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Watch 2022 online sermons » John Bradshaw » John Bradshaw - The Rule of Threes

John Bradshaw - The Rule of Threes

John Bradshaw - The Rule of Threes
John Bradshaw - The Rule of Threes
TOPICS: Prequel of the Bible

This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me. This is part 3 of our series the "Prequel of the Bible," and today we're going to be asking some questions.

Have you ever read the Bible?
— Yes.
— Yes.
— Uh, definitely parts, but not all the way through, which I should but just...haven't.
— Yes. Cover to cover about probably 27 times.

Did you know there's a story in the Bible that predates the Garden of Eden and yet is still impacting the world today?
— Um, not so much.
— No.
— I have heard it, but I couldn't tell you the name of the story.
— Uh... Tell me about it.

We're looking at this backstory, this prequel that's hidden in the Bible. Once you discover it, once you know it, it'll broaden and deepen your understanding of the entire Word of God. And when I say it's hidden, well, that's because it is. You'll find part of it in Genesis, and you'll find the rest of it scattered throughout the Bible all the way down to the book of Revelation. And it's written in nonlinear form. That means, it's not written in order. The beginning of the story is found near the middle of the Bible; the middle of the story is found back near the beginning of the Bible. When something is written in a nonlinear form, presented in a nonlinear form, you want to sit up and take notice because important information is being conveyed.

For example, prophecy, such as the book of Revelation, can be in nonlinear form. Our study of the prequel of the Bible so far has led to some big conclusions. First, there's a battle going on right now for control of the universe. Second, that battle isn't one of weapons, but it's one of ideas. It's a political battle, if you will. You could say it's a political campaign. Each side has a platform for how the universe should be run. On one side, God and His followers, who say that the universe should be organized around a system where everything gives to and supports everything else, where each interaction results in blessing to each party. It's a system that has lovingkindness as its organizing principle.

Now, the competing system advanced by the other side, by Satan and his followers, contends that the universe should be organized around a system of taking. A system where strength and aggression rule. A system where interactions produce a winner and a loser. This is a system that has selfishness as its organizing principle. This system was part of Satan's rebellion against God. The two organizing principles reflect the characters of their champions. God is love, and in His system everything gives to everything else, with God giving the most. Satan is selfish, and his system is based on conflict and taking, where power and force determine outcomes and where domination is the ultimate goal. The irony here is that Satan has claimed from the start of his rebellion that God is, in fact, selfish at the core, and that he, Satan, is revealing the real character of God. And really, with that attempt to redefine reality, sounds much like what we would see in a modern political campaign.

What we found in our study of this story in the Bible has been remarkable. But it hasn't just been an historical study, because this pitched political campaign between God and Satan and their governing philosophies is very real and is profoundly affecting our lives every single day. One of the most remarkable things you can learn from this backstory of the Bible is this: This earth originally created by God in perfection has been twisted by the devil into a real-time demonstration of how his system of selfishness works. Now, we're going to look at some, some decisive battles in this war of ideas between God and Satan, battles that took place early in the life and ministry of Jesus. The first one took place in a valley in the Middle East, a valley through which the Jordan River flows. I'll have that in just a moment.

Thanks for joining me on It Is Written. Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. When He was, His Father's voice was heard proclaiming from heaven that this was "my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased". The Holy Spirit rested upon Jesus in the form of a dove. This was the beginning of Jesus' formal ministry. What happened next was essentially hand-to-hand combat with Satan. Matthew 4:1 says that "Jesus was the Spirit into the wilderness," which in this case was the desert. And He began to prepare for His conflict with Satan by fasting for 40 days. Now, that might seem like a strange thing to do; that is, most people would prepare for battle by doing everything they could to increase their strength.

Jesus, on the other hand, gave up just about every last ounce of strength that He had. In doing this, He was showing us that power to resist Satan comes from not within ourselves, but from a relationship with God and from the Word of God. An ER doctor once said that the rule he uses is the rule of threes. Death comes after three minutes without oxygen, three days without water, or three weeks or up to 30 days without food. Now, there are all sorts of conditions and caveats, but basically 30 days without food takes a person to the very edge of human endurance. By the time Jesus had fasted for 40 days, He was faint with weakness; His body was shutting down. His energy reserves were depleted. His body was a jumble of chemical imbalances and shortages. It was practically screaming at Him to do whatever He possibly could to prolong life.

Now, in that condition it would have taken an enormous effort simply to focus His mind, but it was in that state, on the very edge of death, that He met Satan in decisive battle. The picture is clearly painted for us in the writings of both Matthew and Luke. The battle was comprised of three skirmishes, and like the entire conflict before it, this was a political battle. It was a battle of ideas. Now, in the first encounter, Satan came to Jesus with an idea, which on the surface seemed to be straightforward. He said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, then command that these stones be made into bread".

So few words, so much going on. There were layers and layers to Satan's challenge. First was doubt. He wanted Jesus to express doubt in His relationship with God and in His own mission and ministry. Notice what he said: "If You are the Son of God". He was trying to open up a crack in Jesus' thinking that he could then go and drive a wedge right into. And secondly, he wanted Jesus to perform an act of selfishness as a consequence of that doubt. He wanted Jesus to act in harmony with his system of selfishness. Remember, Satan's original claim was that God was fundamentally selfish. He wanted to be justified in that. He was desperate to prove to the universe that that was so. And notice that the trap was baited with food, which was exactly what Jesus desperately needed. And yet Jesus didn't give in.

In Matthew 4:4 we read that He responded to Satan with scripture: "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'" Satan's initial foray failed, and so he became less subtle. Matthew 4:5 says that Satan took Jesus and stood Him on the highest point of the temple and said, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge over you,' and, 'In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.'" Now, in the second temptation, Satan again tries to play on any shred of doubt that might be in Jesus' mind. Again, he uses that word "if": "If You are the Son of God". Just prove it, and everything will be okay.

Now, for a dying man, the idea of having God help Him in His time of need must have been a very attractive one. It was a layered temptation, very clever. Satan was trying to get Jesus to use selfishness to His advantage. But he failed when Jesus quoted scripture in response. "It is also written, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" Then came the third and most decisive skirmish. There was no subtlety this time. It was a head-on attack that went right to the core of the conflict, character against character, system of running the universe against system of running the universe. We pick up the narrative in Matthew 4, verse 8: "Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, 'All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.'"

Let's take this bit by bit, make sure we understand what's going on here. Satan takes Jesus to the top of the highest mountain and shows Jesus in great detail the splendor of the world. Now, remember Satan usurped the dominion God gave Adam and Eve over the earth. So he's the boss of the earth, as it were. Jesus calls him "the prince of this world". Here, Satan asserts that he has control over the earth and that he's able to transfer ownership. That's a point Jesus does not dispute. Satan is essentially showing Jesus his accomplishments. He's saying, "See what happens under my control, under my system. See how humanity advances rapidly under a system of adversity and conflict. See how conflict breeds innovation and technology. See how selfishness and greed give birth to great commercial empires. See how cities grow and flourish as great men and women build them and compete for control".

He's saying, "This is the way it should be done". Satan is saying that his system of unbridled selfishness works. He was making an offer, and it boiled down to this: "We can end the war right here, and You can have all the spoils of the earth I have built, if You just admit that my way is better than Yours". The offer to end the battle with a win was probably very compelling to a man exhausted and at death's door. But that would have been dishonest and selfish, and Christ refused. In Matthew 4:10 we read, "Jesus said to him, 'Away with you, Satan! For it is written, "You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve".'" Matthew tells us that angels came and attended Him, bringing Him back from the edge of death. Now, speaking of death, did Jesus really need to die on the cross? I'll have that in just a moment.

Thanks for joining me on It Is Written. When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, he caused Jesus to see the splendor of the kingdoms of the cities of the world. But it wasn't the cities Jesus wanted. Jesus came for the hearts of the people in the cities. He didn't want them suffering in Satan's kingdom. Instead, He wanted them living fulfilled, meaningful lives in His kingdom. Jesus does not want us to be content in rebellion but instead to call our hearts and our lives out of rebellion. Satan left the battlefield not quite fully defeated. Luke 4:13 says that the devil left Him "until an opportune time". And it's that opportune time that we want to look at right now. Turns out that Satan's strongest attacks against Jesus took place at the beginning and at the end of Jesus' ministry. His last and severest attack came as Jesus was about to die on the cross. So, did Jesus really need to die on the cross? Well, let's ask.

Did Jesus really need to die on the cross? Why or why not?
— I believe yes, just 'cause He died on the cross for us, and it just shows like how powerful He is and just like how He's impacted all of us, and we're here today because He died on the cross for us.
— Yes. Because there was sin in the world, and without someone, um, as in Jesus, God's Son, that came so that we may have the right to eternal life,
because of sin that man brought into the world. And before sin, there was not a need, but after sin, yes.
— Um, to pay for our sins? And, uh, yes.
— Yes, because without the shedding of blood there's no remission of sins, and He was the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world. You know, His blood was shed on the cross, and that's the only thing that God looks at as the perfect sacrifice for sins. He's "the Way, the Truth, and the Life," and no one gets to the Father but through Him. So... that's the only... there is no plan B.

There are a lot of opinions about Jesus on the cross. So let's view the cross in the context of this prequel we are studying. So here is the Christ at the end of His life. Throughout His life He's preached and lived a message that is simple, yet radical, that His is a kingdom of love that is profoundly different from the world. He's lived a completely unselfish life. At the same time, He's accumulated some very powerful enemies by telling the religious leaders that they have turned a message of love into a system of domination and profit That they've taken something that was supposed to reflect God's character, and they've made it reflect Satan's character. Accordingly, He called them "hypocrites". He called them a "brood of vipers". And they hated Him. They wanted Him dead. And now, He's hanging on the cross.

Some of His enemies are standing there, victorious. They're watching Him die. They weren't the only ones. Satan was there, of course, and it was a very, very tense moment for him. Remember, Satan's whole campaign and purpose was not about torturing or killing Jesus. Of course, he was happy enough to do that. His campaign, his war was about replacing God as the ruler of the universe, or at least revealing God as a fraud, and to do that, he had to prove his charges against God. He had to prove that God was selfish, a liar, and was holding everyone back and keeping the best for Himself. He had to prove that God and, of course, Jesus, were fundamentally selfish. And he had to prove that God's law was unjust, that law and mercy couldn't co-exist. If he managed to do even part of that, he would show that Christ's entire life had been a lie and an exercise in hypocrisy.

As Jesus hangs on the cross, the primary characters in this contest for the control of the universe are thrown into sharp relief. On the one side is Jesus, kind, caring, self-sacrificing, with love and goodwill toward everyone. His life demonstrates what selflessness looks like as He substitutes Himself for us and takes the punishment for our rebellion so that we could be restored to paradise. On the other side is Satan: cruel, arrogant, selfish, grasping. His objective is to prove that God is selfish and then take over the administration of the universe. And it's not just the characters who are clashing at the cross; it's their systems. Jesus hangs on the cross, the ultimate reflection of His intentional giving and lovingkindness to humanity. At the same time, the fact He hangs on the cross is the ultimate reflection of Satan's world of taking, dominating, grasping for power and control. Both systems meet where a truly innocent Man hangs dying. And it's not as though Jesus confidently rushed to the cross.

In Matthew 26:39, where Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before He was crucified, He pleads with God to provide some other way of resolving the case of mankind. He's a man; He doesn't want to die. But unselfishly, Jesus goes through with it. He suffered under the weight of the sins of humanity, and He died. And in doing so, He demonstrated that God's law is both just and merciful. Jesus' death simultaneously threw the characters of God and Satan into sharp relief. It cut through Satan's layers of deception, and his rebellion was entirely discredited in front of a watching universe. So here's the question: If Satan lost at the cross, why didn't God destroy him right then and there? Why has there been some 2,000 more years of the earth persisting under Satan's system and under Satan's dominion? Well, let's ask.

If Jesus won victory by dying on the cross, why is there still sin on the earth?
— Um, just because it's our society today. We all have problems. We all deal with things. I mean, it's just life.
— So, with sin and His death, that wasn't the end of it. He's coming back and for those that are believers and those that are living as He has instructed throughout the Bible; then He's coming to take us home. We were always meant to have eternal life.
— I don't know. I want to say, because of...Satan? Hell, maybe? I don't know. Why is it? That's a good question. I've honestly never been asked like something like that or thought about something like that. So... what? Do you know?
— We're in a spiritual warfare. We live in a fallen world, so, sin is rampant. Pick up any paper or listen to any newscast, I mean, it's just everywhere, and we're going to be subjected to a sinful world until Christ returns and changes it.

At the cross, most of Satan's charges were swept away. Most, but not all. And that's not good enough for God. If He destroyed Satan then, some of the accusations Satan made would forever hang in the air. There would always be a small doubt about God and His character, and that small doubt could be enough to build a rebellion on, and another Satan could arise. No, God is seeing this through until the very end so there'll never again be cause for doubt, never again be a rationale for rebellion. And that means, once we're done with Satan, we will forever be done with rebellion against God, otherwise known as sin. There's also another aspect. By letting time go on, the effects of Jesus' ministry also go on, and millions more people are able to accept eternal life. You and I are able to accept the gift of eternal life because time has continued through our lives.

And so we go on, letting Satan's design for the earth play out and letting the truth be self-evident. Of course, Satan is in total political campaign mode, so anything bad that happens, he blames on God. But here's the thing. A system designed around selfishness and taking is a really, really bad operating system for the earth and for human society. This is because selfishness by its very nature collapses in on itself. The system Satan unleashed has resulted in death, disease, conflict, and suffering. But there's more to come as our physical earth and human society not only continue to decline but reach a tipping point and go into rapid decline.

Satan can't hide that fact, nor can he shift blame for it. And as the effects of his system grow more apparent on earth, Satan knows that he's rapidly running out of time. In the next part of this series, we'll look at the prophecies of Jesus regarding the rapid decline of our earth and human society. We'll look at how those prophecies are coming true in real time right now. We'll look at the current collapse of Satan's design and what the Bible says will happen next as this war for control of the universe comes to its climactic end right before our eyes.
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