We start our first Sunday of Lent with the temptation of Jesus: a powerful moment where Jesus held unswervingly to his calling despite the powerful temptations thrown at him. While we might rarely face temptation that clearly, we do face temptation daily, and a life shaped by Jesus is the only way we can face it and come through whole on the other side.
Resisting temptation can be really hard sometimes - that’s why it’s called temptation, after all. When certain sins become habitual we might be telling ourselves that God is too perfect and holy to understand that he’s expecting of us something that we simply cannot do. But Jesus, having taken on the weakness of humanity, was tempted in every way that we are: to give in to the hungry cravings of his flesh; to grasp for power, influence, and authority (by compromising the legitimate path to his reign which lead through the suffering of the cross); and to be provoked by pride into doing what he should not. He understands our struggle - he is compassionate towards us in our temptations. And because he made it through temptation without sin, he is the only one qualified to help us. Through dependence on Jesus, we can do what we feel is impossible to do on our own - we CAN endure temptation without giving in to sin.
Read this week’s Bible passage: Luke 4:1-13 [NIV]
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We all like to think of ourselves as “good” people, whether we belong to Jesus or not. But as Jesus says, only God is truly good (Luke 18:19). All of humanity - if we’re really honest with ourselves - are on some level: foolish, disobedient, deceived and driven by our passions and pleasures. Even if you manage to keep this evil in check most of the time, it’s still there, waiting to emerge when you’re at your weakest.
Like most of us, the Cretans who Paul is writing about, have been used to grabbing for what they want - after all, “God helps those who help themselves”, right? Yet, the real story of Jesus is about what God has done for you, rather than what you need to do for yourself. Thanks to Jesus, we are justified by grace and not by our righteousness.
Trying to earn our way by being more religious will likely result in the foolish controversies, arguments about the law, and divisiveness which Paul mentions - these things are unprofitable and useless he says. In contrast, what is excellent and profitable to everyone is to practice living according to that future for which we hope and trust in God with certainty, that future state of being when we are made perfect and truly good at Christ’s return.
Read this week’s Bible passage: Titus 3:3-11 [NIV]