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Jesus told the disciples: “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41)
That verse was the answer to my friend’s question. We were in Bible study and had just watched one of the videos from “The Easter Experience.” The video focused on the criminal who was crucified beside Jesus. In their final moments together, the criminal recognizes Jesus as the Son of God and asks for mercy for his sins. Jesus had mercy on the criminal and told him that on that very day, the criminal would be with Him in Paradise. (Luke 23:39-43)
The discussion that followed the video was to remind us that we need the same saving grace of Jesus every day, and to be assured that Jesus forgives and accepts all believers who confess their sins to Him and claim Him as their Savior and Lord.
To better appreciate the sacrifice Jesus made for us, we talked about sin. The Bible says that sin is not just our actions, but also our thoughts. For instance, Matthew 5:27-28 tells us that it’s not just a sin to commit adultery. It is also a sin to lust after another man’s wife. Matthew 5:21-22 says it’s not just people who murder who will be subject to judgment, but also those with anger in their hearts. This means that we might not physically commit a sin, but we could still be guilty of sinful thoughts. Yikes!
I shared with our group that I remembered the first time I read those scriptures. “It’s not fair!” I thought. “How can I help what my mind thinks?”
We talked about how sinful thoughts can lead to sinful actions and words, and wondered how we are supposed to keep our minds from having sinful thoughts.
Then we considered the sins we commit on a regular basis, like the daily things we can’t seem to keep ourselves from doing – yielding to temptations, things we fail to do, the way we talk to others, how we treat others, etc.
Realizing how easily and how frequently we are prone to sin, one of the group members, who is usually quiet and reserved, spoke up with frustration and asked, “Then what are we supposed to do?”
The answer to her question was given to us by Jesus when He spoke to the disciples. Knowing that He would soon be leaving them alone to face the trials and temptations of the world, Jesus instructed the disciples to stay awake and pray so they wouldn’t yield to temptation. Jesus acknowledged that our spirits are willing to be good, but our flesh is weak. (Matthew 26:41) By staying alert and aware of our temptations and weaknesses, we can pray so that we stay strong against the sins we’re prone to commit.
I tried this proactive prayer approach this week and it worked! I prayed for God’s help when I’m in situations that anger or frustrate me, asking the Holy Spirit to guide my words or keep me silent if I shouldn’t speak . The very next day a situation arose that tested my patience. Angry thoughts started swirling in my head, and then angry words started coming out of my mouth. I took a few seconds to mentally claim the help I had been proactively seeking in prayer . In that moment of pause, the Voice I heard in my head said, “Just listen. Don’t say anything.” I did just that. I stopped trying to speak and just listened. It was hard at times, but not as hard as I thought it would be. When tempted to say something, I remembered the words, “Don’t say anything.”
The result? In the moment, it reduced the tension of the conversation and prevented a combative, possibly hurtful discussion. In the hours that followed, I was able to reflect on what the other person shared without being angry or too proud to consider their thoughts, and it made me feel good that the conversation hadn’t escalated into an argument. Praise for that!
Were those prayers a “one and done” kind of thing? No. Like Jesus said, we have to stay watchful and prayerful, remaining diligent in our preparation for the trials and temptations around us. Then, when we find ourselves in battle, we will have the strength to fight against temptation.
I’m thankful my friend asked what we’re supposed to do to help us resist the temptations to sin, for her question led me to Jesus’ instructions and made a difference for me. I hope and pray the words of Jesus will help you, too.
Added note: Knowing that it’s often my words that get me in trouble, I keep the following verse posted at my desk:
Be quick to listen and slow to speak. – James 1:9 It’s been there for a long time. 🙂
To read more from the passages above or the teachings of Jesus, check out the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John at http://www.BibleGateway.com
God bless you.
How did you sleep last night? I feel guilty admitting that I had a good night’s sleep. Why do I feel guilty about that? Because Jesus did not sleep last night.
Jesus was falsely arrested and taken away, where he was stood before a mock trial among town leaders who plotted to kill Him, and took Him to crucify as a criminal.
It all began in the Garden of Gethsemane. After their Feast of Unleavened Bread (The Last Supper), Jesus led the disciples to the garden. He asked the disciples to stay awake – to keep watch and pray so they wouldn’t yield to temptation. Jesus went a little farther, knelt and prayed to the Father, Abba. The Gospels say He prayed fervently, knowing the fate that awaited Him. Jesus asked the Father to take the cup of suffering away, asking if there be any other way to save those who belonged to Him. Then Jesus submitted Himself to His Father, saying Your will be done. Accepting the will of His Father, Jesus prayed with such agony that “His sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground.” When Jesus finished praying, He found the disciples asleep. He awakened them, again telling them to pray (stay strong) so they wouldn’t give in to temptation. (Luke 22:39-46)
It was then that Judas Iscariot, the betrayer, appeared in the dark of the garden with troops, chief priests and officers to seize and arrest Jesus. The disciples, now awake, jumped to their feet. At first they attempted to fight against Jesus’ captors, but Jesus commanded them to put away their swords. The disciples then fled as Jesus was taken by the captors.
Jesus was then led to the home of Caiaphas, the high priest, where Jesus was questioned before a rigged trial and sentenced to death on a cross. In the hours that followed, while we, and the rest of Jerusalem slept through the night, Jesus was mocked, tortured, beaten and bloodied.
Again, I ask, how did you sleep last night?
As I write, in the mid-morning hour, Jesus’ journey to the cross continues.
Jesus had been taken secretly in the dark of night, so as to not start a riot among those who followed and supported Jesus, for His captors knew Jesus was an innocent man. However, now in the light of day, the priests and officials needed to pass the responsibility of Jesus’ fate onto someone else, so Jesus was led to Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor. He, too, feared having the blood of Jesus on his hands, so he presented the case to mob of a crowd that had formed as Jesus and two criminals were led to crucifixion were led through town to the cross.
Can you imagine what Jerusalem must have been like? It was the day of preparation for the Passover, the day before the Sabbath, so there would be much activity in Jerusalem, as people prepared for the Sabbath, gathering food from the markets and taking their lambs for proper sacrifice. Oh, the irony, that during this most holy of times, Jesus was presented to the crowds who yelled, “Crucify him!”
Jesus’ journey to cross continues. Jesus has endured hours of torture and beatings and is now being paraded through the streets of Jerusalem like a criminal, bearing the heavy weight of His wooden cross upon his back. Flesh has been torn from His body. He is covered with open wounds and now wears a crown of thorns to mock Him as the King of the Jews, causing blood to run down his face. Physically unable to continue, a man named Cyrus is pulled from the crowd to help Jesus. The journey ends at the top of the hill where the crosses lie waiting. Eventually Jesus is laid upon a cross. The smacks of the mallet ring out among the crowd as nails are hammered into each hand and foot. Then the cross is raised, and Jesus is hung to die.
As physically painful as this must be, surely the sins of the world weighed greatest upon him. While Jews sacrificed their lambs in the temple, Jesus gave Himself as the sacrifice for each of us and all of our sins. By this time darkness covered the whole land.
A criminal, hanging on a cross beside Him, acknowledged Jesus as an innocent man. In an amazing act of grace, while being hung by the very people He came to save, Jesus promised that criminal that on that very day, he would be with Jesus in Paradise.
In pain Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46. Mark 15:34)
Then, in the ninth hour, as Jesus cried out, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit,” he breathed his last breath. At that time, in total darkness, the earth quaked (Matthew 27:51) and the veil of the Temple was torn from top to bottom. When the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, “Certainly this was a righteous man!” (Luke 23:44-47)
“And the whole crowd who came together to that sight, seeing what had been done, beat their breasts and returned. But all his acquaintances, and the women who followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.” (Luke 23:48-49)
I began by asking how you slept last night, while all these events began to unfold. Now I ask, where were you today? Were you busy with your daily tasks? If so, were you aware or unaware of the crowds gathering in Jerusalem and the crucifixions taking place? Did you want to stop the crowds from yelling, “Crucify him!”, or were you too scared to speak up? If you went with the crowds to witness the crucifixion, did you know what was happening? Had you heard from witnesses the night before that Jesus had been sentenced to death? Did you watch or turn away?
Regardless of where you were or who you might have been in the city of Jerusalem that day, are you now able to be like the centurion, and say, “Certainly, this was a righteous man”? I hope so. I hope you not only recognize the righteousness of Jesus, but also claim Him as your Savior and Lord, the Man who took all the sins of the world, for you and me, to die as the perfect sacrifice, like the lambs being slaughtered in the Temple, so that we can be forgiven of our sins and cleansed by the blood of Jesus, that was shed on our behalf.
Praise be to God, our Father; and thank You, Jesus, for the ultimate sacrifice you paid on our behalf. In Your precious and Holy name we pray. Amen.
To read about the “Easter” story in the Bible, go to http://www.BibleGateway.com, beginning with Matthew chapter 26, Mark chapter 14, Luke chapter 22, or John chapter 13.
If you’re not Irish today, don’t feel badly about it. St. Patrick wasn’t Irish either, but he was kidnapped by Irish pirates when he was just 16!
Here is his interesting story, written for today’s devotion by Elizabeth Sherrill for Daily Guideposts 2016. It’s an interesting story!
Living in the days of the early churches (387-461 AD), Patrick was a “cultured Latin-speaking Briton child , and son of a government official in Roman Britain”. He was kidnapped at age 16, in 405 AD, by a “gang of Irish raiders who attacked his coastal village, dragged him to their boat, crossed to Ireland, and sold him as a slave. Tending his master’s sheep on a rocky mountainside, all by naked through the long winters, always hungry, what sustained him was a single thought: Escape!
It was six years until his master’s absence gave him the chance. Running by night, hiding by day, he finally made his way to the coast and across the sea to Britain where, in gratitude for his deliverance, he decided to devote his life to God.
It was at the seminary in France where he was studying for the priesthood that the strange dreams began. He heard Irish voices begging him to come back and bring the Gospel. And, of course, Patrick did go back. For thirty years he traveled ceaselessly throughout the island, teaching, baptizing, planting churches, and bringing learning and peace to the land where he received only cruelty.”
But I say unto you, Love your enemies… – Matthew 5:44 (KJV)
Father, You gave Patrick grace not only to forgive, but also to turn wrong into blessing. Teach me, too, to forgive and bless. – Elizabeth Sherrill