April 24 - Encouragement to Be With God

Opening Prayer Thoughts. 
 
Praise God. 
Praise God that he has eternally decreed everything that exists. Praise God that he is Sovereign (Absolute Ruler) over all that he has created. Praise God that there is nothing beyond his everyday control, not even the power and desires of Satan.  Praise God for the provision of His Word, and the other pieces of armour which he has given to us to employ in our struggle against Satan. Ephesians 1:11, Psalm 331:11, Job 1:6-12 and Ephesians 6:10-20.
 
Acknowledge sin.
Acknowledge, and confess, the sin of failing to take up the Sword of God’s Word in our struggle with Satan. Pray that God would help you to trust him and the provision he had made for you.  
 
Let us "bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2 
Pray for all our children and their salvation.  Pray for our provincial and national leaders, that they would seek God.
 
     
Let's read Luke 4:1-4.
Pray for the Holy Spirit's help to receive God's Word.
 
V1. Jesus is led, driven into the Wilderness.
Jesus has just left the Jordan with the words ringing in his ears, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased." What a wonderful way to start his ministry, and then, where do we read he goes, or rather is taken? 
 
Luke tells us that he is full of the Holy Spirit. Matthew states that he "was led by the Spirit into the wilderness". Matthew 4:1. Mark says, "the Spirit drove him immediately out into the wilderness". Mark 1:12. Why into the wilderness? Because a spiritual battle has been arranged by God between his Son and Satan. God eternally decreed this, as he does with all things, to fulfill his purpose for our eternal redemption. So, Jesus goes from the pinnacle of praise to the crucible of conflict. (Hebrews 2:18). J.C. Ryle puts it this way, "First came the testimony of God the Father, 'You are my beloved Son.' Then came the sneering suggestion of Satan, 'If you are the Son of God.'"
 
V2,3. The first temptation.
Satan realizes that Jesus has been fasting for forty days. He has eaten nothing, Luke tells us, so he is physically weak and mentally vulnerable. While Jesus' body and mind were unaffected by the consequences of sin, he was nonetheless a human being and required food and water to live. Scientific research into the effects of fasting for a prolonged period on the human body and mind is somewhat limited because of the obvious danger it poses to life. However, some information has been gleaned from those who have engaged in hunger strikes. During the first week of food deprivation, the body uses up the stores of glycogen. When those stores are exhausted, the amino acids take over and burn muscle, and when the fat resources are depleted, there is catastrophic protein catabolism, usually though, other complications arise first. As the period of starvation continues, weakness and light-headedness are common probably due to electrolyte imbalance, the person's blood pressure drops, their thyroid ceases functioning properly, and abdominal pain becomes severe. Dehydration will become an issue as the person begins to lose their sense of thirst and hunger, and in most cases, depression will set in. So, Jesus would not have been in a good state either physically or mentally by the end of these forty days. 
 
Satan's power is limited by God, but the danger lurks in Satan’s proactive attitude and his wiles, i.e. his manipulative, targeted approach. The apostle Peter puts it this way, "Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." 1 Peter 5:8. The condition Satan now sees Jesus in means that he is not going to miss this opportunity. As he sees it, this is a once in a lifetime chance to destroy the 'second Adam' and whatever plans God has for him. He has to go for it. 
 
The words of the temptation are simple, "command this stone to become bread". The thought behind them is eminently appealing, 'Jesus you are dying. You need to eat. If you are the son of God, then do something to save your life'. When I preached on the temptation of Jesus recently, I said that the word 'if' can also be taken to mean 'since'. The point I made at the time is that the word 'if' does makes sense in terms of Satan's approach. He is the master of seeking to place doubt, reference Genesis 3. But, the question that the use of 'if' begs is this. Even given Jesus' highly vulnerable state, would Satan have been so arrogant as to think that he could get Jesus to do what he wanted, by merely placing sufficient doubt in his mind? On the other hand, is it possible, given the wiles of both his character and ways, that Satan would have taken a more subtle approach? One where he presents himself as an angel of light and says to Jesus, 'since' you are the Son of God, exercise the power you have; do this and save your life. If that is the case, and I think it is, what is Satan doing here? He is saying to Jesus, 'you don't need God, you can do it yourself. Where is God anyway? You are in desperate need, and he's not here to help. Show your divinity, demonstrate your power, exercise your independence, and live'. 
 
It is a well-trodden path, a familiar ruse as far as Satan is concerned. His argumentation often runs, 'You don't need God. Yes, you have your religion and your church friends, but you don't really need God himself to live the type of good life you think will keep him happy. Look at yourself; you're doing all the right things, so don't get too hung up about actually being with God. Nobody else is too bothered about doing that, so why should you?' For Satan, it is all about separating us from God relationally. The evidence is clear. Within his God-granted, limited power, he will do all he can to try and disable whatever experiential relationship you have with our Father in heaven. He will invest his time, and his not inconsiderable energy to try and bring spiritual discouragement, and ultimately dysfunctionality, into our lives. Satan knows that 'nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God', Romans 8:39, but that does not deter him. If he cannot separate us from God's love, he is bent on trying to separate us from the joy of experiencing it. That is why we find spending time with the Person who really loves us, and manifested that at Calvary, so difficult. 
 
V4. Jesus’ response.
"It is written," three crucial words. Our sword in this battle against Satan is God's Word. You and I need to get our heads around this. Paul writes, in Ephesians chapter 6, about the absolute necessity of putting on the whole armour of God, that we may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. In fact, he says it twice in verses 11 and 13. Why? "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." In other words, this is serious stuff. 
 
The key defensive and offensive weapon in this spiritual warfare is the "sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God". Ephesians 6:17. We desperately need the Word of God in our lives and daily so. It is not a matter of being pious or knowledgeable in the things of God, it is a simple matter of survival in the face of determined onslaughts. The murderer and liar, who vexed Job, and caused David to fall into sin, and Peter to collapse in denial, still lives; he is not yet bound, and you need to address and resist him using God's Word, owning the promise that he "will flee from you". James 4:7.
 
Jesus addresses Satan's core allegation/suggestion – 'you're on your own, so take care of yourself'. He does so by taking Satan into the Old Testament, to the book of Deuteronomy. (chapter 8). To the time when God deliberately brought his people into the wilderness, where they could not provide for themselves and would experience hunger and need. Why? To create the situation where they would have to learn to trust him to provide for them. Why? Because that would be the only way they could enter into, and take control of, the land which he had promised on oath to them. Jesus is saying that he, in his wilderness experience as a 'man', is going to trust his Father to provide. "Man shall not live by bread alone." 'Man,' the first Adam, had succumbed to the temptation to be like God. The Fall became a devastating reality for all mankind, as we were 'brought into an estate of sin and misery'. Now 'Man,' the second Adam, is refusing to go down that road, even though he is the Son of God. He will wait on the Father to provide. Why? Because it is our calling to wait patiently on the Father, accepting that he will provide for us. In doing so here, Jesus is clearly identifying with us. "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin". Hebrews 4:15. 
 
In these days of uncertainty and vulnerability, Satan will come and say 'God doesn't care for you. Look at the restrictions on our life. Do whatever it takes to provide for whatever needs you have!' DO NOT listen to him. His sole intention is to separate you relationally from God. Look at the physically broken and mentally vulnerable Jesus in the wilderness who, through cracked lips whispers, 'Man shall not live by bread alone,' My Father will provide! Hold fast to his words! Remember Matthew 7:9-11, and live trusting him.
 
 
A Psalm to Sing.
Psalm 119E. Link to the words. Link to it being sung. Sing with joy in your heart to God.
 
 
Memory Verse. 
Keep up the memorizing; it will be good for your heart relationship with the Lord.
Psalm 121C:1-5, 
"Unto the hills I lift my longing eyes; whence comes my aid? 
The Lord's my help, the heavens and earth by him were made. 
Your foot from stumbling he will always keep; 
the One who guards your life will never sleep. 
He who keeps Israel slumbers not nor sleeps By night or day.
The Lord keeps you, a shade on your right hand The Lord will stay"
  
 
Truth for the Mind and Heart. Shorter Catechism.
Q. 20 Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery? 
A. God, having out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.
Scripture proofs pdf - https://opc.org/documents/SCLayout.pdf
 
 
Thank God.
Thank God that the Lord Jesus withstood the temptation to provide for himself.
Thank God that Jesus put his trust in God the Father to provide, and so identified with us and our need to do the same.
Pray that you and I would, with thought and by seeking God's help, do the same.
 
 
Take care in Christ,
Andrew
 
Rev. Dr. Andrew Quigley