Summary: When we swim in the river of God's grace and love we are able to hold our deeper commitments to Jesus.
“Renewable Energy: Swimming in the River”
The night of my Ordination – the time at which I officially became a Minister of the Word – is still vivid in my mind. The joy, the solemnity, the anointing through laying on of hands – when the night was completed I felt exhilaration and anticipation, and an overwhelming sense of responsibility, that could not be put into words. It was one of the spiritual high points of my life.
You may have had similar feelings. You finally received your diploma, you got the job, the wedding day finally arrived, the baby was born, you won the election or got the part. Whatever the occasion, you knew you had arrived, that all the preparation and waiting had finally paid off. And you knew that it marked a new beginning with new responsibilities. It was a great feeling – a high point in your life.
Welcome to Jesus’ life. JESUS EXPERIENCED A SPIRITUAL HIGH. Luke wrote about it in Chapter 3. JESUS WAS BAPTIZED in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. Why in the world would the Son of God, who was and would be sinless, submit to a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin? Jesus was baptized so He could identify with our sin, to symbolize the fact that one day He would take our sin upon Himself on the cross. Going under the water and coming up again stood for cleansing from sin. Jesus entered the waters of sin and swam in the river of grace so we, too, could swim in the river of grace.
But Jesus consented to be baptized also as a sign of His commitment to do the Father’s will; it was a public testimony of His unwavering commitment to enter into a ministry of salvation; He was making it known the He would walk the way of the cross. He was acknowledging the purpose for His life.
And after He was baptized “…heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’” JESUS RECEIVED HIS FATHER’S AFFIRMATION. It’s significant that Jesus had not yet done any miracles, preached any public sermons, or died on the cross. Yet the Father affirmed Him. The Father loved Jesus for who He was and affirmed Him for His desire to do His will. Having swum in the river of grace Jesus was now swimming in the river of God’s love.
Can you imagine being affirmed and loved by God, the Creator of the world? Can you imagine the overwhelming awe of hearing His voice of love? I wonder how often Jesus, as he faced the difficult times of ministry, remembered the voice of God and gained strength from the affirmation?
After the baptism and affirmation JESUS WAS FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT. He was now gifted, empowered, prepared, and strengthened as never before. When the great moment was over Jesus felt exhilaration and anticipation, and an overwhelming sense of responsibility, that could not be put into words. It was the spiritual high point of his life.
But notice what happened next. ‘Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” JESUS WAS SEVERELY TEMPTED. The exhilaration and joy of the moment didn’t last long. The Spirit led Jesus to the desert for 40 days. In the Bible the desert is the place of testing and temptation and 40 days is the symbol of the fullness or completeness of a period. So the first thing Jesus did, in obedience to His Father, was to enter into a time of testing and trial.
Why is this important? SATAN PLANS HIS TIMES OF ATTACK. Having made His public commitment, Jesus was now a target of the enemy. Whenever someone makes a deeper commitment, whenever they are spiritually high, they are vulnerable – because Satan is upset. As the late Matthew Henry once said, the richest ship is the pirate’s prize. This brings me to lift up a word of caution. We, too, are vulnerable immediately after highly spiritual moments. Such moments sap our physical and emotional strength, opening the door to weakness. Do you realize that, as a congregation, we’ve just come down from a wonderfully high time – an extremely successful Cultivating Generations of Hope Campaign and an inspiring Christmas season? The warning alarms should be going off – this is an opportune time for the tempter to strut his stuff. The more deeply we commit ourselves to Jesus Christ the more the devil steps up his attacks against us. We are not dealing here with a red suit, a pitchfork, and horns. There is a real, live tempter – he is the devil. He is not just some figment of our imaginations or some cartoon or comic character. He is a real, true person or force, which can call all the hosts and forces of evil against us. So beware – if you choose to be more devoted to Jesus, or make a stronger commitment to Him in some area of your life, you will be tempted, perhaps as never before.