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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

With Fire

The breaking of the four hundred years of God’s silence through a prophet during the Intertestament period marks the ministry of John the Baptist.  John, as a forerunner of the Messiah, did not focus his twenty to fifty thousand person ministry on himself, but to the Annointed One who was to come.  John’s message was simple: repent and turn from your sin, for the Messiah is coming.  John proclaimed that the One coming is greater than he. John  baptized with water for repentance; however, the Messiah to come will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.  John proclaims the Messiah shall bring judgment; this came as a welcome relief the sorely oppressed people.  John stood as a witness to Jesus’ identity as the Christ; subsequently, this truth was further revealed by the events that occurred at Jesus’ baptism.  Matthew 3:16,17 relates, “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.  
Jesus, as the spotless Lamb, had no spiritual need of John’s baptism to repentance.  Jesus submitted to the water baptism in Matt. 3:15, "And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him."  He identifies with humanity; so that in turn, we are able to identify with Him.  John’s baptism signifies an outward change, a turning from sin; whereas, Jesus’ baptism with the Holy Spirit signifies an inward change and indwelling of His Holy Spirit.  Immediately following His baptism, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.
The temptation of Christ in the wilderness reveals several major aspects of Jesus’ ministry and our own necessary spiritual warfare tactics.  Hebrews 2:18 explains that Jesus’ temptation connected Him integrally to our own human plight, “For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.”  In the first temptation, Jesus, desert-worn and hungry is enticed by Satan to turn stone into bread.  This lure speaks of a lack of trust in the provision of the Father and the use of Jesus’ power for His own preservation.  Jesus counters with Luke 4:4, “And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.“  This illuminates a profound truth in our own warfare, the fact that the Word is our weapon.  In the second temptation, Satan entreats Jesus to bow down and worship him to gain the kingdoms of the world.  Jesus know that His Father’s Kingdom is not of this world, and no promise of materialism or fame will ever profit anyone one whit. Luke 4:8 records His reply, "And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. " In the final temptation, Satan twists scripture as he coaxes Jesus to throw Himself from the Temple pinnacle.   Jesus had no need to step out of God’s timing, to make a spectacle of Himself or to tempt God.  Jesus answers, “. . .It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”  In the third temptation, Satan entreats Jesus to bow down and worship him to gain the kingdoms of the world.  Jesus know that His Father’s Kingdom is not of this world, and no promise of materialism or fame will ever profit anyone one whit. Luke 4:8 records His reply, "And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve" (Luke 4:12). The Hypostatic Union of God and man is firmly illustrated in His temptations.  Jesus is so fully God that His flesh does not interfere with His ability to overcome Satan, and conversely, Jesus is so fully man that His Godliness does not interfere with His ability to be truly tempted.            

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