Temptation

Then the Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by Satan (44).

After spending forty days & nights fasting from food & praying to God, Jesus was hungry.

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Satan said to him, “If you are God’s Son, use your divine power to turn these stones into bread.” Jesus answered: “Remember that the inspired scriptures say, ‘Man cannot live on bread alone.  Real life is found in every word that God speaks.‘”

Then Satan took him up and showed him a vision of all the kingdoms of the world.

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“I promise to make you ruler over all these kingdoms, with all their power & wealth, if you worship me.” Jesus answered: “‘Worship & serve God alone,‘ is what God commands us in the inspired scriptures, as you know very well. ”

Finally, Satan took Jesus to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the great temple there.

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“If you are God’s Son,” Satan said to Jesus, “jump off this temple. After all, the inspired scriptures say, ‘God will order his angels to take good care of you.’  And the scriptures say, ‘They will hold you up with their hands so that not even your feet will be hurt on the stones.'”

Jesus replied, “You know that the inspired scriptures say, ‘Never try to test God.‘”

Then Satan backed off & left Jesus until a later time.

Strengthening God, please help me to love finding strength in Your inspired scriptures.

(44) Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-13

The Beginning And The End

In the beginning, the inspired scriptures tell us, God created everything, from nothing (2).  In the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, our first parents, Adam & Eve, knew only good.

But when they took a bite of the apple, in disobedience to God, they also began to know evil.  As part of their punishment for disobedience, God said they would experience many trials in their lives & would be opposed constantly by Satan.   Because Satan had influenced this turn of events, God said he, too, would experience consequences — ultimately to include being crushed by a descendant of Adam & Eve, whom we know as Jesus.

Centuries later, about 65 years after Jesus left the earth to return to heaven, a close friend of his was inspired by the Holy Spirit to see that the end of time will be much like the beginning of time (3).  That is, many of the perfections of the Garden of Eden, described at the beginning of the inspired Jewish scriptures, will be restored & taken to new heights in the new heaven & the new earth, described at the end of the inspired Christian scriptures.

The inspired Jewish scriptures provide the background for understanding God’s plan to rescue humanity from the self-inflicted wounds of sin.  The story of God’s chosen people — from the first book of Genesis to the last book of Malachi — leads ultimately to Jesus.

Sovereign God, please help me to love finding Jesus.

(2) Genesis 1-3

(3) Revelation 21-22

The End Of Time

Finally, John the Witness is shown the end of the world in a rapid-fire sequence of scenes (346).

  • Jesus returns to the earth with his church and wins an instant & total victory over the forces of evil.
  • Satan is bound for a thousand years, during which time Jesus restores & rules the earth.
  • Satan is then unbound briefly. His inevitable attack against Jesus results in his inevitable defeat; Satan’s forces are totally crushed & he is consigned permanently to hell.
  • All people are judged by God. Those who submitted to Jesus are taken to heaven; those who rejected Jesus are also consigned permanently to hell.

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The revelation concludes with encouraging images of God’s heavenly glory.  In Genesis, the first book of the inspired Jewish scriptures, we get a glimpse of God’s created children living with him in an earthly paradise.  At the end of Revelation, we get similar glimpses of God’s faithful children, living with him in a heavenly paradise, beyond the ravages of time.

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At the conclusion of the revelation, John is given several important commands by Jesus:

  • We are to worship God, not men. (Nothing good comes from worshiping men, as the prior revelations have made clear.)
  • God’s people are to rely on God’s Holy Spirit to serve Jesus; that service involves showing & telling other people what Jesus does for us and what Jesus expects us to do for him.
  • We are exhorted to trust the inspired scriptures for understanding the end to come — not adding to them or taking away from them. (The Bible may not contain everything there is to know about God, but those things it does contain are things we need to know about God.)
  • In this regard, we are encouraged to expect that Jesus may come back at any time, to begin the end described in these revelations. As Jesus taught his chosen witnesses, it’s absolutely important always to be ready for his return.

God, please help me to love Showing & Telling people about You.

(346) Revelation 19-22

Trouble On Earth

Continuing the record of his revelation from Jesus, John the Witness writes that he was taken up into heaven, where he was given a glimpse of God’s heavenly glory.  But John was also given an extended series of insights concerning a future time of devastating tribulation, which will be experienced throughout the entire world (345).

  • These revelations echo what Jesus had told his closest followers just before his execution. But they also elaborate our understanding of the trials which new believers will face, after the faithful church has been removed from the earth.  (Among these new believers will be many who previously had been Christian in name only & many who previously had rejected Jesus altogether.)
  • These revelations also emphasize a constant theme: For believers on the earth during this devastating time, the only way out of the tribulation will be to go through it, trusting God for deliverance from pervasive persecution & suffering.

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Elements of this intensive tribulation, as revealed to John, include slavery, war, poverty, plagues, martyrdom & natural disasters – all on a vastly larger scale than ever before experienced on the earth.

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John is also shown that Satan will continue to attack God’s chosen people, Israel, and that Satan will keep up constant attacks on new believers in Jesus.  Graphic symbolic language — drawn from several parts of the inspired Jewish scriptures — is used throughout this section of John’s record of the revelation.  People will be inflicted with loathsome sores, the seas & rivers will be turned to blood, men will be scorched with fire, people will experience widespread darkness & widespread pain, and the earth will be utterly shaken to its foundations.

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Babylon is used as an image of institutions of worldly wealth – more concerned with serving themselves than with serving God.  The eventual & total destruction of such institutions is revealed to John; the world will be shocked, he is told.

Despite all this, John is also told that many Jews & Gentiles still will refuse to repent & submit to Jesus, so great & powerful will be their addiction to their selfish sins.

God, please help me to love depending on You for perseverance.

(345) Revelation 4-18

John’s General Letter To Christian Friends

John opens his first letter (340) by saying that Jesus has left us with a choice.  Either we can continue to live in the darkness of the world, or we can live in the light of fellowship with Jesus.  When we insist that we are sinless, we remain in darkness.  When we admit our sinfulness, we come into in the light.

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Living in the light of Jesus is evidenced by what we actually do, not just by what we say.  If we say we love God while we hate other people, our claim of loving God is a lie.

Hatred for other people typically arises from our ungodly love for the things of this world.  But this world is temporary, John says, while life after physical death is permanent.  As to where that permanent life will be lived, John echoes Jesus by insisting that love for the world leads to hell, while love for God leads to heaven.

When we live this earthly life in constant fellowship with Jesus, the upside is that we are no longer obligated to sin; we can actually live without sinning!  But the downside is that our sinless lives will attract the hatred of the world around us.  In this context, John again insists that sinless living necessarily involves loving other people, as Jesus has commanded.

John then warns about the importance of distinguishing the spirits of the world from the Spirit of God.  We know that people have the Spirit of God when they confess that Jesus is the Christ promised by God, and when they freely love other people.

Since God has loved us so much in sending his son Jesus to die for our sins, certainly we should love other people in the same unselfish way.

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The love of God in our hearts – inspired by our faith in Jesus & evidenced by our love for other people — is powerful.

  • Love overcomes all our fear of the hatred of this wicked world, which is ruled by Satan.
  • As we love God & are ruled by him in this world, we are preserved by God forever.

God, please help me to love people as You love me.

(340) 1 John 1-5

Suffering In The Spirit

Continuing his first letter to Christian friends (328), Peter emphasizes the blessing of sharing in the sufferings of Christ.  We should thank God when we get to suffer for following Jesus.

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Enduring such suffering joyfully can be the most powerful witness for Jesus.

In church life, leaders are to model humble submission to God, rather than becoming spiritual dictators.  The humility of Christ is wanted for all members of any faith fellowship, especially its leaders.

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This is important because we have an enemy, who will use any device to destroy Christian fellowship.  Satan wants to devour us spiritually, as a roaring lion physically devours its prey.

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Remaining humble before God is our best defense against Satan.

At about this same time, Luke wrote his record of the acts of the Holy Spirit through the witnesses for Jesus, and the miraculous spread of the Christian faith from the Middle East into southwestern Asia & southern Europe.  His narrative began with Jesus’ return to heaven, and covered a period of about 30 years – up to the time of Paul’s imprisonment in Rome.

The book of Acts shows us how Jesus worked through his church then, and how he desires to work through his church now.  It is paraphrased in previous posts on this blog, and harmonized chronologically with letters from early Christian leaders.

God, please help me to love the joy of suffering with You.

(328) 1 Peter 4-5

Paul Reminds Ephesian Friends of God’s Expectations

Paul then turns to how God expects his chosen people (his adopted children) to respond to his many blessings (319).

As to how we can cooperate with the Holy Spirit, Paul offers a couple of ideas.

  1. We have to start thinking of ourselves as one body, instead of as a bunch of unrelated people. God always gives us opportunity to get over ourselves.
  2. We have to let the Holy Spirit have his way, rather than trying to organize God’s church our way. The Holy Spirit can anoint & use whomever he chooses.  And the Spirit does not always choose to use the people we might think best-suited for leadership or service in the church.

Spirit-led living involves submitting to the rule of our spirit rather than the rule of our flesh.  If each member is being ruled by his spirit instead of his flesh, then the body as a whole is becoming more mature & Christ-like.

In this context, Paul emphasizes that God provides spiritual gifts to every believer, including normal everyday men & women & kids.  God has chosen to do his work in the world through everyday people, until Christ comes again.

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God uses people to build up His church.  God uses His church to serve people in need — regardless of their relationship with God — which shows that we love them, which shows that we love God.

Paul then considers what Spirit-led living looks like in a few everyday human relationships – specifically, marriage, parenting & work.  In each case, the main idea is that our relationships in the world are opportunities for us to deepen & demonstrate our devotion to Jesus.  We show our love for God by being godly marriage partners, godly parents & godly employees.

Paul concludes the letter with a warning: God’s enemy, Satan, works overtime to undermine God’s work in the world.  But God has given us spiritual armor to defend against Satan’s attacks.

Metaphorically, the armor includes a belt, a breastplate, shoes, a shield, a helmet & a sword.  Spiritually, what these represent are truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation & the inspired scriptures – all to be employed prayerfully.

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So, essentially, Paul is encouraging the Ephesian believers to do the following things — all as guided by God in prayer:

  1. Stick to the truth about God.
  2. Refer everything to Jesus, who alone is righteous.
  3. Live peaceably with other people.
  4. Believe that all things are possible with God.
  5. Trust the power of the Spirit to overcome the power of sin.
  6. Share the inspired scriptures with other people.

God, please help me to love being led by Your Holy Spirit.

(319) Ephesians 4-6