Important note in Mathew 1 is that at the time the devil is tempting Jesus, he finds that Jesus is loyal to the father and then leaves him alone. This however is only because the devil has recognized that Jesus was the son of the father. For, believers the temptation never stops. Satan, through his trials, was unable to capture the one thing that he wanted from Jesus, that being his faith. For we are children also of God, however we also humanly maintain our free will, and since we keep that will alive on earthly things, Satan knows that we can always be attacked and often times will fail regardless of our walk. Satan can see our vulnerability as we maintain our free will. We need to as son's of the king, act and respond to things, people and circumstances in a different way, a way that only pleases the father, setting aside our will and praying for His will be done. To think merely because we are saved and protected through the blood of Christ by simple words is a lie we tell ourselves. Words without action are nothing more than just words. We must all make a choice, not simply a change to enjoy the riches of the kingdom. As it states in Ephesians "Put on the full armor of God"
The teaching of Jesus gathering the 12 disciples is a simple yet very deep illustration. Can we even ponder the concept of having so much light (righteousness) illuminate through us that anyone would be willing to leave their life and all it entailed, to follow us through a simple invite as "Follow me". But as Christians, aren't we called to bear the same fruits of the kingdom, so that everyone knows that there is something different and that difference that they see is desirable. Then there is the message that common man, regardless of past, can and is entitled to the kingdom and all that it offers. As the disciples returned to Jesus and wondered about their failures of healing, Jesus tells them they have the power within them, yet their lack of faith has became apparent through their failures. God clearly tells us in the word that He has given all those who follow him, everything that they need. Since it is impossible for God to speak a lie, we must believe that we have the same powers within us, implanted by the blood of Christ, being created in his own image. Inability to use those powers I believe falls upon ones measure of faith. The analogy of the fig tree is also a vital teaching if we look into its depth. Yes Jesus was hungry and he approached the fig tree to partake in its fruit, a fruit which it was divinely created for. Upon seeing that it was barren, he commanded it to death. We were created by God to first multiply and secondly to expand the kingdom of God. I personally have to keep myself in check, asking daily that my old self be crucified and that the new me be fruitful. What good is life if the very life we were given, does not bear any fruit of the kingdom of God? To ask oneself for the old self to be crucified and the new self emerge and be fruitful, requires a deep knowledge of God and a measure of faith knowing that through that faith it will be done. Prior to my own salvation, I was that fig tree, From the view point of those passing, they saw a healthy hard working and productive person, my tree was in bloom and covered in leaves so to speak, yet I was not bearing any fruit that would sustain the lives of those that came to me or myself. Death was necessary to make way for the new. The question is simple, does your life bear fruit that others may partake of and become truly and heavenly healthy, or do you just offer shade to those for a moments rest.
Imagine if you can, Jesus picks Mathew, a tax collector who is hated by everyone. Prostitutes were given more respect than the tax collector. But through the power of Christ all of mankind can have new life, no matter how much sin they posses. No one can go too far, that God's hand is beyond their reach.
Has anyone you know, including yourself, commonly with children, made a pack with someone by nicking the finger and uniting the blood. We refer to it as "blood brothers." As children those Blood Brother packs are taken very serious. Aren't we in essence as we take communion and drink the symbolic wine or fruit juice, making a pack with Christ? Is not our intention, for that drink to enter into our bodies and mix with our own blood for a purification process? In other words when people do laundry and need the whites to be deeply cleaned, do they not add a small portion of bleach to the tub. In relation to the amount of water in the tub, the bleach is added in a small quantity but its effects are tremendous.
I find it necessary to address the issue of Jesus knowing who would betray him. Let's look at the story of Zacchaeus. Jesus is walking along a path and comes upon a tree with a man sitting in it. Zacchaeus, small in stature finds it necessary to climb the tree so he can see Jesus. Jesus walks right up to the tree and says "Zacchaeus, come down from there for it is your house I am to spend the night at. Jesus knew Zacchaeus by name as there was no introduction. Secondly, the sycamore tree is large enough for Zacchaeus to climb and is standing at the edge of the path. That tree had a divine calling or purpose if you will, and is evident by its ability to survive standing alongside a path heavily travelled. I believe as we look very deep into every word that it is written, it is then that we can understand God's plan. Jesus knew everything, just as his father knows everything from beginning to end. So did Jesus know that Judas would betray him, absolutely. Judas being chosen was all part of God's master plan. Does God know your next decision, your heart, your failures and successes, has he not from the beginning, known every hair on your head? Another way to look at this divine belief system is simply this, was Jesus a son of God or was he Really God in the form of man. Lots of controversy on this thought. I personally think Jesus was God, But for mankind to believe, it was needed to state he is my son, a person that people could see, touch and hear. God knows how hard it was for man to believe in something they can't see. Look into the Old Testament. How long did God's people keep the law after the witnessing of a miracle? We believe what we can see and that is sad, for then comes the lack of faith issues. Illustration after illustration throughout the book of judges, people walked the walk, as long as there was a leader, but left on their own, returned to their sinful nature.
When we look at the crucifixion, we know that Jesus had the power to choose another path, yet he asks the father several times "Is there any other way" But being obedient to his father's no, he chose to walk the path that would have ever lasting effects on this world. Jesus, already knew the answer, yet the question needed to be asked for our benefit, and hence, Do we ask God, before we make our choices? He chose to remain obedient to his father, be beaten beyond recognition and to endure a pain through a vast variety of tortures that we can't even begin to comprehend. And He did this so that we may have eternal life. I recall when my 5 year old daughter was diagnosed with cancer and then for 15 remaining years after 5 different surgeries her life kept diminishing to a vegetative state. At age 20 and having completed her assignment she was called home to our Lord. Numerous people approached us with hearts full of sincerity and said "I know how you must feel, Reality, until you've walked through an identical pain yourself, you can't begin to know how someone feels. You may be able to comprehend loss and sadness of similar tragedies of your own life, but you can't experience what another as gone through. We can imagine the pain and process our Jesus endured, but only a few can actually feel his pain to the depth of their beings.
There is much debate and even indictments against the authors of the gospels regarding truth and plagiary. Although they are an excellent place for new believers to begin their walk, one must always look beyond the written word of man and weigh it against the glory of god. Having a background of 30 years in law enforcement and interviewing thousands of witnesses, one thread always ran true. Each witness always had a slightly different version of what they actually saw and heard. God through Christ Jesus, tells all, those that have ears, hear and those that have eyes, see. The same holds true as we read the word of the living god. Truth is not to be manipulated for sake of drama or personal fulfillment. Truth is truth and all will be judged one day on their abilities to hear, see and speak it for the glory of god.
The ULC, run by Rev. Long, has created a chaplaincy program to help train our ministers. We also have a huge catalog of Universal Life Church materials. I've been ordained with Seminary since the beginning and have loved watching the continual growth of the seminary.