As the school year comes in for a landing, and we launch into another summer, it’s worth giving thought to what you might need to be on the lookout for. Summer is worth preparing for.
It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove.Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him (Mk. 1:9-13).
Summary of the Text
Here at the beginning of His ministry, Jesus was baptized, filled with the Spirit, and received a benediction from His Father. The same Spirit that anointed Him and sealed the Father’s blessing to Him immediately drove Him into the wilderness, where He faced temptations from Satan, as well as, perhaps various challenges with wild beasts. And when He was finished, the angels ministered to Him. The baptism of Jesus was His preparation for the temptation, but this whole period was His preparation for His entire life and ministry, and so we may take a few lessons from it on the theme of preparing.
Preparing for What’s Next
One of the principles of parenting is preparing your children for what they will face next. When your children are very young, you need to practice saying ‘thank you’ and sitting still for church before you face those situations. First you teach, then you require. Knowing your children well means talking to them about what their temptations are likely to be when they arrive at the next thing. So, what are the temptations likely to be this summer, for you and for your children? What temptations will you face on family vacation? What are the temptations of more free-time? What will you face at a family reunion, on a baseball team, at summer camp, at a summer job, at college next Fall, or with the kids home all day long with you? This is one of the ways we love one another: by thinking about and preparing for what is coming next. In Deuteronomy, God prepared His people for the temptations of the Promised Land: “When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you. Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments (Deut. 8:10-11, cf. Dt. 6:12). In our text, we also see how God the Father prepares His Son for a great trial: by blessing Him and speaking to Him and about Him with great love and kindness (Mk. 1:11). There’s an important place for the specific warnings and instructions, but here we see that one of the most important preparations is the preparation of love and kindness: “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” This word of the Father becomes the central point of the temptation: “If you are really the Son of God…” Clinging to this word of the Father allowed Jesus to cling to the entirety of God’s word. And we should not miss the fact that this initial trial was also itself preparation for the much greater trial to come (Mt. 26:63, 27:40, 43).
“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:31-32). Bickering, arguing, unkind teasing, biting sarcasm can creep into homes sometimes imperceptibly. And frequently this means that parents are themselves guilty. Many times adults have enough self-awareness to keep their unkindness tethered to a wobbly pole we might call “good manners.” This doesn’t mean you aren’t being unkind, you’ve just gotten good at being unkind in and around and beside “good manners.” But kids are frequently not quite as socially adept, and therefore, their unkindness is more exposed and raw. When your kids bicker regularly, you should think at least two things: first, they probably got it from you, and second, you may be doing it without knowing it. So do some checking: How do you talk about your children to your spouse or friends? How do you talk about them, even when they aren’t right there listening to you? How do you talk to or about your spouse? How does the Father speak to and about His Son? And you might object that the Father had a perfectSon, but the Bible is clear that we are called to imitate our perfectFather anyway: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is heaven is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). There is a time to ask for counsel about a difficulty, but even that request should be made in imitation of the Father, full of kindness and delight. You prepare well for anything when you practice kindness.
A Grab Bag of Other Temptations
Summertime can be an opportunity for the devil to tempt you sexually. This may be related to people thinking that it’s OK not to wear most of their clothes if they’re within 100 yards of a body of water, but if you know it’s coming, prepare yourself now. And this goes for those who may be tempted to undress that way because, well, everyone else is doing it. The Bible is clear that lust begins in the heart, and is adultery in the heart, and this goes for those who are tempted to look and for those who are tempted to try to get the looks (Mt. 5:27-30). But this warning can also apply to courtships, engagements, unwise friendships, Netflix, and cell phones. And remember that Jesus said to cut off the hands and eyes that cause us to sin, which if you think about it, would be painful and awkward, and so it may mean ditching a friendship, finding a different job, or getting a dumb phone. Related to lust is the sin of envy. Prepare your hearts not to envy the summer break of someone else. Some of you will go on vacations to the Bahamas and some of you will work 60 hours a week to barely pay your bills. Some of you will get new houses or cars or girlfriends, and some of you will still be in the beater you inherited from gramps and as single as the pope at the end of summer. Determine now that you will praise God for it all, and that you will rejoice with those who rejoice. Finally, be prepared for temptations to be lazy, either fighting sin or indulging your appetites. Drunkenness is a sin, even if nobody around you can tell that you’re drunk, and so is getting “drunk” on pot or pain killers (Eph. 5:18, 1 Thess. 5:7).
Conclusion: Crush Your Summer
But the point of all of this is not merely to stay out of trouble. The point is actually that you put some thought into how you will use your summer to maximize the glory you can bring to God. As John Piper might put it, don’t waste your summer. You not only want to plan to avoid sin; you also want to plan to succeed, plan to accomplish, plan to draw closer to God, closer to your people, and grow in holiness. When September comes around, you want to look back and see progress in the fruit of the Spirit. And one of the best ways you can ensure that you grow is to make sure you plan to eat. Remember, man doesn’t live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. So plan to binge on the Bible this summer. Don’t go light on Scripture. Be extreme in the Word. Guzzle it. Feast on it. Not because you haveto but because you getto. Because His Word is good. Because when we come hungry His Word is always ultimately kindness and blessing.