Jesus Christ was in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by Satan and eating nothing during that time. Satan first provoked him, saying, “If you are the son of God, command this stone to become bread.” Satan then enticed him, saying, “If you worship me, all the kingdoms of the world will be yours.” Next, Satan challenged him, saying, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself from the pinnacle of the temple. The angels of God will protect you.” (Luke 4:1-13) I find the phrase, “If you are the Son of God,” most disturbing. Satan’s temptation is both wicked and crafty. Satan acknowledges that Jesus Christ is the Son of God but tries to make Jesus Christ misconstrue what it means to be the Son of God.
Let me put it this way. If you are the Son of God, you can have whatever you need, you can achieve whatever you want, you can be successful, rich, and powerful, and everything will go well with you whatever you do. But are these the true indicators of being the Son of God?
I am also thinking about what the true indicators of being a child of God are this morning. If Satan were to tempt you as he tempted Jesus Christ, “If you are a child of God, prove yourself,” how would you respond? What do you think the true markers of being a child of God are? The answer is hidden in the life of Jesus Christ. I hope that you can spend some time today to find the answer for yourself.
I had something else in mind to share for today’s message, but, after reading and meditating on Luke 4, I felt convicted to share the following with you instead:
Consider this. Someone was there with Jesus when he was baptized in the Jordan River and started his public ministry at the age of thirty. Someone was there with Jesus when he was tempted by Satan in the wilderness. Someone was there with Jesus when he healed a leper, a paralytic and a blind man. Someone was there with Jesus when Jesus calmed the roaring waves and strong winds. Someone was there with Jesus when he was rejected, abandoned and crucified. Someone was there with Jesus when he was left alone, overwhelmed with sorrow and was praying in agony, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Someone was there with Jesus when he was waiting for his resurrection from the inside of his tomb, which was locked by a heavy stone and guarded by Roman soldiers.
Can you guess who that someone is? I wish that it could have been me, but this someone was actually the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ best friend. They were always together and shared not only his times of joy, happiness and ascending but also his times of pain, sorrow and descending as well.
This same Holy Spirit is also there with us whenever we are tempted; whenever we are facing the wilderness of our lives; whenever we are fighting the roaring waves and gusty winds; whenever we become spiritually blind, leper or paralytic; whenever we are left alone and feel sorrowful and hopeless; whenever we are waiting for the time of hope and life amid the time of despair and death. How are you doing? I am praying this morning that you all may have this Holy Spirit with you in your life as well.
I want to share with you a prayer from a devotional journal of mine. I encourage you to read it slowly, intentionally reducing your speed of reading. If you do, who knows? You might hear the tender whispers of God in between the words and lines, as I have. I hope that you can enjoy the beauty and pleasure of slowness through this prayer today. I miss you…
Help me keep my eyes on you. You are the incarnation of Divine Love, you are the expression of God’s infinite compassion, you are the visible manifestation of the Father’s holiness. You are beauty, goodness, gentleness, forgiveness, and mercy. In you all can be found. Outside of you nothing can be found. Why should I look elsewhere or go elsewhere? You have the words of eternal life, you are food and drink, you are the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
You are the light that shines in the darkness, the lamp on the lampstand, the house on the hilltop. You are the perfect Icon of God. In and through you I can see the Heavenly Father, and with you I can find my way to him. O Holy One, Beautiful One, Glorious One, be my Lord, my Savior, my Redeemer, my Guide, my Consoler, my Comforter, my Hope, my Joy, and my Peace. To you I want to give all that I am. Let me be generous, not stingy or hesitant. Let me give you all—all that I have, think, do, and feel. It is yours, O Lord. Please accept it and make it fully your own.
(Nouwen, Henri J. M.. You Are the Beloved)
I become very emotional whenever I read Luke 3. Below are my condolences to him.
John the Baptist was born with a special calling to prepare the way for the Lord Jesus Christ. He proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins and baptized hundreds to thousands of people, even his Lord Jesus Christ, in the Jordan River. He was respected by people not only because of his words but also because of his exemplary life. Many people followed him and became his disciples. In fact, one group even created a community to live and follow in his footsteps together. Some people even questioned if he were the Christ. He seemed to have completed his God-given calling to prepare the way for the Lord Jesus Christ.
However, leaving all of his remarkable achievements behind, he suddenly disappears from the scene. He is imprisoned and beheaded by Herod, the tetrarch, and his public ministry abruptly comes to an end. He is soon forgotten by the people and by his followers, having said no last goodbyes or last words. It makes me angry to think that a person like John the Baptist received such a dishonorable ending, much different from the one that I would have expected. But then in John 3:30, John the Baptist declares, “Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. [Jesus Christ] must increase, but I must decrease.” John the Baptist was right: John the Baptist’s decrease became Jesus Christ’s increase; his descending His ascending; his loss His gain. I want to live my life like John the Baptist. Even if no one else remembers him, I always will.
Many people told me after service yesterday that Sunday Corporate Worship through Zoom was especially intimate and touching. I was also so happy to see the faces of our ANF family again. It seems that Zoom might be the best platform for our Sunday Corporate Worship so far. I think the only problem is that I am really shy and become extra nervous whenever I have to lead and preach in front of a camera.
During yesterday’s time of commitment, five people signed up for online Assurance Life Bible Study and twelve people sent me their commitments and prayer requests through e-mail and text. I usually start my time of early morning prayer praying for those have committed during Sunday Corporate Worship. I’ve included some of their commitments below, hoping that our ANF family might be reminded of its new identity as a holy priesthood and encourage one another to serve and pray for the people of this world:
“I will continue to pray every morning for local people and people in this world who are suffering from COVID19 pandemic, also will continue to do my daily devotional to stay faithful and strong spiritually.”
“I will try to find a way to help others at work and at home.”
“I commit to buying and preparing a bag of food to donate to the Spanish church across the street and trying to encourage others around me to do the same this week.”
“I want to commit to spend more time with God, family, and members of ANF, and to help any neighbors I can if they are in need.”
“I will continue to pray every morning for local people and people in this world who are suffering from COVID19 pandemic.”
“I commit to serve the people that are in need and to help people to restore the relationship.”
“I will pray for the world more and sign up for the prayer chain.”
“I commit to God that I want to pray and fast at least three times a week so I can make an atonement for the people and restore the broken relationship between God and the people around me/society”
“This week’s message has solidified my growing heart to physically serve (to make something homemade with love) and reach out to my HC members. I commit to finding a way to serve them and hopefully, those around me in need.”
“I commit to finding ways to help those in need such as small business owners or those less fortunate. I have been ordering take out once in a while from a small little take out restaurant by my house. I would like to look around to other small businesses around me to help them as well. Even though I feel small and feel like I am not doing much, I hope I am able to help them in some way.”
“I commit to reaching out to organizations to see if there’s a way they can donate food to the Hispanic church across the street.”
I arrived at the church just after 9 am … spent some time doing nothing but simply sitting in the presence of God, laying down all my burdens before Him, and saying this prayer for me…and for ANF family:
O lover to the uttermost,
May I read the meltings of your heart to me
in the manger of your birth
in the garden of your agony,
in the cross of your sufferings,
in the tomb of your resurrection,
in the heaven of your intercession.
I think of your glory and my vileness,
Your majesty and my meanness,
Your beauty and my deformity,
Your purity and my filth,
Your righteousness and my iniquity.
You have loved me everlastingly, unchangeably,
May I love you as I am loved;
You have given yourself for me,
May I give myself to you;
You have died for me,
May I live to you,
in every moment of my time,
in every movement of my mind,
in every pulse of my heart.
May I never dally with the world and its allurements,
But walk by your side,
Listen to your voice,
Be clothed with your graces,
And adorned with your righteousness.
(from the puritan’s prayers)
In Luke 3, John the Baptist, in an effort to prepare the way for the Lord, proclaims a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, urging people to bear fruits in keeping with their repentance. Upon hearing this message, the crowds ask him, “What then shall we do?” He answers them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” Next, the tax collectors ask him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” He says to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” Lastly, the soldiers also ask him, “What shall we do?” He answers them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusations and be content with your wages.”
Many people heard John the Baptist’s message of repentance that day. His message spoke to the non-negotiable acts required for them to experience forgiveness from their Lord Jesus Christ. It explained how the people could prepare the way for His coming. First, the crowds, then the tax collectors and finally the soldiers. Even though their questions were all the same, “What shall we do?”, each group received a different answer. Likewise, if we ourselves do not ask God, “What shall we do?”, that we will not hear our own personal answers to this question. Instead of relying on some stereotypical or cliché answer, let’s deepen our relationship with God today by asking Him, “What shall we do?” and listening for His response.
In the ESV translation, Luke 2:52 states that “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” Let’s look at some other English Bible translations in order to better understand this verse. “Jesus became wise, and he grew strong. God was pleased with him and so were the people.” (CRV) “As Jesus grew taller, he continued to grow in wisdom. God was pleased with him and so were the people who knew him.” (ERV) Jesus became wiser and grew physically. People liked him, and he pleased God.” (EXB) “Jesus continued to learn more and more and to grow physically. People liked him, and he pleased God.” (ICB) “And as Jesus continued to grow in body and mind, he grew also in the love of God and of those who knew him.” (Phillips)
Luke 2:52 speaks to the four most important aspects of our life: Our body, our mind, our relationship with God and our relationship with others. Let’s take a moment to consider if we have also been growing in these four areas, like Jesus did, and how we can continue to grow moving forward. For example, in order to be strong in body, I do stretches, push-ups, squats, sit-ups and pull-ups each day. In order to grow in mind and wisdom, I read books. In fact, I recently finished a book on art history. In order to grow in my relationship with God, I meditate on the Bible and spend time with Him in prayer. In order to grow in my relationships with others, I text them, call them and pray for them. How about you? Let’s commit to growing in each of these four areas starting TODAY.
In Luke 2:9-21, an angel appears to the shepherds out in the field keeping watch over their flock by night and tells them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Christ, the Lord.” Once the angel leaves, the shepherds say to one another, “LET US GO OVER TO BETHLEHEM and SEE this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they WENT UP to Bethlehem with haste and saw the baby lying in a manger. “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had HEARD and SEEN.” Imagine that the shepherds had ignored all that the angel had told them and that they had not gone up to Bethlehem. Do you think that they would have been able to see the baby anyway? Do you think that they would have been able to witness the fulfillment of God’s promise? No!
In this way, it is possible for us to hear certain things from God but neither see nor experience its fulfillment in our everyday lives. God speaks to us, much like the angel who appeared and spoke to the shepherds out in the field. In fact, God has spoken to us numerous times through prayers, inner convictions, the Bible, sermons, books, people, etc. It is just that we have not seen or experienced its fulfillment because we have ignored His voices and have not gone up to Bethlehem. If you have heard from God, now is the time to GO.
Luke 2:1-7 narrates the birth of Jesus. Joseph and Mary originally lived in the town of Nazareth in Galilee. However, they were forced to travel to the city of Bethlehem in Judea, Joseph’s hometown, because of Emperor Augustus’s decree “that all the world should be registered.” While they were there, Mary gave birth to Jesus in Bethlehem. Hallelujah!
Until A.D. 6, the census was irregularly practiced. It took place only once every fourteen years, and its primary purpose was to collect taxes and thus symbolize Augustus’ dominion over the entire world. Did Augustus rule the world? No!
The census brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem for tax purposes, but God brought them to Bethlehem, through the census, to fulfill the prophecy of the Old Testament. Micah 5:2 says, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” It wasn’t by coincidence that Augustus mandated the census to be taken at that exact time. It was because of God’s providence. I hope that we might be able to see and understand God’s sovereignty in human history as well.