knew it so well that he could see the perversion of the word that the devil attempted to sneak past Him.

There is no other weapon that would have defeated the devil then, nor is there any other weapon that will defeat him now.  The Word, is the sword that the Father has given us.  It is well able to defeat the enemy but you have to know how to wield it.  Each time the devil threw a temptation at Christ, Jesus countered that temptation with, “It is written.”  It is a good thing, then, that Jesus knew the Word.  He used the Word itself, not just his knowledge of the Word, to combat the devil.  Jesus did not rely on His own strength, His own knowledge or His own wit to defeat the devil.  No, He used the Word of God.  He did not argue with the devil.  He just quoted the scripture to him.

Today’s passage brings us a very important message.  If we are to defeat the devil and his minions we must first give attention to the Word.  If you don’t study the Word then you are unarmed and you really don’t want to fight the enemy unarmed.  Further, we need to understand that Jesus did not fight with or argue with the devil.  He did not rely on His position as the Son of God.  He was a man and in all ways tempted as are we and he had to resist the devil with the same tools that are available to us.  He simply quoted the Word to the devil.  He did not enter into a debate with him.  Jesus made the Word of God the final authority and the wielding of that Word defeated the devil.  We must all learn to do this too.  Read the Bible.  Arm yourself with the living sword of the Spirit.  Then when the devil gets in your face, just start quoting scripture.  You will see for yourself that the devil cannot stand up to the Word.  He will have to flee from you just like he did from Jesus.


Bad Press

James 1: 13

Let no on say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.
God gets a lot of bad press these days. We all know that, but what is disturbing is how much of it comes from Christians. Well-meaning Christians blame God for a myriad of problems. They say God is tempting them in order to test them or that he is bringing this or that challenge to make them strong; grow their faith. That is just blatantly untrue. We have been told lies and we must correct ourselves with the truth. The Word is truth. Jesus said that we would know the truth and the truth would make us free (Matthew 8: 32). The word says that God is love and that he cannot tempt. He does not have evil to tempt us with. God wants good for his kids. Every good thing comes from him. Let’s put the correct party on trial here. It is the devil who comes to “steal, kill and destroy” (Matthew 10: 10). Let’s start giving him the bad press he deserves and give honor to our Father.