“I did not learn my theology all at once, but had to search constantly
deeper and deeper for it. My temptations did that for me, for no one
can understand Holy Scripture without practice and temptations.
This is what the enthusiasts and sects lack. They don’t have the right critic, the devil, who is the best teacher of theology. If we don’t have
that kind of devil, then we become nothing but speculative
theologians, who do nothing but walk around in our own thoughts
and speculate with our reason alone as to whether things should be
like this, or like that”
-Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, 54:50
What is the purpose of the Holy Spirit? Many people in church believe that the Holy Spirit is the one who gives you the warm and fuzzy feelings of God’s presence. He is the one who unlocks your ability to be completely open in worship. The Holy Spirit is all about your feelings.
These ideas of the Holy Spirit are in contrast to the art and the quote from Luther above. In the artwork, we find Jesus being sent into the desert after His baptism; after the Father says He is “well-pleased” with Jesus; after the Holy Spirit descends on Him like a dove.
Matthew tells us, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (4:1). In fact, Jesus was sent to the desert for 40 days, and then tempted by the devil. Why would the Spirit do such a thing?
And, then, we read the above quote from Luther, who Kleinig quotes, “In a
lecture on Psalm 5:11, from around 1520, he [Luther] asserted, rather bluntly, that a theologian was not made by ‘understanding, reading or speculating,’
but by ‘living, no rather by dying and being damned'” (John W. Kleinig, Oratio, Meditatio, Tentatio: What Makes A Theologian?, 2).
Wow! First, We learned of Oratio, or speaking the Word. Then, we learned of meditatio, or ruminating on the Word. But this last one seems to be the opposite of what we would expect. Where is the praise? Where is the comfort? Where is the blessing? In short, where is the GLORY?
Are we Christians living under the false belief that the Holy Spirit will lead us to “safe harbors” all the time? Are we ignoring the Scripture in favor of feelings? Are we wishful thinkers who would rather believe that God is going to give us a happy life than the one Jesus suffered through?
Or, are we suffering so much now that we seek an alternate experience to the difficulties of life? Maybe we long for heaven on earth. Maybe we long for ecstasy. Maybe we long for glory.
Instead, God leads Jesus (and us, metaphorically, perhaps exactly) to a cross. God leads Him into temptation and trial. God leads Him into suffering.
Jeffrey Ware notes, “Tentatio (sufferings and temptation) is a form of spiritual attack which drives the believer away from the internalized self to the external word. Tentatio is not a goal. It is not the highest rung on a spiritual ladder to heaven. It is God’s way of turning self-seeking men back to the word and therefore back to himself” (in A Lutheran Perspective on Lectio Divina).
As Peter writes, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12). Why? Because it is the way that God drives us back to the Scripture. It is the way He drives us to depend on this Word. It is the way He gets us to look more closely, more deeply into that Word to find Christ, the suffering servant.
And it is a strange spirituality, because, in the midst of trial and temptation, we often find the deepest fellowship and peace with God. It is the paradox of the Christian life. Isn’t this appropriate as we walk through this lenten season?