Posts referencing the book of Psalms

Resist Temptation When You Think You've Got It Under Control

October 24, 2017

This time, we’ll continue looking at how we can resist temptation, using Jesus as our example. (If you missed the last one, no worries - you can catch up here.) We’ll pick up where we left off, looking at Matthew 4:5-7.

5Then the devil took Him to the holy city and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple 6and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

‘He will command His angels concerning You,’

and

‘On their hands they will bear You up,
    lest You strike Your foot against a stone.’"

7Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Matthew 4:5-7 (ESV)

For this temptation, Satan takes Jesus up to the top of the temple. At this point, it seems that he may have learned from the prior temptation, because he tries to use Scripture as part of this temptation. He uses two verses, Psalm 91:11-12, to support his claim that Jesus can do the spectacular trick he has just dared Him to do.

As with the first temptation, the request itself is not sinful, at least at first glance. At many points within Scripture, God asks people to do things that would normally lead to their deaths, yet He preserves them through the midst of that dangerous situation. This situation isn’t quite like those, though.

  • In each of those situations, the miraculous outcome brought glory to God among many people. Jesus performing this trick would bring glory to Him - not His Father - and likely would have only been visible to Satan.
  • God did not request this activity; Satan suggested it. This was not within the will of God; instead, it would have been a foolish misapplication of faith. God’s promises in one context cannot be presumed upon in completely different contexts.

Jesus is unimpressed with Satan’s knowledge of Scripture. Instead, He reaches back to Deuteronomy again to thwart this temptation.

16You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested Him at Massah.

Deuteronomy 6:16 (ESV)

Massah was the name given to the place described in Exodus 17:1-7, when the children of Israel were complaining that they had no water as they wandered. God miraculously provided water from a rock, but the place where this occurred was named to remind Israel of the sin that this represented. (“Massah” literally means “testing.”) Testing God indicates not only a lack of faith, but also a lack of belief in His goodness and sovereignty.

For the second time, we see Jesus using Scripture to withstand temptation. Here, the temptation was something He could easily handle; He literally could have thrown Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, and had a cadre of angels catch Him at the bottom. It would not have even been a challenge.

This is the exact scenario where we are likely to fail. We have just accomplished something great, and our confidence is high; or, we encounter a situation that we are sure we could handle without having to think about it. In these times, we must continue to rely on God. If we run into situations without thinking, we will not have time to pray, or apply our knowledge of Scripture to the situation. That is a recipe for a fall. We must know Scripture to be able to apply it, and we must be consistent in actually applying it, if we are to successfully resist temptation.

Twisted Scripture: 1 Corinthians 10:13

March 4, 2017

Today’s focus verse is one that is an encouraging principle and promise from the Word about how we can live the Christian life. Let’s start with the verse itself, 1 Corinthians 10:13.

13No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV)

The common twist on this is actually in the way it’s usually quoted; it becomes…

God won't give you more than you can handle. - Misquotations 7:15

There are at least two problems with this twist. First, it simply isn’t true. I’m in my 40th year of knowing Jesus as my Savior, and I can assure you that God gives me more than I can handle all the time; just my past 7 days have had way more than I alone could handle. If we tell struggling people “Well, you know, the Bible says that God won’t give you more than you can handle!”, we are seriously damaging our credibility, which will, in turn, hamper our further ability to share the things of God. If God never gave us more than we could handle, why would we need Him once we have obtained salvation? The Bible is replete with examples of people who were getting more than they could handle; let’s look at one such instance in Psalm 40.

11As for you, O Lord, You will not restrain
    Your mercy from me;
Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness will
    ever preserve me!
12For evils have encompassed me
    beyond number;
my iniquities have overtaken me,
    and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head;
    my heart fails me.

13Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me!
    O Lord, make haste to help me!
14Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether
    who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonor
    who delight in my hurt!

Psalm 40:11-14 (ESV)

The Psalms, being poetry, often speak to feelings common to mankind, and this is one of those places. The theme of the psalm is God’s deliverance, something David cannot manage to do himself - it’s literally “more than he can handle.” Yet, this bigger-than-him situation causes David to cry out to God for help, and to depend on Him for his deliverance. God brings us through situations that are more than we could handle ourselves, to demonstrate His love that is not just a saving love for our souls, but a living and active love for our lives as well. How could He do that if He never allowed “more than we could handle”?

The second problem with this twist is that it completely misses the actual promise of the text. 1 Corinthians 10:13 is talking about temptation, and comes immediately after a verse that is usually quoted correctly, even when snatched from its context.

12Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

1 Corinthians 10:12 (ESV)

In the even larger context of this chapter, Paul has warned the Corinthian church about idolatry, sexual immorality, and testing God. He then writes vv. 12-13, telling them to be on guard, yet encouraging them that God will not allow a temptation so great that they, through Him, cannot resist. This is a very big deal! We all face temptation; if you have tried to resist it yourself, you’re likely thinking back to the time when you failed in those efforts, and gave in to the sin you had been resisting.

Why are we so bad at resisting temptation on our own? The main reason is that resisting temptation is spiritual warfare, but our fallen nature (what we use when we do it “on our own”) is ill equipped for that battle. Paul writes that we have a way of escape provided; let’s look at a few of different strategies given in the Bible. The first is from Jesus Himself, speaking to His disciples after He returned from praying in the garden of Gethsemane and found them asleep.

40And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And He said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with Me one hour? 41Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Matthew 26:40-41 (ESV)

The next is from Paul, instructing his protegé Timothy.

22So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace…

2 Timothy 2:22a (ESV)

The last is from James, Jesus’ brother.

7Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

James 4:7 (ESV)

Did you pick up on any common themes in those three passages? “Pray” (Matthew 26:41), “pursue righteousness” (2 Timothy 2:22), and “submit[ting]…to God” (James 4:7) are three different ways of saying the same thing - we must have God’s power if we are to be able to resist temptation. We must actively pray, pour His Word into our hearts, and be vigilant. This is the only way for us to be able to recognize the “way of escape” so we can take it.

There is one final caution, back in vv. 12-13, where Paul says that this temptation will not exceed our “ability.” Ability is developed through practice, and God, in the process of refining us to make us more like Him, will provide opportunities for us to increase our ability. Don’t lose heart if, after successfully resisting temptation, another stronger one appears. Conversely, you may reach a point where most temptation is pretty easy to resist; that’s where the warning in verse 12 becomes even more important. When we let our guard down, we become the most vulnerable to temptation.

As we have looked at what 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, and what it doesn’t say, I pray that you have been blessed. It truly is an encouraging promise for us who are trying to live our lives the way Christ would have us live them. I hope you also realize how much damage this common misquotation can do, both to the truth and to our witness. The Christian life is great, having Jesus to guide, warn, and protect us; I wouldn’t want to live any other way. That being said, though, we would be lying if we say that it is easy, and saying this to a hurting person will provide the opposite of comfort.

How to Right What's Wrong

August 25, 2010

Today we hit a Scripture so tough, it took me two years to write about it. It’s Romans 3:16 - see if this isn’t the most uplifting verse you’ve heard all week…

16ruin and wretchedness are in their paths,

Romans 3:16 (HCSB)

We’ll definitely need some more context - let’s look beginning with verse 10, going through verse 20.

10as it is written:

There is no one righteous, not even one; 11there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God. 12All have turned away, together they have become useless; there is no one who does good, there is not even one. 13Their throat is an open grave; they deceive with their tongues. Vipers’ venom is under their lips. 14Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. 15Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16ruin and wretchedness are in their paths, 17and the path of peace they have not known. 18There is no fear of God before their eyes.

19Now we know that whatever the law says speaks to those who are subject to the law, so that every mouth may be shut and the whole world may become subject to God’s judgment. 20For no flesh will be justified in His sight by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.

Romans 3:10-20 (HCSB)

The block quote in the passage above is a compilation of verses from the Old Testament. I won’t paste all of them here, but these can be found in Psalm 5:9, Psalm 10:7, Psalm 14:1-3, Psalm 36:1, Psalm 53:1-3, Psalm 140:3, Ecclesiastes 7:20, and Isaiah 59:7-8. In each of these passages, what immediately follows these descriptions is a call is for God to judge the people who are displaying these tendencies, and deliver His people from them. The passage in Isaiah is no different; the prophet writes how the Lord is going to judge those who have wronged Him and His people. Here’s how he described the coming judgment…

15Truth is missing,
and whoever turns from evil is plundered.
The Lord saw that there was no justice,
and He was offended.

16He saw that there was no man -
He was amazed that there was no one interceding;
so His own arm brought salvation,
and His own righteousness supported Him.

17He put on righteousness like a breastplate,
and a helmet of salvation on His head;
He put on garments of vengeance for clothing,
and He wrapped Himself in zeal as in a cloak.

18Thus He will repay according to their deeds:
fury to His enemies,
retribution to His foes,
and He will repay the coastlands.

19They will fear the name of the Lord in the west,
and His glory in the east;
for He will come like a rushing stream
driven by the wind of the Lord.

Isaiah 59:15-19 (HCSB)

That’s quite a picture! The “rushing stream driven by the wind” is a powerful image. We’ve seen images of floods on TV - it’s amazing how just a little bit of water can completely overpower anything in its path. This is a strong force, but it is not indiscriminate, like a normal flood; the Lord is repaying people according to their deeds. At this point, we may be thinking “Boy, I’m glad I’m not one of those people who has wronged Him or His people!” But, are we really innocent? Let’s take a look further in Romans 3…

23For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 3:23 (HCSB)

I once had a pastor who said that in this verse, “all” is from the Greek, meaning “all.” There is little ambiguity about whether you and I are part of the “all” that Paul is talking about - every one of us has sinned against God, and deserve any punishment we receive from Him.

So, we’ve wronged God, and God demands justice. How are we going to make this right? (Notice above in Isaiah 59:16, “His own arm brought salvation…”) Let’s see what Paul says.

21But now, apart from the law, God’s righteousness has been revealed - attested by the Law and the Prophets 22- that is, God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe, since there is no distinction. 23For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 24They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. 25God presented Him as a propitiation through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. 26He presented Him to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus.

Romans 3:21-26 (HCSB)

The word “propitiation” is an interesting word. When I started reading versions other than the King James Version, I thought for sure that “propitiation” was one of those words that wouldn’t make it. However, the more modern translation versions NASB, ESV, NKJV, and HCSB all have this word in this verse! The NIV translates it “sacrifice of atonement,” and that’s a good way to put it. The dictionary defines propitiation as making something favorably inclined or appeasing it. God presented Jesus as a way to appease His demand for justice! Since Jesus appeases this demand, all we have to do is believe in Him and accept Him (v. 26 “He would… declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus”). Not only does he declare us righteous, God will “pass over the sins previously committed.” (v. 25)

This is really good news. I imagine your experience on this earth is much like mine in this regard - I simply cannot always do what I know I’m supposed to do. I get angry. I say mean things. I let resentment build in my heart. If it were up to me to apologize for my sins and try to do better, I would be toast. But, look at what Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross can do for us! If we accept Him, God counts us righteous and doesn’t demand any further payment for our sin! (We may still have to deal with consequences here on earth - God forgives our sin; He never promised to save us from our bad decisions.)

Notice the end of verse 22 - “to all who believe, since there is no distinction.” There’s that “all” again, and yes, it’s still talking about you and me. This free gift, this payment for sin, is available to all people without distinction. Any race, any gender, any age, any marital status, any intelligence level, any financial status… well, you get the idea. Most importantly, it is available for you! If you are reading this, Jesus knew about you when He died on the cross; He paid for your sin with His life. All you have to do is accept that gift - as Paul and Silas told a jailer in Acts 16:31, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” If you would like more information on how to accept this gift, you can look at God’s Simple Plan of Salvation, which details more about this; also, feel free to contact me using the “Contact” link found at the top of the page.

How to Have Peace

October 31, 2007

This week, our journey brings us to 2 Thessalonians 3:16.

16May the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with all of you.

2 Thessalonians 3:16 (HCSB)

This is an end-of-the-letter salutation from Paul to the church at Thessalonica. Paul began and ended most all of his letters by talking about the “grace and peace” of our Lord, and his hope that it would remain with those to whom he was writing. This theme of peace is one that is woven throughout the Bible. The word “peace” (or some form of it, like “peacemaker”, “peaceful”, etc.) is found in 266 verses in the HCSB. We’re not going to look at the other 265 verses, but we’ll look at a few of them.

Peace was used as a greeting to Gideon…

23But the Lord said to him, “Peace to you. Don’t be afraid, for you will not die.”

Judges 6:23 (HCSB)

It was also used by the angels, when announcing Jesus’ birth…

14Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors!

Luke 2:14 (HCSB)

David used it to describe the safety that he felt from God’s protection…

8I will both lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, Lord, make me live in safety.

Psalm 4:8 (HCSB)

In fact, Isaiah prophesied that one of the Messiah’s names would deal with His peace-making qualities…

6For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 (HCSB)

In these four verses, we see a common theme - the source of peace is God, through His Son Jesus. But how to we get this peace? Ask God for it! According to Peter, the disciple of Jesus who went on to lead the early church…

10For the one who wants to love life and to see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit, 11and he must turn away from evil and do good. He must seek peace and pursue it, 12because the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are open to their request. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.

1 Peter 3:10-12 (HCSB)

But we don’t even have to take Peter’s word for it. Jesus told His disciples,

27"Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful…"

John 14:27 (HCSB)

Ask, and you will receive - that’s a promise from God. I pray that the peace of God will overwhelm you as you live for Him on this earth.