Tag Archives: Matthew 4

The American Church: Tempted in the Wilderness

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Matthew 4:1

The church in America is in the wilderness. That’s not such a bad place to be. It’s a difficult place, often a painful place, but it’s a place God often leads his people when He has some difficult lessons to teach them or preparations to be made. And the American church certainly has some difficult lessons to learn. Moses learned in the wilderness, as did Elijah. The people of Israel learned in the wilderness. And Jesus went there as well, where he experienced some critical “perspective builders” in the form of temptations. The American church, while in the wilderness, is experiencing temptations as well. If there were ever a story written about it, the way Jesus’ story in the wilderness has been written, the enemy’s temptations of the church might go something like this…

temptationsI. The devil said to them, “If you are the Church of God, tell these people to become members.” As bread represents a basic necessity for our body, believers (i.e., members) represent a basic necessity for the Church. There is not a church leader anywhere who, when describing the church he/she serves, is not tempted to describe it at some level in terms of number of members. It is one way we measure our effectiveness in mission. Every evangelistic outreach is measured this way. And since we all want to be seen as “successful”, the temptation here is to move as many bodies as possible from the “prospect” category to the “member” category as quickly as possible. The temptation is to use emotional pleas, scare tactics, or other forms of manipulation toward an all-important “decision”. And what the church is left with, especially over the long term, …

Ingredients for a Revolution

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

Ever see Valkyrie ? It’s a pretty good telling of a true story about the last of some 15 assassination attempts on Adolph Hitler’s life by his own army. The story is a primer on all the planning, all the details, all the “infrastructure” necessary to pull off a revolution. As a student of human dynamics and systems, the movie had me fascinated and frustrated at the same time. You will have to see the movie for yourself to see why.

crossBut for an even better lesson about how to begin and maintain a revolution, check out Matthew 4:12-25. These few verses from near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry provide a beautiful summary of His complete ministry and serve as an excellent picture of just why Christianity is the greatest, the strongest, and the most sustained “revolution” the world has ever known. Moreover, remembering how Jesus began His ministry is a perfect way for every church to periodically review its own vision. It’s a bit of a checklist we can hold up against our ministry and ask, “How are we doing?” After all, the world is still very much in play and the revolution is still very much our game plan.

Jesus’ ministry had three critical aspects (three “strategic fronts”) which have made this revolution successful:

  1. A clear message – “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is near.” What could be clearer than that? “Repent”: turn around, make a change, do things differently in order to bring about a different result. Stop doing what you’ve been doing. Change your perspective, change how you see everything, change how you do everything. Why? Because God is so much closer than you think. There