Thursday, February 21, 2013

Matthew 4 - 6

In Matthew 4, we pick up on the narrative of Jesus' life immediately after he is baptized, and identified as the Son of God. And right then and there, immediately, he led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. So why are we surprised when, after a spiritual high or mountain top experience, we're immediately tempted or attacked? That's how the devil rolls. He likes to strike when we're not expecting.

So how should we respond? Like Jesus did: he fasted. He prayed. He relied on the teachings of Scripture. In each case of temptation, Jesus only had to claim the word of God, and then the devil moved on. Finally, after the third temptation, Jesus tells him to "be gone!" and that's that. The devil leaves and angels come to minister to Jesus.

Who are the angels who have ministered to you during and after a difficult experience?

In chapter 4, verse 17, Jesus is preaching. His message? Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. There is no need to wait! The kingdom of heaven is AT HAND!

Chapter 4 also depicts Jesus' calling of the first disciples. And here is the one thing I think the disciples did right in their ministry with Jesus: They just said yes. No questions asked. They were called, and they answered. I often beg and bargain with God when he calls me. I delay and drag my feet and make excuses. The disciples, who were terribly flawed, short-sighted, and so many other things that I am, just said yes. How much easier my ministry would be if I just said yes the first time Jesus asked!

Chapter 5 begins the Sermon on the Mount, with some of the best, most difficult, and most essential teaching that Jesus ever offered. The parts that convict me most? Verses 5:21 - 26, where Jesus tells us that if I'm angry at my brother (or sister, or fellow human), I will be judged just as the one who has committed murder. Verses 38 - 42, where Jesus tells me to turn the other cheek, rather than seek retaliation like I so often (meaning...every time...) want to do. And verses 43 - 48, which tell me that if I only love those who also love me, I'm not getting it right.

Chapter 6 contains a passage that I find myself having to repeat and reread and work hard to pound into my head. Beginning in verse 25...."Do not be anxious." Oh my worrying heart. I'm anxious about everything. I shouldn't worry about food, because God feeds the birds. I shouldn't worry about clothes, because God clothes the lilies. And worrying will do nothing to prolong my life! And for me, the root of worrying about food or clothing is worrying about money. And the root of worrying about money is worrying about work. And the end of chapter 6 straight up says, "Do not be anxious about tomorrow." So I'll give that a try.

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