Monday, November 5, 2012

Monday School: Character Part III

A couple of the recent posts have been on character transformation which was the subject of Andy Stanley's series "Character Under Construction". I recommend Andy Stanley's podcast, they are both clear and challenging. The last post was about "taking off the old". This post is about "putting on the new". Stanley remarks, "To put on the new is to learn to counter the specific lies that you are most tempted to believe with the specific truth of God's word." We must saturate ourselves in God's word so we can combat the lies.

In a beautiful comparison Stanley uses a story many of us have heard from Matthew chapter 4, Jesus' temptation. As an aside, I love the way Stanley often tells his congregation that he knows they will be tempted to gloss over the story saying, "Yeah, yeah, I've heard this before." But, he reminds them to listen

Matthew 4:1-4

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread. Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

We need to be prepared to counter the lies we that face us with truth. Jesus had not eaten in a *long* time and he certainly had the power to turn the stone to bread. But, Jesus knew that he was "led by the Spirit" for a different purpose. The lie was that his needs were legitimate and he had a right to fulfill those needs even if those actions conflicted with God's purpose.

Matthew 4:5-7
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Once again, we must counter truth with lies. The lie here is that we need to prove ourselves. But, do we really need to prove ourselves to others? Moreover, what if that action in a desire to prove ourselves or conform compromises our integrity? 

Matthew 4:8-11
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Jesus will ultimately come to rule as King. The devil is offering Jesus a shortcut. No cross, no suffering, no pain and you still get what you want. But, taking short cuts and compromises are like bowing down to Satan. Stanley says that he has written under this verse, (paraphrase) Nothing we gain from broken fellowship with the Father is worth it.

We need to shift our thoughts away from, "I know I shouldn't . . ." to "It has been written . . .". This method was good enough for Jesus and should be good enough for us.

But memorizing verses can be difficult, right? When I was teaching the Economics of Compassion course we covered a large amount of material. Some of my students asked me, "How can we remember all of this?" I told them, "We tend to remember the things that we think about." This wasn't meant to be rude, but, rather a statement of how we learn.

After hearing five sermons in the series (1 more to go) much of our transformation depends on awareness and abiding. We need to be aware of the lies that we believe. But, what is a lie? A deviation from the truth. What truth? The truth about God, ourselves, and others. How do we learn to spot a lie? By abiding in Christ and God's word. The two things that make for excellent character are abiding and awareness. What is more they have a reciprocal relationship! There is no substitute for abiding in Christ and paying attention.

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