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Monday, June 23, 2008

Deliverance...

No not the movie, Deliverance. Nor deliverance from evil, but that's close.

Deliverance from testing, trial, and temptation. That was the theme of Sunday's sermon.

Jeff Cowmeadow of Calvary Church has been going through the book of Matthew, hitting pretty much every verse as he goes along. He has spent several weeks focusing on the Lord's Prayer. He has provided some unique view points throughout our time at the church which has provoked much discussion in our household. I'm not sure if I've written about any of his sermons yet - I tend to forget writing utensils! Anyways...

Matthew 6:13 is the starting point for this week: And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Which closely parallels Luke 11:4.

Cowmeadow says that the word we translate as temptation can also be translated as test or trial, which has some contextual basis. If you look at the verse in The Message it says: Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.

He continued to point out various places where the same word was used, but translated differently such as when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemene in Matthew 26:36-41, specifically the two parts where Christ is asking that the cup be taken away but also in vs 41 where he is encouraging the disciples to stay awake: Stay alert; be in prayer so you don't wander into temptation without even knowing you're in danger. (The Message)

We must remember though as James makes clear that no temptation comes from God, but He does allow us to be tested, which will strengthen us in the long run for His purposes.

2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

12Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

13When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

16Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. 17Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.



Looking back into the Old Testament there are a variety of uses for the word/idea of testing, it would take a lot of space to expound on them all but here they are:
  • Exodus 17:2,7 Israel's grumblings about food and water after crossing out of Egypt.
  • Exodus 15:2,13 Israel's deliverance from Egypt
  • Exodus 16:4 Manna is a test from God
Testing produces character which ultimately produces hope in us for thing that are eternal. As Christians we should help each other pass the test. But what is that test? Jeff never explicitly said what he thought the test was but implied I think that the test is that we trust and follow God.

This came out most clear in his discussion about Exodus 16 and the idea of manna (bread/food) raining down from heaven. I will expound in another post sometime more about his thoughts on manna, but it is important because the Bible said God was testing the Israelites.

Go back and read the text for all the specifics but basically the idea was that each morning God provided enough food/resources for the Israelites to make it through the day. If you stored up extra - it spoiled overnight (except for the Sabbath preparation). It was simple God said only take what you need for today and trust that I will come back tomorrow and take care of your needs again. Don't be tempted to take more than you need, because it will spoil. Simple trust for something so profound.

The idea from the manna story coincides with Jesus' parable about the Rich fool who had a bumper crop and lacked storage facilities for it. So he tore everything down and built new - thinking he could now sit back and enjoy life. The story ends like this in The Message (Luke 12:20-21): "Just then God showed up and said, 'Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?' That's what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God."

Psalm 78 talks about not testing God. We often challenge Him to do something for us if He does this for us. If you heal my grandma, I'll pray everyday - If you don't help me pass this test, I won't tithe for a month, etc. Jesus passed the test, by never testing God's plan and He is our example while He was being tempted in the desert. He did not give in to Satan's evil plans but continued to stand on the promises of God.

It is a simple idea, but one that isn't always so easy to act out in every day life. Help us Lord to trust you for our daily needs. Help us not to look away from You for anything.

I would highly recommend giving Exodus 15 a quick re-read today.

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