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The Last Temptation

The Last Temptation of Christ was a controversial film directed by Martin Scorsese. This 1988 movie deviated from the New Testament Scripture Hebrews 4:14-16, using a what if concept to imply Jesus gave into a final temptation. Yet, one of Jesus’ disciples tells the real story in the passage below. The first temptation focuses on physical desires. The second temptation is like a dare given by teenage friends that tests human minds. However, it’s the last temptation which most people can relate to, exchanging eternity in heaven for temporary control and power on earth.

Then Jesus was led (guided) by the [Holy] Spirit into the wilderness (desert) to be tempted (tested and tried) by the devil. And He went without food for forty days and forty nights, and later He was hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, If You are God’s Son, command these stones to be made [[a]loaves of] bread. But He replied, It has been written, Man shall not live and be upheld and sustained by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God, Matthew 4:1-4.

This is not to diminish the first two temptations as many human beings struggle with food and beverage addictions. Nor I am overlooking anorexia and bulimia that has a way of paralyzing countless souls. Trying to prove oneself often leads to mind games similar to that which the serpent played with Adam and Eve. Yet, the idea of possessing control and power over others is too good to pass up. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at all the life long congress men and women who will do whatever it takes to get re-elected no matter what the cost or consequences.

Then the devil took Him into the holy city and placed Him on [b]a turret (pinnacle, [c]gable) of the temple [d]sanctuary. And he said to Him, If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, He will give His angels charge over you, and they will bear you up on their hands, lest you strike your foot against a stone. Jesus said to him, [e]On the other hand, it is written also, You shall not tempt, [f]test thoroughly, or [g]try exceedingly the Lord your God, Matthew 4:5-7.

Using his charm as a former archangel, the devil takes Jesus to the highest mountain in the Middle East. Despite being tired and hungry from fasting for 40 days, Jesus doesn’t fall for this attention seeking ploy. Remembering the first commandment written down my Moses, Jesus doesn’t waste time, quickly rejecting the Devil’s final temptation. Unfortunately, many human beings end up like Eve in the Garden of Eden, considering the possibilities of the Tree of Knowledge. There is nothing new about New Age philosophies except for the people pushing them.

Again, the devil took Him up on a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory (the splendor, magnificence, preeminence, and excellence) of them. And he said to Him, These things, all taken together, I will give You, if You will prostrate Yourself before me and do homage and worship me. 10 Then Jesus said to him, Begone, Satan! For it has been written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him alone shall you serve. 11 Then the devil departed from Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him, Matthew 4:8-11.

This leads me to the question: why are so many Christians unable to resist temptation? What causes the masses to cave to forbidden fruit by indulging in temporary pleasures? Is this more a byproduct of a hollow faith or merely a sign of spiritual immaturity? Whatever the reason, Christians need to be more like the individual in 1 Corinthians 13:11-12. Perhaps it’s time to look at the person in the mirror to see who you have really become. In the meantime, stopping looking for excuses to keep sinning by start scanning the room for an escape route, the way out of temptation, 1 Corinthians 10:11-13.

by Jay Mankus

The Source Behind a Fall from Grace

Depending upon your reading comprehension, you may read for speed to get through as many pages as possible or take your time so that you don’t miss anything. I tend to follow the latter, slow and steady, searching for patterns that tie everything together. After reading 1 Timothy 4, I was reminded by something I read earlier in this letter written by the apostle. What I found was a similar explanation to explain an individual’s fall from grace.

And it was not Adam who was deceived, but [the] woman who was deceived and deluded and fell into transgression.15 Nevertheless [the sentence put upon women of pain in motherhood does not hinder their souls’ salvation, and] they will be saved [eternally] if they continue in faith and love and holiness with self-control, [saved indeed] through the Childbearing or by the birth of the divine Child, 1 Timothy 2:14-15.

According to the apostle Paul, the source behind original sin was deception. As the Spirit of Lucifer entered into the serpent in the Garden of Eden, Eve was convinced that God’s rule about eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge was holding her back. Rather than reject this new age of thinking, thoughts planted within Eve gave birth to a spirit of lust. The more Eve stared at this low hanging fruit, it was only a matter of time before her fall from grace.

But the [Holy] Spirit distinctly and expressly declares that in latter times some will turn away from the faith, giving attention to deluding and seducing spirits and doctrines that demons teach, Through the hypocrisy and pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared (cauterized), 1 Timothy 4:1-2.

As the second coming of Jesus approaches, a similar mindset will return. Rather than using merely deception to delude God’s commands, demonic spirits will seduce weakened minds. Like itching ears eager to indulge in gossip, a simple story is taken out of context, filled with distortions, exaggerations and lies. If a lie is told over and over again, especially by the media, it won’t be long before the innocent are deceived, on their way to another fall from grace.

by Jay Mankus

The Hidden Principle of Rebellion

Rebellion refers to an open resistance to an established government or ruler. In the earliest days on earth, God kept in simple by giving Adam and Eve freedom from every area of the Garden of Eden accept for one. The only boundary to steer clear from was to abstain from eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, Genesis 2:16-17. Moses doesn’t mention any craving, desire or enticement until a crafty serpent began to open Eve’s mind to rebellion.

Now the serpent was more subtle and crafty than any living creature of the field which the Lord God had made. And he [Satan] said to the woman, Can it really be that God has said, You shall not eat from every tree of the garden? And the woman said to the serpent, We may eat the fruit from the trees of the garden, Except the fruit from the tree which is in the middle of the garden. God has said, You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die. But the serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die, For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing the difference between good and evil and blessing and calamity, Genesis 3:1-5.

At the beginning of this encounter, Eve does the right thing by repeating God’s warning to avoid fruit from this tree. As Satan continued his subtle persuasion, Eve’s mind was open to bending this rule. According to Moses, Adam was right there with her, listening to Satan’s justification and rationalization to rebel against God. Instead of interrupting this conversation and tell Satan to get lost, Adam’s idleness opened the door for rebellion to enter the earth.

For the mystery of lawlessness (that hidden principle of rebellion against constituted authority) is already at work in the world, [but it is] restrained only until [c]he who restrains is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one (the antichrist) will be revealed and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of His mouth and bring him to an end by His appearing at His coming, 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8.

The apostle Paul unveils Satan’s plan of introducing the hidden principle of rebellion to mankind. While this lawlessness has been restrained for now by the power of the Holy Spirit, there will come a day when this is unleashed. Immediately following the second coming of Jesus, the anti-Christ will reign the earth for 7 years until the battle of Armageddon. Yet, for now human beings must use prayer as a hedge of protection so that rebellion doesn’t poison your soul and ruin your life.

by Jay Mankus

I Saw I Thought I Felt

The spirit of lust was conceived with a second glance at a ripe piece of fruit in the Garden of Eden, Genesis 3:6. One of Jesus’ disciples refers to this internal desire as the lust of the flesh. Eve’s lustful glimpse started an unhealthy trend that now pushes the envelope further and further with each passing generation. According to Jesus, you can break one of the ten commandments, committing adultery when a look leads to a sexual longing, Matthew 5:27-29.

Do not love or cherish the world or the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh [craving for sensual gratification] and the lust of the eyes [greedy longings of the mind] and the pride of life [assurance in one’s own resources or in the stability of earthly things]—these do not come from the Father but are from the world [itself]. 17 And the world passes away and disappears, and with it the forbidden cravings (the passionate desires, the lust) of it; but he who does the will of God and carries out His purposes in his life abides (remains) forever, 1 John 2:15-17.

When Eve began staring at forbidden fruit hanging from the Tree of Knowledge, thoughts began to race through her mind. Instead of obeying the only rule laid out by God, Genesis 2:15-17, a cunning serpent planted ungodly beliefs into her brain. The apostle Paul explains this internal battle in the passage above and in Galatians 5:16-18. When thoughts switch your focus from God toward selfish desires, it’s only a matter of time before sin is conceived, James 1:13-15.

For those who are according to the flesh and are controlled by its unholy desires set their minds on and pursue those things which gratify the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit and are controlled by the desires of the Spirit set their minds on and seek those things which gratify the [Holy] Spirit. Now the mind of the flesh [which is sense and reason without the Holy Spirit] is death [death that comprises all the miseries arising from sin, both here and hereafter]. But the mind of the [Holy] Spirit is life and [soul] peace [both now and forever]. [That is] because the mind of the flesh [with its carnal thoughts and purposes] is hostile to God, for it does not submit itself to God’s Law; indeed it cannot, Romans 8:5-7.

After you see and think, lives will begin to chase after feelings. Immediately following the first act of sin, Adam and Eve were overwhelmed by a feeling of guilt, Genesis 3:7-11. If you keep breaking God’s laws or can’t escape falling prey to temptation, people gradually change for the worse. Spiritual leaders in the Old Testament began to do what was first in their own eyes, Judges 21:25. This course of action is a byproduct of seeing, thinking, and feeling. The next time you sense yourself sliding in the wrong direction, look for the way out, 1 Corinthians 10:13.

by Jay Mankus

Guilt by Comparison

Guilt by Association dates back to 1525 as a Medieval Latin expression. However, the idea that an individual is guilty of a crime because he associates with the person who actually committed it can be found in the Bible. While Eve actually ate the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, Adam was right there with her the whole time, Genesis 3:6-7. One chapter later, Cain is the first to experience guilt by comparison.

And in the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground. And Abel brought of the firstborn of his flock and of the fat portions. And the Lord had respect and regard for Abel and for his offering, Genesis 4:3-4.

Whenever individuals begin to believe that the grass is greener on the other side where someone else resides, envy and jealousy is conceived. The saying “grass is always greener on the other side” originated in the 19th century. The more you compare your own life to a family member, friend or neighbor, guilt can consume your soul by wishing you had this or that. When Cain realized how hard it was to be a farmer, the comparisons began.

But for Cain and his offering He had no respect or regard. So Cain was exceedingly angry and indignant, and he looked sad and depressed. And the Lord said to Cain, Why are you angry? And why do you look sad and depressed and dejected? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin crouches at your door; its desire is for you, but you must master it, Genesis 4:5-7.

Cain’s guilt from comparison leads to a one on one conversation with God. Trying to figure out why Abel’s offering was embraced by God while his was rejected results in anger, depression and frustration. In response to Cain’s displeasure, God reveals how guilt by comparison has lead to an internal struggle. When sin crouches at your door, you must resist or else guilt will ravage your life. Instead of wanting what you don’t have, appreciate all the little things that God has blessed you with in life.

by Jay Mankus

The Ministry of Reconciliation

The ministry of reconciliation dates back to Genesis 3:6-8. After committing original sin, Adam and Eve broke their covenant with God, Genesis 2:15-17. Instead of obeying God’s only rule in the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Knowledge pursued this couple to do what was right in their own eyes. The punishment for their disobedience was expulsion, Genesis 3:22-24.

But all things are from God, Who through Jesus Christ reconciled us to Himself [received us into favor, brought us into harmony with Himself] and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation [that by word and deed we might aim to bring others into harmony with Him], 2 Corinthians 5:18.

In one of 4 letters written to the church at Corinth (only 2 are in the Bible), the apostle Paul introduces the ministry of reconciliation. Sin has a way of changing your priorities, focusing on earthly pleasures rather than eternal treasures. Subsequently, we all go astray, wandering off like a prodigal child until you begin to become home sick. Repentance serves as a U-Turn, fleeing sin by turning around to make peace with God.

Confess to one another therefore your faults (your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins) and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored [to a spiritual tone of mind and heart]. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working], James 5:16.

The earthly brother of Jesus highlights what modern reconciliation resembles. As humility leads troubled souls toward confession, a foundation for revival is laid out for others to follow. When souls are healed and restored, there is an inner desire to help others receive what you have experienced. While the 2020 election will cause many to harbor bitterness in their hearts, may the ministry of reconciliation turns lives around to unite as one.

by Jay Mankus

The Power of a Lie

While spending 3 years of my life in full time youth ministry, I attended several conferences, seminars and workshops. One of the most beneficial aspects of these events was learning new Ice Breakers. Although not every idea worked, I found that playing telephone once a year forced my students to become better listeners. Also known as Chinese Whispers, one teenager starts by reading a written down message or sharing a short story. This information is shared via a whisper over and over again until the last person recounts what this initial message has morphed into.

Truthful lips shall be established forever, but a lying tongue is [credited] but for a moment. 20 Deceit is in the hearts of those who devise evil, but for the counselors of peace there is joy. Proverbs 12:19-20.

The first participants of telephone were Adam and Eve. Despite knowing the only rule established by God, Genesis 2:16-17, each were intrigued by what a crafty serpent had to say. As soon as the boundary lines were set in the Garden of Eden, both knew that the Tree of Knowledge was off limits. Nonetheless, Eve began to entertain the thought planted into her mind. Instead of telling this snake to scram, Adam began to second guess God. This is the power of a lie, convincing yourself through good intentions to justify wrong actions. Since this day of deception, human beings have become more and more gullible, falling for lie after lie.

No [actual] evil, misfortune, or calamity shall come upon the righteous, but the wicked shall be filled with evil, misfortune, and calamity. 22 Lying lips are extremely disgusting and hateful to the Lord, but they who deal faithfully are His delight, Proverbs 12:21-22.

Since the death of George Floyd, a few riots have been fueled by false reports posted on Twitter. By the time this lie was exposed, it was too late as city streets, local businesses and neighborhoods resembled a war zone. Instead of double checking sources to confirm the accuracy of a report, cable news and the print media have become sloppy, jumping the gun so to speak. While President Trump refers to these felonious accounts as “Fake News,” the Bible calls this lying. In the passage above, King Solomon doesn’t speak kindly to those who distort, exaggerate or fib a little. If a politician in cooperation with the media tells a lie over and over again, sooner or later the masses will believe this to be the truth. This is the power of a lie.

by Jay Mankus

The Force Behind the Darkness

Whether binge watching a drama, scanning social media or checking for the latest news update, I have become numb to seeing death, destruction and violence. While the expression “pushing the envelope” originally comes from the field of aviation, limits continue to be elevated and raised. This concept also applies to programming as the further the envelope is pushed, the force behind darkness on earth comes into focus.

And the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and guard and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and blessing and calamity you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die, Genesis 2:15-17.

While the Old Testament is filled with commands, decrees and rules, God’s initial plan for the earth contained only one rule. This boundary set by the Lord put just one thing in the Garden of Eden off limits, the Tree of Knowledge. Adam didn’t have to guess about what to do or not to do. The summary of God’s conversation with Adam is mentioned above. When darkness came to earth in the form of a fallen angel, Adam was right there with Eve, Genesis 3:6. Instead of correcting the deception and lie spread by Lucifer, Adam remained silent, a willing participant in original sin.

And you [He made alive], when you were dead (slain) by [your] trespasses and sins In which at one time you walked [habitually]. You were following the course and fashion of this world [were under the sway of the tendency of this present age], following the prince of the power of the air. [You were obedient to and under the control of] the [demon] spirit that still constantly works in the sons of disobedience [the careless, the rebellious, and the unbelieving, who go against the purposes of God]. Among these we as well as you once lived and conducted ourselves in the passions of our flesh [our behavior governed by our corrupt and sensual nature], obeying the impulses of the flesh and the thoughts of the mind [our cravings dictated by our senses and our dark imaginings]. We were then by nature children of [God’s] wrath and heirs of [His] indignation, like the rest of mankind, Ephesians 2:1-3.

Although Adam and Eve did not physically die, the spiritual light within their souls was snuffed out. The apostle Paul speaks about their spiritual condition in the passage above. The consequence of their disobedience was the activation of a sinful nature. Instead of listening to God, human beings are now under the control of a demonic presence. Later on in his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul expands upon the force behind this darkness, Ephesians 6:12. While humans can’t see the supernatural realm, there are spiritual forces at work to prevent the light from prevailing.

by Jay Mankus

Don’t Let Shame Block Out the Son

Abashment, distress, embarrassment, humiliation and mortification are words associated with shame.  This painful feeling is caused by conviction, an internal alarm alerted by consciousness within minds.  God designed human beings with a sense of right and wrong.  The moment your actions cross this invisible line, spirits of guilt and shame inflict souls with a sense of wrong doing.  While God extends his hand, offering grace and forgiveness to those who trespass against others, shame often blocks out the sun.

And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself,” Genesis 3:10.

Shame is a byproduct of sin.  This overwhelming sense of remorse first struck Adam and Eve after breaking God’s only rule, to avoid eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge.  This initial compromising act opened the door for shame to haunt souls for the past 6000 years.  One of the ways the Devil inflicts harm on earth is through preventing individuals from forgiving themselves.  Playing flashbacks of previous errors in your thoughts, perfectionists struggle to let go of foolish mistakes.  The more people think about themselves, the Devil uses shame to block out the son, the good news about Jesus Christ.

Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy, Isaiah 61:7.

An Old Testament prophet uses God’s promises to break through clouds of shame.  Since this ancient book depicts an angry and jealous God, grasping the concept of grace, God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense, was difficult to comprehend.  Nonetheless, Isaiah gave a glimpse of the New Testament, an introduction to the abundant life, John 10:10.  Yet, for many believers, shame stands in the way of experiencing everlasting joy.  Therefore, if you are having a tough time letting go of your past, invite the Holy Spirit to break up these clouds.  If you do, the light of Christ will begin to shine through, dissipating any reminders of shame that remains.

by Jay Mankus

 

Overriding the Rules of the Past

The first five books of the Old Testament are known as the Torah.  This Hebrew word refers to the law of God as revealed to Moses.  If Adam and Eve didn’t break God’s initial rule introduced in Genesis 2:16-17, this collection of rules and regulations for life on earth would not be necessary.  Unfortunately, Adam’s lack of leadership is to blame, allowing and watching Satan deceive and encourage Eve to take and eat fruit from the Tree of Knowledge.  This act of original sin led the apostle Paul to write in Romans 5:12-21 that death came through Adam.  This spiritual destruction was redeemed after God sent a second Adam, Jesus who brought salvation to the world as well as overriding the rules of the past.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh (worldliness, manner of life), God made you alive together with Christ, having [freely] forgiven us all our sins, Colossians 2:13.

This concept is explained by the apostle Paul in a letter to the church at Colosse.  This ancient city of Phrygia in Asia Minor provides a vital message for those individuals stuck in modern denominations that focus on legalism rather than grace.  As a former zealot, Paul uses terminology familiar to God fearing Jews to get their attention.  Without a priest sacrificing an animal on your behalf, first century believers in God were powerless to receive forgiveness.  This co-dependency became a tedious practice that Jesus came to abolish.  As a perfect lamb of God, Jesus embraced death on a cross to pay the penalty for mankind’s sin, once and for all.

Having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of legal demands [which were in force] against us and which were hostile to us. And this certificate He has set aside and completely removed by nailing it to the cross. 15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities [those supernatural forces of evil operating against us], He made a public example of them [exhibiting them as captives in His triumphal procession], having triumphed over them through [he cross, Colossians 2:14-15.

However, this process would not be completed until Jesus rose from the dead on the third day.  The moment Jesus broke free of his grave clothes, the resurrection was finalized.  This symbolic act cancelled the written codes that stood against human beings.  In one magical second in time, Jesus nailed these age old rules to the cross, conquering death and unlocking the spiritual chains of legalism.  May the passages above speak to heart and give hope to your mind.  While the world tends to believe a relationship with God means living by a strict set of rigid regulations, Jesus came to set you free by overriding the rules of the past with free will.

by Jay Mankus

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