Gary's Pencil has replaced Glen's Pen... here you will find periodic messages from Pastor Gary in his own words on any subject of his own choosing. These messages can inform, inspire, and perhaps surprise, so they are well worth reading and heeding.
In Luke 3:38 The words immediately before Jesus entering the wilderness are, “the son of Adam, the son of God.”
Thus, not only can we read Jesus’ forty days of trials in the wilderness alongside the forty-year wilderness exile of Israel, we can also read it alongside the story of Adam and Eve in the garden.
Comparing the scenes of the garden and the desert is telling. Humans (represented by Adam and Eve) were in a lush garden, living with abundance, peace and authority over the wild animals. Jesus, on the other hand, is in the desolate wilderness, is not eating, and is subjected to the dangers of the beasts. Simply based on circumstances, humans clearly have the upper hand of having their basic needs of food, shelter and safety guaranteed—assuredly these should help them resist temptation, right?
And yet, there is a reason why Jesus taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” Because even in the best of circumstances, couched in security and abundance, humanity has a poor track record when it comes to resisting temptation.
In both the garden and the wilderness, the devil uses God’s very own words to make his temptation. The difference between how humanity and Jesus Christ respond when facing temptation, the clear indicator of whether or not they will fail and give in to the temptation, is whether or not they know the meaning of those words and trust the person behind them.
Adam and Eve knew the words that God spoke—the words that commanded them to not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But when the devil in the form of a serpent turned those words back to them, they did not think about God and all God had already proven to them about his care and provision for them. Instead, they thought about having more. And so, even in paradise, temptation comes and we give in.
The devil tries to play the same game with Jesus. Satan really does only have one playbook…
Jesus’ time in the wilderness, resisting the temptations of the devil, being tested by God for faithfulness and trust, we could see this as Jesus’ first open battle against evil on behalf of humanity. Here, Jesus does what no human can do for him or herself. He fights the devil and does what Adam and Eve did not. He is weak and maybe even a little afraid out there in the desolate and dangerous desert, but he does not succumb to the evil one’s whispered attempts to sow doubt. Here in the wilderness Jesus begins his winning against the regime of evil, begins to break the chains of suffering, the quelling of fears. He begins an earthly battle that only God can wage, and he plays by his own wisdom rules.
This time of trial that Jesus endured on our behalf both reminds us of why the Incarnation and cross are necessary, and becomes a source of strength. We too can call upon the Holy Spirit to make us more like Christ, able to resist temptation, we too can commit ourselves to disciplines that help us to know the Spirit’s infilling, we too can sacrifice and trust that God’s words and work are true. We can deny the devil and his shortcuts and pursue the wisdom ways of God.
Seeing as how calling this piece Glen’s Pen just probably wouldn’t work I thought maybe Gary’s Pencil might be a good name. I often do things in pencil because I need to change things, reword them or make an outright correction. Math is one of those things that you always do in pencil.
Sermons are no different. Often times it won’t be unusual to see me make a small last minute addition of an illustration or verse that applies real well that comes to me just before I go up to speak. In fact sometimes they come to be while I am up there speaking and Manny looks all over the notes to see where in the world I went!! Working with a pencil keeps us flexible too. It leaves room for us to be human you might say. One time a young serviceman working in the Pentagon found a Cross Pencil on the hallway floor. He picked it and inspected it then put it in his pocket. He then walked to a room where several Generals were meeting and asked if any of them had lost the pencil. One of them checked and said “Yes, I did but how did you know it was one of us? He asked. The serviceman replied, “The eraser wasn’t used.” That’s a diplomat!
Most of us need to use erasers in our lives and God helps us with those things. First of all God erases our sin and removes it “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us Psalm 103:12 .. His eraser is a lot better than the little pink ones on the end of a pencil. All blots, stains and smears are removed completely, not just smeared around. When we do sin God gives us the Christians bar of soap to removed it. 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Because He erases our sin from us He removes us from the Penalty of sin. If there is no sin to be charged to us then there is no penalty. Romans 8:33 “Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies.” We have a great attorney before the Father! Our life’s story changed when we accepted Him as our Savior and the whole rest of the story of our lives has changed. Every remaining chapter of the book of our lives the way we were going got torn out and thrown away and new chapters written with an amazing ending that only God could give.
Because God erases the sin from our lives and has rewritten the rest of our lives, He also erases from us the power that sin had over us. In God’s strength we are stronger than sin, but only in God’s strength. That’s why we read His Word, that’s why we pray, and that’s why we obey.
Ultimately, God is going to remove us forever from the presence of sin in Heaven. When we get there there will be no more sin externally or internally for eternity. We can’t even begin to imagine how wonderful it will be to have the sin nature erased from us forever. God says in Revelation 21:5 “And he that sat upon the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’”
So next time you use your eraser on your pencil, say a little prayer to God and thank Him for His eraser in your life too.