Reading Through The Bible in 2011, Part 17

What I Read Today: Luke 4 & 5.

What Stood Out: Luke 4:1-2, ” Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he endured temptations from the devil…”

Random Thoughts About What I Read:

We sat outside on the deck even though it was chilly and drizzling. Just pulled the chairs under the overhang of the dining hall’s roof and had the conversation that is the staple of my life & ministry. It’s a conversation I’ve had on ski lifts and beaches and after Sunday School in the youth room and over hamburgers at the fast food place and…


…let’s just say that I’m a Starbucks Gold cardholder.

See, I work with teenagers. Many of them have been in the church since they were six weeks old and have heard all the stories and sung all the songs and been to all the retreats and ski trips and Sunday School classes and hung out with their leaders in the chairs designed to be comfortable for 20 minutes at fast food places or the chairs designed to be comfortable for 20 hours at the coffee shop. Not all, mind you. But a lot have been around for years.

And those teenagers will begin to make their faith their own. They’ll start to question what they believe and why they believe it. This is where parents usually kick themselves and go through all sorts of soul-searching when it’s really just a part of the process those parents went through, say, some 30 years ago. This process involves varying degrees of behavior changes that depend on the personality of the kid going through it. Some introverts just sit in their room and think and come to conclusions very close to what they’ve been taught in pretty short order. Some more flamboyant wind up in their own personal Woodstock where anything goes for 3 days or 3 years or 3 decades of processing and experimenting trying to figure it all out. Most are somewhere in between those extremes.

This making-their-faith-their own usually comes when these kids raised in church begin looking over the fence and seeing some pretty green grass their friends are playing on. At some point they see the temptations that are all around us as pretty enticing. Fun, even.

Which calls into question the claim Christians make to the abundant life. It’s the fuel of the making-your-faith-your-own fire.

And Christ had to deal with them all, man. See, he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness and is tempted (oh, man the trouble we have with that, right?). He’s tempted by Satan to trust in his own power instead of allowing God to provide by turning stone to bread. Satan offers Christ the chance to be world ruler immediately (Christ knows he’ll be world ruler later, right?). Chirst responds to these temptations with applying Scripture He learned.

Satan tempts Christ to test God by doing something unwise by misquoting Scripture. Christ corrects him. After the temptations were finished, Satan figured he’d wait for a better time.

But the issue behind the temptations call Christ’s current moment in time insufficient.

Not abundant.

Christ, You can provide for Yourself if you’re hungry. No need to wait on God to do it.
Christ, You can have everything You’re entitled to right now. No need to allow history to play out the way the Father designed it.
Christ, You might be misreading Scripture. It must mean something else. No need to take it in context.

The current situation is not all that great, is it Jesus? Take matters into your own hands.

And that’s the heart of following Christ: He’s claiming that His Way is the most abundant life possible. This is why He’s worth following, right?

After the 40 days Christ went public. He shows up at the synagogue in Jerusalem, reads a well-known Messianic passage (interestingly reading the portion about the Good News in that passage, but leaving out the part about vengeance–most commentators think that has to do with the reality that the Good News is in their “now,” and the vengeance coming “later.”) and says something like, “What I just read? Yeah. That’s Me.”

They decided the best course of action after that was to throw Jesus off a cliff. Implication: Jesus isn’t worth following.

He escapes the city and heads to the countryside and teaches with authority. He heals people of demon possession. He performs a miracle of provision of fish for some who were about to become His disciples. He heals a leper. He heals a man who was paralyzed and his friends lowered him through the roof to get him near Christ. He calls some other disciples who, um, let’s say didn’t have the proper credentials to be hanging around with the religious elite.

To which the crowd promptly begins to wonder why he’s worth following because of who He hangs out with.

Um, did they miss those incredible sermons with a new twist on the old way of life (hence the new wine into old skins reference Christ makes)? Christ cast out demons! Christ commanded nature to work in ways we don’t think nature works! Christ healed a leper for crying out loud! Christ healed a paralyzed man! Christ was asking folks to come with Him!

And they focused on the riff-raff he had meals with.

But that’s the crux of making your faith your own and the crux of almost every conversation I have with teens in the process of doing that very thing:

Why follow Christ? What’s attractive to you about Him? If you were walking around 1st century Palestine and ran across Him, what about Him would make you want to drop everything and go?

And do you really believe that the abundant life Christ promises is better than all the temptations of the world’s way of thinking?

Given my punk rock leanings/mindset, I’m drawn to Christ the revolutionary. The thumbing the nose at the establishment to the degree they want to throw Him off a cliff. The championing of the underdog. The idea that that way things are need SERIOUS change. I think I’d have wanted to follow that Guy around to see how it all turned out. We all have our own thing about Him we’re drawn to. Those are mine.

And following that Guy around would force me to make a decision as to whether or not He was Who He said He was. If His way was indeed more abundant.

Because, see, giving into temptation and sinning is FUN. Make no mistake. It is. It’s the consequences of sin that aren’t FUN. If Christ had given in at any of those points of temptation, the course of history is changed forever. I’d suggest that the consequences of any sin can change our personal history forever. The FUN factor is temporary at best (re: hangovers). The consequences may not be temporary at worst.

All those conversations at retreats and ski trips and beach fires and classrooms and fast-food places and coffee shops are really just answering those two questions:

Why would somebody follow Christ?
And if you follow Him, do you really believe His lifestyle is more abundant?

These chapters sort of seal the deal for me on both of those fronts.

(Tomorrow’s reading: Luke 6)