On the podcast that Dave and I have been doing each Monday, we were talking about how what we watch on television gets into our heads and affects what we do.
This seems to be especially true with reality television.
For example, if we watch home improvement shows Dave and I start taking down walls in our house.
When we watch traveling shows we start planning a trip.
Once Dave and I binge-watched an entire season of American Ninja Warrior. That’s the one where people compete on these intense obstacle courses after training for years to prepare. A few episodes in, I decided I was, in fact, a future ninja warrior and started doing push ups on the commercials and jogging in place.
But then we took a break from ninja warrior to watch the Great British Baking Show. A few episodes into that one I was making a layered chocolate cake in the kitchen with raspberries on top and talking about its “crumb.”
(I realize that the baking show and the ninja warrior competition don’t create complementary goals for my life. So I’m going with the cake.)
Whatever we are watching tends to affect what we talk about, think about. Or, in other words:
What we put in is what we get out.
We know that our words and our actions are influenced by what we are exposed to everyday. But it’s not a one-to-one ratio all the time. Just because you play football on a video game doesn’t mean you are a contender for the super bowl, any more than I ended up being a ninja warrior, but there is an effect there for us.
What we watch on television can affect what we say and what we think about.
This effect is true for the other stuff besides what we watch. What we eat (like cake!) makes us feel better or worse. The music we play in our car can make us calm or make us drive too fast. Who we spend the most time with can change how we think, and even how we talk.
Most of this may not be a big deal to us on a day to day basis. A few extra push ups or a few chocolate cakes aren’t changing the course of my life.
But there are a few key moments in our lives when what we put in, what we read and listen to and expose ourselves to will be critical for how we respond to important situations.
There will come a moment in your life when you are looking for answers to come out of your mouth, and all you will have to work with is what you have been putting in, and that particular moment might be one that changes your life.
This week’s passage from Luke 4: 1-13 is a story of one of those critical moments in Jesus’ life:
“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.”
Jesus is about to undergo one of those really key moments in his life and ministry. He is just starting out. In Luke’s telling of Jesus’ life, he had just been baptized and is beginning his work. Right away, he finds himself in a battle with the devil.
The Bible has a lot to say about evil and the devil. Sometimes it shows up like it does here, as a being. Sometimes it is in each of us, pulling us to do something we shouldn’t. Sometimes it is a force in the world that is moving counter to what God is doing. But regardless of how it shows up, the devil or evil always moves against the things that make us whole and healthy, bring love and peace to us and those around us.
We will spend two whole weeks in September looking at what Jesus’ life and teachings show us about the devil and demons and evil in the world, because as modern Christians we have a lot of questions about this one. But for today, let’s focus not on the devil, but on Jesus and the situation he is in.
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, the Son of God, is being tempted. If Jesus faces this kind of situation, we can be sure that we will too. Let’s see what he does:
“He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”
Jesus is really hungry, and he is alone. The first temptation he will face is to use his power for himself. He could turn the stones into bread, and I’m sure part of him wanted to. It’s been a long time since he ate. It is an important moment for Jesus as he has to decide what his ministry will be about, how he will use his power.
“Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”
Again Jesus is tempted, and this time it is on a larger scale. Will Jesus be tempted to give in to the devil, or really to the powers of this word, in order to do what he wants to do? Will he do whatever it takes, even if it’s wrong, to get the ends he is working toward?
“Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”
A third time Jesus is tempted, and this time it isn’t just personal, or just political. It’s about God. The devil is challenging him on what he believes about who God is.
“Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.” – Luke 4:1-13
The passage ends with the devil essentially saying that he’ll be back. Yikes.
Three times Jesus is tempted. He is challenged on who he is, on how he will engage the powers of the world, on who God is in his life.
Each time he is tempted, he stands up against it.
How? By quoting Scripture. By saying stuff he remembered from the Law and the Prophets.
But Jesus isn’t the only one quoting from the Scriptures. In verse 10 the devil responds to Jesus using Psalm 91:11-12, “He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.”
The devil quotes scripture, too. There are all kinds of passages in the Bible that can be taken out of context like this and misused for selfish gain, or delusion, or even violence.
That’s why we’re spending a whole year focusing on everything Jesus taught, because Jesus is the test against which we put the rest of the Bible.
What Jesus taught and did is the best we have when it comes to knowing who God is, and what God wants for us. With that in mind, let’s go back and look at what Jesus was doing when he quoted the Scriptures.
Look again at the passage. The devil tempts him to use his power to make lunch for himself and he says “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’” This is from Deuteronomy 8:3, when the people of God are encouraged to remember all God did for them for the 40 years that they were in the wilderness. Deuteronomy says, “God humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna…to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
Then the second time the devil tempts him, and again Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy, saying “Worship the Lord your god and serve him only.” This is from Deuteronomy 6, when the people are encouraged to not follow other gods, and especially the gods of the people all around them.
Then Jesus is tempted the third time, and once again he quotes from Deuteronomy 6, saying he won’t test God.
Three times Jesus is tempted. Three times he resists. Each time the way he resists giving in to temptation is by quoting from Deuteronomy, our Old Testament, or for Jesus, the law and the prophets.
At this critical moment in his life, Jesus was able to be the person he needed to be, by remembering the scriptures.
He was able to say what he needed to hear, right when he needed to hear it.
In a difficult time like the one he was facing, he would have had to have these texts ingrained in his mind to be able to come up with them so quickly. He’s hungry and out there in the wilderness in a battle with the devil. But he knows exactly what to say. This makes sense, because he was Jesus, right? So he knew the Scriptures. But he wasn’t born knowing them. Luke tells us that.
He knew these texts so well from Deuteronomy because he had studied them, learned them, gotten them into his mind before he needed them. If we look back in the stories about Jesus from Luke, in chapter 2 Jesus as a kid is hanging out in the temple (and probably should have told his parents where he was going because they thought he was lost). He was reading and studying the Scriptures. He put all of those words in, he studied and listened to them, and then when the devil had him cornered, out in the wilderness, hungry and broken and alone, those words came back to him and gave him what he needed to hear.
In other words, He put the good in.
And right when he needed it most, He got good out, by being able to quote the exact ones he needed the most.
He put good in, he got good out. This will work for you, too.
You put good in. You get good out.
Like Jesus, you can study the Scriptures, learn them, get them into your mind before you need them. Because you will need those words in your life too.
You are going to have those critical moments in your life, just like Jesus did. You have days when you are tempted to use the power you have in your life for your own selfish gain.
You will have opportunities to choose if you will bow down to the gods of our culture – money, fame, pride, power – instead of the things you know really matter.
You will have people question if God is really who God says he is in your life.
Just like Jesus did.
You will have times when you feel broken and alone.
When you have a huge decision to make and you don’t know what to do.
When you are overwhelmed or sick or grieving and you can’t find your footing.
In times like all of these, it’s really hard to figure out what to do, or how to know what’s true. It’s hard to know what voices to listen to.
At those moments all that stuff you have put into your life will be the things that you hear the loudest.
If all you have put in are bad relationships and lots of television and too many drinks and the lies you tell yourself, that’s what you will have to work with. Because what will come out is the product of all that stuff you have been putting in.
Jesus had put in the scriptures’ teachings about God, and then when the time came, he was ready. When he faced temptation, he remembered what the writings said, and quoted them, to himself as much as the devil. He was able to remember what was true, what he needed to hear to make the right decision.
You put good in to get good out.
This doesn’t mean the Bible can give you a step-by-step plan of what to do next. And the words from the Bible are not a magic spell that will make you perfect, or make illness go away or make problems disappear.
But here is what can happen:
The words of Scripture will remind you who you are, and who God is in your life. And that’s the best defense you have when you find yourself at the bottom, or at those key moments of decision.
When you are tempted to forget who you are 1 John 3:1 says to you “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.”
When you think you are alone Jesus says in Matthew 28:20
“Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
When you are giving in to fear 2 Timothy 1:7 says to you that
“God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
When you are tempted to give in to addiction, Philippians 4:13 says to you
“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”
When you are exhausted of doing the work God has given you and Isaiah 40:31 says:
“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
These texts are what we need to hear when those moments come.
Now for some homework.
This week, pick one Bible passage that you need in your life, right now. (If you can’t think of one, look one up, or email Dave and I and we can point you in the right direction). Pick one passage, and memorize it. Put it on a Post-it. Write it on your bathroom mirror. Make it the home screen on your phone. Because as we try to live our life to the fullest we have to put good in to get good out, and that can start with one simple passage.
We know we will still be exposed to all the other things too. We will still watch TV, and be around negative people, and face temptation. Jesus certainly did all of these (except for TV).
He went out and talked with difficult people and came face to face with temptation. Jesus certainly didn’t hide out in a cave to make sure he wasn’t exposed to something difficult. But we can balance what we put in by also studying the teachings God has for us. Get those words in your life.
Memorize them, hold onto them. Then when you come to a critical moment in your life, what will come out of your mouth is the word of God.
About the Author
Megan Collins is the co-pastor of Maitland Presbyterian Church near Orlando, FL. Find her on Twitter @pastormegan
More Things Jesus Taught about Putting Good In, to Get Good Out
- Matthew 4: 1-11
- Mark 1: 12-13
- Matthew 15: 1-20
- Mark 7: 1-23
- Luke 11: 37-41