Matthew 4:1-11

            Let’s think about the season of Lent for a moment.  It is not a time for unhealthy introspection that seeks to rally all our willpower in order to have success over temptation and sin, thus proving how either strong or weak we are.  Lent is, however, an opportunity to give a forty day focus to the truth that overcoming temptation and achieving victory does not come from within, but only through Jesus.  In other words, no one can earn a right standing or even right feelings or right behavior – I must have the grace of Christ’s cross.

            Satan’s sly temptations were, at their core, attempts to try and get Jesus to circumvent the cross.  Satan wanted to see Jesus bring in God’s kingdom by another means, thereby destroying the kingdom all together.  An appeal to miracles for personal gain; popularity; accolades and recognition; proper branding of the Jesus phenomena; and, of course, avoiding the suffering of the cross completely were all ways of subtly trying to get Jesus to veer off the path toward the cross.

            We all desperately need to rely solely, completely, and totally on the grace of God in Christ through the cross.  Any attempts to seek holiness in our own ability to perform will only result in shame for not measuring up.  The greatest temptation of all is the belief that the cross is not enough; I must myself supplement the work of Christ with my own effort, ability, and willpower.  The true work of Lent is having all that useless striving broken down and done away with, so that the cleansing and healing of the cross will do the real work.  We are, then, set up for the pinnacle of Easter and new life.

            Gracious God, thank you for sending you Son, the Lord Jesus, to endure the cross.  I choose today to get off the performance treadmill and receive your grace as my only sure hope and salvation.  Amen.

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