Saturday, February 13, 2016

Confession of Hope

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (Matthew 4:1)

The Bible is not about us, it is about Jesus Christ.  If we want to make it about us in any way, we need to to see that it is about what Jesus Christ has done FOR us.  We are spectators on the sideline.  Jesus is the hero.  We are not to make ourselves into heroes.  We are to understand what Jesus has done for us, and to put our complete faith in his accomplishments on our behalf.

First, Jesus shared in our flesh and blood.  He underwent the same things as we, even death, but whereas our deaths are the finish line of our lives, Christ's death was the beginning of some amazing, supernatural accomplishments, including destroying the one who has the power of death: the devil.  Through Christ's death he also delivered those whom he would call brothers and sisters.  We lived according to the flesh, just like everyone else, but that path was one that led to eternal death.  As brothers and sisters of Christ, however, we have been born again of the Spirit, and we are in the process of putting to death the works of the flesh, and our destination is eternal life.  The Spirit of God makes us into slaves of Christ and adopts us as sons and daughters to God, heirs of everlasting life.  Before this happened, we were slaves to sin and feared death, because it brought everlasting death.

Second, as fully human, Jesus became our high priest. Why do we need a priest?  Because we need a mediator between us and the Father, a mediator who is merciful, faithful, and who makes propitiation for the sins of his people.  Being merciful, even though we are in the great tribulation, and as sons and daughters of God we suffer, Christ does not leave us or destroy us, because he remembers the covenant that he made with Abraham, and we are grafted into that covenant by Christ himself, the vinedresser.  Being faithful, he is our rock, our fortress, he rescues us from snares and dangers laid by others, and redeems us from the pit.  Finally, being the propitiation for our sins, he actually spilled his own blood, instead of ours, and we receive his blood by faith, making that spilled blood our own, as payment for our sins.

Third, as high priest, he is tempted like us, he suffers like us, but as a result he helps us through temptations and sufferings.  He sympathizes with us, he understands our weakness, he has "been there," and has "done that."  There is a difference: whereas we give into temptation and our sufferings are a result of our sins, Christ never gave into his temptations, never sinned, and so his sufferings are only on our behalf.  Because of this substitutionary atonement, we are able to draw near to God to receive his mercy and grace.

Finally, because of all this--all that Christ suffered and paid for with his blood--we make a confession of hope. This is not to be confused with making a positive confession in order to be blessed temporally.  No, if we make any confession naturally, we are predisposed to make a negative confession.  A confession of hope is a confession of faith in Christ's accomplishments on the cross, that he defeated death and the devil and that he has paid for our sins.  In our natural state, we have no hope in Christ.  See this passage from 1 Samuel 17, from the recount of David and Goliath:

Now Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spoke to the men. And Eliab's anger was kindled against David, and he said, “Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.” And David said, “What have I done now? Was it not but a word?” And he turned away from him toward another, and spoke in the same way, and the people answered him again as before.

David represents Christ prepared to defeat the devil, Goliath.  We are the frightened people of Israel on the sidelines.  When Christ brings forth the challenge, we are naturally unable to confess hope in him, like Eliab.  As we become children of God, however, we hold fast to our confession of hope in Christ, hoping that Christ has defeated the devil on that cross. We watch as he entered into a battle of wits with the devil in the wilderness.  The devil unleashed every weapon of temptation upon Jesus, trying to force Jesus to use his divine power to end his own suffering.  But we know that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer, and that without such suffering he would not be able to enter into his glory.  Likewise without a confession of hope in Christ's sufferings, and his resistance to temptation, we will be unable to enter into our own glory.

Stand firm in hope.  The devil will leave.  Angels will come and minister.  Do not lose faith.