Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Forty Days in the Wilderness

Jesus is enjoying the wilderness, not because he’s an outdoors guy, but because he is full of the Spirit, and walking in the Spirit (Lk 4:1,2). The truth is, Jesus would be happy anywhere, full of the Spirit, walking in the pleasure of God. The environment and the hunger are real, but not so real as the reality of God.

The devil shows up in the wilderness. They size one another up. Their minds are worlds apart.

The devil must be puzzled by Jesus. Could this really be the Son of God? Sure, Satan was cast out of heaven for treason against the Most High. So what must the Son of God have done, to be cast as a human, bound by disgusting flesh? At least the devil was still an angel, but here is this Jesus, obviously lower than even angels.

If Jesus were only pretending to be the Son of God, then he would be extremely useful to the alMost High. Satan can always use pretenders, capitalizing on their pride.

But if Jesus is indeed the Son of God, then he must be destroyed. And it shouldn’t be hard, should it, since the devil had already proven that mere men were easily tempted and quickly turned.

Just a little shell game would do the trick. A little catering to the animal impulses. A little show and tell. The offering of a shortcut. The spectacle of a miracle. A seemingly noble way to put God in the service of man, as opposed to man in the service of God. This should be easy.

Jesus looks at the devil. Jesus has been training his mind and heart, his body and will, his emotions and spirit, to be satisfied with God, and with God alone. Whatever appearance the devil has, it finds no appeal in Jesus. His eyes are for God alone. His heart is for God alone. God alone. God alone. For thirty years, and for forty days, this has been his pattern and his life. God alone.

Jesus hears the devil, and knows Satan’s own self-deception, even as he attempts to begin his deceiving work. He observes the devil’s manipulation of the playing field, the re-framing of the rules, the altering of expectations, the reduction of all things important to this single moment in time. And Jesus knows.

He knows because he created this angel of light, now become the prince of darkness. He created his gifts and his abilities. The devil’s aptness for leadership did not arise from the abyss, and the span of his creativity did not evolve. It was given by God, through the handiwork of the Son.

When the devil spoke, he spoke through instruments designed by Jesus himself – instruments that were intended to sing “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts.” He created a will that was to bend and bow in constant subservience to the will of God Almighty. And he created an angel with the ability to assist in bringing a redeemed humanity to “the praise of His glory.”

So perhaps Jesus views the devil with sadness. Perhaps with the kind of righteous anger that one feels when one’s Father’s name has been disdained. But certainly Jesus knows that He will defeat this devil.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Alternative Energy

Christians are called “children of light” (Ephesians 5:8). Jesus says “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). John says that this “light was the light of men” (John 1:4). And in all these references, we can contrast the light with darkness. But I want to think of an association of light. Light produces heat. But not just heat. It is energy.

And so Christians operate with an alternative energy. Our energy comes “from above.” Other energies are operative in the world, but they are worldly. They come from below. The energies from below produce pollutions, like malice and envy; like selfishiness and abuse of others. But the energy from above produces things like joy and peace, and love.

The energies from below are part of a “death grid.” They depend on death. And they produce death. The energy from above is in complete contrast. It is a “life grid.” It begins with resurrected life (Romans 1:4), and begets eternal life (Romans 6:23), which is a whole different kind of life than one ever finds in the culture of death.

There is so much talk these days about alternative energy. My illustration makes me sound like a raging liberal. Coal and oil are bad. Sun and wind are good. And I’m not sure that is an appropriate conclusion to draw. It seems that in God’s design for this earth, coal and oil were provided as gifts. I suppose a person could argue that coal and oil are produced in the death and decay of organic materials, and so belong to the “death grid.” But that is another discussion. Let’s not make the illustration the lesson.

The lesson is this: Christians operate on a different plane because they are energized by a different Spirit (I think there is good evidence for a Biblical connection with Spirit as the breath of God, and energy or energizing.) And when I sink to operate according to the spirit of the age, according to the “elemental things” (Galatians 4:3) then, no wonder, I lose the grand experience of joy and peace and love, and I trade off for frustration, disillusionment, and a preoccupation with my own self.

Christian, look up. Feel the warmth of Jesus on your face and in your heart. Praise God for the wind of His Spirit, whether in reminding you of Biblical truth, or conviction of sin, or of a return to thankfulness and grace.

“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:13-18 NAS95S)