Matthew 6:9 “This, then, is how you should pray:…13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
Here’s my question for today. Do you believe God uses temptation to see what you’re made of? My immediate answer was “no.” I think that’s the right answer but temptation and evil are real and Jesus prayer recognizes that. I want my answer to be real too, not just a gut reaction.
Sometimes our focus is more on praying the devil out of our life than praying the Triune God into it to change us. That seems like giving that evil one more power than we should. Sometimes the devil is a convenient excuse for the bad behavior of broken people in a broken world doing awful things.
The Santa Claus Theology: Job 1:9 “Satan replied, Would Job worship you if he got nothing out of it?” Temptation is Satan’s power to destroy faith by convincing us God’s blessing is only a bribe for good behavior.
The Need Theology: James 1:13 “When tempted, no one should say, God is tempting me. For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.” God doesn’t waste his power tempting us. He’s focused on building faith first, then behavior. That faith has the power over temptation to reveal our broken desires to US so when we pray “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” we’ll finally understand “desire” for the Triune God IS the blessing and gift.
*36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he
*42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Here’s the cliff notes: The disciples have left their lives behind to follow Jesus. They believe he is Messiah. They’ve found security in Jesus. He’s been the assurance of their sacrifice but now the question about who can be saved, and how, has rattled them. They’ve spent this time with Jesus waiting for that revelation, learning and seeing firsthand the powers Jesus has…even over death.
Now Jesus is telling the disciples what the chief priests and teachers of the law have planned for him in Jerusalem. It’s not good but it’s also not as real to them as what they’ve been taught their whole lives that Messiah would be revealed as a conquering king. Jesus asks James and John – “What do you want me to do for you?” It’s clear from their reply they’re seeing “glory” in their future, rather than destruction. They don’t see how the final demonstration of Messiah’s power could happen any other way.
It reminded me how easy it is in life to assume we know how Jesus will reveal his power and miss the reality of seeing it happen in our lives.
14 Follow me…
17 It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners…
Could there be a more unlikely choice than Levi [Matthew] for Jesus to choose as his second object lesson to the crowd as they walked through Capernaum? They’d certainly heard that Jesus had power over physical illness but this was Levi the local tax collector. Levi had been given his power by the king to make his living by squeezing as much of their money from them as he could. What could he possibly deserve, or need, compared to some poor invalid?
This time Jesus sees something invisible in a man it’s likely no one else in that crowd would ever choose. He chooses Levi. Jesus simply said “follow me” and Levi got up and followed him. It was a different kind of miracle that revealed Jesus is a very different kind of King that has the power to make a visible change in the circumstances of a life forever.
Romans 6:19 I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.
Sometimes when I’m reading Scripture I find myself going over or coming back to a particular spot. It’s like a mental STOP sign. It works just like in driving; come to a complete stop, don’t coast on through. I’m convinced that’s the very thing I’m supposed to look at carefully before proceeding. Consider this “example from everyday. life”
Have you ever thought about impurity as having the power to force you to obey wickedness? That’s slavery. Maybe you wonder how much holiness you need to offer yourself as a slave to righteousness? Let me set you mind at ease…none!
The line is life. X marks the spot in your life where Jesus became real to you and “righteousness leading to holiness” became your new direction. Spoiler Alert: there are going to be things that happen in your life when you find yourself on the wrong side of the “X” but here’s the thing: don’t miss that little arrow in my illustration, it really matters. That little arrow doesn’t ever change – because it’s Jesus holiness that is your righteousness and the destination is settled!
Mark 9:7 Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.
Peter, James and John were confused. They’d just seen the inexplicably mysterious power of the unseen God. They also knew firsthand Jesus had the power to heal and to restore life where there was none but a dead man can’t bring himself back to life, can he? So what could “rising from the dead” mean?
The unseen, all powerful, all knowing, ever present God had inserted himself into their thinking when he spoke “from the cloud.” Jesus had changed their daily lives and now he’s given them “orders” to wait before they tell anyone what they’ve seen…the caution to wait…because there’s more to come.
It seems like their thinking process is being expanded to include the mystery of the unseen Father, the reality of Jesus who’s the bedrock of that faith and the promise that comes after “the Son of Man [has] risen from the dead;” the Holy Spirit. Maybe that’s exactly what our focus of Lent is to be; to expand our thinking and help us acknowledge the fullness of God even when life is mysterious and confusing.