Prayer: Father, we give you thanks that you created the world and ordained seasons for our blessing and enjoyment. As we come into a new summer, we want to use this time well, for your glory, for the blessing of our families and neighbors, and for the building of your kingdom. So we ask for Your Spirit to apply this word to our lives, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
As the school year comes in for a landing, and we launch into another summer, it’s worth giving thought to what you might need to be on the lookout for. Like most good things, it takes thought and preparation to use and enjoy summertime well. Summer is worth preparing for.
The Text: It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove.Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him (Mk. 1:9-13).
Summary: Here at the beginning of His ministry, Jesus was baptized, filled with the Spirit, and received a benediction from His Father (1:9, 11). The same Spirit that anointed Him and sealed the Father’s blessing to Him (1:10) immediately drove Him into the wilderness, where He faced temptations from Satan, as well as, perhaps various challenges with wild beasts (1:12-13). And when He was finished, the angels ministered to Him (1:13). It seems clear that the baptism of Jesus was His preparation for the temptation, but this whole period was His preparation for His entire life and ministry, and so we may take a few lessons from it on the theme of preparing.
Preparing for What’s Next
One of the principles of parenting is preparing your children for what they will face next. When your children are very young, you need to practice saying ‘thank you’ and sitting still for church before you face those situations. First you teach, then you require. Knowing your children well means talking to them about what their temptations are likely to be when they arrive at the next thing. So, what are the temptations likely to be this summer, for you and for your children? What temptations will you face on family vacation? What are the temptations of more free-time? What will you face at a family reunion, on a baseball team, at summer camp, at a summer job, at college next Fall, or with the kids home all day long with you? This is one of the ways we love one another: by thinking about and preparing for what is coming next.
In Deuteronomy, God prepared His people for the temptations of the Promised Land: “When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you. Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments (Deut. 8:10-11, cf. Dt. 6:12). In our text, we also see how God the Father prepares His Son for a great trial: by blessing Him and speaking to Him and about Him with great love and kindness (Mk. 1:11). There’s an important place for the specific warnings and instructions, but here we see that one of the most important preparations is the preparation of love and kindness: “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” This word of the Father becomes the central point of the temptation: “If you are really the Son of God…” Clinging to this word of the Father allowed Jesus to cling to the entirety of God’s word. And we should not miss the fact that this initial trial was also itself preparation for the much greater trial to come (Mt. 26:63, 27:40, 43).
And so this is the foundation of all Christian preparation: complete trust and rest in the blessing and kindness of God. How did Jesus withstand all the temptations and accusations? By standing firm in His Father’s word of blessing: You are my Son, in whom I am well pleased.
“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:31-32). Bickering, arguing, unkind teasing, biting sarcasm can creep into homes sometimes imperceptibly. And frequently this means that parents are themselves guilty. Many times adults have enough self-awareness to keep their unkindness tethered to a wobbly pole we might call “good manners.” This doesn’t mean you aren’t being unkind, you’ve just gotten good at being unkind in and around and beside “good manners.” But kids are frequently not quite as socially adept, and therefore, their unkindness is more exposed and raw. And so it can seem very surprising and disconcerting when a forest fire breaks out in the back seat of the suburban. When your kids bicker regularly, you should think at least two things: first, they probably got it from you, and second, you may be doing it without knowing it. So do some checking – and remember, this is what Jesus taught us to do: remove the log out of your own eye first so that you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye, and remember, your children are your brothers and sisters.
So, how do you talk to or about your children? How do you talk to your spouse or friends about the kids? How do you talk about them, even when they aren’t right there listening to you? How do you talk to or about your spouse, your in-laws, your neighbors, co-workers, or boss? Frequently forest fires break out in the back seat of the suburban because there are sparks flying out of the front seat. How does the Father speak to and about His Son? And you might object that the Father had a perfect Son, and you’d speak that way all the time if you had a perfect family too, but the Bible is clear that we are called to imitate our perfect Father anyway: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is heaven is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). There is a time to ask for counsel about a difficulty, but even that request should be made in imitation of the Father, full of kindness and delight. You prepare well for anything when you practice kindness. And among sinners, forgiveness is a central part of this kindness. But without a baseline of deep kindness, forgiveness can seem empty. Maintaining fellowship presupposes real joyful fellowship, kindness, and love. Otherwise, what are you restoring?
A Grab Bag of Other Temptations
Summertime can be an opportunity for the devil to tempt you sexually. This may be related to people thinking that it’s OK not to wear most of their clothes if they’re within 100 yards of a body of water, but if you know it’s coming, prepare yourself now. And this also goes for those who may be tempted to undress that way because, well, everyone else is doing it. The Bible is clear that lust begins in the heart, and is adultery in the heart, and this goes for those who are tempted to look and for those who are tempted to try to get the looks (Mt. 5:27-30). But this warning can also apply to courtships, engagements, unwise friendships, Netflix, and cell phones. And remember that Jesus said to cut off the hands and eyes that cause us to sin, which if you think about it, would be painful and awkward, and so it may mean ditching a friendship, finding a different job, or getting a dumb phone.
Related to lust is the sin of envy. Prepare your hearts not to envy the summer break of someone else. Some of you will go on vacations to the Bahamas and some of you will work 60 hours a week to barely pay your bills. Some of you will get new houses or cars or girlfriends, and some of you will still be in the beater you inherited from gramps and as single as the pope at the end of summer. Determine now that you will praise God for it all, and that you will rejoice with those who rejoice. Finally, be prepared for temptations to be lazy, either fighting sin or indulging your appetites. Drunkenness is a sin, even if nobody around you can tell that you’re drunk, and so is getting “drunk” on pot or pain killers (Eph. 5:18, 1 Thess. 5:7). And throughout the Bible drunkenness is not only a sin that could lead to trouble and judgment, drunkenness itself is the judgement of God. So determine to be sober-minded, alert, and watchful this summer.
Conclusion: Crush Your Summer
But the point of all of this is not merely to stay out of trouble. The point is actually that you put some thought into how you will use your summer to maximize the glory you can bring to God. As John Piper might put it, don’t waste your summer. You not only want to plan to avoid sin; you also want to plan to succeed, plan to accomplish, plan to draw closer to God, closer to your people, and grow in holiness. When September comes around, you want to look back and see progress in the fruit of the Spirit.
And one of the best ways you can ensure that you grow is to make sure you plan to eat. Remember, man doesn’t live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. So plan to binge on the Bible this summer. Don’t go light on Scripture. Be extreme in the Word. Guzzle it. Feast on it. Not because you haveto but because you getto. Because His Word is good. Because when we come hungry His Word is always ultimately kindness and blessing.
All temptation is ultimately a test of whether you will trust the blessing of the Father or not. Every temptation, going all the way back to the garden of Eden, is a question of whether God really said… And specifically, is God really good?
In a sinful world, where we have all sinned, we are even more tempted to doubt God’s goodness because we have sinned. Sure, Jesus could trust God’s word of blessing because Jesus was perfect. I’m not perfect. You’re not perfect. We are not perfect. We don’t deserve God’s blessing now.
Right, and this is why we are Christians. The perfect Son went to the cross for all our sin. He suffered for our sins, so that we might stand before the Father and hear His benediction pronounced over us. Jesus obeyed perfectly and died for ours sins, so that the blessing of the Father might be ours. And so hear this from the Father who knows all that you have every thought, said, or done: you are my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased. Do not look to the side, do not look down. Do not look at your failures. Look to Christ who is our righteousness, who is our goodness, and hear God’s blessing over you.
This is the kindness of God, and may this kindness fill your hearts, your mouths, your homes, your cars, your vacations, your work this summer. And whenever you hit a bump or fall down, remember this: the kindness of God is still there waiting for you, welcoming you back.
Closing Prayer: Our Father, we are such frail and forgetful people, but you have called us to yourself. You have washed us and clothed us and blessed us, and so we want to walk in the reality of that grace. So pour out your Spirit upon us, so that we might fight sin and temptation faithfully this summer, that our hearts and homes might be more full of the fruit of the Spirit come September by your grace. And we ask all of this in the name of Jesus, who taught us to pray, singing…