Sunday, September 05, 2010

The Temptation

Earlier this week, I began to make notes in the margin of one of the Bible reading programs that I use. The notes kind of took on a life of their own and morphed into what will eventually be a sermon.

I was reading in the fourth chapter of the Book of Matthew. You can find the text here.

These are my notes:

I really like the progression of the temptation of Jesus. In verse 3 the temptation is not only simple, it is reasonable. After a forty day fast, it is reasonable to assume that Jesus is in need of food.

I have to admit that the first part of Satan's statement confuses me a bit--"If you are the Son of God..."

As we read through the New Testament, the demons always recognize Jesus as the Son of God. They always fear Him. And they always obey his commands. Perhaps, here at the beginning of His ministry, Satan is unsure of the deity of the human Jesus of Nazareth. Is this the same Jesus that was born in a stable 30 years ago?

Maybe Satan is unsure of the humanity of Jesus vs the deity of Jesus. In any case, the temptation is for Jesus to overcome His human weakness by using His divine power. “If you are the son of God...”

It's been said that character is who you are when nobody is looking. That is the position in which Jesus finds himself in the wilderness. Really--as far as the man Jesus is concerned, is it a big deal if he uses a little bit of the divine power to turn a few stones into bread? Who would know? ( As a side note: I think that Satan was foolish to tempt him with bread. I'm thinking that if I'm hungry and planning on making food from rocks, maybe a smoked brisket with a slightly spicy bbq sauce, some baked beans, corn on the cob and maybe a blackberry cobbler. Mere child's play "If you are the son of God".)

Is it cheating if, at the end of his fast, Jesus makes bread from stones? Would the Father receive glory from this use of divine power? Does that really matter? And who would know?

This first temptation is one that we often fall for--the temptation to satisfy our need. It might be something as simple as a need for food or it might be more complex; like our need to belong or be loved. It might appeal to our need to succeed in business. Or maybe to satisfy our sexual desires.

It's an "it's all about me" kind of temptation. It's about putting my needs/desires/addictions above everything else. It's about being selfish.

Don't worry.
Everybody does it.
It's not hurting anybody.
And besides, who's going to know?

These are the excuses that we use to justify doing the things that we know we shouldn't do.

But Jesus sees through the devil's temptation and turns him aside by using that which he has learned from the Scriptures. The quote that he uses is found in Deuteronomy 8:3.

In essence, Jesus says, "This isn't about me and my hunger. It's about preparing for my Earthly ministry. It's about serving God."

It is important that you and I realize that we can't expect the Scriptures to rescue us if we don't know them. It is so important that we are able to recall verses of Scripture if we are to live by the Word and if we are to count on the Word in times of trials as well as in times of temptation.

In round two, Satan steps up his game a bit. He decides that if Jesus is going to quote Scripture, so is he. Again, Satan is looking for some divine proof--"If you are the Son of God..."

In round one, Satan uses the "If you are the Son of God" line to try to convince Jesus to use his divine power to take care of himself. Here, he is saying, "If you are the Son of God, then prove it to me. The Scripture says that angels will guard you and take care of you."

Jesus doesn't disagree with Satan or argue with him. Jesus just tells him what else is written in the Scriptures. Again, Jesus quotes from the Torah, this time Deuteronomy 6:16.

I want to share my observation that this is one thing that I often hear Christians saying--that they are going to do something and trust God to stop them if it's not His will. I don't think that's the way God works. Often times, what we're asking God to do is to make our will His will. It's a lot easier than actually seeking His will.

Professing Christians have used the "it's His will" line to justify torture (during the Inquisition and Crusades) and murder. Even today, there are those that use "God's will" to harass and bomb abortion clinics or to hatefully treat gay and lesbian people. We overlay our will with "God's will" to justify abusing our children or our spouses. We decide that God wants us to be happy and so we fill our life with things that will make us happy. We decide that whatever makes us happy is God's will. We even justify leaving our marriages because we say it's not God's will for me to be unhappy.

Those that have placed their trust in Jesus have been rescued from the judgment; the condemnation that comes after this life. There is no promise that this life will be pain free. There is no assurance that we will not face the struggles of life. In fact, Jesus says that we will face trials because of Him.

Test God? If we are testing God to see if He will conform to our will, He won't. If we are testing Him to see if He's really God, He is--no matter what He does or doesn't do for us.

Finally, Satan brings out the big guns: power, wealth, fame--all the kingdoms of the world and all of their glory. Pretty tempting, indeed! And if Jesus would have had eyes that were focused on this world alone, He may have gone for it.

But His eyes were fixed on heaven and once again He relies on the Scriptures to make his choice.

Perhaps our greatest downfalls, our greatest failures come when we are focused on the things of Earth. Perhaps we too seldom think of God and too seldom serve Him only. We are weighted down with meeting the needs of our bosses, our parents, our kids, our spouses, our society, etc., etc.

We have no time to worship God; no time to serve Him only.

...And so we fall into temptation. We fall into sin. We offend God because He isn't really our God. Our gods have become the idols of self, of lust for power, wealth and fame. The gods we serve may serve us well in this life, but what of the life to come?

Who is your God? Will your God be ther for you in the next life? Will He stand with you at the Judgment? If His name is Jesus, He will.

"It is written..."


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