One of the important weekly events at Bethlehem occurs when we gather together for chapel. Recently my friend, Dr. Jared Compton, spoke from our fall chapel text, John 15, which says, “remain in me.” Jared called us to know who we are in Christ. This knowledge of who we are is gained and maintained by abiding in him: our critical need as we live before God in this world. His words refreshed my soul and led me to reflect on another text, one in the Gospel of Luke.
In the third chapter of his Gospel, Luke sets up Jesus’ ministry with his baptism and genealogy—an event pairing not displayed in any other Gospel in this way. Through these events, Luke draws a common thread: the announcement of who Jesus is. The baptism ends with these words from heaven: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Then follows the genealogy which begins with Jesus and ends with Adam. Jesus’ human linage culminates with these words: “… the son of Adam, the Son of God.” Luke’s intent is to establish for us, by divine decree and by human linage, what Jesus knew but had not yet revealed: He is the Son of God.
It is precisely on this point, his identity, that Satan attacked Jesus. Full of the Spirit, and empty of food and water, Jesus was in the desert for forty days. Then Satan came to him in his physical weakness. And you likely recall the temptations: Turn these stones into bread! Fall down and worship me! Throw yourself down! Still, some wonder what made these temptations so intense for Jesus or even why they were tempting. The first, to simply make and eat bread, does not even seem wrong. The second two are clearly wrong, but may not seem compelling because Jesus has no need of these things; or at least no need of them from Satan, for then they would be of no value to him. More study would illuminate this for us. For now, we can trust that each of these three were genuine, intense temptations, for somewhere it says, “He suffered when tempted,” and “he learned obedience from what he suffered”. Indeed, he was tempted in every way that we are tempted and suffered more for never giving in!
But there is more, and that is my concern here. As Satan does, he attacked Jesus’ hold on reality. He attacked him by blatantly declaring that the true words of the Father should be doubted and proved true … by disobedience! Notice that two of the temptations began this way, “If you are the Son of God…”. Why? As noted above, Luke presents Jesus as the Son of God in his baptism and his genealogy to allow us to perceive this contrast in chapter 4: “if you are the Son of God.” This challenge from Satan is a temptation to fail to believe his Father, to fail to believe that he is the Son of God, and so accept Satan’s premise. This is the path to sin, and sin itself.
But Jesus did not sin. Human and divine, he stood his ground in faith, trusting the Father (his declaration) and the Word (his genealogy)—by the Spirit who was powerfully with him. He knew who he was. So must we: “abide in me and I in you,” for “to abide” is to know who you are in Christ. So, with my friend Jared, with Calvin (see Institutes, 1.1.1), and with Jesus’ own declaration in John 15, we must know who we are in Christ, in order to resist Satan. He attempts (he tempts), at every opportunity, to make us forget who we are in Christ (see Romans 8!) and so fail in our duty to persevere in obedience of faith. If we do not know who we are, we will not persevere in obedience.
Dr. Richard A. Shenk
Director of Non-Traditional Programs & Associate Professor of Theology
- Pray for President Rigney and his family as he tested positive for COVID. President Rigney wrote, “I’m seeking to trust the Lord with the timing of all of this. Why not a week earlier? Why not a week later? Questions with no answers, other than God knows, and he is good. May he sustain us through this time. Apart from him, we can do nothing.” The inauguration is postponed, but Look at the Sacred Book will proceed.
- Praise God with me. Last time I wrote the prayer letter, I asked you to pray that God would provide the new cohorts of students for our Non-Traditional programs (Master of Arts and Bachelor’s Degree Completion). In Minneapolis, Memphis, and Rochester, MN (as well as in Hawaii and Cameroon) God has provided cohorts who are now studying God’s Word together! I thank God for these men and women and for you who prayed for them before they even before they applied to Bethlehem.
- Pray especially for the students who are in their first semester at Bethlehem (on all of our campuses) as they study, get to know each other and their profs, and as many settle into a new church and a new home.
- Please pray for wisdom for Dr. Joe Rigney as he leads us in challenging days. The challenges are many and he, and all our leadership need God’s wisdom and grace as they persevere.
- Pray for the full funding of the Serious Joy Scholarship for all our resident students.