Luke 4:1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” 4 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”
Jesus’ own life becomes a blueprint for living. At his baptism he is filled with the Holy Spirit and empowered for the life of ministry and service which the Father had intended for him. Now, filled with the Spirit he spends forty days in the wilderness, and for forty days is tempted by the devil. Just as the first Adam fell by eating, Jesus becomes an overcomer by not eating. The first Adam was deceived by the devil and gave in to the temptation to eat the forbidden fruit. The devil turns to Jesus, the second Adam and again begins to deceive with food but Jesus will not be tricked. When the food is not deceptive enough, the devil tries to prod him into proving who he really is. This won’t happen either, for Jesus, filled with the Spirit is in the process of sanctifying human flesh, and setting aright all that had gone wrong through Adam. What was lost by eating in Adam is now found, and we are made more than conquerers in Christ who had the power to overcome.
Our spiritual life, empowered by the working of the Holy Spirit, has the possibility of a very wholistic response. Maybe we have created a misnomer by speaking about a "spiritual life," because we may think that this only relates to life in the Spirit. We may equate this to our devotional and/or worship life. In reality this is an early church heresy, that of gnosticism, in which we divide the individual into the physical and the spiritual. The “spiritual” life can grow and have knowledge of God, but there really is no hope for the physical life, for in this world it will remain tainted. Jesus’ action in the wilderness refutes this. He suffered a very physical temptation and overcame that temptation to provide the opportunity for us to be set free.
We can be set free from our physical temptations. We may receive power to overcome many physical temptations by the infilling of the Holy Spirit.
We can overcome our unhealthy relationship with food by the power of the Holy Spirit. Food has become much more than sustenance to many people in this world. For some it has become a joy and comfort. For others it has become entertainment. We eat more than we need and we have a generation of young people looking at Christ-followers, who may have enjoyed a few too many church pot-lucks, and are asking whether we have succumbed to the temptation of food. I believe this is why Jesus often demonstrates a lifestyle of prayer and fasting, to provide an example to God’s people that we do not have to be ruled by our stomachs.
We can be set free from sexual immorality. The early church was radically counter-cultural because they refused to accept and engage in the sexual practices of their society. The power to overcome means that God’s children do not have to succumb to the lifestyles of the age. Let’s be honest, pre-marital sex has become a common practice among “Christian” young people. The world has been telling us it’s okay for a long time. Without a strong call to following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit to live as God’s holy people, people will simply follow the pattern of the world. Without examples of those who are overcomers in the flesh, Christianity will become a purely “spiritual” endeavor and we will end up back in the first century as gnostic heretics. It’s why we think we can get away with watching pornography in the secrecy of our homes and go to church on Sunday and feel good about how we are doing spiritually.
Jesus’ entire life is one which creates a pathway to union with God. The Holy Spirit draws us into this relationship with God and we are given the power to overcome. This doesn’t happen because of our own will-power, but because of Holy Spirit power. At the same time we must be active participants in what God desires for all of us. Jesus willingly, on his own power, walked to the wilderness. He went to the place where God wanted him to be and there, full of the Holy Spirit, he overcame the temptations which had come in the flesh and began to set everything aright. With our own two feet we can follow Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit can take us to the place of overcoming.
Lord, may your Holy Spirit lead me today and help me to follow you in the flesh. Amen.
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