Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written,
‘He will command His angels concerning You’;
‘On their hands they will bear You up,
So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’” Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him.
Jesus was in the wilderness, and he was all alone. He was hungry, and I’m sure he was tired. He had not yet made any friends except for John the Baptist. I’m sure he did have a few other guys he was cool with, but right now he’s alone. When you think about it, in only a few years he is crucified, and there are not a lot of friends there to see that - and you better believe they would have known, but I digress. Lonely Jesus Christ, wandering in the wilderness for forty days and forty nights. The hot wilderness. The Judean desert. Check a picture of the Judean Desert below [I got to see this with my own eyes, and it was simply breathtaking]:
After Jesus’ trek through the desert, Satan shows up to tempt him. Every attempt of Satan to do so, Jesus answers with scripture.
Stop for a second and think about this. Would you be able to respond to temptations such as these or otherwise, with scripture? When the promise of something amazing is right in your face, could you think of God’s word? In this back and forth with Satan, Jesus won by only knowing the word of God. When he was victorious angels came to minister to him. That had to be so refreshing and relieving. No doubt this was hard for Jesus, but he didn’t give up (just as we know he never gives up, not when He was on Earth and never does He give up on us).
Do you think that Jesus was this wise automatically? Jesus did not know all scripture by magic; even He had to study and be in daily communication with the Father to get to this point. Ellen G. White, in her book Education, states:
In childhood, youth, and manhood, Jesus studied the Scriptures. As a little child He was daily at His mother’s knee taught from the scrolls of the prophets. In His youth the early morning and the evening twilight often found Him alone on the mountainside or among the trees of the forest, spending a quiet hour in prayer and the study of God’s word. During His ministry His intimate acquaintance with the Scriptures testifies to His diligence in their study. And since He gained knowledge as we may gain it, His wonderful power, both mental and spiritual, is a testimony to the value of the Bible as a means of education. (p. 185)
(and this quote was anecdotal FYI, who knows where kid Jesus studied, maybe Ellen White had a vision of it, but I am not sure. However, the point still stands - think of 12-year-old Jesus trumping the other scholars in the temple - Luke 2)
Even Jesus, a perfect man, had to study his word regularly. That is how he was able to defeat temptation, big and small. That is how he was able to feel so close to the Father, to do His will, even after being beaten half to death and hung on the cross. That is how he willingly did all that but even more intense - he felt all of our pain and suffering, sin, and sadness, all at once as he died peacefully on the cross.
If Jesus had to study the word, even though he was God’s son, even though he was perfect, don’t you think that means that we should study all the more? The scriptures are how God talks to us, and we speak back through prayer. This is the relationship we refer to all the time. The relationship we come in to joyously when we admit that we are sinners and ask God to let his son’s death count for our sins.
Stop for a second and think about this. What other relationship did you excitedly begin, that is strong, yet you never talked to each other. How about a relationship that started off awesome but the other person never listened to you speak, but made sure to tell you everything on their mind, how’s that relationship going now? If you befriended someone and never talked about anything real, but instead asked them for stuff every time you spoke, do you think your relationship would last very long?
Praise God that he is so forgiving. We’ll never have another friend like God who forgives us no matter what. We’ll never have a friend who continues to be our friend forever, no matter how long we live, even if we don’t talk to them for years. It won’t happen. At least not as cool as it does with God. You can go years without talking to God, yet the second you do He greets you with open arms and tells you that He loves you no matter what.
I cannot say that I’m perfect in this regard. But I can say in the past year I’ve fallen more and more in love with God. This wasn’t by chance, of course, I was broken unexpectedly, and I was shown my need for God once again. I lost this need and desire for quite some time. I have been a Christian since I was 12, but I haven’t been in my word regularly since probably age 15 or 16. Simply starting to read with the desire to get closer to God once again, relit a fire that has been out for too long. Again - I’m not perfect, I haven’t reached some ultimate Godly point in my life, but I do know I’m closer to God now than I have been in a long time. Most of that is due to turning to the word and praying to build my relationship with God, making it stronger daily.
Almost overnight as I started to fall back in love with God, I could tell things were different. I could feel his influence in my life. I’ve regularly been convicted about Godly things. Chapters, passages, or verses I’ve read have come up in conversation, maybe to make a good point with someone, or to help them, or just to show them how COOL God is.
Reading the word is not just important, it’s essential to the Christian walk.
Hebrews 4:12 - “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
Romans 12:2 - "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Your best friend won’t be your best friend for long if you never hang out. Your wife won’t be your wife for long if you don’t talk about anything real and only tell her what to do - especially if you only ever speak to her but never listen [like a Christian who only prays but never reads]. You’ll never get close to your dad if you never try and invest in his life and listen to stories of his life, and tell him about your life! It’s just how relationships work. Our relationship with God is similar. And your relationship with Him can look good to others if you fake it, just like how most middle school relationships look. Everyone is fake at that age, just trying to fit in and look cool. If that is what your relationship with God is like - your relationship with God sucks.
I’ve been there, I know. Most likely I will fall into that again at some point. But I see now, in my adult life, how real and important what I’m talking about is for our walk with God.
This is a spiritual war. God gave us his word to fight, among other pieces of armor to protect us. In a real, physical war, if you go out without any armor or weapons you’ll quickly die. If you go out even fully armored, yet without a weapon, you’ll still die. If you go out with your armor on and your weapon in hand, but you just don’t care about the battle - you’ll die. If you go out without a strategy, thinking the enemy is no big deal and that you’ll magically win without trying, you’ll die.
In this spiritual war that we ARE apart of at this very moment, we must get equipped. Get your armor on, get your sword in hand, and fight this war. It’s more important than everything else. Get your relationship with God going strong! Fall in love with Him, I beg you, fall in love.
God is good.
[originally published in August of 2016, updated and edited September 2017 for relevance, republished because it's still essential]