With all the debate about highly paid kneeling athletes one might be led to believe that racism is something new and shocking. In a way it is good and healthy to be able to talk about right versus wrong but that conversation apparently begins and ends with only one or two subjects. Any conversation about sin in the church seems to run into a dead-end. We don’t want to judge or worse be thought of as hypocritical because of our personal failures. Yet while here on earth, Jesus minced few words when it came to pointing out sin. He regularly pointed out that the Pharisees were adulterers, covetous and in danger of hell for their hard-hearts and attitudes.
The preaching of God’s grace was never meant to end up as an accommodation of sin. Yes we are all weak and we are all in need of a great Savior to forgive us. But sin remains sin. Adultery has grown to be so much the norm that we forget that it still destroys families. Gambling which is simply the marriage of stealing and covetousness continues to march through our nation with new and bigger casinos in every state. The idea of honoring the Sabbath has been so completely abandoned that even a brief Sunday morning feel-good meeting is too inconvenient to sacrifice the chance for overtime pay. Jesus’ sermon on the Mount has lost its message as a revolutionary overthrow of sin and is today looked at as some kind of nice collection of sweet ideas.
This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. 1 Timothy 1:15
Maybe those kneeling athletes who have at least started a debate about racism have stumbled onto a starting concept that we as Christians ought to consider following. What would happen if we began to take a stand no matter the price for the things that Jesus taught us to do? What if like the Amish and Old Order Mennonites, people actually knew that we would do without conveniences in order to live for Jesus Christ? What if this year instead of a trip to a theme park we spent a week volunteering in a homeless shelter. What if we turned off the Super Bowl and went to church to pray? Just standing for the national anthem will not move us one inch closer to God while our children grow up without a father or mother in the home because of the failure of yet another marriage. We need to do more than smile and just talk about grace. It is time for the mighty power of that grace to be allowed to radically change our lives and we will discover that there is nothing more joyful, more peaceful and more liberating than being cleansed from real sins by a real God who really sent His Son into the world to save sinners: of whom I am chief!
For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin Hebrews 4:15
When I have struggled with temptation or when I have encouraged others who are facing a struggle with sin I have often thought of and quoted this scripture. It says that Jesus was in all points tempted as we are. The English Standard Version renders it “In every respect” and I in my first understanding of this issue thought that any temptation I face, Jesus also faced. However; that is not exactly what the Bible is telling us though the underlying truth .gives us a great hope
To cover this subject let’s look back to the temptation which our Lord experienced while fasting in the wilderness after His baptism.
And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:3-4
We need to see that Jesus was not so much tempted with every exact sin every person has ever faced. The scripture says that he was tempted in every respect, in every manner, every way. What ways could there have possibly been to tempt the only Son of God? They are common to us all so let’s look at temptation number one – command stones to become bread.
Matthew tells us that after forty days Jesus was hungry (who wouldn’t be!) The devil showed up at the weakest physical moment to tempt him but it was not the bread that was the sin. If Jesus had simply pulled out a loaf of bread and begun eating it would have been both natural and holy for him to do so. The temptation Jesus came face to face with was to provide for his needs outside of the Father’s will for his life.
Providing for our needs outside of God’s will is like commanding stones to be bread. Stones are not bread! They have no nutritional value. They are hard and would break our teeth, not to mention what they might do to our digestive system. There is nothing good about stones that could be used as food! Now stop to think how many times we have tried to command stones to be bread. We took a second job to buy things but we sacrificed our time with our family. We were able to pay for our vacation because we cheated on our income tax. We did something for money that involved surrendering our will to something we knew to be sinful. See the same temptation we face in all of these activities is just a faint reflection of what Jesus was being asked to do. He was being asked to cease trusting His heavenly Father’s provision. Jesus was being asked to take control over his own destiny for temporary gain no matter the eternal consequences. These were all the very things the devil himself had already done in the vast eons of the past when he no longer was satisfied with what God had given him and he reached out to take what was never to have been his. But in response Jesus gave to us the words we can hold to in every battle with this sinful direction. “Man does not live by bread alone!” Our life is more than just what we make of it, what we have or what we can experience. Our life comes from a source that is unchangeable, immovable and unceasing. Our life is in hearing and obeying every word that God has spoken. Every other word is just a stone!