Saturday, December 4, 2010
We are forty days away from leaving for Zambia. In recognizing that, I couldn’t help but think of the forty days Jesus spent in the desert fasting before he set out for his ministry. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all write about the account and each record different detail; however, all state that the Spirit led him out there. Why would the Spirit lead him out to fast for forty days then be tempted by Satan? Jesus fasted. For forty days he fasted before setting out in his ministry. Why fast? Jesus was about to begin a journey where he would have to sacrifice much. Every day, he would have to make the decision to deny his own desires and choose God’s will. In preparation, he spent time practicing a denial of self and filling himself with the presence of God. I often hear people argue that we are not perfect, and the reason that Jesus was perfect on earth was because he was God. While I do believe Christ contained the fullness of God, I also believe he disciplined himself to take on the person of God by practicing self-sacrifice. It makes sense that Jesus would deny himself the very basic physical necessity of food for forty days in preparation for a life of self-denial. It makes me think about what I am doing to prepare for ministry by practicing the discipline of self-denial. Then I think even more that Christ called us everyday to deny ourselves, so what can we do daily to practice the denying of our own needs so that we can fully submit to God’s will. I emphasize needs and not wants here. Jesus denied himself the inherent need of food to prepare his being to take on the will of God. Certainly we can understand sacrificing wants; however, needs—things that we were created with—should also be denied if they interfere with the will of God. Fasting from food can be a great practice for us to deny ourselves of our basic needs for preparation for a life in Christ—a life of self-denial. When Jesus was tempted by Satan to turn the stones into bread, it was not the bread or desire to eat that was wrong with this situation. What was wrong was the way in which Satan tempted Jesus to fulfill this inherent need. Jesus was extremely hungry, but he had spent so much time in denying himself and practicing the presence of God that even when he was presented the false fulfillment of that need by the bread that he recognized that eating that bread as presented by Satan would have been less fulfilling than the God that he had just relied on for fulfillment the past forty days. It would also be God that sustained him throughout his ministry especially in the times that he had to deny his inherent needs. We may have inherent needs such as food, companionship, drive for achievement, etc. that we will have to deny ourselves everyday in order to live a life in Christ because of the fallen world we live in. Satan has twisted the very nature of our beings in this world and for some it is unfair to think about having to give up certain needs for the rest of their lives because Satan has confused how to fully satisfy that need. The hope is, what Jesus understood when he stood in the face of the temptation of Satan, only God can fully satisfy the needs we have in this life or the next. Let us all practice denying ourselves of needs so that when faced with temptation it will not seem as appealing as the love of God.