Happy New Year!
Greetings in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Praying for you, your family, your community, and the rest of the world. Right now, the whole world is suffering because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Let’s pray together to God, Our Ever-Loving Father, for His mercy and protection on all. Also, pray for God’s healing on those who are infected by the Coronavirus. We all believe God’s grace and love rest on all who look upon Him every moment with faith in Him.
Even youths will become weak and tired,
and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint. (Isiah 40:30-31)
Happy New Year to you! God’s blessings to you and your family. Today is already the 3rd day of this new year, 2021, and the first Lord’s Day of this year. What an exciting day! We now, together with all believing sisters and brothers, come to God, Our Ever-Loving Father, and worship Him while singing and praising His glorious name.
The year 2020 of the world-wide COVID-19 pandemic had now gone forever, which will never come back and hurt us with so many pains and sorrows that punched through the very fabric of our lives. Some might not forget 2020 forever, but we know that Our Emmanuel God is with us forever and will continue guiding us through 2021 and years to come until we get to our Eternal Home, where our Ever-Loving Fater is. This is why we are always confident in Him, and we are different from those who do not have this faith. We will endure and overcome all things in Him.
This morning, we’d like to share about three temptations that Jesus went through. The Son of God, Jesus Christ, fasted for 40 days and humbly took the temptations of the devil. He experienced what we get as human beings on earth to an extreme degree. Thus, Jesus Christ can fully sympathize with how we suffer and how we became so weak and vulnerable before the devil’s temptations. We should remember that Jesus did not have to be tempted by the devil, but he did for us.
After the 40 days of fasting, Jesus became very hungry. Then the devil came to Him and said to Jesus,
“If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.” (Luke 4:3b)
The devil directly aimed at the weakest part of Jesus at that time. After the 40 days’ fasting, the temptation was too great for any human being couldn’t resist. Additionally, Jesus could turn the stone into a loaf of bread because He was the Son of God. Can we imagine how strong the temptation that Jesus got?
On earth, for what do we live? Food? Or earthly possessions? Our hunger for the earthly ones does not stop at having adequate daily bread. Our earthly desire quickly passes this necessity. We want to possess more and more stuff of this world because the worldly possessions quickly intoxicate us. If we don’t subdue it and be its master, then it will undoubtedly harm us. Cain’s earthly jealousy over his brother, who received God’s better approval, led to the first murder of killing his brother, Abel. Sadly, since then, this sinful nature has never left us and always been with us.
Jesus went around towns and preached the kingdom of God. When Jesus Christ was preaching, someone called out from the crowd,
“Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.” (Luke 12:13)
The jealousy of the person’s brother, who had the father’s estate, filled the person’s heart. How often do we find earthly jealousy in us, which sneakily got into our hearts? The Son of God, Jesus Christ, was standing right before the person and preaching the Kingdom of God, but the worldly jealousy got into the person’s heart. The person’s heart rejected all blessed messages because it only fixated the worldly things – his father’s estate that the person’s brother possessed.
Jesus replied, “Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?” Jesus mission was to save the poor souls, not to divide up the earthly possessions. All worldly possessions will become dust eventually.
Then Jesus said,
“Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” (Luke 12:15b)
Jesus asked the person to subdue every kind of greed and master over it. Why? Our soul is not measured by what we own, but by who we are. God loves us, not because of what we possess, but because of who we are.
Then Jesus told a parable.
“A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”‘ (Luke 12:16b-19)
Our earthly desire does not know when to stop and how to stop. The rich man owning a fertile farm was not satisfied not because of the plenty of fine crops produced that year, but because he could not store all into his current barns. It was a blessing from God. Then he said, “I will tear down my current barns too small to store all my crop and build bigger ones.”
Why did God provide more than what he could store? God wanted to see the rich man’s true heart. He was already rich, and he had more than plenty. The abundant fine crop of the year filled up his barns, and there were still plenty of leftovers. Indeed, God wanted to see the rich man’s heart filled with thanksgivings to Him. But he didn’t. As matter of act, our thanksgiving to God is the most powerful defense against our insatiable earthly desire, which consumes us and makes us want more and more. Have we given our heartful thanksgiving to God for what God had done for us in 2020?
God watched the rich man and waited. God did not want him to tear down his current barns and build bigger and grandiose ones to store all the fine crops. Instead, God wanted to see him storing up his treasure in Heaven.
Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. (Matthew 6:20-21)
Why does God want to store up treasures in Heaven? Because nothing on earth lasts forever. We often see that fire, hurricane, or flood destroys earthly treasures. Sometimes another jealous person steals. No treasures on earth are secure, but the treasures stored in Heaven last forever.
Then how to store up our treasures in Heaven? Share our earthly possessions with someone who needs them in the name of Jesus Christ, with our heart of thanksgiving to God. Please remember that how much we share does not matter. God truly wants our giving heart with thanksgiving. It is how we store up treasure in Heaven.
Jesus continued telling the foolish rich man’s parable,
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’
Yes, this is the ultimate question to those who lay up treasures on earth while making barns bigger and bigger.
To the devil, Jesus calmly and confidently responded,
“No! The Scriptures say,
‘People do not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4b)
We should be thankful for what we get from God and store up treasures in Heaven. This is how we live by the word coming from the mouth of God. Again, the size and amount do not matter. God loves to see our cheerful giving heart with thanksgiving!
Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment.
“I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will worship me. (Luke 4:10b-11)
What’s our next desire after having food and earthly material possessions? Aren’t they reputation, power, fame, and glory on earth, which are something intangible? At that time of Jesus, religious leaders wore extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels to show up to the people around them. Why?
They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’ (Matthew 23:7)
The religious leaders looked holy to God, but the real motive was to gain earthly glory and respect. We might say we are different. However, please ask: how much more time do we spend to show up ourselves to others than the time spent to prepare our heart for God? God wants to have quality times with us: our prayer time and time for reading the Bible while listening to His voice.
By the way, this temptation comes with a deadly poison. It enslaves us, and then It makes us a worshipper to the temptation, which is invisible. Thus, it is much stronger than our desire for tangible possessions. Once the temptation hooks us, we do anything to get more and more. Nobody has ever objectively measured the size of this temptation, such as reputation, power, fame, and glory, but we know when we get more. Because it is invisible, the sky is the limitation. It can be as big as we want, which can be much bigger than the person. Indeed, it sometimes becomes as big as one nation or even the entire world. This is a reason why we have a dictator or notorious Hitler who wanted to have the world. How can we say about the feeling of making the temptation satisfied? It is like being a god. How sweet is the taste of being a god? Once tasted, nobody can get out of it, and instead keep worship the taste, which is what the devil exactly wants from us.
Jesus replied, “The Scriptures say,
‘You must worship the Lord your God
and serve only him.’ (Luke 4:8)
Only is the way to resist the above invisible but infinitely inflating desire is to come back to God. And humbly look up and see God, the Creator, and Our Ever-Loving God. Then we will be able to see what’s going on in our puny little heart, suffering from the deadly poison of worshipping our earthy reputation, power, fame, and glory. We should not serve this temptation (i.e., our desire for having invisible but satisfying reward and power), but we must serve one and only one God, Our Ever-Loving Father.
So far, the devil was defeated twice. The devil badly needed one victory. Then the devil took Jesus to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said,
“If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say,
‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you.
And they will hold you up with their hands
so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’” (Luke 4:10b-11)
The devil decided to tempt Jesus by quoting the Scriptures. So far, Jesus defeated the devil’s temptations with the Scripture, God’s Word. Hmm. This means that we also can improperly use God’s Word, again to satisfy our own desire. We should always be careful when we quote the Scriptures. We have to understand what God wants to say through the Scriptures fully. If not, we can use God’s Word to serve our desire instead.
Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’ (Luke 4:12)
The devil tested Jesus by improperly using God’s Word for the gain. Again, Jesus defeated the devil with God’s Word. It tells how critical for us to read, understand correctly, and apply God’s Word properly. Without studying God’s Word, how can we properly use God’s Word to defeat devil’s temptations when the devil tests us with God’s Word quoted improperly? Therefore, it should be one of our new year’s resolutions to study deeply God’s Word every day with prayer so that the Holy Spirit can help us to unlock the true meaning of God’s Word, the most precious treasure given to us by God.
Then, what is a real-life example of testing God? Here are a couple of examples:
- Praying to God for a large sum of money to help the poor.
- Jacob’s famous prayer, “if God makes me safely return, I will build an altar for God.” (Genesis 28:20-22)
All of the above prayer examples are conditional prayers to God, which put God to the test. In other words, we force God to do what we want, which is the most subtle and deceptive prayer that we often do.
God is not our servant. We are servants of God. No matter how we frame our desire with prayer, giving to God money or time, or helping others, it will quickly become testing of God if we attach our condition. Many believers fall into this severe but subtle sin of testing God with prayers or good works.
Then what God wants from us? God wants us to be children before God, who do not desire
- more food or possessions because parents have plenty beyond measure,
- more reputation, power, fame, and glory because these are not their concern,
- to force parents to do for children because parents always provide the best.
Instead, children are happy simply because God is with them. Their hearts are always thankful, and their prayers are pure and authentic without any hidden agenda.
What should we do then? For the year 2021, we want to approach God like a child with a pure and authentic heart while trusting God 100%. Our mouths should be full of thanksgiving to God no matter what happens to us, which is, in fact, the best defense against every kind of the devil’s temptations. Let’s together be a winner in faith in God in 2021.
We should then want to pray to God’s unfathomable blessings, love, peace, and hope on earth. The whole world is so much hurt in 2020. All of our small prayers add up and heal the world by bringing in hope and peace, which will look like small but countlessly many brush fires that can eventually consume the entire forest – our world.
Praise God, the Son, Jesus Christ, who died for us on the cross, and the Holy Spirit in our hearts who protects and guides us every step of our lives!
“I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 18:3b-4)