The Essence, Measure, and Coup de Grace of Temptation, Part 2

Jesus couldn’t be tempted to hurt a flea but the truth is, temptation to do something good in your own steam is every bit as dangerous as temptation to do something bad — even more so because the danger is so subtle!

Temptation wears many faces but the essence of every temptation is the same: to trust, favor, rely on Self more than God. That this is true even when Self is pure — so long as there is evil to cope with — is a realization that is well over-due.

Self, all His pure and innocent desires to help people, was what Jesus asked God to bury in the Jordan River. (Matthew 3:13-17) It was essential for all to see this is THE way righteousness is fulfilled. Is it possible that the purer the heart’s desire the harder it is to deny — the stronger the temptation?

Jesus didn’t have to know what it is like to crave caffeine or cocaine, retaliation or revenge, ill-gotten gain or illicit sex to know how hard it is to deny Self in favor of God’s timing and way.

To trust good intentions more than God’s providence is a strong temptation for anyone — even Jesus. To trust God’s providence more than His impulse to intervene when a soldier struck a woman; to trust God’s love more than His own when a grandad suffered on and on and on without relief; to trust God was paying attention every time His mother’s reputation was dragged through the mud; to trust God in spite of all feelings and appearances and even logic was His victory over temptation.

He didn’t work up this trust. He didn’t contrive it with grit and backbone. He got it as a gift of Grace as “every man” does. (Luke 2:40; Romans 12:3) He retained it by intimate communion with His Father in deep contemplation of scripture and creation every day. He learned it in the school of experience coping with everything from the mundane to the excruciating. “Jesus was God’s Son. But by suffering He learned what it means to obey.” Hebrews 5:8, NIRV

Bearing and overcoming temptation from the manger to the tomb was the cornerstone of His process for seeking, restoring, and reclaiming all He lost in Eden. Living and dying as the victorious Lamb of God earned Him the right to become Advocate and Judge for humanity. Living and dying victoriously as human earned Jesus the right to reclaim dominion of Earth for humanity.

The victorious life and death of Jesus exposed the Tempter’s lies about God’s justice and mercy. But after the cross the enemy came up with a new lie. He peddled the idea that Jesus’ victory made obedience to God’s law unnecessary for the rest of us. He even went so far as to convince many that Jesus gave church councils and governments authority to alter God’s law.

Jesus understood from the first that the dullness of humanity, of even His church, would make rebuilding trust in divinity slow and difficult. But He has been willing to persevere in cultivating His priceless crop of faith for as long as it takes. “But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4:29

What distinguishes the ripened wheat from all previous stages of church development is unfailing obedience of God’s perfect law by the love and faith of Jesus. The same love and trust in His Father that sustained Jesus converts and transforms sinners.

A gospel message borne by four mighty angels is certain to ripen the fruit of the Spirit in spite of all the Tempter can do. (Revelation 14; 18) It proclaims Christ ever lives to provide grace so that we too may consistently, constantly, unreservedly rely on the Power from above rather than the power from within! It’s a call to come out of the belief that God’s law can be changed to fit popular conventions but it’s impossible for sinful characters to be entirely transformed and fit for heaven. In a loud voice it cries, “Stop relying on penance and performance by back-bone!”

Through the centuries many heard the everlasting gospel but it has yet to be fully grasped by a critical mass. The seeds were planted and cultivated in Old Testament times but the crop wasn’t ready for harvest. It didn’t ripen in New Testament times or Reformation times or Millerite times. But God’s investment in humanity is destined to yield bountiful returns! His blood, sweat, and tears cannot fail to produce full, fat, golden heads of grain!

His ripening message is about to illuminate the whole world with His glory! Soon after expect word to come that the character of every person alive has been fully developed — wholly good or evil! Now it’s time for the sickle! (Revelation 14:14-20; 22:11-12)

What joy it will be for Jesus to present the universe with the fruit of faith ripened through the power of His unfailing, persevering, transforming love! (Revelation 7)

What grief it will be for Him to step aside and let those who want to do it their way have their way without divine intervention.

The contrast between the fruit of lies and the fruit of faith will be universally undeniable. The ultimate reality check before the Great White Throne brings even the old Tempter to his knees. He rises to find his lies just don’t get traction with even his demonic cohorts anymore. (Isaiah 45:22-24; Romans 14:11)

This is when Jesus executes the final phase of salvation. The first phase delivered relief from the penalty of sin. The next phase delivers relief from the power of the world, the flesh, and the devil for every trusting soul. This final phase will finally deliver eternal and universal relief from even the presence of evil.

Is there any better news to eagerly read about or listen for? Is there any more important news to pass along with a passion?  Is this not reason enough to proclaim Jesus is above all?

The Essence, Measure, and Coup de Grace of Temptation, Part 1

What kind of man would slap Jesus in the face?

He was an apparently sophisticated officer in the court of Annas, the high priest, but angels from the courts of heaven knew he was a thug, an enforcer for senior officials desperate to bring Jesus down.

Jesus knew, too.

Jesus knew this man had just incited the rude and crude to give full rein to heady feelings of power as though He were totally defenseless.

Who can imagine the magnitude of the wave of temptation that must have swept over “The Mighty God” in that fraction of a second? Isaiah 9:6

This was not the first time every fiber of His being had been tempted to put an insulting, humiliating sneer in its place — not in defiance but in justice. At the very least He must have ached countless times to just get out of there and go home to heaven. His life was bombarded by inescapable temptations from all directions.

No one suspected the magnitude or the subtlety of His temptations for no one else had a clue about the omnipotence He had temporarily shelved but was still fully accessible should He choose to pick it up again.

Plenty of His temptations were overheard but none were recognized to be as insidious as they really were.

“Sure Your mother saw an angel! That’s a good one! You know what people say about liars and fallen women.”

“Can’t You see this kid is a bully? Don’t You see how he runs over the other kids? Don’t just stand there! Do something! Some Messiah You’d make!”

“You don’t look like much to me. The Messiah wouldn’t be walking around this God-forsaken town in sweaty homespun every day.”

For thirty years His heart was torn in two by countless injustices, tears, and grief in just His own family and neighborhood. No one coming into His shop or sitting by Him in the synagogue every Sabbath looked to Him as a their Savior or Deliverer or Healer — their Messiah. But oh how He longed to be. Putting His arm around sagging shoulders, giving His lunch to a hungry kid, bringing water to fellow workers in the heat of summer, cradling a child screaming in pain… it all seemed so pale and small. The sum of all the good He tried to do fell far short of all He yearned for!

Then there were Mary’s eyes ever hoping and trusting yet sometimes also questioning: “When?” “How?” “Now?”

Day in and day out, year in and year out Temptation relentlessly dogged His heels. The Tempter made sure of that. But the Tempter found out some of his stock temptations were no temptation at all for Jesus. If it was unfair, impure, unkind, cruel, dishonest, pretentious, cocky, selfish it was repulsive to Jesus. It had absolutely no appeal for Him.

Jesus found evil so obnoxious that His greatest, almost overwhelming, temptation was to decline becoming sin itself. The dread was so horrific He sweat blood when the time came. What made it worse was knowing Father would show Him no mercy. There would be no reprieve. There would not even be one person who would begin to appreciate what He was going through. His very best friends would be offended that He would succumb to being treated like a criminal and in the process put Himself — and them — in mortal danger. He would be very much alone. The enormity of this particular temptation is incomparable.

You don’t have to be sinful to be severely tempted. Temptation is not confined to Earth. Heaven is not exempt. Ask Gabriel what he wanted to do when Jesus was slapped across the face. Spit on. Stripped and abused.

It’s a no-brainer that so long as we have sinful natures, we will be tempted. It is just as true that even when the impurity and pride of the world loses its appeal temptation doesn’t go away — not right away. As long as there is evil to endure the Tempter will be sure of that.

May the wonder of what Jesus endured and overcame by dependence upon the Power above Him stir us to admire and praise Him above all!

Eyewitnesses to Glory

Moses ranks right up there with the greats in the religious “Hall of Fame!”

He had a lot of experiences though that I don’t envy.  He saw firsthand the ugliness of treacherous arrogance and heart-wrenching slavery.  He had to deal with a steady stream of malcontents and even periodic riots.  His trials were really too numerous to count but perhaps the hardest to take was the sting of disapproval and even rejection in his personal life.  I want none of that.

However Moses experienced something I do want — very much.  I want Jesus to let me see His glory.

For Moses it happened when He was alone with God. It happened after Moses asked. It happened on God’s terms — for Moses’ sake.¹

Moses’ opportunity was rare in one way but in another way it’s always available, I think.  Jesus says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”  Revelation 3:20, NIV

Since Jesus says He’s waiting for the chance to be alone with anyone who opens the door for that, will He not show them as much of His glory as they want to see, take time to see, and can bear to see in that moment of their life?

How powerfully can His glory — His abounding goodness — pass before someone who contemplates His interactions with Moses or Hagar or Mary Magdalene?  Can becoming an eyewitness to His glory through His word sharpen our vision for recognizing His goodness in our daily routine?  Can contemplation of His unmatchable works — like baby feet — make our faces shine in everyday life?  Does taking time alone with Him decidedly enlarge our capacity for deeper revelations of His glory and greater usefulness? ²

That day, alone with Jesus as a personal friend, even Moses couldn’t bear to literally see His face.  This makes me wonder what could possibly prepare any of us, much less a whole bunch of us, for that breathtaking moment when every eye sees Him return in all His glory?

What ripens the wheat for the sickle?  What makes the bride ready for her wedding?  How do those of us watching for Jesus to physically reappear turn the corner from unready to ready? ³

These are some of the questions it’s time to take seriously.  I truly want to be ready to see Him in the fullness of His glory — and live face to face with Him forever!  I know I’m not the only one!  I want to link arms with all who share this heartfelt quest!

Sombrero constellation
Sombrero Galaxy                 The heavens reveal the goodness of God!   Psalm 19:1

¹ Exodus 33:11, 18-23; 34:1-8

² John 1:14; 3:3; 1 Corinthians 2:11-16

³ Revelation 1:7; 14:14-16; 19:7; Ephesians 5:27

Count Me In

Michelangelo created breathtaking frescos and sculptures of Jesus.

Handel composed oratorios about Jesus that were fit for a king.

Livingston dedicated his considerable talents as a doctor and scientist to explore African jungles as a missionary searching out people who had never heard of Jesus. *

This short list of greats, who found Jesus greater, is offered to give a little idea of what the rest of us who love Him wish we could do for Him!

We are grateful to these greats, and many more, who honor Him much more than most of us ever can.  We’re grateful for everyone — the great and not-so-great — who honor Him in any way!  Oh, how we yearn to also honor Him as much as possible.

No one knows how many of us there are who empathize with Christian Rossetti’s simple but profound yearning:

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.

That’s it.  We may not have much but we want to make sure the little we have is not withheld from Him!  He deserves our all whether our all is impressive or not!  Jesus Above All is just one way for any of us to say “Count me in!”

We direct Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s familiar words to Jesus saying —

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach….

That’s what Jesus Above All is all about.

People who love Jesus actively look for every way possible to sing His praises and express love that goes beyond our words! May many find Jesus Above All Jubilee on Facebook a good opportunity to celebrate Him and get to know Him better — so we can praise Him even more!

Yes!  Count me in!

*Sculpture of Livingston being mauled by an African lion he had shot but only wounded. He lived to tell the tale by the way.