EASTER 101 – KNOW THE FULL STORY OF EASTER? BY KIANG P LEE

 “I have been crucified with Christ, I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20)

Greetings once more friends everywhere! May the season of Easter replenish your spirit, and rejuvenate your heart to Love and serve God first in your life! As we enter the season of Easter commemorating the passion of Jesus, I would like to share two vital aspects of His life which depicts how He defeated and took care of human sin completely. We are familiar with His death on the cross I shared with you in my last post. The magnitude of Jesus’ work at the cross can never be diminished, yet, it is part of the greater story of Easter and the Christian faith. I would like to share another aspect of Jesus’ work which you may say “completes” the Easter story. File:Eugène Delacroix - Christ on the Cross - Walters 3762 (2).jpg

Jesus on the Cross atop Calvary (Wiki Commons)

True Origin of Sin: The Great Tempter: First, let’s answer how sin entered the human experience – this is vital because Easter is about Jesus redeeming mankind from the human sin condition and its curse – with the ultimate curse of physically and spiritually death, “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom.6:23a). We know it began with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Our first parent was deceived and led away to disobey God’s instruction to not touch or eat the forbidden fruit. (Gen.3:3) The devil had deceived them into believing God lied to them, and eating the forbidden fruit would result in the exact opposite of what God had told them – they would not die but live and “they would be like God” (Gen.3:4-5). It was the very sin which drove him from being an archangel to become Satan. He wanted to usurp God’s authority and power and be God himself. He said, “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High” (Isa.14:12-14, esp. V.14). He effectively said, “I will take over as King of the Universe” (Isa.14:14, The Message). But Satan’s idea all along was to destroy man and God’s awesome plan for humankind who was created in God’s very likeness.(Gen.1:26-27)

It is hard if not puzzling to fathom how Lucifer imagined he could have pulled off such a rebellious act against God whose sovereignty is unquestionable and incontestable. Perhaps jealousy, pride, and rage consumed him because of God’s grand purpose in man. Lucifer and a third of the angels were defeated in their rebellion and thrown out of heaven and Satan was born. God labelled him, “You who weakened the nations” (V.12b). His one purpose is to destroy man and God’s design and enterprise for man. (Gen.1:26-27). So right from the outset we see Satan is the instigator of sin who weakens people. This does not make man guiltless, Adam believed the devil’s word above God’s word. Man sinned, and he has to be atoned for.

The Bible calls Satan, “The accuser of our brothers and sisters” before God (Rev.12:10, also 7-9). He is the great tempter who instigates sin in order to force God’s hand in judging man. But there was something else the devil never saw coming – the immeasurable grace of God. Paul attests to His amazing grace, saying, “So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of His grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all He has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus” (Eph.2:7, NLB; also 1 Thess.3:5) There are no words in any language to articulate the breathtaking and incomparable grace of God for man.

So, there is always three elements to sin: a) the tempter who instigates sin, and b) the sinner whose past sins has to be atoned for, and c) the freedom to no longer live under Satan and sin. The ultimate ramification of sin and its opposite effect is succinctly stated by Paul, “Just as sin reigned through death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord… For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom.5:21; 6:23). 

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The Great Tempter – Depiction of Devil Cast out of Heaven in John Milton’s Paradise Lost (Wiki Commons)

We have repetitively heard the message of Easter through the passion of Jesus at the cross. But it is not the complete story of Easter. Is man saved merely as a victim of sin, and not be rescued from the arch-deceiver and instigator of sin? Will man remain a perpetual victim of sin? And will Jesus take the weight of human sin, and the true guilty party goes off scot-free? These two questions gives insight into the missing narratives in the Easter story. We emphasize the cross of Jesus for it cleanses us from past sins, and rightly so, but what about man’s present and future sins? We often say God forgives past, present and future sins, and that’s absolutely right – even sins of ignorance. (Psa.19:12) Yet, out of the abundance of the Father’s Love, God’s idea of salvation is that His children will not suffer and languish away by the ravages of sin – knowingly or unknowingly. (Luk.12:47-48) Jesus taught us to pray daily for forgiveness. (Matt.6:12) So we are always encountering sin in its three-fold reality, past, present, and future.

It’s illogical for Jesus to save man from past sins on His cross, and not take care of the origin, the first cause, the trigger of sin, which began with Adam and mankind continues to face and seen openly in the suffering in the world today and into his future. God’s purpose of defeating sin in man is holistic and complete, so while He is merciful and forgives us of past sins, He promises victory over future sins so we will never remain victims at Satan’s hands. If we persist in sin just to be forgiven we malign the cross. Paul warns us “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left” (Heb.10:26). So the cross can be negated if sin is not defeated entirely. The point being, man cannot defeat present and future sin in his fallen state of existence, but we turn to Christ.

The guilty party must take full responsibility, for only in victory are we placing the burden of guilt on the accountable party. The Spirit, given to dwell with and in man, is called “Holy” Spirit because His purpose is to sanctify man. (1 Pet 1:2; also 1 Cor.6:19-20) So, while the cross takes care of sin, Jesus simultaneously introduces the Spirit to deliver us from the future curse of sin. (John 14:15-17) God says this about the Spirit’s work, “Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good” (Rom.12:21; Rom.5;5). So we cease becoming victims by doing good, and no longer dwell on an incarcerated sinful past, but a liberated sin-free future.

So, God gives us a complete Savior in Jesus, who not only saves us from our past sins, but a future where we are not dominated by the ravages of sin and the ruin it brings. I believe the Easter message is incomplete if we appear at the foot of the cross with our past sins, and the devil remains unimpeded in tempting man to sin. It is incomplete if Jesus carries the load of humanity’s sins, and the true responsible party is not given to account. And we know God has provided for our holistic victory in His Son, and this is our confidence which John attests to, “We know that God’s children do not make a practice of sinning, for God’s Son holds them securely, and the evil one cannot touch them” (1 John 5:18). The two go hand-in-hand to free man from sin completely. And we’ll see there are two acts of Jesus which wraps His work from the beginning to the end of His ministry – from the River Jordan to Mount Calvary.

How, when, and where did  Jesus save man from the clutches of the deceiver, so we are saved from the ravages of future sins? It occurred at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry after He was baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist, and the Spirit descended upon Him from the Father. Here we see our Father introducing the Holy Spirit to humanity firstly through His Son. Later, after Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, the Spirit was poured upon all humanity on Pentecost as foretold by the prophet Joel. (Joel 2:28; Act.2:1-4) With Jesus, this had to be the first act of saving man He must undertake before dying on the cross. He could not have started his ministry without first defeating the arch-deceiver and instigator of sin. He could not have begun His ministry before He corrected Adam’s fall of plunging humankind into sin and held captive in Satan’s prison. The two monumental acts of Jesus wraps His holistic ministry from the beginning to the end – from the Jordan and temptations in the Judean wilderness, to the foot of the cross on Calvary. Both work hand in hand to free man from sin completely, from past, present, and future sins.

The scriptures say that immediately after He was baptized, the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the Judean wilderness to prepare Him for His titanic battle with the devil himself and defeat Satan at his own game of deception, and free man from the grips of sin. He fasted for 40 days and was full of the Spirit in His preparation for this battle. Jesus is ready for battle, He is our Warrior as well as Savior.  (Exo.15:3; John 3:16; Luk.2:11)

Hole JesusalDesierto.jpgJesus led by the Spirit into the Wilderness to Face Satan in the Temptations (Wiki Commons)

“Four Drivers” There are four main areas in human life the devil deceives, tempts, and instigates future-sin in man. He did it with Adam, he tried it with Jesus, and he continues to deceive and hold mankind in his devious clutches today. I will call them the “4 temptation-drivers” of the devil. Paul says we ought not to be “ignorant of his (devil’s) schemes (temptations)” (2 Cor.2:11). Satan’s temptations of Jesus explains the “4 temptation-drivers” to future-sin which He once for all defeated in man’s place. (Matt.4:1-11)

The  “4 temptation-drivers” to sin are: 1/ Bread or physical sustenance – Matt.4:3-4.  2/ Security and happiness – Matt.4:5-7. 3/ Material gain – Matt.4:8-11. 4/ Worldly power and influence. These are the four areas of life people in every age and time have given 100% of their attention and pursuit, and Satan knows this well. These are God-given benefits the Creator gave man as part of the “dominion mandate” at creation. (Gen.1:26-29) But Satan has manipulated and turned them into temptations or counterfeits of God’s blessings. God offers even more which Satan has no power to confer, like immortality. Let’s now look at these four primary areas of human life the devil uses to deceive man, and see the lessons we can glean from them to help us live a fruitful future where we are never the victims of sin, but live victoriously in Jesus.

1)     Bodily Sustenance: The first temptation has to do with bodily sustenance. With Jesus, Satan used bread, with Adam he used the forbidden fruit. With you and I he will probably use something else. He tempted Jesus, saying, “If You are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread” (Matt.4:3; Gen. 3:1-6). Recall, Jesus had fasted for 40 days and He was famished. For most of us, we would consider it being on the verge of starvation. So, to say that bread was a punishing temptation was an understatement. But Jesus was spiritually strong, He said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God.” Jesus was pointing the tempter to the life in the Spirit and not the self-centered life in the flesh. It was by God’s word that the physical universe and our earth came to being. Jesus saw the bigger picture than mere bread and the cries of hunger of His human body. The devil tempted Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, “you will be like God, knowing good from evil” (Gen.3:5). He managed to convince them that God lied when He said, “you shall not eat it, you must not touch it, or you will die” (V.3). They succumbed to the temptation and sinned.

How does this translate to each of us in our time, as it relates to the “sustenance temptation?” “Bread,” which is made from grain, is known proverbially as the “staff of life.” A ‘staff’ is a support or prop synonymous with human livelihood. We turn to Jesus words, “I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or stow away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more valuable than they? But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt.6:25-26, 33). So “bread,” in a broad sense, is metaphor for a person’s basic occupation in which he earns a living. The society in Jesus’ day was mainly agrarian, so sowing and reaping was the main form of work and livelihood for the average citizen. Today, it’s no longer the case.

“Bread” – Staff of Life (Wiki Commons)

Is Jesus saying we are to not work and support our families – not in the least! Just because the devil used bread to tempt Jesus does not mean bread is now bad food – that’s preposterous. In fact, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35). He means we’re not to turn to the devil and make our work or career into an idol in place of God’s purpose for each of us. It is God who places unique gifts in each of us which defines who we are for His and our glory. So, the devil tempts us to sin through the “sustenance temptation” when we use our gifts for wrongful aspirations. Gifts becomes idols and thereby, we sin. Gifts are for God-communicative, not self-communicative, purpose. So bread is depiction for livelihood, and the devil tried to tempt Jesus by deception to look to him for His livelihood. Jesus looked to the Father’s word for sustenance, and so through Jesus’ victory we can defeat the devil’s temptation in this necessary but vital aspect of life.

2)     Security and Happiness:  The devil tempted Jesus, he made Him stand at the highest point of the temple in Jerusalem, saying, “Since you are the Son of God, 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, “It is written, ‘Do not put the Lord Your God to the test’” (Matt.4:5-7). God gives His children security through angelic protection. Happiness is not possible without security. Without security we live in fear, not joy. Our happiness is secured through the many promises of God, including angelic protection, not Satan’s form of security through his worldly system.

 File:Brooklyn Museum - Jesus Carried up to a Pinnacle of the Temple (Jésus porté sur le pinacle du Temple) - James Tissot - overall.jpg

Depiction of Temptation of Jesus on The Pinnacle of The Temple, Brooklyn Museum (Wiki Commons)

What we see in this temptation is the simple truth that the devil believes God’s people are in a special category of protection through God’s angelic hosts. (John 5:18; Psa.91:11-12) But he turned a divine promise into its negative form to appeal to human pride and vanity: “if you are the Son of God…” or “you will be like God knowing everything…” as he did to Adam and Eve. Jesus answered the devil’s temptation, and said in effect, ‘this is not about me or my ego, this is about God’s Love for me, His will be done, not mine.’ It can be tempting to apply human wisdom and pride to God’s sweeping promises for His people. But humility must always be our mantra, where we say, “Your will be done, not mine;”  “by myself I can do nothing” (Luk.22:42b; John 5:30).

We cannot hijack God’s promises for human manipulation. Once people do that, before they know it, they will put their trust in themselves and worldly things to provide for their security. Things like money and wealth, their own human wisdom, their reliance upon others, and devices for self enhancement, in place of God’s promises. Whatever you place your trust in, you worship. We can drift as far from God so that His promises don’t come through for us, and we wonder why. By deceit and manipulation the devil has made this world look to him for security and happiness, and he tried to do the same to Jesus. Thankfully, for man’s sake, Jesus overcame the devil so that we too may do likewise.

3)      Material Prosperity:  In this third temptation, “the devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of this world and their splendor, and said, “All this I will give you.”  Jesus saw and was offered all the splendor of the earth’s kingdoms, material wealth and possessions. But Jesus was not going to be tempted by the material wealth He Himself had created. It is tempting for people to worship the works of their own hands, yet, man’s creativity comes from one source and he forgets to give thanks where it is rightly due. God gives us the power to generate wealth, reminding us, “But remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms His covenant” (Deut.8:18).

God is the source of all wealth and our abilities to produce them, “The gold is Mine, and the silver is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills, the fowls and the wild beasts are mine, the earth and its fullness and all that dwell in it” (Haggai 2:8; Psa.24:1; Psa.50:10-11). The world’s wealth does not belong to the devil to give to anyone. What belongs to the devil is the system he has created to acquire wealth based upon fear, greed, lack, and rebellion, which, if man accepts, will turn God’s loving gifts to reflect his egotistical self. This is the basis of all human sufferings – we worship the created, instead of the Creator. Jesus said, “You can’t serve both God and money” (Luk.16:13). The Bible says clearly, “The one who loves money and wealth will never be satisfied with money” (Eccl.5:10; Isa.55:2; Jer.17:11). In other words, happiness and security is never found in money and material abundance.

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Define Your wealth. “Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that by His poverty He could make you rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9. (Gold Bars – Wiki Commons)

When we receive material riches legitimately from the true Source of wealth, the Bible tells us, “The blessing of the Lord makes a person rich, and He adds no sorrow (toil) with it” (Prov.10:22; Matt.25:14-15; 1Pet.4:10, 8-9). In other words, His blessings comes with joy, not sorrow. Most of today’s stress-related sickness and disease comes from where people spend most of their lives – earning a living (bread). But God’s riches comes without toil (stress). It has been said when you enjoy what you do, you never have to work another day in your life.

Therein lies our destiny – I will share a beautiful word of wisdom from His Word. The joys of God’s blessing comes to man through a person’s gift bequeathed upon him/her at birth. (Psa.139:13-18)  God does not give us material wealth for its own sake to be consumed in our selfish ambition, for when we do, we will get caught up with the “deceitfulness of riches” (Matt.13:22). Jesus said, “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:13-21). Rather, God’s abundance spring from and is the outcome of our primary gift which God gives in order to serve Him and our fellowmen. (Matt.6:33) When man finds and lives his “true self” in Christ, life is a joy. The Bible says of us individually, “Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb… Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you. The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day…guide me on the road to eternal life” (Psa.139:13-16, 24, The Message). Remember, there’s always a choice to be made, to live your “false self” in the devil’s world; or to exist in your “true self” in Christ by the power of the Spirit.

4)     Power and Influence: When Satan tempted Jesus saying, “If You will bow down and worship me” He was offering Jesus worldly power and reign. Satan wanted Jesus to acknowledge His dependence on him, rather than God His Father. Jesus replied, ‘Away from Me, Satan! For it is written ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’” Then the devil left Him, and the angels came and attended to Him” (Matt. 4:8-11). Note, in each temptation Jesus used God’s Word as a weapon to defeat Satan, just as He had said that man must live by every Word of God. Truly, the pen is mightier than the sword. Jesus was not about to live the ‘solitary’ life of the devil in place of the “Triune Life” He had for eternity with the Father and the Spirit. To have done so Jesus would have extricated Himself from the very source of true power, of true life, and the Love He had with His Father from eternity.

Jesus said, “All power is given to Me in heaven and in earth” (Matt.28:18, KJV; also see Isa.9:6-7). Satan’s power relates to the worldly system he has created which is not true power. It exists in an unholy bubble in this world for a brief period of time as God allows until He brings restitution to His power and Kingdom through His Son. Peter said, “Now Christ has gone to heaven. He is seated in the place of honor next to God, and all the angels and authorities and powers accept His authority” (1 Pet.3:22, NLT). Man become heirs of God and His Christ, “Heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Rom.8:17).

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“God has spoken plainly, and I have heard it many times: Power, O God, belongs to You” – Psa.62:11. (Baby stars forming near rim of the cosmic cloud Perseus – Wiki Commons)

These are the four areas which people give 100% of their attention and effort in their pursuit of life. The devil gave his best shot at tempting Jesus to sin like he did with Adam and Eve and humankind, but he failed. Jesus, mankind’s Warrior and true Hero and Savior, overcame and defeated Satan in that titanic battle in the Judean wilderness. And here is the awesome truth that boggles the mind: God credited Jesus’ epic victory upon humanity, in the same way our Father credited Jesus’ cross upon mankind for remission of all sins. Thereby, the devil’s temptations has no power over man and man’s future. God credited Jesus’ victory in our place which brings the victorious life over temptations, just as Adam’s sin was imputed upon humanity which brought the defeated life under sin and the devil. Jesus victory over sin has brought freedom, true life, joy, and righteous living. John attests to this saying, ”We know that God’s children do not make a practice of sinning, for God’s Son holds them securely, and the evil one cannot touch them” (1 John 5:18). Paul speaks of the importance of Jesus’ work of rectifying Adam’s sin, “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Cor.15:22). Jesus went on to live a perfect life and sacrificed Himself on the cross thus completing God’s plan of redemption for His human children.

A word of advice. One might say, ‘But isn’t this the same as the ‘obedient life’ I was taught in Sunday school, in Bible study, or even in seminary?’ There is a subtle and huge difference – like day from night difference. Here, we are living the “Triune Life” by vicariously claiming Jesus’ victory over Satan and his temptations as our very own victory, in the same way we claim the cross for our forgiveness and redemption. Here we see the cause of sin through temptations being effectively neutralized, in the same way the cross defeats all past sins.

This is Christ’s obedience, not man’s effort. Human obedience carries a different mindset – it exist on a ‘solitary’ footing where we say Jesus has died for me, now I must do my part to obey Him. God’s offer of salvation to man is not a 50-50 proposition. The Bible nowhere teaches such a thing, rather it says, “I have been crucified with Christ, I no longer live (dead), but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal.2:20, emphasis added). If the Christian died with Jesus on the cross, then how can a ‘dead’ man obey God? Answer, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” – it is life in the living faith of Jesus. Paul says, “We were therefore buried with Him (Jesus) through baptism (beginning in the waters of Jordan) into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Rom.6:4; also Col.2;12). Yes, the new life is a person’s “true self” in Christ.

We will never be able to obey God perfectly and overcome Satan in a million lifetimes – it is just plain impossible. God did not save you by sacrificing His Son, then turns around and leave you to face Satan alone, no! God never turns His back on us by turning us back upon ourselves. He takes full responsibility for our salvation from start to finish. The danger with human obedience is it leads to the burden of legalism, where all kinds of rules and regulations are introduced to ‘manage’ sin, which is an unworkable and unachievable task. Jesus denounced this openly before the hypocritical Jews in His time, saying, “They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden” (Matt.23:4, also Verses 13, 23, 27, NLT) This is an issue many believers today seem to experience in confounded stalemate: the obvious inner contradiction of being forgiven and being a sinner as existing simultaneously, and the burden of guilt it brings. When we carry this guilt Satan is being successful in his work of “accusing the brethren” of sin before God because our conscience accuse us. (Rev.12:10) And the issue revolves around a wrong understanding of obedience.

Even with our best efforts, we will sin, but the Bible says this about God’s grace, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 1-2). This does not give us license to live with careless abandon, but the conviction to see and turn to Jesus as the final answer to sin because He brought us victory over Satan’s temptations and the cross. (Rom.6:1-7; Rom.7:21-25; 1 Cor.1:18) Salvation is entirely (101%) God’s gift to man. The Bible says, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience” (Heb.10:19,22).

Keep this in mind, it will do us much good and be a great source of peace: Perfect obedience can only be given out of perfect Love. Only the Son can Love the Father perfectly and thereby obey Him perfectly. Likewise, only the Father can Love the Son perfectly. To imagine a human can Love and obey God perfectly is not only impossible, but to live in delusion and shows our lack of insight into the nature of God. And here is how humans can Love and obey God perfectly – we enter into their Love relationship as Jesus explained to the disciples before His crucifixion. This was Jesus’ prayer to the Father, “Jesus said, “That they may be one as We are one. I am in them and You are in Me. May…You Love them as much as You Love Me” (John 17:22-23). Do we see here that Love and obedience are inseparable? Without Love obedience is not possible, because genuine obedience is about Love. Human obedience is about legalism based upon rules and fear of punishment. When we are declared righteous in Christ we do not fear punishment, but we grow in Love. The only way for man to Love and obey God as God would have him is for Jesus to live and walk in the believer through the Spirit’s power. (Gal.2:20) We die with Christ so we may live in His resurrected life in heaven and experience the Love relationship the Father has with the Son from eternity. (John 17:24) This is a spiritual life, but it affects the human heart and mind and our actions as it relates to obedience.

When Jesus was resurrected and ascended to heaven, He glorified our humanity and took it into the presence of God the Father forever. In this manner, mankind is united with God in Love through Christ in the fellowship of the “Triune Life.” It is through Christ’s perfect Love for the Father that we are able to obey God. So it is not so much about  ‘obedience’ as it is about Love being perfected in man. In other words, we can ‘obey’ because we Love God perfectly in Jesus. The Spirit is the personification of God’s divine Love flowing in man, “God’s Love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Rom.5:5).

Two-Pronged Action of Jesus Defeating Sin: The Complete Easter Story  By defeating the devil who holds humans captive in sin through the “4 temptation-drivers,” Jesus forever freed mankind from the clutches of the great tempter. Paul said “I was afraid that the tempter had gotten the best of you, and that our labors might have been in vain….for we ought not to be “ignorant of his (devil’s) scheme” (1Thess.3:5; 2 Cor.2:11). Yes, the cross can prove to be ineffectual if the tempter is allowed to freely carry out his evil work of deceiving God’s people to sin through the “4 temptation-drivers.” God’s people can be wearied, frustrated, discouraged, and ruined by sin.  

To pursue these four areas of life are not wrong of themselves, for everything, a) sustenance and health, b) happiness and security, c) material wealth, and d) power, and more are all God’s to give, and His gifts to mankind. It has always been an intrinsic part of the “dominion mandate” conferred upon man at creation. (Gen.1:26-28) The devil deviously offers man counterfeits of God’s gifts and blessings to keep man deceived, and tempting man to turn them into idols to bow and serve in place of God and His blessings. (2 Cor.11:14)

Our vision of life ought to be through God’s eternal perspective because man’s destiny is to embrace immortality in His likeness, rather than through the eyes of our passing fallen earth-bound humanity. God blesses His people in these four areas of life and much, much more. For example, the devil does not have the power to impart immortality, but Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). Jesus holds our humanity in Himself in its glorified and sinless state at the Father’s right hand. (Rom.8:29; Mar.16:19; Matt.1:23) The provision of His Son completes His plan of salvation, there is nothing beyond Jesus for man, He is IT!. (Heb.10:26) His desire is that we live in His Son in order to comprehend His Love for us: “That You Love them as much as You Love Me” (John 17:22-23; Rom.8:29). We no longer remain victims of our past sins (cross), but we stand liberated in a sin-free future in the Love of the Father and the Son. (2 Cor.5:21)

Jesus’ perfect sinless life becomes vicariously our own through the Holy Spirit’s power in us. (Act.10:38; Eph.1:13-14) When we face our personal battles with sin, we do not lie down and become victims, but see it as an opportunity to step into the life of Jesus and invoke His victory in the Spirit’s power to defeat sin. God gave us Jesus so He can be man’s complete Savior. Paul affirms this, saying, “You are complete in Him.” (Col.2:10). Freedom comes for people who are willing to fight for it, as Paul said, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Rom.8:17). Temptation is overcome with the Spirit’s move in us.

God sees the eternal perspective of man’s future, rather than the temporary human perspective which passes like wind. The Psalmist said, “Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. The wind blows, and we are gone—as though we had never been here. But the Love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear Him” (Psa.103:15-17, NLT). In their pride, humans sometimes think they are indestructible, but the Bible says, “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom” (Psa.90:12, NLT). Through Christ we are brought into the Father’s Loving presence and enjoy His sustenance, His promises (security), His abundance, and ultimately eternal reign with His Son.

File:Carl Heinrich Bloch - Jesus Tempted.jpg

 ”Away from Me, Satan! For it is written ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him Only.’” (Carl Henrich Bloch, Wiki Commons)

Bear with me for a final word, it is of poignant significance that this two-pronged work of Jesus as man’s complete Savior was foretold in an annual ceremony ancient Israel was commanded to keep. The events of Jesus’ baptism and temptations by Satan and His death on the cross were enacted on the annual high day known to Israel as the Day of Atonement, which the Jews continue to keep today as “Yom Kippur.” (Lev.16) I will attempt to explain this unique ceremony as it parallels Jesus’ own life, for that is what Israel was mirroring as they kept the Day of Atonement.

Day of Atonement: It was a solemn day for Israel full of symbolism and ritual with profound significance. The people was required to fast and stand before their God as a nation to be absolved of their sins. A whole chapter was dedicated to the meaning of this day – it makes for interesting reading in Leviticus 16. The high priest played the chief role on this day. “Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites” (Lev.16:34). God would appear before Israel in the holy place of the temple to cleanse Israel of all their sins.

What was unique about this ceremony was there were two goats brought before the high priest as part of the annual ritual. The two goats represent the two-pronged work of Jesus which made Him the “complete Savior,” namely, defeating Satan in the temptations as our Warrior, and dying as the perfect Lamb of God on the cross as our Savior.

The goats are brought before the entrance of the tabernacle, “And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the LORD and the other lot for Azazel” (Lev.16:8). The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia states “the word Azazel has been interpreted by some as referring to a demon of the wilderness. The term is rendered as “one who has separated himself from God,” or “he who has separated himself,” or “he who misleads others.” The word Azazel was by many Jews and also by Christian theologians, such as Origen, regarded as that of Satan himself who had fallen away from God.” The word has given rise to many different views, but the advent of Jesus’ passion and battle with Satan has given more clarity. For indeed, the Day of Atonement was picturing the work of the Messiah to the Israelites.

The goat allotted to the Lord was sacrificed and its blood brought into the holiest chamber before God’s presence in the mercy seat. (Lev.16:15-16) This goat represents Jesus and His death on the cross to redeem mankind from sin. The second goat, the high priest  “will lay both of his hands on the goat’s head and confess over it all the wickedness, rebellion, and sins of the people of Israel. In this way, he will transfer the people’s sins to the head of the goat. Then a fit man specially chosen for the task will drive the goat into the wilderness. As the goat goes into the wilderness, it will carry all the people’s sins upon itself into a desolate land” (Lev.16:21-22). This goat pictures Jesus taking the weight of mankind’s sins upon Himself, and under John’s hand was baptized for the remission of human sins for all times, with His ensuing temptation in the wilderness. (Mak.1:4)

Jesus had no sin to repent of because he was sinless and perfect, but He was baptized for the forgiveness of all mankind’s sins, just as the sins of all Israel was confessed and    transferred upon the second goat. (Heb.4:15) Jesus told John after he hesitated baptizing Him, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt.3:15). Yes, He was the prophesied Immanuel, the second Person of the Triune Godhead, sent to rescue humanity from sin and in its place bring divine righteousness. Paul stated poignantly, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor.5:21).

After His baptism the Spirit (“fit man”) led Jesus into the wilderness, just as the second goat of Atonement was taken into the wilderness by a “fit man” (Spirit) symbolically heavily-laden with Israel’s sins. (Matt.4:1-11)  Jesus, by defeating the devil, placed all Human sins squarely upon the head of the instigator of sin, the great tempter, Satan, the Azazel. God our Father is a just God, and puts the weight of sin upon the one who is the true guilty party responsible for human sins. This is the missing narrative in the Easter story.

 The Two Goats of the Day of Atonement of Leviticus 16, Depicting Christ’s Twin Role Of the Complete Savior of Mankind  (Wiki Commons)

The human high priest in Israel represented Jesus Christ the true High Priest in heaven today. He is Savior symbolized in the first goat sacrificed for our sins, and the Warrior represented in the second goat who took our sins into the Jordan and the wilderness to face and defeat Satan. “The Lord is a Warrior; the Lord is His name.The Lord is my strength and my defense; He has become my salvation” (Exo.15:3,2). As mankind’s High Priest today, He continues to perform His role of mediating all man’s imperfect responses and transgressions. The Bible states, “Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted. For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have One who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet He did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb.2:18; 4:15-16). The Bible couldn’t be more unequivocal about Jesus’ work pictured in the second goat of Atonement.

Recall, the second goat was not killed, but the first goat was sacrificed portraying Jesus death on the cross. The work of the second goat continues to this day, representing the life of the resurrected Jesus, our Warrior Prince, who continues to live in us in the Spirit’s power, to bring us the “grace to help us in our time of need,” thus replicating His triumph over Satan in the “4-temptation drivers” and our absolution through His cross. Only a surrendered life can bring this victorious life of Jesus into the believer. (Gal.2:20; Jam.4:7,10; Rom.12:1)

The validation of Jesus’ work of Savior and Warrior seen in the first and second goats is laid out in the New Covenant when He taught followers to pray the Lord’s Prayer daily. In it, we are taught to invoke Jesus’ victorious life over sin and temptation. The prayer goes, “And forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us (cross/past). And never bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (victorious living/future)” (Matt.6:12-13, ISV). Isn’t that enlightening as much as it is encouraging that the Lord’s Prayer petitions God’s mercy for forgiveness (Savior/first goat), and then invoke His victory over temptations and the devil (Warrior/second goat). The words of the prayer are a cry issuing from a deep sense of our personal human weakness against the powers of evil in Satan’s world. So much so that there is no other way but in moving prayer daily invoke the two-fold work of the Messiah as our own victory so we may live victoriously always in Christ.

God may permit temptation and trial according to His unsearchable grace and wisdom, but He promises, “And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure” (1 Cor.10:13; also Heb.12:4-12). Remember, our Warrior in Jesus never leaves our side, for God has promised, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb.13:5).

I have shared the meaning of Easter in the context of Jesus entire Ministry from start to finish, with the crucifixion as its central theme. This two-fold act of Jesus forms the core of His Messiahship as Warrior and Savior, from Jordan to Calvary, His perfect sinless life in between, His subsequent resurrection and ascension, encapsulates the perfect human life God our Father accepts on mankind’s behalf as the final, complete, and unmitigated answer to Satan and sin. This makes possible God’s plan to embrace humanity in His Love. This is the essence of His grace to mankind. This is the complete and finished work of Christ. (Col.2:10) All that remains for you and I is we accept the Father’s Loving embrace He has sacrificed so much to make possible. He wants you to live your life in unbelievable joy which only His Spirit can give. I wish you and your families a blessed Easter!

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to write me in the space provided below, or email me on bulamanriver@gmail.com. Thanks for visiting.

Blessing:

Until we meet again in my next post, may the blessings of the season of Easter and Passover be with you all and your families, and may God who ceaselessly expresses Himself in His dependable Triune Love, help you to receive Jesus as your personal Savior and live the “Triune Life” in the Spirit. May the Spirit enliven you and make all things concerning you possible in Triune Living as a Bulamanriver.*

Kiang,                      

* Bulamanriver” is the metaphor describing the union of man with the Love of the Triune God flowing in humans, making possible the “Triune Life” – the source of the miraculous life in man. To read the many facets of life of the Bulamanriver, go to my website www.bulamanriver.com where you can order a copy of my Book.

See the BULAMANRIVER Video at: http://youtu.be/8uA0Bq7UoYA

All scriptures are taken from the NIV Version 2011, unless stated otherwise.

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