Learning God – Part 2

A Study Course for Lent 2022

Matthew  Chapter 4 vs 1-11, Chapters 5,6,

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested by the Devil” Matthew 4:1 (ESV)

Last week we began pondering the idea of ‘Learning God’, in the same way as a small child unconsciously learns their parents – looking to them and imitating their ways, almost as a form of play

Have you ever thought of Christian Life as a form of play? Read the end of Chapter 11 – note that Jesus calls us to be with him and learn what one translation calls, ‘the unforced rhythms of grace’. Is that how your life feels at the moment?

What is the difference between learning God, and learning about God? (Can you put this in terms of how a small child might relate to a parent?)

Jesus time in the Wilderness echoes, or perhaps to use a favourite and much stronger word of St Matthew in his gospel, ‘fulfils’ in the forty days what the Hebrews, adopted by God and ‘brought out of Egypt’, failed to learn.  (Matt 2:13-15).  (Note by the way, the 40 days do not ‘copy’ the 40 years, not least because Jesus as ‘faithful Israel’ resists the devils temptations, and so enters the Land of Promise)

(You may wish to compare Matthew’s account with that of Luke – they are subtly different in a couple of ways)

We read that Jesus was ‘led up by the Spirit, into the Wilderness, to be tempted by the Devil’. What does this suggest to you?

Recently there has been in some places a return to more rigourous – what we call ascetic – Christianity. In the Anglican Church in New Zealand we of course have the Urban Vision Monastic Community, young people living amongst the poor in our cities, especially Wellington. It has been suggested that young people today are looking for something more demanding from religion and that to quote ‘the decline of the church in the West is simply because it doesn’t demand enough’ What do you make of this? Why have the traditional practices which have been part of the non-negotiable parts of the faith – Prayer – Fasting – Almsgiving – Forgiveness – gone into decline?

Jesus fasts 40 days and was (unsurprisingly) hungry. Whilst this clearly sets the scene for the first temptation, what purpose does fasting fulfil in the life of a Christian?

Recently there has been in some places a return to more rigorous – what we call ascetic – Christianity. In the Anglican Church in New Zealand we of course have the Urban Vision Monastic Community, young people living amongst the poor in our cities, especially Wellington. It has been suggested that young people today are looking for something more demanding from religion and that to quote ‘the decline of the church in the West is simply because it doesn’t demand enough’ What do you make of this?

Why have the traditional practices which have been part of the non-negotiable parts of the faith – Weekly Worship – Prayer – Fasting – Almsgiving – Forgiveness, even – gone steeply into decline? Has contemporary culture suggested to us it can ‘fill our needs’? What ‘needs’ does it fill? What is left empty?

Jesus is tempted to turn stones into bread. What does his reply suggest as an answer to the question we have been considering? What is his priority as, as it were, The Human? (You might recall how we are dust, and only raised to Life by God’s Spirit) In what does He trust? In what do we trust?

PAUSE IN SILENCE

Allow that emptiness to be apparent, boredom perhaps?

Feed on God’s Word – Psalm 42 and 43 are suitable for this

Jesus is taken to the top of the Temple. What is the nature of the Temptation? (As revealed in Jesus’ response) Jesus is in the Wilderness, what questions must run through his head.

Tempted not to trust God for Life, now the temptation steps up a gear. If he doesn’t trust God, how does he even know God is there? See how it follows on?

Finally the greatest temptation. For context it is perhaps worth comparing with Genesis 3:1-5.

Three Temptations

Do not trust God – Test God – Be God . . .

Do you find resonances with your own life? Take time in the quiet to consider this?

Respond in prayer as appropriate

Next week we begin the Sermon on the Mount and see how Jesus’ teaching clearly contradicts the Devil’s blandishments

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