March 19 “Enemies”

Enemies

When we live as “salt and light” in this world, we make enemies. How are we to respond to them?
Jesus had a way of turning every issue on its head; this one is no exception. In this part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives the most counter-intuitive advice. To the natural mind it just doesn’t make sense.

  • Offering the other cheek when an enemy has already struck the first one?
  • Going a second mile voluntarily when only the first mile was required?
  • Surrendering a coat to an enemy when all he demanded was a shirt?
  • Giving things to thugs demanding them by force or moochers who want to “borrow?”

Human nature resists all these tactics. If we want to fight or quit before the job is done or keep an enemy in his place as an adversary, we need to ignore the advice of Jesus.  However, if we want to have peace, complete a task, make a friend out of an enemy and be a blessing to those who are cursing us, these things make perfect sense.

Getting Back what You Give
The Law of Sowing and Reaping is built into Creation. If you want corn, plant corn. If you want beans, plant beans.

  • If you want to fight, hit back every time you are struck.
  • If you want a business partner, go beyond what the job requires.
  • If you want to win over an opponent, be more than kind to him.
  • If you want to have what you need when you need it, be generous to a fault to those who do not deserve it.

When we, with God’s help, intentionally counter our fleshly, human impulse to strike back or hold tightly to what is rightfully ours and we do this in the Name of the Lord, the Lord goes to work in the life of our enemy. As foolish as this may seem, it works. We sow good when presented with evil. We change the subject from hate and selfishness to joy and generosity and faith.

“Coals of Fire.”
In Romans, the Apostle Paul echoes the Sermon on the Mount. As he does, he makes one of the strangest statements in all of the Bible. To plant these seeds of non-violence and generosity in response to the actions of an enemy, we actually:

“…heap coals of fire on his head.”

We can read all sorts of explanations of the meaning of this strange phrase most of them having to do with the essential nature of coals of fire to survival in the ancient world. It seems “coals of fire” is a metaphor for the conscience of the individual. People who are given to striking others or taking advantage or forcing their will on people have a conscience that has gone cold. To counter their violence with peace, their coercion with cooperation, their selfishness with generosity can reawaken that sleeping conscience. In the natural this may seem like a faint hope but it must be remembered: in the Sermon on the Mount we are talking about a supernatural life enabled by the Holy Spirit. Our obedience to the Word of God sows supernatural seed in the life of our enemy. We will be surprised what God can do with that!

Scriptures:
Matthew 5:38-48
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Romans 12:14-21
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You have called me to a supernatural life. Help me to turn the other cheek, to go the second mile, and to be generous all in Your name and for Your glory. Give me the joy of seeing enemies become friends. Help me overcome evil with Good as I sow good seed into the lives of people around me, especially those who don’t like me. I want to see the surprise on their faces when I counter their evil deeds with good ones. Lord, You will fight my battles. You will be my defense. I will be Your servant in this supernatural life. Amen.

Song:
Make Me a Blessing
Words: Ira B. Wilson: Music: George S. Schuler

1. Out in the highways and byways of life,
Many are weary and sad; are weary and sad
Carry the sunshine where darkness is rife
Making the sorrowing glad.

Refrain:
Make me a blessing, Make me a blessing,
Out of my life May Jesus shine;
Make me a blessing, O savior, I pray,
I pray Thee, my Savior,
Make me a blessing to someone today.

2. Tell the sweet story of Christ and His love;
Tell of His pow’r to forgive;
His pow’r to forgive.
Others will trust Him if only you prove
True ev’ry moment you live.

Refrain

3. Give as ’twas given to you in your need;
Love as the Master loved you;
Be to the helpless a helper indeed;
Unto your mission be true.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

March 18 “Authority”

Authority

It was the central question: Who gave Jesus the authority to do the things He did and say the things He said?
There had never been anyone like Jesus. John the Baptist was a prophet; on this the people agreed. Jesus was more than a prophet—He was…Well who was He? Sickness ended with His touch. Deaf ears started hearing and blind eyes started seeing at His proclamation. Crippled legs and shrunken arms grew to normal strength when loved ones brought them close to Him. Demons fled at His command. He took the Word of God and made it live in ways that people who had read it all their lives and memorized sizable portions of it had never considered. He pronounced the judgment of God on wickedness wherever He found it. He feared no man or council or army. He even strode into the Temple courts and claimed it to be His Father’s house as He scattered the religious rats who built their nests there.

Finally, the leaders had seen enough; the question must be asked and answered:

“By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?”

Without blinking an eye, Jesus answered their question with one of His own (He often did this.) He asked them about the baptism of John: was it from God? If they would declare themselves, so would He. They realized at once that He had bested them again.

  • If they said it was from God, they would have to explain their rejection of him.
  • If they said what they really believed, they would lose the confidence of the people for they held John to be a prophet.

The brightest among them answered the Lord: “We cannot say.” Laughing, Jesus told them in that case He would not reveal His source of authority either.

The Authority of Jesus
Jesus told two stories about owners of vineyards. One had two sons whom he instructed to work in his vineyard. One said he would and then he didn’t. The other said he wouldn’t and then he did. Which one did his father’s will? The Scribes and Pharisees had started this conversation so they had to answer: the first of course. Jesus agreed and declared that evil people who eventually did God’s will would enter heaven before leaders who claimed to follow God but didn’t.

Another vineyard owner constructed a first class vineyard, complete in every detail and then went on a long journey, leasing the vineyard to local workers. When the time for the harvest came, he sent representatives to collect the profits. Instead, his representatives were abused and even killed. He sent more and it happened again. Finally he sent his son and they did the same to him. Jesus asked,

“Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?”

His opponents fell into the trap, predicting judgement on the thieving, murdering vinedressers. Jesus sprung the trap identifying them as the wicked men and Himself as the Cornerstone—the one who has the authority of Heaven at His back.

They knew these clever stories were aimed at them. There was nothing the leaders could do. They could not debate with Jesus. They could not explain away the miracles. They wanted to arrest Him but they feared the crowd.

The Cornerstone
A mighty structure rests upon a mighty stone. In the same way the Kingdom of God rests on the person of Jesus, the Cornerstone. His authority extends to the ends of the earth. If we cast our lives onto Him, He will gently break away the parts of us that offend the Father. For those who reject Him, the judgements of God will bring personal and permanent destruction. How much better to throw our souls upon His mercy!

Scriptures:
Matthew 21:23-46
Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?” But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: The baptism of John — where was it from? From heaven or from men?” And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.” So they answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.” And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things. “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him. “Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit. And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?” They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes’? “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them. But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus You are the Cornerstone! All of my faith rests on You. You are more than a literary character or a figure from history. You are not billeted in the clouds amusing Yourself with celestial pursuits. You are here with me, involved in my life, leading me from earth to glory. You have the authority over heaven and earth. As the poet said, “thousands of angels at Your bidding speed and they also serve who only stand and wait.” Whether speeding at Your command or waiting for the next assignment, I rest in Your authority today. Amen.

Song:
Cornerstone
Words and Music: Dottie Rambo

Jesus is the Cornerstone, came for sinners to atone.
Though rejected by His own He became the Cornerstone.
Jesus is the Cornerstone.

When I am by sin oppressed on this Stone I am at rest.
Where the seeds of truth are sown, He remains the Cornerstone.
Jesus is the Cornerstone.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me. Let me hide myself in Thee.
Rock of Ages so secure for all time He shall endure,
Till His children reach their home, He remains the Cornerstone.
Till the breaking of the dawn, Till all footsteps cease to roam,
Ever let this truth be known. Jesus is the Cornerstone.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

March 17 “Believing”

Believing

After the big parade, people were wondering what to expect from Jesus.
He quietly dismounted the young donkey and handed the guide rope to the Disciples, patting her strong neck to let her know she had done well, never balking at all the noise or stumbling on the streets. Before he headed for the Temple, He borrowed a whip from a camel driver. The man surrendered the whip without a question but wondered why Jesus would need one.

In the Outer Court
Jesus entered the Temple and slowly walked through the courtyard. This place was intended to be a place of preparation for sacrifices in the Temple, a place of repentance where sins were regretted and forgiveness sought. Not today. It was a marketplace. Animals for sacrifice were on sale everywhere: expensive lambs for rich people and expendable doves for the poor. Instead of the solemn sounds of prayer, the courtyard rang with shouts, bickering, and the ever-present clank of metal coins.

As the offense of such profanity boiled over in His Spirit, Jesus cracked the whip. Those close enough to hear it over the din of commerce gave Him a furtive glance and quickly went back to their selling. He cracked the whip again, louder, and this time across the back of a dove handler. His cage full of condemned birds fell from his hands and broke open granting the birds a welcomed reprieve. Jesus then had everyone’s attention. A few more cracks of the whip and merchants scattered for safety as birds, lambs, and tiny goats took advantage of broken cages and dropped ropes. The noise of the animals, the screams of the merchants, and the protests of the priests watching profits escape ruled several minutes of chaos. Finally, with a cordon of fearful souls surrounding Him, Jesus spoke His rage:

“It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’
but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.'”

In less than a minute, the crowd again took up the songs of the parade and the religious leaders renewed their protests. Sick people rushed toward Jesus and a great healing service was the result. There was little the leaders could do. In the presence of such power, their picayune protests were dismissed by Jesus:

“Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have perfected praise’?”

Over the objections of the mistaken leaders, the healing and rejoicing continued as merchants scrambled to recapture doves, round up sheep, and collect their scattered coins.

To Bethany and Back
The parade over and the healing service ended, Jesus returned to Bethany to rest, most likely to the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus,. The next day He returned to the city and to the Temple. On the way, He was hungry and stopped by a fig tree but found no fruit. He pronounced judgment on the tree and it withered from the roots up. When His men marveled at this, Jesus interpreted the whole sequence of events for them.

It was all about believing.
The merchants and the priests believed that the forgiveness of sins was a business; they were wrong. The crowd believed Jesus was Messiah; they were correct. The sick people believed Jesus was their healer; they were right. Such was the power of belief when the things believed were actually true. Jesus told them, and us:

“…whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

Let us, therefore, believe!

Scriptures:
Matthew 21:12-22
Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.'” Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise’?” Then He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and He lodged there. Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away. And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither away so soon?” So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I believe! In believe in You and in Your Word. Your promises are true and they are for me. I believe in Your will and plan for my life. You are my Savior, my Healer, My hope and My rejoicing. Show me the things that You have planned for me so I can fill my prayers with them. I believe in the future that only You can see and I know that when I get there You will already be there ahead of be. Hosanna! To the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Amen.

Song:
Because We Believe
Words and Music: Jamie Harvill and Nancy Gordon

1. We believe in God the Father.
We believe in Christ the Son.
We believe in the Holy Spirit.
We are the Church And we stand as one.

2. We believe in the Holy Bible.
We believe in the virgin birt.h
We believe in the resurrection,
That Christ one day Will return to earth

Refrain:
Holy, holy. Holy is our God
Worthy, worthy. Worthy is our King
All glory and honor Are His to receive
To Jesus we sing. Because we believe

3. We believe in the blood of Jesus.
We believe in eternal life.
We believe in His love that frees us
To become the bride of Christ.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

March 16 “Fulfill”

FulFill

Jesus knew He was susceptible to the charge of being a radical.
He also knew it wasn’t true. He had not come to destroy. On the contrary, He had come to fulfill. In a series of remarkable statements, fulfillment is the recurring theme. He teaches us how

  • to fulfill the demands of the law,
  • to conquer hate and violence in our hearts, thus fulfilling the command to love God and others,
  • to fulfill our duty to worship God, and
  • to handle conflicts with others without going to the courts.

His logic is unassailable, His instruction is sound, and His language is direct and unambiguous.

Fulfilling the Law
Far from departing from the Law, Jesus came to fulfill it. The Word of God is not some temporary tome in need of editing. It is more firm and permanent than creation itself. The Old Covenant Law was a document of prophesies of truths to come. The people in His audience were seeing the fulfillment of these prophesies in Jesus. Under the New Covenant we enjoy the fulfillment of the Law when we are in relationship with Jesus. He fulfills the demands of the Law!

The Law of Love
Each day the faithful Old Covenant believers confessed the Shema, demanding they love God completely. The Law also demanded that they love their neighbors. Jesus warned His listeners against the destructive power of hate. Hate blocks the fulfillment of the greatest commandments in the Law. Hate is revealed in name calling, in prejudice, and derision. To fulfill the Law of Love one must not deride a brother or sister with names that demean them

  • raca—“empty one, worthless one”
  • fool—“dull or stupid one”

To feed one’s anger with derision is to take a step toward violence or even murder. Some who would never kill someone with a gun are experts with character assassination using words. To live this way is a short trip to hell. To refrain from hate is a short trip to the fulfillment of the Law of Love.

The Law of Worship
Each of us is on the earth to worship God. To walk with Jesus on the Path of Life is to live the worship-filled life. Unresolved conflicts with others spoil our worship. We may be the finest of singers or instrumentalists, but if we are harboring hate, bitterness, or envy against someone, our worship does not reach the Lord’s ears, let alone His heart. Jesus said these things must be resolved if we are to fulfill our call to worship, our purpose to worship. There is no way to calculate the degree to which revival is hindered by worship that is negated by unresolved conflicts within the church. We must obey Jesus:

“…leave your gift there before the altar, and … be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

The Law of Peace
We shortchange the Grace of God if we let conflicts within the church go unresolved to the point of legal action. Jesus said

“Agree with your adversary quickly…”

That means find a consensus according to the Word of God and agree together! Remember, The Word lasts forever!

Scriptures:
Matthew 5: 17-26
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.
Deuteronomy 6:4-5
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
Levitcus 19:17-18 ‘You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
Mark 12:29-31
Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, draw me close to You! I want to fulfill the greatest commands to Love You with heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love my neighbor as myself. I want to fulfill Your call on my life to be holy and productive, loving and compassionate, creative and skilled. Keep me from hate. Keep me from name-calling and all forms of derision. Help me be a peacemaker—a child of God! Amen and Amen.

Song:
O to Be Like Thee
Words: Thomas O. Chisholm; Music: William J. Kirkpatrick

1. Oh! to be like Thee, blessed Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

Refrain:
Oh! to be like Thee, oh! to be like Thee,
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

2. Oh! to be like Thee, full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wand’ring sinner to find.

Refrain

3. Oh! to be like Thee, lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer, others to save.

Refrain

4. Oh! to be like Thee, Lord, I am coming,
Now to receive th’ anointing divine;
All that I am and have I am bringing,
Lord, from this moment all shall be Thine.

Refrain

5. Oh! to be like Thee, while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love,
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

March 15 “Good”

Good

When times are truly evil, good becomes the object of ridicule.
Words for good things become words of derision:

  • “Virgin,”
  • “Goody-two-shoes,”
  • “Teetotaler,”
  • “Boy Scout,”
  • “Choir boy,” and the most derisive of all,
  • “Holy-roller.”

People want the freedom to do as they please and, in a telling phrase, “ let the devil take the hindmost.” He does. Anyone who takes a stand against evil will be subject to appellations such as these.

Turning the Tables
On the other hand, the same people who want to be unmolested by those who promote goodness want to be treated well; they want goodness coming their way. They may be cheaters but they don’t want to be cheated. They may stretch the truth beyond recognition but they resent being lied to. Young men may enjoy the company of bad girls but they want to marry a good one.

How to Be Good
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addressed the issue of goodness. He employed two common metaphors: salt and light.

“You are the salt of the earth”
“You are the light of the world”

These everyday things help us see the importance of good in the world.

  • Salt—Good is a preservative. Unbridled freedom to follow our impulses will destroy a society. Goodness is the necessary restraint. It was good that tamed the Wild West, not the Colt .45. The Rule of Law is the rule of restraint.
  • Light—Good is illumination. Good points us to the next step, a “lamp for our feet and a light for our path.” Without a standard of goodness, we stumble in the shadows of our darkened minds. Creation cycles between daylight and dark. The light Jesus spoke about goes beyond the turning of the earth. It is light in darkness, a shining city on a hill whose illumination pushes ignorance back and makes us safe within our dwellings.

How then should we live?
The Bible makes it clear that being completely good is a hopeless goal on our own. We all fall short of the glory of God. Jesus came to forgive us of those shortcomings and to empower us to live good lives.

  • Christ-followers must be the salt of the earth. We must live lives that marked by restraint. Goodness expressed in every day choices and actions is a preservative for this world.
  • Christ-followers must be light-bearers. Each of us has an inner light—the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. We must not hide this light. It shines when we refrain from evil in all its public and private manifestations. Together, our lights combine to make that “shining city on a hill,” so often referred to by visionaries. It is more than a vision; it is the reality of the church.

We are not showing off. The world can spot a phony in a minute. If we live with the restraints of holiness, people will know. Our workstation will become a bastion, a refuge, a place of prayer and hope. Our lives will be preservatives functioning against the chaos of impulse.

The Light within in us is Jesus Himself. We can be the light of the world because He is the Light of the World. Walk in the light as He is in the Light. We will not stumble when others lose their footing. Standing firm in a pool of light called grace, people will see and give the glory to God.

Scriptures:
Matthew 5:13-16
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Hebrews 12:14-16
Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;
Romans 6:22-23
But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Isaiah 60:1-3
Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the Lord will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising.
1 John 1:5-7
This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are my example. Thank You for forgiving my sins and calling me to this life of being salt and light to a decaying and dark world. Holy Spirit, empower me to “live a holy life, to shun the wrong and do the right.” When I hear the derision of the world leveled at me, help me to respond in love. Let Your voice, coming from the Light, sound louder than all those voices coming from the dark. May all who witness my life see You in it and give glory to God. Amen.

Song:
Take Time to Be Holy
Words: William D. Longstaff; Music: George C. Stebbins

1. Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
Make friends of God’s children, help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.

2. Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret, with Jesus alone.
By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.

3. Take time to be holy, let Him be thy Guide;
And run not before Him, whatever betide.
In joy or in sorrow, still follow the Lord,
And, looking to Jesus, still trust in His Word.

4. Take time to be holy, be calm in thy soul,
Each thought and each motive beneath His control.
Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love,
Thou soon shalt be fitted for service above.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

March 14 “Blessed”

Blessed

“Blessed” There are no hidden meanings in the Greek. It means what it means, “happy,” “fortunate,” even “well-off.” (Vine’s Dictionary)
Jesus, the carpenter-turned-preacher/healer/miracle worker, saw the growing multitude of people who had left their homes and businesses, followed Him into the wilderness, and were waiting now for His every word. He went up into an elevated place, like a speaker’s platform, to deliver what would become His most famous sermon, “The Sermon on the Mount.”

No platitudes, please.
These people wanted the truth, not some routine, warmed over mush meant for babies. Jesus was ready. His storehouse was stacked high with truth from the Word of God, from the carpenter’s shop, from the village, from the synagogue, from the home, and from His keen eye for observation. This sermon would challenge those who wish to live a meaningful, significant life for centuries to come. Little phrases here and there would go into the vernacular of common use:

  • Go the second mile,
  • Turn the other cheek,
  • The salt of the earth,
  • A city on a hill,
  • Let your yes be yes and your no be no,
  • No one can serve two masters,
  • Judge not that ye be not judged,
  • Do not cast pearls before swine,
  • Do unto others…, and
  • Build your house on the rock.

He also gave the world a prayer that has become the universal confession of the Christian faith.

The Beatitudes
He began with a list of conditioned responses. He itemizes life’s challenges and with each one gives a way to meet the challenge and in these ways become blessed. It is all here.

  • The human condition: poverty, hunger and thirst, loss, injustice,
  • The longings of the human heart: purity, peace, mercy, and
  • The uncertainty of the future: persecution at the hands of evil men.

To these relentless conditions, Jesus provides new and triumphant responses:

  • The poor in spirit are citizens of heaven’s Kingdom.
  • Those who mourn will be comforted.
  • The meek shall be owners of the earth’s bounty.
  • Those who hunger for God will be filled.
  • Those who have been wronged shall respond with mercy.
  • A pure heart will open to see the Throne of God.
  • Those who make peace in the middle of conflict will be those of God’s family.
  • Those who are lied about for His sake will be rewarded for the truth of their lives.

A Continuum
In the Beatitudes, Jesus is presenting a continuum, an extension of the eternal Kingdom of God into the present generation. Truth-tellers have always been attacked by those whose hopes lie in lies. To be pure in heart takes courage. To hunger and thirst after righteousness takes discipline that makes others uncomfortable. To make peace in this troubled world is an affront to those who thrive in strife. It has always been so. These things do not surprise us. We are “blessed.” Knowing the cost of following Jesus, we can rejoice that we have been called to walk in the footsteps of the prophets before us and in the light of the disciples whose writings inform us, and in the company of the Savior who walks by our side.

Scriptures:
Matthew 5:1-12
And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You experienced the reality of the life we face and not from the safe distance of heaven, but from right here on earth. Your knew what it is to mourn, to be poor and persecuted, to hunger and thirst, to be lied about, and to face the challenge of making peace in a violent world. Now, You live in me! Help me be a peacemaker. Give me a pure heart. I want to hunger and thirst after righteousness and be filled. Thank You, Jesus! Amen.

Song:
Wonderful Words of Life
Words and Music: P. P. Bliss

1. Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life;
let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words of life;
words of life and beauty, teach me faith and duty:

Refrain:
Beautiful words, wonderful words,
wonderful words of life;
Beautiful words, wonderful words,
wonderful words of life.

2. Christ, the blessed One, gives to all wonderful words of life;
sinner, list to the laving call, wonderful words of life;
all so freely given, wooing us to heaven:

Refrain

3. Sweetly echo the gospel call, wonderful words of life;
offer pardon and peace to all, wonderful words of life;
Jesus, only Savior, sanctify forever,

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

March 13 “Healing”

Healing

Signs and wonders followed Jesus as He taught and preached in the synagogues throughout Galilee.
Every kind of sickness or affliction departed the victims at His touch or His command. This kind of thing cannot be kept quiet. His fame began to spread throughout Galilee bringing multitudes to find Him wherever He might be. The news spread even to Syria where sick people and those tormented by demons and others plagued with diseases came to Him and were healed. Even those whose minds were defective and those who were paralyzed found sanity and mobility at the command of Jesus. All the while, He was preaching the Good News, calling for repentance, and teaching about the New Covenant to come. Attendance at the synagogues broke all records when He was scheduled to be there.

Healing and the Gospel
Today some believe that such Divine Healing somehow escaped this world when the Apostles died out. It is true that no one has walked this earth with healing in his wake the way Jesus did. Still, He promised that we would continue His work in the world. He even said that we would do greater things than He did. This is beyond my ability to explain, so I just believe it.

The preponderance of Scripture indicates that it has always been God’s plan to heal the sick as the Gospel is preached.

  • Isaiah predicted that the cruel stripes on Messiah’s body would be for our healing.
  • Malachi prophesied that The Sun of Righteousness would arise with healing in His wings.
  • In Mark when Jesus gave the Great Commission, He said signs like healing the sick would follow those who preached the Gospel.
  • Plural “gifts of healing” are mentioned in Paul’s marvelous list of spiritual gifts for public worship.
  • James even tells us how to pray for the sick by anointing them with oil as the elders of the assembly pray.

Is this all for show? Is it just for the cameras? Sometimes it is faked but God doesn’t need actors and Divine Healing is not theatre. As the old time Pentecostals used to say, “Healing is the children’s bread.” Two great purposes arise for Divine Healing:

  1. To ease the suffering of the sick because God loves us and cares for us and,
  2. To confirm the reality of the Gospel. “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever!”

What about those who are not healed when prayed for?
Divine Healing is not always instantaneous. God uses time, medicine, rest, and good life habits to heal—it is all His work. We must be careful to see His hand in all of these methods and to give Him glory for His faithfulness.

When we see someone go to the grave with their illness when countless prayers have gone up in their behalf, we are puzzled and our hearts break. One such couple lost their only daughter to leukemia. Before she died she shared with her mother the answer to this dilemma:

“God heals everyone. Some of us He takes to heaven first.”

Great Multitudes
The crowds continued to grow and not just from Galilee but from the politicized south–Jerusalem, Judea—and even beyond the Jordan. Soon a crowd gathered on a mountain to hear the most famous sermon ever preached.

Matthew 4:23-25
And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them. Great multitudes followed Him — from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.
Isaiah 53:5
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.
Malachi 4:2
But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings;
Mark 16:15-18
And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
John 14:12-14
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
James 5:14-15
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for Your healing power. In Your name we can ask for healing and expect a touch. The cruel stripes on Your back were put there to heal our sicknesses and diseases. I know that Your healing is a surety, even if You take us to heaven first. No one on the other side is sick or lame or blind or impaired in any way. Help me be a healer in this world as You walk in me in joy and strength. Thank You, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Song:
The Healer
Words and Music: Lois Irwin

1. On the Cross crucified
In great sorrow my Saviour died
Oh the Giver of so much life was He.
Yet my Lord was despised and rejected of men
Oh this Jesus of Calvary

Refrain:
He was wounded for our transgression
He was bruised for our iniquities
Surely he bought our sorrows
And by His stripes we are healed.

2. Price for healing was paid
When those cruel stripes were made
Within Pilate’s judgment hall.
Now His suffering affords Perfect healing for all.
This wonderful Healer is mine.

Refrain

3. He has healed my sick soul
Made me every whit whole
And He’ll do the same for you.
He’s the same yesterday and today and for aye
This Healer of men today.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

March 12 “Fishermen”

Fishermen

The Sea of Galilee had several names and was so full of fish as to be the source of wealth for the fishermen who plied their trade in her waters.
Here Jesus called the first of the Twelve who would follow Him in His earthly ministry. They were two sets of brothers:

  • Peter and Andrew, and
  • James and John, the sons of Zebedee.
  • Matthew does not tell of their qualifications to follow Jesus, only that they were fishermen.

Jesus saw this as a metaphor for the ministry to which He was calling them.

“Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

We are not told why they answered this call.
Why would successful businessmen leave the source of their livelihood behind—their family business in the case of James and John—to follow this man from Nazareth? Something happened that cannot be explained. Perhaps it was a look. Something in the way He looked at them caused them to see their nets and their lives in a new light. Something in His voice must have sounded a note of adventure in their hearts. Perhaps there was more to life than they had ever dreamed. Perhaps there was a cause bigger than getting through the day, something more than cleaning and repairing their nets for the next trip out to sea. Maybe life could be an adventure. On long lonely nights on the Galilee each man had entertained the thoughts of a life that he would never know beyond the familiar horizon. Maybe this man would lead them there.

Fishers of Men
What a strange promise:

“I will make you fishers of men.”

Whatever could that mean? How were people like fish? It was certain that there were many people, much like the abundance of fish in the sea. But how were they to be caught? What type of net would it require? And why? Why would people need to be caught? Wouldn’t it be kinder to leave them alone? Fishermen knew full well that getting caught was not good for the fish! Perhaps people were trapped in some way and needed to be caught and set free from a dangerous environment. Yes, that might be it!

One thing was sure; Jesus was talking about things for which all men long. He was talking about significance and influence. Any man worth his salt wants to be significant. He wants to matter in the eyes of the people around him. He wants people to listen when he speaks. When he is old and gray, he wants to sit with honor as an elder at the gate. Surely this would be the result of a life of significance and influence if one became a “fisher of men.”

Jesus called and they responded.
We can speak of these things today because Jesus is still calling people to follow Him. We cannot see His eyes or hear His voice with our eyes and ears but we can sense His call in our hearts. We can know that He is looking deep inside and saying to each of us, “Follow me and I will make you significant. Through you I will influence the world for the better. I will make you a fisher of men.”

Scriptures:
Matthew 4:18-22
And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.
Jeremiah 29:11-14
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord , thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord , and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord , and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You see the value of each individual. None of us is on this earth by accident. You have a calling, a work, an anointing, for each of us. I want to be true to my call. I want to do my part as a “Fisher of Men.” I want to tell Your story to all who will listen. I want to tell it with my words, with my choices, with my actions, with my worship and with my very life. Help me touch those around me with Your kindness. Help me be an encourager of people, pointing them always to You, always to You. “Where You lead me, I will follow!” Thank You, Lord. Amen.

Song:
Where He Leads Me I Will Follow
Words: E.W. Blandy; Music: John S. Norris

1. I can hear my Savior calling,
I can hear my Savior calling,
I can hear my Savior calling,
“Take thy cross and follow, follow Me.

Refrain:
Where He leads me I will follow,
Where He leads me I will follow,
Where He leads me I will follow,
I’ll go with Him, with Him all the way.

2. “I’ll go with Him thro’ the garden,
I’ll go with Him through the garden,
I’ll go with Him thro’ the garden,
I’ll go with Him, with Him all the way.

Refrain

3. I’ll go with Him thro’ the judgment,
I’ll go with Him thro’ the judgment,
I’ll go with Him thro’ the judgment,
I’ll go with Him, with Him all the way.

Refrain

4. He will give me grace and glory,
He will give me grace and glory,
He will give me grace and glory,
And go with me, with me all the way.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

March 11 “Galilee”

Galilee

An essential part of sensing God’s will is to also sense His timing.
The arrest of John, the Forerunner, by the authorities in Jerusalem signaled to Jesus that the time was not yet for Him to minister in Judea. He departed to His home region of Galilee. Jerusalem and the Temple and the entrenched leadership there could wait for a while.

His ministry was different from that of John. He would call people to repentance as John did, but Jesus would also bring a new perspective on the Old Covenant; there was much teaching to be done and Galilee was a good place to start, far from the forces that had imprisoned John. There were sick, wounded, and disabled people who needed a healing touch. There were demon possessed people who needed a deliverer. Miracles would set the ministry of Jesus apart from that of John; they were the prophesied ministry of Messiah. These demonstrations of the power of God flowing through Jesus would tie the hands of provincial leaders in the towns of the north. How could they move against a fellow Galilean who was so obviously approved of God? No, it was not yet time for Jerusalem.

The Words of the Prophet Isaiah
There was also the witness of the Word of God. Isaiah predicted that Messiah would come from “Galilee of the Gentiles.” The Jewish population had grown considerably in the centuries since Isaiah wrote but Galilee was still a land of mixed cultures but with a dominant culture of Judaism.

The Prophet’s description of the culture was this:

“The people who sat in darkness…in the region of the shadow of death… have seen a great light.”

The light of truth shown in the local synagogues and in the homes of the Jewish faithful but the surrounding culture was one of darkness and “the shadow of death.” What does Matthew mean by this quote of Isaiah? Pagan cultures were cultures of death. Life was cheap. The worth of each individual, such an integral part of Judeo-Christian thought, was absent. Power and superstition ruled life. Some pagan religions demanded the sacrifice of infants. The only politics were those of force and the only morality was expediency. After several cycles of being conquered and delivered through the centuries, the Jews living in Galilee survived by being true to their covenantal relationship with God. They bonded together in tightly-knit communities. If Messiah could speak truth to Gentiles, He could reach anyone.

The Preaching of Jesus
The summation of Jesus’ preaching in Galilee was this:

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

This was a message for both the Jews and the Gentiles. Change was coming. A revolution was imminent. An emissary of Heaven had come to earth with Good News to share with everyone. He echoed John’s call to repentance, to a moment of reversal in one’s life, and He gave a reason to repent—there was to be a reckoning. A new Kingdom was near at hand! This Kingdom would not be one like the pagan nations, filled with violence and the shadow of death. It would be the Kingdom of Heaven, filled with joy like the sunrise and peace like the cool of the evening. Sins needed to be forsaken if one was to be a citizen of this Kingdom. The time had come to repent!

Scriptures:
Matthew 4:12-17
Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Isaiah 9:1-2
Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed, As when at first He lightly esteemed The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, And afterward more heavily oppressed her, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, In Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,Upon them a light has shined.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You began Your earthly ministry in Your home region. As beautiful as the region of Galilee may have been they had never seen anyone like You. Neither have I! Your love is amazing and constant. Your lovingkindness is indeed better than life. Your Word is truth I can count on today and for all my tomorrows. You care for me here and prepare a better place for me in the life to come. Thank You for making the journey from heaven to earth and from Your hometown to mine. “O how I love this man from Galilee!” Amen.

Song:
Sweet Jesus
Words and Music: Doris Akers

1. There’s a name that’s dear to me; Lifted me from misery;
Took me out of sin and shame. How I love His blessed name.
It gets sweeter every day. Serving Jesus really pays.
Oh how I love that Man of Galilee!

Refrain:
Sweet Jesus fellowship divine.
Sweet Jesus I’m His and He is mine.
Sweet Jesus a precious Friend indeed.
Sweet Jesus whenever I’m in need.
Fellowship divine; I’m His and He is mine;
A precious Friend indeed Whenever I’m in need.
Oh how I love this Man of Galilee!

2. If the Lord you’ve never known, You should hasten to His Throne.
Such fulfillment you’ll receive, If in Him you will believe.
Life will be so sweet to you. You’ll call Him Sweet Jesus too.
Oh how I love that Man of Galilee!

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

March 10 “Temptation”

Temptation

Righteousness fulfilled and proclaimed in a thundering voice from heaven must be tested to prove its worth.
When Jesus told John that it was necessary for Him to fulfill all righteousness, He meant more than just His baptism in the Jordan. For the next three years of public ministry He would walk this earth in the character of God—truth, integrity, holiness, complete righteousness, and He would touch people with the power of God to heal, deliver, restore and encourage. Such a life could only be lived if Jesus had complete and constant victory over sin.

Into the Wilderness
Jesus did not wander into the wilderness. He was led by the Spirit of God. He may or may not have known He was going to go face-to-face with Satan but He certainly knew the Holy Spirit was leading Him there. One translation even uses the word, “driven” to describe this powerful leadership. Jesus, like other leaders in the nation’s history, fasted and prayed for forty days and nights. Just to make sure we understand, Matthew adds a postscript:

“…afterward He was hungry.”

This was no show of divine force; it was a display of human weakness and strength; strength of will to accomplish such a thing and weakness resulting from the forty day ordeal. Soon angels would minister to Him but first a necessary encounter took place. Satan, the tempter, came to Him. Hoping that the weakness of Jesus’ body had somehow affected His mind, the devil started with a temptation to doubt.

“If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”

A useless ploy! I can almost see Jesus laugh in the devil’s face. He had no doubt who He was! He didn’t need fresh baked stones—He had the everlasting Word of God!

Suddenly they were at the pinnacle of the Temple and Satan tried this one:

“If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down.”

He perverted a promise about angels watching over Him to prevent foot injuries. The sight of the Temple and the impressive grounds did not impress Jesus in the least. He reminded Satan of what a dangerous thing it is to tempt God!

Next they were at the summit of a high mountain where all the kingdoms of the world could be clearly seen. They shimmered in the sun but it was the sun Jesus Himself had created! There was no glory to be had here that He had not already possessed since creation and then laid aside.

“All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”

Jesus was annoyed at this. Worship was for God alone. Hadn’t Lucifer learned that lesson eons ago?

“Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God,
and Him only you shall serve.'”

I can almost see Satan pounding a fist into a hand and walking away with his head shaking. Or maybe he left in a cloud of desert dust and loud noise. We don’t know; all we know is Matthew’s terse report.

“Then the devil left Him…”

Angels could be restrained no longer. They hurried to Jesus’ aid and ministered to Him. Perhaps they served Him manna, angel’s food, to strengthen Him. What a feast!

Three temptations face us all.
The Apostle John informs us that all tempted with three things:

  1. the lust of the flesh,
  2. the lust of the eyes, and
  3. the pride of life.

These are the very things Satan tempted Jesus without success. Today, our victorious Lord shares His triumph with us.

Scriptures:
Matthew 4: 1-11
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'” Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.'” Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'”Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.'” Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.
Hebrews 4:14-16
Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
James 1:12-16
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren.
1 John 2:15-17
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You went toe-to-toe, face-to-face with Satan and beat him on his own desert ground. Angels stood by ready to help but they were not needed. After 40 days of fasting and prayer Your body was weak but Your mighty Spirit was strong. You answered the temptations of Satan with the Word of God hidden in Your heart. In this You fulfilled the admonition to hide the Word in the heart so that sin can be avoided. Lord, live that strong in me. When Satan sends one or his minions to my door, let me answer him with the Word! Amen and Amen!

Song:
Yield Not to Temptation
Words and Music: Horation R. Palmer

1. Yield not to temptation, For yielding is sin;
Each vict’ry will help you, Some other to win;
Fight valiantly onward, Evil passions subdue;
Look ever to Jesus, He will carry you through.

Refrain:
Ask the Savior to help you,
Comfort, strengthen and keep you;
He is willing to aid you, He will carry you through.

2. Shun evil companions, Bad language disdain;
God’s name hold in rev’rence, Nor take it in vain;
Be thoughtful and earnest, Kindhearted and true;
Look ever to Jesus, He will carry you through.

Refrain

3. To him that o’ercometh, God giveth a crown;
Through faith we will conquer, Though often cast down;
He who is our Savior, Our strength will renew;
Look ever to Jesus, He will carry you through.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved