Trials in the Wilderness
Revelation 3:22 NASB "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."
1) The biblical concept of worldliness describes the collection of ideas, philosophies, religions, standards, values, purposes, and methods to achieve those ends which characterize a culture or sub-culture.
Everyone is a philosopher, everyone has a philosophy of life. Some have a well thought out structured intelligent philosophy of life, others have a disorganized philosophy of life, but everyone has a philosophy of life. Everybody is a theologian. Everybody has a view of God, has a view of man, has a view of nature, and we are all philosophers; we all have this philosophy of life. The issue is, is it biblical or is it not? So it is a collection of ideas, philosophies, religions; it runs the gamut from religions of morality or pseudo-morality, religions of thought, metaphysical religions such as Near Eastern religions like Hinduism; all kinds of different religions, including atheism. If theism is religious, then its opposite, atheism, is also a religion. It is that prefix "a" that comes out of the Greek—the Greek calls it an alpha privative—that makes it a negative, so theism is belief in a God and atheism is a lack of belief in a God. Think about this: "musing" is an old English word for thinking. So what is amusement? So you don't have to think! Everybody has standards and use those words like ought and should, and that immediately indicates some sort of hidden value system there, even if they say there are no absolutes. So everyone has standards, everyone sooner or later says, That's right, or that's wrong if something offends them. There is always some value system, and it is always oriented toward some future goal, some purpose, some direction. So we have certain purpose goals and direction to achieve that. What is a sub-culture? Your family is a sub-culture. The people you work with at work, that is a sub-culture. Every work place has a culture. That sub-culture has values and it has purposes and it has all kinds of things related to this. It has a philosophy of its own existence and its own importance and where it is going. All of that relates to this whole concept of worldliness.
2) As such this worldview incorporates and is expressed in every aspect of a culture's views of the individual and social relations.
How do you view the importance of a person? If you are an American you have a high value for the individual, the individual is more important than anything else. But if you go to other cultures the individual is nothing, the society as a whole is what is important. In North Korea the individual has no value whatsoever, it is all about the state. It affects theories of knowledge and then, of course, its corollaries, theories of learning. This would dominate educational theory: how do people learn? What are the problems that come up with learning? Why are people ignorant? Why are very intelligent people ignorant of the gospel, and willingly ignorant of the gospel? Intelligence has nothing to do with acceptance or rejection of Christianity. The issue really isn't really intelligence, it is not IQ, it is not education or lack of it; it is more. People don't want to know about God, they are suppressing that in unrighteousness. That is part of factoring in this whole concept of knowledge and learning.
Furthermore we have expressions of reality in visual and performing arts. That is always a tough one for people because if you go around the world people say it is just their music and it doesn't really have anything to do with our philosophy. But it all came out of philosophy originally. Science, technology, literature, law, all of this comes out of a worldview. The goal of the Christian is to start with the Scripture and rewrite all of it. It is not just learning the gospel and getting saved and learning how to confess your sins, it is taking the Word and learning it inside and out and then taking it into all the different fields of endeavour that everybody in the body of Christ is involved with, whether it is science, law, finance, teaching, education, whatever it is, and working out the foundation of biblical thought into those intellectual dimensions.
3) When the Christian operates within this thought structure—the thought structure of the human viewpoint culture—whether it is a primitive culture in the back woods of Africa or in the sophisticated culture on Fifth Avenue in New York, it doesn't matter. When the Christian operates within this thought structure, even though it may overlap in many ways with a biblical worldview, it is still classified as worldliness. There are a lot of churches in this country that are biblically sound on the gospel, and might be close to biblically sound on sanctification, but the structure in which they live and problem-solving relate is totally worldly. Their methodology is worldly, and so they are trying to do God's work or work out God's plan according to man's ways because they don't want to think any more deeply than just the surface. Evangelicalism in the last hundred years has become increasingly more superficial and dedicated to the moment rather than the long-term plan of God.
When did Jesus overcome worldliness? He did so in the temptation. Matthew 4, Some initial observations. This is at the beginning of Jesus' ministry, the initiation of His public ministry. He has just been baptized by John the Baptist in the River Jordan, which indicates His being set apart to that ministry, His authentication by God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. Immediately after that He is taken by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. So the first thing we notice is that he is being led into this position by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can lead us into positions of testing for a purpose.
It is important to understand this concept of testing. The Greek word is PEIRAZO [peirazw] and it means to examine or to test something. The principle here is that God allows us to be tested in order to evaluate our character. Testing can be either positive in the sense of demonstrating the value and the quality of something or it can have a negative sense in the sense of revealing flaws. So the same word PEIRAZO not only has the ideas of evaluation testing, disclosure, bringing into focus the positive things, but on the negative side it has that idea of temptation, of enticing to failure, and bringing about failure. So it is a broad word and we have to look at the context. The concept also has certain applications related to judicial enquiry—a trial before a judge. So there is an element of testing that is related to judicial observation and evaluation.
The testing for the Lord Jesus Christ was to demonstrate who He is and the veracity and validity of His doctrine. It is to qualify Him at the beginning of His ministry. The second thing it was to do was to demonstrate the insufficiency of Satan's thinking. So it is going to do two things: qualify Jesus by demonstrating the veracity and validity of His thinking, which is grounded in Scripture, and, secondly, it is going to demonstrate the insufficiency of Satan's thinking.
Matthew 4:1 NASB "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil." The word to lead is the Greek word ANAGO [a)nagw]. Arndt and Gingrich: "The primary meaning is simply to take something somewhere, to bring it somewhere." But the second meaning was: "The word is used in legal literature for bringing someone into port for a judicial process." Testing, trial, and now ANAGO, are words that come loaded with a connotation related to legal action. So what we are going to suggest as we go through this is that a framework for understanding Jesus' testing is that this fits within a broader c0oncept of perhaps a trial or some sort of legal proceeding before the bar of God's justice in relationship to what happens in that broader scheme known as the angelic rebellion against God, spiritual warfare, angelic conflict, whichever term we like to use.
The next observation that we should have as we start into this is that of Jesus' responses all come out of the book of Deuteronomy, all three quotations are related to Israel in the wilderness—Jesus is in the wilderness. There is a parallel here with what is going on with Jesus at the beginning and the relationship to Israel at the beginning. Jesus is standing as an antitype to Israel's type. The word "type" comes from the Greek word TUPOS [tupoj] which means an example, a shadow, or some sort of a picture of something. For example, a type of Christ would be the Passover lamb which was designed to teach something about the person of Jesus Christ. This lamb was to be without spot or blemish, it was to be evaluated and observed before it would be qualified to be the Passover lamb. Jesus has to be qualified, tested, examined before He is qualified to go to the cross. Israel in the Old Testament, in the wilderness and going through their testing, is a type. The term antitype refers to that for which it stands or that which it represents. The Israelites were in the wilderness for forty years; Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days. They are both in the wilderness, they both become hungry, they both faced life-threatening crises. It is how you think and respond in the midst of those pressures, the rationalizations and justifications you use for your actions and your problem-solving that brings in the focus of worldliness.
In the wilderness in the Old Testament the redeemed slaves are tested with regard to their trust in God. When they hit crisis points they failed, but what did they want? The wanted to go back to Egypt. When Moses was away for too long up on to Mount Sinai getting the law, what immediately happened? They get impatient and they have Aaron build a golden calf which was an idol that they picked up in Egypt. They are thinking like fallen Egyptians in that cultural worldview, and they just slip right back into it and create an idol: "This is the god who brought you out of Egypt"! Then they complain about the food, the manna from heaven and want to go back to the leeks and garlic and all of the food of Egypt. They wanted to be back in that pure human viewpoint pagan culture and not out in the culture where God was testing, evaluating and preparing them so that they would have the capacity to enjoy, appreciate and exploit the blessing that he was going to give them by taking them into the promised land.
That is where a lot of us are at times. We would rather be in the comfort zone of the world's system and worldly thinking than to be challenged with biblical thought and have to go through all that effort of learning how to think biblically and then put that into application in our lives.
What we see in the process of Israel's testing in the wilderness is the issue of food and manna in Exodus 17, and then the complaining, the testing, the issue of water in Exodus 17, and then the problem in Exodus 23 & 34 where they want the land or the kingdom without going through the cost. That is the same order we have in Matthew with the testing of Jesus. First He is going to quote from Deuteronomy 8 related to manna and then He is going to quote from Deuteronomy 6 related Massah, and then related to the kingdom and land acquisition. It follows the same pattern, so that sets us up. We can see the failure of the Jews on the one hand as they are facing crisis and testing in the wilderness, and what happened? They sinned, but their sins are encapsulated in the rationalizations of the cosmic system and the culture that they came out of. When we see Jesus handling the same test, He handles it with the Word of God, demonstrating that juxtaposition of divine viewpoint thinking with human viewpoint thinking.