Recap: You as THE Beloved
Jesus’ life and baptism is the model for Christian life and baptism. Believing in Jesus, we are “accepted in The Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6 KJV). Our baptism in water and the Spirit confirms and empowers our identity as God’s Beloved – made real in God’s Family of Love, the local church. THEN questions arise: how do we daily live the meaning of our baptism? What is the basis of our identity, of being loved? How do we die to the old and rise to the new? I.e. how do we live the life of the Beloved? We must go back to Jesus and apply what we learn to ourselves.
The Life of THE Beloved – TESTED
After his baptism – his affirmation of identity and destiny as God’s Be-Loved – “the Spirit drove Jesus into the desert” to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1-11). A careful study shows that when Satan tempts us, it is also a test from God. The three temptations that Jesus experienced are common to all human beings, testing our basis of identity and destiny by challenging God’s love for us. Jesus’ first followers not only took his baptism as the model of Christian baptism, but also took his desert temptations as the model for Christians to overcome evil, to grow mature through spiritual warfare, dying to our old life and identity, and rising to the new.
The First (Economic) Temptation: “After fasting forty days he was hungry. The tempter said, ‘IF you are the Son of God (Be-Loved), tell these stones to become bread’” Prove or use your newly confirmed identity and newly acquired power to be relevant by meeting human needs – your own and others. Then you will feel good about yourself, proving yourself to others! The deeper challenge is to God’s character of love: Will God feed you? Act independently of him and meet your needs! Jesus refused by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3: “God humbled us (Israel) in the desert, causing us to hunger, then fed us with manna to teach us that we do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from God’s mouth.” And his words that give me life are: “You are my Son, my Beloved, I’m pleased with you.” I.e. I will trust God for my (and other’s) needs, refusing to prove or to find my identity by meeting economic-material needs apart from God, in my own power. In fact, I am so secure in my Father and his love for me that I will give myself as his manna, his bread of life for the world (John 6:35).
The Second (Social) Temptation: Then Satan took Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple: “IF you are the Be-Loved Son of God, throw yourself down! For it’s written: God will send his angels to save you” (now Satan quotes Scripture!) It was also a two-pronged temptation. A) Do something spectacular, popular, heroic – the crowds will see the miracle and believe you! Use God’s love and spiritual power to manipulate people and relationships – that you may be adored! B) The deeper challenge is to God: Prove or use your identity to test God, to presume on his love. Why not see if God really loves you? IF he does, he will save you! But Jesus would do neither: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” as Israel did in the desert, provoking him, testing his love. God will meet your social-ego-sexual needs in his love. You don’t need to find it elsewhere.
The Third (Political) Temptation: Then Satan showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the earth and their glory: “All this I will give you if you bow down and worship me.” Again a two-pronged test. A) If you won’t act apart from God, or presume on God, then why not be God? The appeal to pride and vanity to feel good about yourself by proving or finding your identity and destiny as “be-loved” in position, power, prestige, possessions. B) The deeper issue is: Will God really give you all the authority over the earth, as he promised in love of you? Here’s the quick and easy way to have it all – just worship me – you don’t have to go the long hard way of suffering sacrificial love as God wants! Is that really loving you? But Jesus refused such idolatry of self in power and possessions, choosing a long obedience to the cruel cross, to fulfill his Father’s plan of world redemption, in worship of him only. He trusted God for his political-power-spiritual needs in pure love, and was given authority over the earth and the heavens (Matthew 28:18).
Summarized in the book of Hebrews: “When Jesus lived on earth he prayed and cried out with tears to the One who could save him. He was heard due to his reverent submission. Although he was the Son, he learnt obedience from what he suffered” (5:7-8). “Because he suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help all who are tempted” (Heb 2:18). “He was tempted in every way, just as we are, yet he was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence to receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (4:15-16). “Therefore he is able to save us completely as we come to God through him, for he ever lives to intercede for us” (7:25).
The Life of the Beloved – GIVEN
Through temptation and testing, prayer and obedience, Jesus matured in his Father’s love (see John 15:9-10, 17:23-26). Thereby he fulfilled his life calling and destiny in love, as LOVE, to the perishing world. This is beautifully described in Henri Nouwen’s book, “Life of The Beloved”. To be and become The Beloved, and live a life of love as Jesus did, we are taken, blessed, broken and given, as he was. Nouwen uses Jesus’ daily breaking of bread, and particularly at his last supper (Passover), to describe our Life as The Beloved: We are…
TAKEN: God takes us into his hands just as he took Jesus, chosen for his salvation purposes. God has chosen you… yes, YOU! He called you, took you in his hands for HIS destiny for your life.
BLESSED: Every time before Jesus broke bread he said “The Blessing”, a regular reminder of his Father’s blessing of him: “You are my Son, my Beloved, I delight in you.” To bless is to pronounce good things, speak well over a person. WE are blessed and empowered with the same words.
BROKEN: God broke Jesus to heal our brokenness – revealing our brokenness to us on the cross, that we may bring it to him for healing. Then he uses it as a means to help heal others. But God does break us: our denial, pride, self-reliance, dependencies, attachments, etc, so that we are fully yielded to him in love, as Be-Loved. We are bread in his hands to be broken as he wills.
GIVEN: And then we are given, just as God gave Jesus in love, as the Bread of Life, to his perishing world (John 3:16). So God gives us as LOVE to all around us. And so we are heirs of Christ, heirs of God, receiving all God promised – to rule and reign with him forever!