Lessons We Learn From Jesus’ Temptations

Lessons We Learn From Jesus’ Temptations

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

img_5670

Neal Pollard

Jesus knew temptation. The writer of Hebrews makes that point about Him in assuring us He, as our High Priest, knows just what we are going through in this life (2:18; 4:15). His suffering allows Him to sympathize. I am comforted to know that He understands, since He is like me (Heb. 2:17). Luke (4:1-13) records this significant and pivotal moment in Jesus’ life before He begins His public ministry. It gives me necessary insight into who Jesus is, and it helps me fight the common battle against the enticements of my flesh, my eyes, and my pride.

TEMPTATION STRIKES THOSE IN A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. To be clear, temptation strikes “every man” (Heb. 4:15). But, sometimes we conclude that it’s not so bad or so frequent for the spiritually strong. Here is the perfect Son of God, described as full of the Holy Spirit and led by the Spirit (1), who encounters the tempter (2). Being spiritually strong can help make navigating temptation easier than it is for those who live according to the flesh (Rom. 8:5-14), but no one was closer to God and more spiritually healthy than Jesus as He walked the earth. How helpful to consider Paul’s warning here: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). 

TEMPTATION STRIKES IN PREDICTABLE AREAS. John classifies temptation into three major categories: “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life” (1 Jn.2:16). Methodical Luke lists Jesus’ temptation in that very order (cf. Mat. 4:1-11). The serpent, approaching Eve, must have appealed to these very areas at the beginning (Gen. 3:6). The devil does not have to get more complicated than that because these avenues are overwhelmingly effective for him. Though this and other passages reveal the Evil One’s intentions and efforts, we are fully accountable for how we respond to temptation (Jas. 1:13-15). We must take responsibility for how we handle temptation. 

TEMPTATION STRIKES WHEN WE ARE VULNERABLE. Jesus has gone an unfathomable 40 days without food when He encounters the devil (2ff). The devil goes straight for this susceptible area. Think back to times when you haven’t gotten proper rest, you faced stress and pressure, you were sick or felt poorly, and other trying times. These can easily become doors we open to sin. All of us will experience physical and emotional weakness. We must be aware that these lead to spiritual exposure. 

TEMPTATION CAN MAKE US CALL WHAT WE KNOW INTO QUESTION. Twice, the devil uses conditional statements to try and create doubt. First, he says, “If You are the Son of God” (3). He called Jesus’ identity into question. Then, he says, “if You worship me” (7). He seeks to get Jesus to question His loyalty. It was not a matter of what Jesus intellectually knew, but Jesus dwelled in the flesh (John 1:14; Heb. 2:14). Be aware that temptation will cause us to question things we know, too. That includes our exalted identity and our true motivation.

TEMPTATION IS THWARTED BY AN OMNIPOTENT TOOL. Jesus wins His battles with the devil and temptation by leaning on truth. There are 86 quotations of Deuteronomy (the second giving of the Law of Moses) in the New Testament, and Jesus quotes this book in reference to each of the devil’s temptations (8:3; 6:13; 6:16). Proper knowledge and handling of Scripture help even when enemies of truth, even the devil, try to misuse Scripture against us (as he does with Jesus, misapplying Psalm 91:11-12). Scripture is God’s own weapon, given to us not to cut and maim others but to fight off temptation and fend off the biggest threats to our faith and soul (Heb. 4:12; Eph. 6:17). 

It is wonderful to contemplate a day in which temptation will be permanently past-tense (cf. Rev. 21:1ff; 1 Cor. 15:55-58). Until then, we benefit so much from seeing how Jesus coped with the bane of temptation. It also helps us appreciate what He endured in order to give us salvation. 

Vasily Polenov (1909), “Christ In The Desert”
Sunday’s Bulletin Article: “F-E-A-R”

Sunday’s Bulletin Article: “F-E-A-R”

Neal Pollard

61482521_10156347607435922_101144894977867776_n

It will make congregations forsake God’s command to practice church discipline, especially in the age of Facebook and Instagram. It will disrupt, cancel, and in other ways impact congregational plans, faced with something that has killed .0004% of the world’s population. It will cause congregations to abandon the biblical position on any number of things that accommodates the cultural point of view. But, biblically speaking, what is particularly the fear of the devil, mankind, or things of this earth?

F-AITHLESS. You’ll find fear and faith contrasted in Scripture (Mat. 14:31; Mark 4:40; Heb. 11:23). Jesus rebukes a fear which hinders faith more than anyone. When we are driven by fear rather than faith, we confess that we believe in something more than we believe in God. Fear is completely understandable, something the Bible’s greatest heroes felt. But, they overcame their fear of men and even the devil by a greater faith in God’s power. The generation of Israel Moses led were the poster children of fear (Num. 14:9), yet what does the writer of Hebrews diagnose as the root cause of their punishment and rejection? “Unbelief” (3:19).

E-PIDEMIC. Have you noticed how quickly and widely fear spreads? The spies sent to Canaan came back afraid and they transmitted it to the whole nation almost immediately (Num. 13:31-33; 14:1ff). The devil has plenty of channels to transmit fear, from traditional to social media. But even pulpits, private meetings, and informal discussions can fan the flames of fear. Fear plays to our flesh, and the voice of fear travels at light speed. 

A-MPLIFYING. Have you ever suffered from economic, relationship, occupational, or spiritual problems? Lie still in your bed at night (or wake up in the middle of the night) and those fears grow exponentially. Like worry, fear is often greater than the problem. It’s why the devil finds it a useful tool in his warfare (cf. Rev. 2:10; 21:8–“cowardly” is the word “afraid” in Mark 4:40; 2 Tim. 1:7). The enemy looks bigger and scarier than it is, but giving in to fear can make it seem gigantic.

R-ASH. Jesus makes this clear during His earthly ministry. He says, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mat. 10:28). The analogy is definitely disturbing. There are physical and spiritual entities out there with the power to take our lives. We can be so quick to respond to them by retreating or withdrawing. But if the fear of those things replaces or supplants the fear that belongs rightfully only to God, we are in big trouble. 

These, are fearful times! Who doesn’t wrestle with fear? It seems that Jesus did (Luke 22:44; Heb. 5:7). God understands we’ll struggle with fear (Psa. 103:14). But His lovingkindness and compassion are “on those who fear Him” (Psa. 103:11,13,17). There is more Kingdom work to do than ever! There are numerous obstacles, but let’s not get in our own way through fear! 

Supersize Your Scripture Smarts!

Supersize Your Scripture Smarts!

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

The Bible is not a mysterious book of codes that can’t be cracked, though some might try and lead you to believe that. 

We know that the water can be metaphorically muddied rather quickly when there are countless faulty interpretations of books like Revelation, Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and other prophetic or apocalyptic literature. Typology is another misunderstood, and often misapplied, method of Bible study. I’m convinced that if we can spend some time studying the different “types” found in scripture, we can see God’s message for mankind more clearly and have a more profound grasp of His Word. This also happens to be a great way to grow our knowledge of scripture more quickly!

So first, let’s try to clarify exactly what Typology is. 

Summed up in one sentence it’s referring to Old Testament things which are prefigured or symbolized by events and characters of the New Testament.

This may sound a little confusing, but let’s look at a few examples. 

  1. John 3:14 says that just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of man must be lifted up (Num. 21:9). The Christ “type” is the bronze serpent. We know because of a specific New Testament reference. 
  2. 1 Peter 3:20: “…God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built, only a few people, 8 in all were saved through water,” This illustrates how in the same way baptismal water saves those who submit to Christ today. 

Typology is not some mystic Bible code where we are free to translate events and characters in scripture as we please because God tells us exactly what He intended to say. 

1 Cor. 14:33 says that God is NOT the “author of confusion.” He has a message for us all— and it’s a message of hope. 

Are you interested in learning more about typology? The perfect book for you to study would be the book of Hebrews as it makes more Old Testament references than any other New Testament book. By diving into Hebrews you will appreciate and understand both the Old Testament, and the Bible as a whole. 

“In The Wilderness”

“In The Wilderness”

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

image

Dale Pollard

The original Hebrew name literally means, “In The Wilderness.” Later on, Greek translators referred to these inspired writings as “Numbers.” For the Israelite people, it was the historical record of how they were shaped and Divinely-groomed while making an unnecessarily long hike through desert lands (Not to be confused with “dessert land” which sounds far better). The book of Numbers also served, and still serves, as a way for God’s people to get a bird’s-eye view of how our lives are significantly better when we are following our Leader. While there are far too many spiritual applications to be in just one article, here are three great ones. 

  1. There is no one more patient than the Lord. It’s easy to cringe when the Israelites complain or rebel time and again but God showed them more patience than any of us are capable of. 
  2. God always keeps a promise. It may have taken them 40 years to reach Canaan, but He kept His promise. We’re on a wild ride right now as a country, but God is predictable when it comes to keeping His Word. You can make a no-risk bet that heaven is coming and it’s better than what you imagine it to be. 
  3. God is always glorified in the end. When you look at Numbers and the big picture, God is the hero. He’s rejected and tossed aside by the people on several occasions, but just like at the end of this age— He gets all the glory. 
Korah’s Rebellion 

Korah’s Rebellion 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

IMG_1381

Dale Pollard

For the next few weeks we will look at some of the lesser known Biblical accounts, and the lessons we can learn from them. 

In Numbers sixteen there is a strange and terrifying event that unfolds. It has all the ingredients of a great movie. There’s rebellion, jealousy, vengeance, and drama but it’s so much more than a story. It’s history, and it’s been divinely recorded for our learning.

Korah seems to be the individual that starts a rebellion against God’s chosen leader, Moses. He hops up on his high horse and rallies together two hundred and fifty other leaders among the people. This group, no doubt, gave him the confidence to directly confront Moses face to face. He says, “You’ve overstepped yourself, Moses! Take a look around at the people you’re trying to lead. They are just as righteous as you, and God is in their midst!” Moses falls on his face, then says, “Tomorrow, God will make His stand with who He chooses.”

When morning comes, Korah and his fellow rebels bring incense to the Tent of Meeting to offer up to God. In the meantime, an intense conversation between God and Moses takes place. God, filled with righteous anger, is about to demolish every one of them in their tents, but Moses pleads with God to give them a chance. So, a warning is given to the people, “stay away from the tents of these evil men!” No sooner had the warning been given, the earth opens up and Korah and all those belonging to him are swallowed up by the earth. Fear spreads among the people as they were afraid for their lives, and who could blame them? God then strikes down the two hundred and fifty leaders with fire— the worship offerings still in their hands. What an account! Of course there are several applicable lessons for us, but here are just three.

Mind your Maker.

God chose for His people who He wanted to be in the leadership positions. When Korah felt that he knew better, the consequences were fatal. May we never fall victim to the mindset that tells us that we know better than God. Our Lord wants us to live a certain way, and worship a certain way. When we make changes to His divine commands, just like Korah, we have overstepped our bounds.

Mind your mingling.

How did so many band together with Korah? They were all mingling in the wrong crowd. Every one of those men made a choice. They chose to grumble and complain together, then they died together. It doesn’t matter how many people think the same way we do if that thinking isn’t Patterned after God’s thinking.

Mind your motives.

What drove these men to take such a stance? They were motivated by pride, discontentment, anger, greed, and self-righteousness. All of these attitudes are toxic for the church today, and all of them still lead to destruction.

While this account is a humbling reminder of God’s reaction to disobedience, there’s more to the story. Although Korah was out of line, his descendants would prove to be more upright (Numbers 26:11). They even go on to write some of the Psalms in the years to come, including Psalm 42. Your upbringing and roots do not have to dictate your eternity. Like Korah, we all have a choice. My prayer is that as these historical events are read we learn from them and press forward, more determined to be faithful children to a perfect Father.

“As the dear thirsts for water, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” 

Psalm 42:1-2

40455086_10155783567500922_7374175323555889152_n

How Do We Avoid Going Into The Wilderness?

How Do We Avoid Going Into The Wilderness?

Neal Pollard

I thought about this question as I meditated today on the state of the church in our nation.  Composed of so many dedicated, wonderful people, the church as a whole, nonetheless, is tempted to drift from biblical moorings. It is anecdotal to observe seismic philosophical shifts in the leadership and direction of various congregations, pulled for one reason or another from the place and being the people God wants it to be.  The whole wilderness analogy is drawn from the events in the book of Numbers, a wandering that went for forty years in the wake of a 40-day scouting trip.  It might have been different for Israel, and it can be different for us.  Return with me for a moment to that fateful event that would forever shape their nation.

  • It begins with leadership (Num. 13:25ff).  The spies chosen were “leaders” among the 12 tribes (13:2).  Obviously, they had sway with the people (14:1).  Because of their negative influence, the people went the wrong direction–into the wilderness and ultimately to their deaths.
  • It involves faith-driven obedience (Num. 13:30). Caleb understood this and argued for the people to proceed on that basis.  Yet, their reaction was the opposite of obedience.  Moses, Aaron, and Joshua warned them, “Only do not rebel (emph. mine) against the Lord…” (Num. 14:8).  That very rebellion, called “iniquity” by Moses in his prayer to God (Num. 14:19), cost them the promised land (Num. 13:23ff).  Instead, they earned a trip into the wilderness. Why? Hard-hearted disobedience and unbelief (Heb. 3:15, 18-19).
  • It includes courage (Num. 13:25-33).  The majority of the spies lacked the courage to act and obey.  They were content to go back to Egypt (Num. 14:2ff). They would rather face bondage alone than Canaan with God.  So, their cowardice was not only wrong but misplaced. They were afraid of the wrong things and the wrong ones. This fear led them into the wilderness (cf. Num. 14:9).

We live in daunting times, yet in them God still has given us a job to do.  If we do not do it or if we fail to do it the way He has commanded, we will wind up, like Israel, in the wilderness!  God give us the leadership, faith-filled obedience, and courage to follow Christ and thereby miss the wilderness.