Friday, November 1, 2013

Loving the REAL Jesus


As a woman who loves the Bible and all it teaches, I have to be careful that it doesn't take Jesus' place as the object of my love and worship.  And while studying the Scriptures is a vital part of a healthy faith, falling in love with Jesus comes not from knowing about Him, but from actually knowing Him.

Yesterday I asked you to join me as I dig into the Gospels to get a clearer picture of the heart and character of Jesus.  I want to meet this man face to face and really get to know Him, that I might love Him, not just His book.

I asked you to read these passages of Scripture with me:
Matthew 4:1-11
Luke 4:1-13
Hebrews 4:14-15

I know the temptation of Jesus seems like a pretty strange place to start, but here's what I read in these passages:  Jesus was REAL.  Not in the sense that He was an actual historical figure. (Although He obviously was that, too.)  He was REAL in the sense that although He was God Incarnate, He was also a real man, subject to REAL temptations.

Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus was tempted in "every way, just as we are."  For the longest time, my perception of Jesus' response to temptation was that because He is God's Son, resisting temptation was easy, no big deal.  It wasn't until my fourth year of Bible college, when I was reading Philip Yancey's book The Jesus I Never Knew, that I realized Jesus actually wrestled with temptation just like the rest of humanity!

It wasn't an easy thing for Jesus to refuse the things Satan offered Him in the desert.  And it wasn't an easy thing for Him to follow through with His road to the cross.  Satan offered Him a way out and He had to fight the temptation to take it.

The passages in Matthew and Luke tell us about this significant time when Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, but if Hebrews 4:15 is true, then this absolutely was not the only time in Jesus' life when He faced temptation.  Hebrews 4:15 says He was tempted the same ways we have been, and I don't think any of us can honestly say we've been tempted to jump off the roof of a tall building to see if the angels would catch us.

No, our temptations are much less dramatic:

Having a bad day? Soothe it with this substance or that, even food.
Don't like that rule or boundary?  Then don't abide by it; just don't get caught.
It feels good, so go ahead...
I want it, so I should have it...
Well, if I want people to like me...
It's too hard, I just want to give up.

Jesus faced some pretty tough choices that you and I will never have to make, but He also dealt with the very same issues that we face on a daily basis.  He dealt with the temptation to pursue worldly, fleshly pleasure.  He struggled with the boundaries and rules imposed upon Him by the authorities in His life.  (Can you imagine Him as a teenager, fighting the urge to say to Joseph, "You can't tell me what to do, you're not really my Dad!")  And I cannot help but think that at some point in His young adult years, a beautiful young Jewess caught His attention and made His heart do a little flip before He remembered the purpose God had laid out for His life.

"...He was tempted in every way, just as we are."  He was REAL.  He knows what it is like to want something you can't have, to feel the tug of His flesh to pursue something God did not plan for Him to have.  He didn't experience temptation as an observer, situated above it as a spectator; He experienced it as a real person with a very real body.

And why does this make me love Him? 

Because He gets it.  He knows what I've been through, and He understands.  He doesn't judge me for wanting to give in to those temptations, He doesn't think me a lesser person for having experienced them.  He walks with me and tells me, "I know.  I've been there."

And in that commonality, I find myself able to connect with my Savior on a very personal level.  No longer is He just God Incarnate, but now He is Jesus, friend of sinners.

Love often starts out as friendship, based on common experiences and acceptance.  Perhaps a genuine love for our Savior is no different.

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