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Red Letter Obedience

Recently I've been studying the Red Letters of Jesus. While I've often read through the gospels and the book of Acts I wanted to take a different approach.

I wanted to read, stop, study and apply simply the words of Christ. What I've chosen to do is read the scene and take time to ponder how the words of Jesus not only affected that moment but seek out the principle that can translate to my own life. Typically I end up spending a half hour or so per verse so I'm intentional about thinking and praying through it. (BTW: This is descriptive not prescriptive... I read the bible many ways over time.)

I figured I'd share with you a glimpse of one recent read of the red letters:

You don't get very far into the book of Matthew before you encounter the temptation of Jesus by Satan. The first temptation is for Jesus to make his own food. The second temptation is for Jesus to jump off of a high place so that God will send his angels to keep him safe. Both temptations begin with "If you are the son of God..."

Side note: If I were Jesus (its a great thing I wasn't) I'd be like "What punk? I'll crush you!" I'd be all about proving who I am and destroying this dude screwing up the Father's plan. Ultimately that's what Jesus will do but Jesus was much more obedient and patient. That's one of the things I learned here...

Jesus' Red Letter words are "It is also written: Do not put the Lord your God to the test."

Some of my Red Letter thoughts:
1. Satan knows scripture- I'm over hearing people talk who know just enough of the bible to make them dangerous. Satan himself knows the word of God. Simply knowing a few verses and using them to manipulate the behavior of people doesn't cut it with me. The way Jesus was able to combat this temptation was that he knew the full context.

2. The 'temptation' wasn't evil in-and-of itself- The proposition was for Jesus to cause the Father to act. Would God have come through? Sure. Was that the time? No. Just because someone brings me some proposition with a verse attached doesn't mean its from God for that time. It's up to the leading of the Holy Spirit in my life to confirm that action as instruction from God or not. Not all of our temptations will come on a platter with horns. Some will be more subtle.

3. We all test God too much- Living under grace causes us to test God far more than we should. I'm convinced that much of our behavior and liberty we take with scripture comes as a result of relying on Grace as a hammock and not a safety net. Grace is there to catch us but I think we test God when we knowingly use Grace to allow us to walk out of obedience for brief times. We excuse ourselves because we know God will catch us. A more extreme example is when people refuse to apply biblical principles to their family life they run to God when hell breaks loose and say "God, catch us." Or when people spend way more money than they bring home they run to God and say "God, catch us." Some other people may find that they don't raise their children with God as the center of the home and when the kid is a teenager they say (after yelling at the youth pastor) "God, catch us." We put God to the test as if it becomes his job to catch us after we've jumped off the cliff.

Would the Father have protected Jesus? Yes. Should Jesus have put the Father in that position? No.

4. Love and freedom in the law- In studying these red letters I was able to re-read Deuteronomy 6-8 again. Once again I'm reminded how much love is in the law. I'm reminded again that obedience adds so much value, love and relationship between myself and God.

The Red Letters are packing a pretty cool punch for me right now. Hopefully this little insight inspires you to check 'em out anew.

posted by Tally Wilgis @ Tuesday, April 22, 2008


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