Lenten Training (01): Faith is the Victory
Introduction: The Friend of Shah Abbis ... “You left your palace and your glory to sit with me in this dark place, to eat of my course food, to care whether my heart is glad or sorry --- On others you may bestow rich presents, but to me you have given yourself, and it only remains for me to pray that you never withdraw the gift of your friendship.”
As we consider our text today, relating to Jesus Temptation, we can draw two clear parallels that guide our thinking and to motivate us to trust Him more:
a) Jesus gave up his glory to sit and eat our course food and love us.
b) We must be those, like the peasant in the story, who treasure knowing Jesus more than the blessings He gives. We are not to seek the gifts but the Giver.
The first aspect of our Training in this season is actively growing in faith in Christ. As we look at Jesus’ wilderness temptation for forty days we should trust Him more since:
1) Jesus is our Captain - He led Israel as the captain who finally completed their mission, yet alone (Heb. 2:10; Is. 53). Jesus was true Israel (Matt. 2:15). Lent commemorates that part of Jesus’ life which fulfills the pattern of baptism then the passage through the wilderness and into the promised land. Hence, the forty days of Jesus’ temptation reflect Israel’s forty years in the wilderness. This is highlighted by the use of Deuteronomy, the second giving of Torah, at the end of the wilderness journey of Israel.
2) Jesus is our Champion - He was the victor and conquered the devil. Jesus trusts the Father at every point and uses the Sword of the Spirit. In the first temptation (using Deu. 8:3) Jesus responded that God’s Word was trustworthy for life and existence. Jesus identifies fully with His people in complete dependence on the Father. In the second temptation, Jesus gains the victory knowing that receiving the kingdom without suffering would have defeated the cross. But Jesus knew redemption requires that glory and dominion only come after humility, suffering and faithfulness, thus fulfilling Israel’s destiny as the Suffering Servant (Isa. 52:13-53:12). In the third temptation, Jesus overcomes by refusing to fly down from the pinnacle of the temple with angelic displays and thus win a flashy following. But to receive Kingship without the cross was just to question God as in Deut. 6:16. The cross was the means of redemption so that sin could be dealt with once for all.
Exhortations: Lent is our community training with the “joy set before us.” Training is not “works.” But it does require effort. Grace is not opposed to effort, only earning. The goal of Lent as a discipline is not “merit” (we have none), but Resurrection Feasting, Pentecost, and Reigning (Lk 7:33ff). But the chief way of training ourselves is to see Jesus in all His humility and glory in all that He did to please the Father on our behalf. “For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). Faith is the victory that overcomes the world (1John 5:4).