How to overcome temptation

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Immediately after Jesus’ baptism by John, Scripture says he was lead up into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After forty days of no food, he was hungry. So that was the point of weakness the devil began his temptations with. “Hungry, huh? You’re God…do something about it! Get yourself some bread!” He knew very well that Jesus was the Son of God. But Jesus answered:

“It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'”

Matthew 4:4

It’s interesting to note Jesus’ response. He did not identify himself (rightly) as God, but as Man—he had laid aside his rights as God. He shows by his answer that he is in submission and obedience to the Father, walking by the Word of God in everything. I think it’s a significant clue to his ministry, but more, the mandate of how we’re to walk ‘in Christ.’

So then the devil takes his cue from that response and throws the Word right back to Jesus. The Lord’s reply? The Word again, but this time, he identifies himself as Adonai:

“Again it is written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'”   4:7

The devil’s last temptation then is a response, a challenge if you will. “So You’re God? I’ll make a bargain with You…” He offers things that aren’t his to give (“The Most High rules in the kingdom of men”  Daniel 4:17). Again, Jesus wields the Sword with authority:

 “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”   4:10

Later, in Luke 10:19, Jesus gives his followers authority over all the power of the enemy.  His experience in the wilderness shows us how to do that—with the Word. After his resurrection, he tells the disciples in his Kingdom commission, “All authority has been given to me…go therefore.” (Matthew 28:18, 19)

So for us, the example is clear. Wield the “it is written” with confidence and authority against the stratagems of the enemy, for it is the Father’s gift to us to live as overcomers.

Jesus, our Light – Day 12

Day 12

Heaven’s Light

The call to “walk in the light as He is in the light” (I John 1:7) is the invitation God has spoken to mankind since the beginning when He said “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). It was never His plan to leave us in the devastation and darkness that sin caused. The good news of Christmas!

The Lord is building a kingdom of Light-transformed people who love Him and will spend eternity with Him, enjoying Him and everything they were created for. That little baby in Bethlehem was the Father’s promise of perfect and restored life for us.

And the best is yet to come! Listen to what Isaiah prophesied centuries before Christ came:

“The sun shall no longer be your light by day,

nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you;

But the Lord will be to you an everlasting light,

and your God your glory.”

~ Isaiah 60:19

He was not only referring to Jesus being the Light of redemption, but also the Light of heaven. Just as we see God commanding light to shine at the beginning of the Bible, at the end we see him declaring what our eternal home will be like after the end-times events. The apostle John, in the book of Revelation, describes the new, heavenly Jerusalem:

“The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it,

for the glory of God illuminated it.

The Lamb is its light.

And the nations of those who are saved

shall walk in its light

There shall be no night there:

they need no lamp nor light of the sun,

for the Lord God gives them light.

And they shall reign forever and ever.”

~ Revelation 21:23-24, 22:5

Hallelujah!

Thank You, Jesus, for being willing to come and be our Light, for being our “promised mercy” when we could not help ourselves. We can never thank You enough or praise You enough! Help us to welcome Your Light today as freely as You have given it.

Merry Christmas!

Jesus, our Light – Day 11

Day 11

Let your light so shine

One of the hardest things for our human nature is to let the Light shine in our darkness. Those deep inner places we don’t want God to mess with. Weakness, fear, bondage, things we loathe and things we like and don’t want to give up. Yet to enjoy all the promised goodness and freedom of God’s love, we have let it be on His terms.

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.

Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in

all goodness, righteousness, and truth)…

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness,

but rather expose them…

But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light,

for whatever makes manifest is light.

Therefore He says: ‘Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead,

and Christ will give you light.'”

~ Ephesians 5:8-14

The great gift of the Incarnation is that in accepting Christ’s light, we are changed! Daily set free from the damaging works of darkness. There’s nothing in the way now between us and God–unless we want it that way.

My prayer today is that we all will have a fresh revelation this Christmas of the incredible work He came to do for us. We are Light-bearers in this very dark world, and every word or deed is an opportunity to dispel darkness.

“You are the light of the world.

A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden,

nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand,

and it gives light to all who are in the house.

Let your light so shine before men,

that they may see your good works

and glorify your Father in Heaven.”

~ Matthew 5:14-16

Let the Light shine!

Jesus, our Light – Day 10

Day 10

Marvelous light!

Paul the apostle had a startling encounter one day with the Light. In prison for preaching the gospel, he recounts the amazing story to the king, hoping to persuade him to see his need for Jesus.

On his way to arrest Jewish Christians in Damascus for heresy, Paul reports, “At midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me” (Acts 26:13). He falls to the ground, blinded, and hears Jesus Himself speaking to him, charging him with the mission to preach salvation to the Gentiles:

“…to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light,

and from the power of Satan to God,

that they may receive forgiveness of sins and

an inheritance among those who are

sanctified by faith in Me.”

~ Acts 26:18

Here’s that wonderful symbolism again–Paul, who thought he knew the light (righteous in his own self-righteousness)–is plunged into blinding darkness that he might have his spiritual eyes opened to the Truth. He receives his sight back three days later–a changed man, with God’s Light in his heart, the revelation that Jesus died to give him God’s own righteousness.

How fantastic that God seeks to reveal Himself to us personally, wanting so much for us to ‘see’ His heart, His invitation, the complete deliverance from darkness that He’s provided through Jesus. I love these words in I Peter 2:9-10:

“But you are a chosen generation,

a royal priesthood, a holy nation,

His own special people,

that you may proclaim the praises of Him

who called you out of darkness

into His marvelous light;

who once were not a people

but are now a people of God,

who had not obtained mercy

but now have obtained mercy.”

Marvelous light.  What an invitation!

Jesus, our Light – Day 9

Day 9In just a couple of days, a Jewish festival will be celebrated called Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights. This story is from the extra-Biblical Book of Maccabees in the Apocrypha. Though an entirely Jewish holiday, we see some wonderful symbolism in it that speaks of Jesus, our Light.

In the years before 165 B.C., the Jewish nation had been under the rule of the Greeks. A pagan king named Antiochus Ephiphanes had defiled the Temple and forced the Jews to abandon their faith. But a brave group of young men under the leadership of Judah Maccabee revolted and successfully overthrew the pagan rule. Judah headed up the work of cleansing the Temple and rededicating it in 165 B.C.

But when they restored the temple service, they found they only had enough holy oil to burn for one day, the rest of it having been defiled by the Greek invaders. This oil was a symbol of the eternal Presence of God, the Light of the World, and had been commanded by Him to never go out (Exodus 27:20-21). It would take a week to prepare and consecrate more oil. By faith they went ahead and lit the flame, and God miraculously kept it burning for eight days until more oil was prepared. Thus, the miracle of Hanukkah, which the Jews have celebrated ever since.  It’s interesting to note that Jesus Himself was present in the Temple on this day; the account is found in John 10:22-23.

The beautiful picture above is the menorah, the lampstand in the Tabernacle where the holy oil was burned. It was made of pure gold and was the only light in the holy place. What a picture of the promised Messiah!  Matthew speaks of Jesus as that fulfillment, referring to the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14:

“‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son,

and they shall call His name Immanuel’, which is translated,

‘God with us’.”

~ Matthew 1:23

Hear Jesus’ words again about Himself:

“Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you;

he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going.

While you have the light, believe in the light,

that you may become sons of light

I have come as a light into the world,

that whoever believes in Me

should not abide in darkness.”

~ John 12:35-36, 46

Jesus is the Light of the World!

Jesus, our Light – Day 8

Day 8

Open our eyes, Lord

We have seen what the prophets said about the Light that was to come, and we’ve seen what Jesus’ followers had to say. Later, Jesus Himself boldly declared that He was the Light. He not only revealed what darkness looked like in the human heart, but showed the power of His Light to transform it.

In the familiar story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8), we see Jesus’ forgiveness and mercy to a sinner. This was played out against the iron-clad, law-enforcing Pharisees who would stone her on the spot. But after Jesus granted her forgiveness, He turned and spoke to the Pharisees:

“I am the light of the world.

He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness,

but have the light of life.”

~ John 8:12

An interesting wrap-up to that drama. Implication? Their merciless self-righteousness actually came from darkness. Jesus was showing the heart of the Father–His deep desire to bring His loved ones back to Life. Mercy, grace, second chances. The path back is Jesus.

He says it again in John chapter 9, where we see Him healing a man born blind–another beautiful picture of God’s illumination of human darkness and misery. This poor man had literally only ever known ‘darkness’ and was gloriously healed. Jesus explains to His disciples:

“I must work the works of Him who sent me …

As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

(John 9:5)

One small detail, though–Jesus had healed on the Sabbath.  An unforgivable offense in the eyes of the Pharisees. Instead of glorifying God for His mercy to the blind man, they created a furor and tried to trick the healed man into condemning Jesus. Their unbelief and hard hearts made them blind to God’s mercy, the “peace, goodwill toward men” sung by the angels the night Jesus was born.

The Father’s mercy to us is Jesus. Thank You for opening our eyes, dear Lord, and for setting us free to walk in Your Light!

Jesus, our Light – Day 7

Day 7

The perfect Christmas present

I remember as a child pondering once on the curious circumstance of ‘waking up’ born into the world, not having had any say about when or where I would live, which family I would belong to, etc. It struck me how unbelievably fortunate we were to have discovered that our Maker was benevolent, that the universe ran by His love, that we didn’t find ourselves the victims of some cruel experiment of a malevolent god.

Then, when I discovered that this terrible thing called ‘the fall’ and sin had happened to us, and that the good God had already taken care of it by the time I arrived on the scene through Jesus–well, I knew I wanted to belong to Him. If it took that kind of a price to fix me and the world, I could never honor Him enough, thank Him enough. By His grace, He revealed Himself to me and gave me new life in Christ.

The apostle John seems eager to communicate to his readers in his New Testament writings this whole idea of Jesus=Light=Life. In his gospel, he starts right out in the first chapter:

“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men,

and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it…

This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light,

that all through him might believe.”

~ John 1:4-5, 7

Again, in his first letter, he starts right out:

“This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you,

that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.”

~ I John 1:5

“Darkness” here in the Greek is the word scotia, which means gloom, evil, sin, night, moral depravity.  It also has the implication of everything that came to us from the fall of man–enmity with God, our sinful nature, and every kind of demonic work in mankind.  All the trouble in our lives is some manifestation of the curse of darkness at work in the world.

But…

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,

and comes down from the Father of lights,

with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

~ James 1:17

That Christmas baby was the Father’s good and perfect gift to us. Deliverance out of darkness, perfect Light, and eternal Life.

Thank You, Father!  Thank You, Jesus!

Jesus, our Light – Day 6

Day 6

He rewards the seeking heart

Within days of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, his parents Joseph and Mary obeyed what all Jewish parents of firstborn sons were to do:  present him to the Lord in dedication at the Temple a few weeks after his circumcision.

Meanwhile, God was watching the heart of a certain elderly man in Jerusalem–nobody particularly special–whom the Bible says was “just and devout.” This man Simeon was not only a passionate seeker of God, but he was waiting for the “Consolation of Israel,” a beautiful phrase describing the Messiah.

Now, I find it surprising that the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders were not on high alert at this time. It is not hard to calculate by the prophecy of the coming Messiah in Daniel 9:25-26 that the Messiah was going to appear any minute. (That’s a great Bible study right there.)

So I wonder if maybe Simeon had figured this out, had maybe been asking God about it, pouring out the longing of his heart to see God’s promise come to pass. Luke 2:26 tells us that the Holy Spirit gave him a very personal revelation–he would get to actually see the Christ before he died. Then he was directed to go to the Temple.

What a scene! There he was at the Temple, waiting, and here came Joseph and Mary to dedicate their new little son. Simeon sees the baby and knows–this is the One! Like Zacharias in his story, Simeon bursts into prophetic praise:

“Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,

according to Your word;

for my eyes have seen Your salvation

which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,

A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,

and the glory of Your people Israel.” 

~ Luke 2:29-32

What I love about Simeon’s words is the direct promise that God’s salvation would not only be for Israel but for the Gentiles–just what God had promised Abraham at the beginning. He’s never left us out. His light is for everyone!

God, may my heart ever be like Simeon’s, seeking You expectantly every day.

Jesus, our Light – Day 5

Day 5

The grand exchange

The Christmas story is filled with the imagery of both light and darkness. The angels of glory sang in the night sky, while Herod sent his soldiers to try and kill the baby Jesus. The age-old battle between good and evil, love and hate, light and darkness, was why God promised to send a Redeemer.

“And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you.

For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,

and deep darkness the people;

But the LORD will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you.

The Gentiles shall come to your light,

and kings to the brightness of your rising.”

~ Isaiah 60:1-3

We see here the sharp contrast between darkness and light. Doesn’t it perfectly describe what we see everywhere? Darkness, ‘deep darkness,’ blinding and imprisoning people. Darkness makes us hopeless, helpless, and desperate. But light illuminates, helps us see clearly. Light drives away darkness.

In coming as a man, Jesus subjected himself to our ‘deep darkness,’ so that now he can restore the privilege of Kingdom living to each of us. We are set free from the devastating effects of our darkness, and in the exchange, we receive his light and forever-glory.

“…and giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to shar1in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

~ Colossians 1:12-13

How unbelievably blessed we are! Today may you experience in a new way the effect of His glorious light in every area of your life. And if you find yourself in ‘deep darkness,’ cry out to Him. He came for you.

Jesus, our Light – Day 4

Day 4

Everything we need

I wonder if Joseph and Mary had any idea as they gazed on their little newborn boy that night just what had really happened. They couldn’t have fully understood the scope of the new era that had just begun for mankind. The curtains had been pulled back on God’s eternal plan, and now his salvation was revealed for the whole world for all to see.

Could they have imagined that the prophecy Isaiah gave hundreds of years ago was being fulfilled tonight?

“… By way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, in Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined … For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder, and His name will be called

Wonderful,

Counselor,

Mighty God,

Everlasting Father,

Prince of Peace. 

Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end…”

~ Isaiah 9:2, 6-7

These words are found in one of the very moving passages in Handel’s “Messiah” we hear at Christmas. Just ponder for a moment each of these names Jesus bears. He is the world’s Messiah and Savior…Son of God and Son of Man…God Himself as part of the Trinity…the reigning King for all eternity…and bringer of Peace and perfect leadership for “us”–the ones He came for.

This is what we celebrate!

In these troubled times, I often find myself praying the words of this passage. I need the Lord Jesus as my Peace. I need him as my perfect Wisdom. I need him to govern my life and the world around me. I need him to carry the daily burdens of my life for me. I need him to be the Light on my path.  

“Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end…”!

I can’t say what comfort that brings to my heart and I hope in yours. He is on the increase! His kingdom will prevail—in this world He loves.