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, His mercy and protection on all, and 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.
That is why the LORD says,
“Turn to me now, while there is time.
Give me your hearts.
Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning.
Don’t tear your clothing in your grief,
but tear your hearts instead.” (Joel 2:12)
We are in the Lent season, which begins on Ash Wednesday and will end the night before Easter Sunday. This year’s Ash Wednesday was Wednesday, February 17th. “Lent” means 40th, and Ash Wednesday is 40 days before Easter. Lent’s purpose is to prepare our hearts with prayers before God to receive Our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ. Some add fasting to join the suffering of Jesus Christ, crucified on the cross.
Jesus fasted 40 days before getting into His ministry. Jesus was so weak physically, mentally, and spiritually. However, it was the moment for which the devil had been patiently waiting. The devil prepared the most powerful blow to Jesus, who also had a frail human body. After 40-day fasting, Jesus completely exhausted all energy and bodily strength, and he was physically extremely vulnerable.
What was the first temptation prepared by the devil for Jesus having the same frail human body of ours? The devil said to Jesus,
“If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.” (Luke 4:3b)
The devil tempted Jesus with a loaf of bread. Because Jesus was the Son of God, Jesus could have turned a stone into a loaf of bread. Additionally, the devil did not tempt Jesus with a random stone, but the devil carefully chose the stone, which exactly looked like a loaf of bread. To Jesus’ physical eyes, the stone in the devil’s hand must have looked like a real loaf of bread.
We often hear a story about a person who was stranded in the desert. The person was hallucinated and saw an oasis out of extreme thirst, although it was not there. Only was there a mere resemblance with the shape of an oasis. Then the person dashed to the oasis, but it was another pile of bone-dry sand. The extreme thirst projected an oasis in the person’s mind, which did not exist.
If we have too much hunger for our earthly thing day after day, someday, we started to see our desire with our own eyes, although it was not there. We quickly run for it to grasp it with all our strength. But when we reach the place, it is not there. It was only a projection in our hearts out of our extreme earthly desire.
Jesus tempted, and His physical eyes must have seen a loaf of bread in the devil’s hand, which was, in reality, a mere stone. Jesus resisted, but the devil added one more, “if you are the son of God, why do you not make this stone into a loaf of real bread?” If we were Jesus, what would we be our response at that moment? Before answering, please look back at our lives first and examine what we did when we get an extreme temptation.
But Jesus told him,
“No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone.’” (Luke 4:4b)
Jesus gave the perfect answer for us. As a human being, it is impossible to resist such an extreme temptation. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, used the Scripture to overcome the temptation. We are weak, but God’s Word is strong. We cannot, but God’s Word enables us to resist and overcome. Therefore, when temptation comes, we look up our eyes rather than looking at the irresistible temptation fiercely coming at us and hear His Voice by speaking out God’s Word to our hearts. That is the reason why memorizing God’s Word is important. Without opening the Bible, we can immediately fight back by simply reciting God’s Word from our memory.
We know the famous story about Peter, who walked on water. Peter and the rest of the disciples were struggling in the storm. They were in the middle of the sea at night, and Jesus was walking on water toward them. When they saw Jesus walking on water, all were in fear. But Peter was different. Peter bravely jumped off the ship as soon as he realized that Jesus was walking on the stormy water. Then Peter was able to walk on water as Jesus did. It was a jaw-dropping movement. All carefully watched Peter and Jesus. But when a big wave came toward Peter, Peter saw the big wave coming at him. He took off his eyes on Jesus, and he quickly sank deep into the sea like a rock. Jesus quickly grabbed Peter sinking rapidly, and put him back onto the ship. Jesus did not blame Peter’s lack of faith but simply put Peter in a safe place. Whether Peter was boldly walking toward Jesus or in fear while watching the huge wave approaching him, Jesus loved Peter. That is the love of Jesus, our Savior.
Jesus defeated the devil’s temptation with God’s Word. Then the devil took up Jesus 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 4:6-7)
Suddenly, the devil showed to Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and all glories in it. The devil did not forget to include the scene of the Roman Governor, who worshipped Jesus instead of sentencing Jesus to death on the cross. All people in Jerusalem, including all religious leaders, teachers, and scribes, worshiped Jesus instead of accusing, arresting, and handing them crucified. The terrible pains and agony of death on the cross suddenly became the earthly glory, and all worshipped Jesus like a king. If we were Jesus, what would be our choice? Our gruesome death on the cross? Or becoming a king served by all those who would crucify us? Again, please answer the question by looking back at what we have done in our lives.
“The Scriptures say,
‘You must worship the Lord your God
and serve only him.’” (Luke 4:6b)
Jesus came to this world not to be served but to serve. Jesus was the King, but he became a servant for all. He was obedient to God till His death on the cross. Why? He loved us till the end to give the absolute best gift of all, our eternal salvation. How about us? We are opportunistic and seeking our glory and comfort first. Sacrificing ourselves for others, especially those who don’t like us or even tried to kill us, is a foreign concept.
Jesus fought back with the Scripture again. Although the world promises our earthly heart’s desire, we should not give in. Our Savior, Jesus, is sympathetic to us. Jesus knows our struggle because He had experienced it. When we look up our eyes on Jesus, Jesus surely gives us His strength to overcome the irresistible temptations of this world.
“See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright– but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness — (Habakkuk 2:4)
Our enemy is puffed up, and our earthly desire is so much enticing, but one who has faith in God will live by His Word because His Word is the light and the power that makes us overcome all our earthly desires. Then it makes us follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ toward our eternal salvation. After all, what does the world give us?
How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. (James 4:14)
All the world promises are nothing but the morning fog, which is here a little while, then it’s gone. No one has ever successfully held off worldly glory forever. If so, by now, we should know because the person is still with us. However, the world preaches different stories and entices us with the superficial attraction and taste in our eyes and mouths, which will never last.
Again, Jesus won the battle with God’s Word. No one can prevail against the devil by one’s might because the devil’s temptation is so strong. However, God’s Word gives us the power and strength to resist the devil’s such an enticing temptation, and it makes us defeat the power of the devil.
The first man and woman, Adam and Eve, were tempted by the serpent, which was the devil. Adam and Eve responded with God’s Word, but they did not quote word by word exactly as God told them. They added and subtracted God’s Word to meet their needs. Their hearts were already sold to the temptation, and they quoted God’s Word to justify their heart desire. Sadly, we are no different. We are ready to be sold to our earthly desires to become prey to the devil. What the devil needs to do is to open up our sin gate carving in our hearts. That’s it. The rest is the same as Adam and Eve did. Therefore, we have to be very careful not to add or subtract God’s Word, even one single letter or dot, to justify our earthly desire.
The devil was defeated twice. Then the devil took him 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 4:10-11)
The devil learned enough. Jesus resisted twice such irresistible temptations. The 1st temptation was truly personal by attacking Jesus’ ego by calling Jesus the son of God, but Jesus defeated the devil with God’s Word. The 2nd temptation was to destroy Jesus’ mission on earth – being crucified on the cross to save us. The devil tempted Jesus with the earthly glory being served by all, including the Roman governor and the religious leaders who would crucify Him on a cross. Yet, Jesus resisted the devil’s temptation with God’s Word.
Then the devil brought the most powerful temptation by combining both God’s sonship and the Scripture itself. It was an ultimate weapon for the devil to destroy Jesus, who came as the Lamb of God for us.
“The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’” (Luke 4: 12b)
Our random knowledge about God’s Word could hurt us unless we are on the solid foundation of the Truth. What is the sold foundation of the Truth, then? Again, God’s Word gives the answer for us.
One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
Yes, Jesus’ answer was clear and concise despite the wrong motive of the expert in religious law. What is the most important commandment? Love God, and love our neighbor. Yes, the top priority is God, and the second is our neighbor.
Jesus precisely stated how to love God also. We should love God with all our hearts, all our soul, and all our mind. Is there anything missing? None except with our own earthly heart, which belongs to the world, not to God. God wants the entirety of us, which includes our hearts, minds, and souls. Nothing can we spare when we love God because God deserves all the love that we have. That is the first commandment.
The second commandment is to love our neighbors. How to love our neighbors? Love them as ourselves. Can we find anyone who does not feed themselves when hungry or does not care about the wound when hurt? No. We all give the best to ourselves, which is our human nature. How about our neighbors? Do we provide the best to them as we give to ourselves?
Now, let’s go back to the devil’s temptation – for Jesus to jump off from the highest point of the Temple. The Temple was the most popular and sacred place at that time. If Jesus jumped off the highest point of the Temple, many most influential people were in the Temple and would see Jesus, who jumped off the Temple, and the angels protected Jesus. They would witness Jesus’ feet that would not hit the ground at all. Jesus would become a hero instantly to all in the Temple and soon the entire Jerusalem. Then it would completely defeat the purpose of Jesus – to be the humble King who would serve and give Himself as a ransom for all on a cross.
Then, how to know whether it is a devil’s crafty temptation disguised as a form of God’s Word? Here is the answer. We have first to examine: whether it is to love God with all our hearts, minds, and souls or not. If the answer is yes, then it is of God’s Word. If not, it is a misquoted God’s Word, although being directly quoted from God’s Word,
Jesus, then, explained the nature of the two most important commandments.
The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:40)
The two commandments are the basis of the entire law and all teachings of the prophets. If we hear anything deviating from these two commandments, then we have to be very cautious not to fall into the trap set by the devil. It might be very enticing or convincing because it talks to our knowledge about God’s Word. But we need to come back, again and again, to check whether it really matches with loving God and our neighbors. If not, we immediately stop whatever we are about to do in the name of God. Then we give thanks to God for protecting us from the devil’s crafty plot.
When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came. (Luke 4:13)
The devil could not tempt Jesus, despite all temptation that he could bring. The devil left, but it was just temporary. The devil patiently looked for the next opportunity. Yes, the devil targeted Jesus. Then what does the devil do us? The devil is constantly searching for the next chance to entice us with his irresistible temptation. If possible, the devil tempts us by craftily distorting His Word. Let’s not forget how Jesus did win the spiritual battle that the devil initiated with the fierce attacks with the highest level of temptations. Jesus won the war against the devil with God’s Word.
Jesus came to this world to save us by offering Him as the eternal sacrifice for all our sins. Jesus did not start his ministry after going through the excruciating pain of 40 days of fasting and the devil’s temptations. The devil hit Jesus hard with Jesus’ nature of God’s son (i.e., the ego before God) and the craftily distorted God’s Word (i.e., the distorted Truth).
For this Lent season, let’s present ourselves to God with a repenting heart by confessing our sins. Then join Jesus’ pain and the agony on the cross with our true heart of loving God. Love our neighbors — not just friendly neighbors but also those who don’t like us or even hostile to us. By doing so, we shine the light of God, which is love.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)