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Today's Matthew readings are incredible on so many levels. We begin by reading about John the Baptist scolding the Pharisees and Sadducees! John is not joking around here... I think one verse that really stood out to me was verse 8: "Prove by the way you live that you have really turned from your sins and turned to God." and verse 10: "Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire." I think what I hear John saying here is that we are called to truly repent and change our ways. Not just to say some nice words or just show up to church on Sundays - but to be transformed. Our lives should be visibly different from our past if we have really turned from our sins and turned to God. And this change will be evident by our lives producing "good fruit" - examples of which can certainly be seen in any of the Ten Commandments or loving our neighbor as ourselves and above all loving God with all our hearts, minds, soul and strength. Our lives should look very different from our past. Do they? Does yours? Below is a stained glass image of John the Baptist used by permission and copyright held by cambridge2000.com/gallery:
Verses 16 & 17 are phenomenal as we see the three persons of the Trinity interacting with each other! God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit: "After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with him."" Jesus' baptism is very significant because it is the act that opens up the public ministry phase of Jesus' life.
Now - I think what happens just after Jesus' baptism is something each of us should take heed of - the devil comes in full force after Jesus. I heard someone tell me just before I was baptized many years ago that whenever we make a public declaration that we love God: the Father, Jesus the Son, & the Holy Spirit and that we want to follow Him, the devil and temptation very likely will appear. The devil isn't happy when we are moving forward in our love of Jesus and loving others - and he wants to derail it. And that's what we see here in chapter 4 - God: the Father, Jesus the Son, & the Holy Spirit have just declared "Game On!" with Jesus' public ministry via the baptism - and then who should show up coming after Jesus? If the devil showed up to tempt Jesus, don't you think he might try to show up in our lives when we are starting something big in our faith walk? Fortunately, Jesus gives us all the answers we need in chapter 4 to thwart the devil's attacks.
Chapter 4 verse 4 I believe is one of the most important verses for us to commit to memory in all of the Bible: "But Jesus told him, "No! The Scriptures say, `People need more than bread for their life; they must feed on every word of God.'" (NLT). Or, you might recognize this verse a bit better in NIV format: "Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” This is such a powerful spiritual truth that Jesus is conveying - we will not live full and true lives if we live simply on bread alone. We need spiritual nourishment - food - from every Word of God. Where do we get this Word of God? You got it - the Bible. And note that Jesus says "every" word of God. This means the whole Bible is spiritual food for us. All of it. Not just the parts we like the best. :) We can learn something and be nourished by even the long genealogies! Seriously. So - I want to applaud you for going through the One Year Bible - you will be getting nourishment from "every" Word of God this year! Below is an oil painting by Juan De Flandes from 1504 - (he actually painted this piece for Queen Isabella of Spain's private altar at that time):
One other important point to make in Matthew 4:4 and the 2 other temptations in this chapter. We see the devil tempting Jesus with things that may look enticing to Jesus or to us. But they are lies. And note - this is important - how Jesus fends off the devil's temptations and lies - by quoting Scripture! Jesus knew Scripture (well, yes, technically He is Scripture...:) The point is this. I do believe that we need to do more than just read the Bible. We need to memorize many portions of the Bible to protect us when the devil is attacking. If we have Scripture memorized, when we are tempted, we can quickly call to mind a verse or two that will bring us back into right state of mind - focusing back on God: the Father, Jesus the Son, & the Holy Spirit and their love and strength available through the Holy Spirit. If we don't have Scripture memorized, as Jesus clearly did in this chapter, we are at risk of falling prey to the deception and lies of the temptation. So - I am mostly preaching this to myself! :) But, I really want to do more memorization of Scripture this year. I have several verses down - but not enough. Proverbs 3:5-6 certainly comes to mind for me often when I am worried or stressed and it transforms my state of mind immediately! What can you apply in your life today based on how Jesus rebuked the devil's temptations?
Very important to note is what happened when Jesus rebuked the devil's temptations with Scripture, the Word of God, in verse 11: "Then the Devil went away." Amen to that! :)
Bible.org's commentary on our readings today in Matthew titled "The Baptism of Jesus" is at this link, "The Temptation of Jesus, Part 1" is at this link, "Satan's "Leap of Faith"" is at this link, and "The Third Temptation of Jesus" is at this link.
Worship Video: Today's readings in Matthew about Jesus modeling to us how to defeat Satan’s temptations with the Word reminded me of Matt Maher's beautiful song “Lord I Need You” performed here live:
Do you know you need the Lord? Click here to Need Him!
Please join us in memorizing and meditating on a verse of Scripture today: "Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" Matthew 4:4 NIV
Prayer Point: Pray for God's leading in ways that He might be calling you to memorize Scripture this year. Pray that this year you literally will live on every word that comes from the mouth of God. Pray for our world to repent and not live on bread alone, but on God's Word.
Comments from You and Questions of the Day: Back to my reflections above about how Jesus rebuked the devil's temptations today with Scripture. Are you memorizing Scripture on a regular basis? Are you bringing Scripture to mind when faced with temptation or sadness or whatever ails you? I would love to know which verses you have found useful in your life? Do you have advice on how to best go about memorizing Scripture? Will you join me in my plan to memorize more Scripture verses this year? Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!
p..s. I would greatly appreciate it if you would pray for this Bible Blog ministry today. Thanks!