The subtlety of Self.

It’s so easy to share even a message about Jesus and not share the message of Jesus.

Take Matthew 4:1-11 as an example.  It’s a fairly well known passage about Jesus being tempted in the wilderness by Satan.  Every single time I have ever talked or meditated on this passage I have made the action point something like, “and you, when you are tempted, can be like Jesus who answered the temptation with Scripture…” or some other vague encouragement to be a better person, like Jesus.  While that is partially true, in that scripture memory is important and beneficial, it totally misses the bigger point, and places the emphasis of an otherwise Ben-free passage on, well, me.

In fact, that’s a pagan point.  Pagans appease their god by doing enough good, and cleaning up their act, and memorizing enough mantras.

The bigger emphasis of this passage is that, as the writer of Hebrews says, we have a high priest who was tempted in every way just as we are, but didn’t cave.  Jesus fulfilled all of the law, even on the level of motive, so that sinners like me can have life.  In this passage Jesus is more than our example (because that would be an insurmountable load of pressure, now that we consider it), He’s our substitute.  Far from being a passage where I walk away feeling bad for not having memorized enough of the Bible, I am instead encouraged that Jesus memorized enough Bible, and followed all of it perfectly enough, to save me.

If you walk away from any sermon in any Christian church feeling like you need to work harder or do better in order to make God happy, you’ve either missed the point of the sermon, or the sermon was a pagan, non-gospel sermon.