May 21, 2008

In actual words…What Devotions Did Jesus Do? By “devotions”, I mean that spiritual moment or time when we spend time with God, whether by reading Scripture, praying, worshipping or even appreciating aspects of his creation. It can include disciplines (like Contemplation or Solitude), attitudes (Confession or Thanksgiving) and even actions (Journaling, kneeling, imagining). These are all human creations to attempt to solidify our tenuous-feeling working relationship with our Creator.

Jesus, the one who was both God and Man, spent time solidifying that Daddy-Son intimacy. Since he is completely human as we are, he felt those moments of isolation and responded to them with discipline and a process of thinking through the day. So what “devotional life” did Jesus have?

My favorite glimpse into his life with Abba comes in Matthew 4. I won’t take time to deal with the entire section, but the first part of Jesus’ encounter with the Father of Lies (satan) in the wilderness shows us something of his life with God. Jesus has just spent 40 days alone with the Spirit of God. This time followed his incredible filling with the Spirit at his baptism and the earth-shaking voice of the Father who said “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased”. But that was 40 days ago, and as all of us face, Jesus cannot recapture the words spoken over a month ago. Every day has a new impact and even yesterday’s exciting victories ring hollow in the face of attack and hunger.

In verses 2 and 3 of Matthew 4 it says

2After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

The word “tempter” means “tester”. As I noted a few weeks ago, this is satan’s role: he is the Proctor, he delivers our tests. We prove who we are through these tests. He designs the tests individually for each of us. This test was for Jesus. It was not as simple as it sounds. Jesus heard the Father, saw the Spirit come down on him. Felt the baptism. But our humanity is frail. He cannot hold onto that memory. Now satan wants to see if he will doubt the Truth of Abba’s words.

Here is what Jesus answered:

4Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

His answer can seem glib on paper, but it reveals so much at the first level down below the bare words. First, this quote is from Deuteronomy 8. In fact, every answer that Jesus gives to the Proctor is from Deuteronomy, chapters 6-8. They didn’t have chapters in those days, so let’s just say it came from the same general region in the same historical book. Coincidence? Hardly. You don’t have these answers unless they are recently familiar to you. I get a kick out of teachers who look at this section and tell people this is a takeaway suggesting we memorize Scripture. Don’t bother. The Proctor knows the Bible better than you do. Simply quoting the Bible back to him when your heart hasn’t processed Truth and embraced it won’t pass this test.

Second, Jesus’ understanding of the Truth in Deuteronomy 8 was deeper than just quoting something to do with Bread. The passage in Deut. 8 speaks of Manna and humbling. To go out every day and collect bread in the desert and have to rely completely on God to feed them was humbling in the sense that they had to completely rely on him. Jesus got that! He is telling the Proctor that if God tells him to turn the stones into bread, he will do it. But not a second before. What an incredible answer. He also uses the word “word” correctly in Greek. The Greek word is rhema, which means a message intended for a specific reason, situation or person. If God told Jesus directly to turn the stones into bread that day, for a particular purpose and for God’s glory, then, and only then, would Jesus do it.

Do you prepare yourself in the Scriptures that way? It means bringing the Spirit into that time and preparing your heart with Truth that can be lived (as opposed to Truth that is just memorized to win a discussion). Then when the test comes, you will pass the essay questions as well as the fill in the blank ones.


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