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Sunday: “It is Written” — 12 Comments

  1. Today's lesson asks: "How can we learn to draw more power in our own lives from our study of the Word of God in order to reflect more fully the character of Jesus and, like Him, resist Satan’s temptations?" This is an excellent and vitally-relevant question that is worthy of taking some time to understand and address.

    Many people are unaware of how much of their daily 'responding' is driven by their subconscious. Neuroscientists estimate something in the order of 96% for the typical person! What this effectively means is that your subconscious is typically determining and orchestrating how you respond in most situations. While your subconscious is part of you, it is not a part of you that you are consciously in control of - essentially it is in control of you*.

    By default since Genesis 3:6, our subconscious is most typically coping/survival-driven. As such, it is essentially self-focussed: how do I cope/survive 'in-the-moment'. Coping/surviving essentially involves detecting risk of experiencing something unpleasant and undesirable and then doing something to decrease this risk - including seeking something that offers the hope of being more pleasant and therefore desirable in-the-moment. The subconscious doesn't seem to consider the true cost of the option it chooses, but rather selects a particular option on the basis that it works in-the-moment (even if it only lasts for a moment). It is as if the subconscious says "give me the benefits now, and we'll worry about the costs later...maybe". If you think of how comfort eating happens, or indulging any other behaviour impulsively in-the-moment, you will get an idea of what I have been outlining. At about this point, perhaps the experience Paul describes in Romans 7:15-20 might come to mind. What Paul describes as "the sin which lives in me" parallels the self-seeking coping/surviving principle that the subconscious is most typically based upon - unless a person has re-trained themselves otherwise.

    However, our subconscious is only a part of the picture - though for many people it is by far the predominant part of the picture. We also have a conscious that is considered to function as the 'gate-keeper' to the impulses of the subconscious. While our subconscious seemingly takes no effort on our part, activating and using our conscious to make the 'final call' regarding how we will respond most typically requires, not surprisingly, significant conscious and intentional effort. While intentional practice of making a 'wise', conscious choice eventually strengthens our ability to do so to the point where it progressively becomes more habitual and therefore somewhat less effortful, there is still the risk that sometimes when our 'guard is down' or we are more tired or otherwise worn-down, that conscious strength can waver with the result that the subconscious can once again gain the upper hand. This is initially referred to as a 'lapse' - but if 'lapsing' becomes the more dominant pattern once again, 'relapse'.

    What is the relevance of all this to today's lesson topic - "it is written". Both our subconscious and our conscious operate in response to what we believe to be 'true'. Taking the example of comfort eating again, the impulse to eat that chocolate biscuit is activated by the subconscious in response to the belief (and therefore expectation) that because eating a chocolate biscuit in the past felt good in-the-moment, doing so will result in the same momentary 'feel good' happening again. But the subconscious is only considering part of what is true and not considering the other part of the truth - the eventual downstream negative consequences to your wellbeing beyond the moment.

    This is where the conscious is more 'wise' when it has been trained well. Your conscious is able to consider all the relevant truth - the immediate 'so-called' benefits as well as the beyond the immediate moment costs. When Jesus was responding with scripture, He was consciously drawing on the wider spectrum of truth and thereby making a wise response choice. For example, in the first temptation, Jesus was hungry and turning a stone to bread would have immediately dispatched the feeling of hunger in-the-moment. But Jesus had also trained himself to be aware that responding to needs from a self-seeking basis comes at a cost - the creating of a sin-based (ie self-seeking) response pattern (ie, character). Thus, Jesus anchored His mind and therefore Himself, to something beyond an in-the-moment impulse. He anchored His mind and therefore Himself to submissive reliance and dependance upon God to provide for His every need - thereby reinforcing a non-self-seeking character (as per Matthew 16:24 principle).

    In light of what I have attempted to outline above, it would appear that Jesus was not quoting scripture merely to quote scripture or to preach against Satan, His tempter. It would seem that Jesus was utilising scripture to consciously and intentionally reinforce the power of truth to strengthen His conscious to make a difficult, but wise, choice to over-ride any subconscious prompting to satisfy hunger in self-seeking ways**. And I would propose that this was recorded as an example of the training process that we also, as humans, will need to adopt in order to become 'overcomers' (eg Romans 8:13). Again, I am not saying we do this on our own for it is a collaborative and co-operative re-training process that we necessarily need to be involved in as we are re-trained to be more and more Christ-like (Philippians 2:12,13; Matthew 16:24).

    "It is written" is our necessary, daily, truth-training (re-training) workout that progressively strengthens our conscious to better counter self-seeking subconscious impulses.

    * I do not believe humanity was originally created by God this way. Rather I believe this was a change that happened within Eve as part of the functional 'fall' that took place in Genesis 3:6.
    ** If you look carefully at Genesis 3:6, you will see that this is the opposite of what Eve and subsequently Adam did. Thus, when tempted Eve and Adam responded from a self-seeking basis ("a tree desired to make one (self) wise") they embraced a self-seeking heart-motivation and, consequently, 'fell' or entered a terminal state. Jesus, as the successful 'second Adam', rejected the temptation to respond from a self-seeking basis by instead reinforcing His reliance upon God - not my will but yours be done. And because Jesus did this every single time He was tempted, He defeated temptation and therefore Satan and death, and instead gained/retained the right to eternal life (as per Revelation 2:7 principle).

    • The answer is always the same. We need to be vitally connected to God. If we allow our minds to wander away from Him, we shall not be depending upon Him but self. Then we have no power to resist the smallest temptation to sin. We end up in the water just as did Peter when He took His eyes off of Jesus.

    • Phil, I am a bit confused about referencing the ‘subconscious and conscious’ when depicting the working of our mind. My question is: What do you think about the ‘conscience’ (noun)? Do you think the ‘conscience’ to be a separate ‘entity’ operating beside the other two mentioned, or do you use the word ‘conscious’ in place of ‘conscience’?
      Learning the use of the English Language, I do not recognize ‘sub-conscious’ and ‘conscious’ as Proper nouns, only as adjectives used in connection with the word ‘mind’.
      In your opinion, can the ‘conscious’ become the ‘conscience’ of the person? If so, how does it become the ‘conscience’ (noun), since this requires at least the mind’s acknowledgement of another authority, or the willingness to submit ones mind’s reasoning to this higher authority instead of ones own – establishing moral judgement based on the Word of God instead of the word of man?

      In the fifth paragraph you state: “Both our subconscious and our conscious operate in response to what we believe to be ‘true’. I deduce that if what is considered ‘true’ is relative in both mind-sets – sub- and conscious -, then both operate only within their own, limited, self-generated/relative, parameters - ‘self- awareness’ -; they do not include the Wisdom/Word of God, because His Word is spiritually perceived.
      Without believing in and living the operational/living/spiritual ‘Word of God’, both states of mind are useless for God’s purpose to direct the person toward everlasting life.

      Respectfully, I do not ‘think/see’ that it is enough to bring about a fundamental change by ‘training our minds to live a new, consistent reality’, using a more conscious effort to know why we do what we do; without the Holy Spirit, this is still 'survival' living.
      It takes God’s Grace to cause the spiritual eye to open and see/perceive spiritually what is God's Truth, before preparing the heart to desire and seek the remedy for one’s fallen state. Then, Christ’s Spirit is doing His work in the believer’s heart and mind, faithfully changing us to desire God’s Word of Truth and Life to become our will and way.
      Believing in His Grace causes our mind to become willing to unequivocally say: “ I believe in my heart and confess with my mouth that Christ Jesus is Lord, I belong to Him.”

      • Hi Brigitte

        No, the conscience and the conscious/sub-conscious are not the same thing - although there is overlap. Trying to think about and communicate the activity of the brain and the mind is confusing because the brain/mind is vastly more complex than we are capable of understanding and we can't actually see the working of the mind - therefore we have to infer what appears to be going on. And our mind can only consider aspects of things at a time, so we artificially try to look at bits in order to better understand the whole - but that is as good as we can do, and it comes at a price. And not only does the reality exceed what we are capable of perceiving and understanding, it also exceeds what we are able to convey via the limitations of language.

        Regarding your concern you expressed, hopefully you have noted that I keep including a statement saying that I am not suggesting we do things to improve ourselves independently of our reliance upon and connection with God. That would be humanism. However, there is typically an under awareness of the role that we need to play in that collaborative process, and this is what I am attempting to supplement awareness of. Physical, mental, social and spiritual are inseparably interconnected - what we do or fail to do in one area impacts other areas.

        • Thank you, Phil - yes, my concern is that the teachings of Humanism are gaining a strong foothold among marginal believers who do not foster their personal relationship with the Creator, and yes again, I know that you always include a 'disclaimer' regarding your suggestions about re-training the mind - thank you!

          Please permit me to share my observations regarding the matter of concern to me - Humanism. It usually manifests itself in doing 'good works' based on 'one's own' set of references regarding what is right or wrong, good or bad, not fully understanding the spiritual aspect of 'good works'.
          Followers of this teaching still attempt to 'do things my way', which ever wordly or religious way this might end up being; their focus remains on the physical not the spiritual aspect of the act of service.
          The world is being inundated by worldly and religious do-gooders who claim the mantel of 'righteousness/rightness' (which in this case is self-righteousness/-rightness) without understanding or acknowledging that good works are prompted by and are the work of God's Righteousness through them - Eph.2:10KJV.

          In my personal observation, the ever expanding field of psychology has been selected to work on 'improving man' by improving the function of his mind; their premise is to improve the evolving man. They overlook/ignore/disregard/are ignorant of that they are using/working within the parameters set by the effect of the 'fruit of the forbiden tree'.

          Unredeemed man, through using psychology, attempts to secure 'a better feeling' about himself - self-righteousness/self-approval, whiles still separated from his Maker; an attempt by the imposter/usurper/deceiver to follow a false gospel by tempting/offering man to come into the 'presence of God' through a backdoor (not acknowledging ones fallen state).

          The unredeemed, learning methods to improve the mind's 'content-process', i.e. repetition, can only use what the mind extracts from its own set of references.
          If either the teacher or the student is a person not yet saved, the mind's content excludes the Holy Spirit's gift of discernment - being able to 'see/hear/perceive' God's spiritual Truth. The acts/life of the believer encapsulate in 'good works' the spirit of sanctification, bringing God's spiritual standards of holiness to bare on their life.

    • Hi Brother Phil,
      As I read your blog today (Yes, I'm far behind, I know), everything that you say is so true; however, it is sad that most of us are not ready to accept this truth, many would rather not know it, especially those in the secular world, so that they can continue in their sins. The reason I say this is because in my Sabbath School class last week, they were very quick to "blame" the many evil Kings of Israel (the leaders) for the sin of idolatry by the children of Israel. I told the class that "No, actual that was only partly true. We can not always blame it on our Leadership, whether in the church or in our secular world". I left it at that because most people are not ready to "hear the truth", that the problem is "them or us".

      Many times in scripture, it appears that the Truth (the message) is going out to the collective group (a corporate message), so that many of us miss the point that the Truth is giving to us individually as well, in order that we can make the final decision for ourselves. That is why there was/is always a "remnant" among God's people that did not turn from the right or to the left; The Lord told Elijah, "Yet I have left me 'seven thousand' in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him" 1 King 19:18.

      Most of us want to find someone or something to blame our problems, decisions, and failures on, when in reality we made the final choice or decision in the matter. We have to strengthen, or rebuild, our character to make the right choices, to let our "Light" shine, so that the people all around us will see Jesus reflecting back to them through us. How do we do this? Jesus told His disciples: "And he said unto them, 'This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting'", Mark 9:29, also Matthew 17:21. But this is talking about demon-possession!! Yes, it is, and for a large number of us that is what it is going to take; the same remedy for demon-possession, which is Prayer and Fasting. But it has to be done and quick because time is running out; we need to be prepared for the final crisis.

      Let's activate our conscious mind (as Brother Phil says; great message) to make the right choice, and to grow spiritually in Jesus.

      God's blessing to you all! Happy Holidays!

  2. Satan is pretty smart. In the story of the temptation, when Jesus answered with scripture, Satan came up very quickly with his own scriptural quote, Psalms 91.

    He said:

    and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:
    ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’
    ‘In their hands they shall bear you up,
    Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ” Matt4: 6NKJV

    What the Pslam really said in context was:

    If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
    no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
    For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
    they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
    You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent. Ps 91:9-11 NIV

    That has an entirely different idea in mind, and it is interesting that not long after this Jesus told Satan to go and get lost. He had finished arguing with him.

    Two lessons we can learn from this:

    1. Don't "cherry-pick" scripture to support your argument.

    2. Arguing the point is not particularly productive. It is better to put the argument away and get on with the job of living. Your actions have the potential to be a better argument than your words.

  3. Immediately after Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, He “was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” Matt. 4:1. In preparation for these temptations, Jesus spent forty days and forty nights fasting and praying to His heavenly Father (verse 2). Christ had to endure these temptations for at least four reasons: “1. Because it was impossible that one who came to overthrow the kingdom of Satan should not be attacked by the great adversary at the very threshold. 2. It was to test him. 3. It was to prepare him, by being tempted like as we are, and yet gaining the victory, to ‘succor them that are tempted.’ 4. It was to set an example for us when we are tempted.”*

    In contrast to Jesus’ encounter with the devil, He taught His disciples to pray, “ ‘Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one’ ” (Matt. 6:13, NIV). While these two concepts may be perceived as diametrically opposed to each other, it is important to understand that God does not bring temptations into our lives. Instead, He allows temptations that He knows we are able to bear with His help (Job 1:8–12).

  4. I believe that part of my Spiritual Gift is to be able to give an answer "it is written" as Jesus did, when people ask me for the reason for what I believe.

    1Peter 3:15
    Amplified Bible
    But in your hearts set Christ apart [as holy—acknowledging Him, giving Him first place in your lives] as Lord. Always be ready to give a [logical] defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope and confident assurance [elicited by faith] that is within you, yet [do it] with gentleness and respect.

  5. To answer the final question, I feel that the Bible's power comes from who it comes from - God - who is the One with Great Power. So I don't feel that the answer is to draw strength from the Bible as much as it is to draw strength from God. And as we spend time in His Word, our relationship with Him deepens and He is more and more able to create His character in us. If we don't approach the Bible this way, I feel it's easy to treat like a magic item and forget that its ultimate power comes from God.

  6. QUESTION: Is there any reason Jesus' response to the devil were all scriptures from the book of Deuteronomy? Why not Psalms or Proverbs like most Christians will easily quote from today?
    All three temptations got their response from Deuteronomy, which i believe was significant and deliberate or intentional. WHY?

    • It is probably a fairly mundane reason, but the Torah was the "go to" scripture for most Jews. Many of them would have learned a fair bit of the Torah off by heart.


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