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Believing is Seeing in Temptation

Lent cross

Sermon, Lent 1, February 17, 2013.

Believing is seeing

Luke 4:1-13

Temptation: Avoiding playing God

Where does temptation come from and how do we resist temptation? And why resist anyway?

A few people said temptation come from within. It is us: WE build up things that cause too much temptation. We crave things – “Sex, Drugs, Rock N’ Roll”.

One girl said, “We are looking for something more. We try to find things that we think will be able to fill the void”.

Maybe she read Blaise Paschal, the French Christian philosopher. On temptation he said.

“There is a God-shaped vacuum in every person Which cannot be filled by any created thing But only by God the creator Made know through Jesus Christ”

And what of resistance? Avoid, Pray, Will.

Avoid getting into places and scenes where tempting things will have a good chance of winning our hearts. Pray to God for strength. Will yourself through self-discipline to resist. Have faith in God to override the temptation…..

All bits of advice that have their place, but are they getting to the real essence of temptation? I think not. I am with Paschal too.

“There is a God-shaped vacuum in every person Which cannot be filled by any created thing But only by God the creator Made know through Jesus Christ”

Lucky for us that Jesus knows all about temptation and what drives it.

There are three temptations dangled in front of Jesus as he faces the beginning of his mission.

3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

This is the temptation of being god to yourself and believing that you create your life. This is God replacement therapy! The Evil one reduces the Son of God to a man searching for bread to survive. The Evil One would love to see us as being desperate people scratching around for any morsel of life we can find and believing that life and wellness and love are OUR creation – things we are in competition with each other to find ain a dog-eat-dog world.

If I could magically have the Midas touch and turn everything I touch into gold I would be truly happy, content, fulfilled and full of the bread I have accumulated and controlled – so we believe…

 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘People do not live on bread alone.’[b]”

Me being a little god to myself and making your own bread is a myth and a sham. Bread has its place. Bread is a gift from the Bread of Life himself.

But bread is not a mere thing to be gotten by any means, even magic means. Bread is an extension of God’s gracious heart and hand. Money, well-being, contentment is pure gift from the giver of all good gifts.

I don’t make life happen. Everything I experience and know is created for me by the Lord. Trying to make our own life and manoeuvring yourself into some illusion of control over your life is mere pretence.

God is the author of life. He is speaks life into being by his powerful word. Without his Word of favour and blessing and love, there is no life, no matter how much bread you have.

People of God, we “do not live on bread alone.’”… but on every word that comes from the Lord’s mouth – his word in the word of a friend, the Word of the Bible, the enacted word of the holy gifts of God in worship – Gifts of the Spirit and the fruit his Word creates in us by faith in Jesus – the Bread of Life sent down from above – not to condemn the world but love it and save it and bless it…

 5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendour; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.”

This is the temptation of short cut to glory! It is the attempt to find a shortcut to money, and the power and authority that comes from this in our community

This is also the individualism of our age on show. It is the belief that I can operate as a Christian outside the worshipping community of God’s people and the gifts of Jesus given there. I can really do it MY WAY without any sharpening, challenge, love and acceptance of the people of God in a local community.

This temptation also includes the false belief that there is gain without pain, glory without suffering, an easy road to spiritual greatness or closeness to God. It is the false belief of many a Christian that that God is in the good things and the glory, but not in the suffering and the low things. Suffering is therefore not be avoided and denied lest we lose our foothold in glory.

 8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”

Jesus bears witness in this extreme temptation for him in his hunger and aloneness to the reality that the Lord is life. The Lord is Creator God – author and giver of all life. And this almighty and holy God is in the desert, in the suffering, in the loneliness and these low things are where he does his best work in us!

The worship of the Lord and the commitment to serve him only and above all else in his community called the church is life and joy and peace. The discipline of community and the shared commitment to serve and love the Lord with our heart, mind and soul as we gladly live in his way and will given in those 10 commandments is not slavery or restriction but covenant love.

The Creator of the world provides the community and his boundaries of how we live not to restrict us but to help us love each other more fully and love him more completely.

We gather in the name of the Bread of Life and receive the Bread of Life by his gracious hand and we are free to serve, love and give. There is no other way to glory and life in God. Yes, people of God, why wouldn’t we ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.

 9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; 11 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

This is the temptation to manipulate God for one’s own purposes. This is our attempt to bargain with God. “If you do this for me I will do that for you, Lord……”

This is that old temptation of settling for wanting what God can give but not God himself – like the two lost sons in that parable. Both wanted what their Father could give them, but not a loving relationship with their Father. Yes, Lord, I want help, relief, more success, less pain, less danger to my plans for my life and if you give me a good life and health and safety then I will do this for you……

The motivation is MY LIFE and not the free abandoned love for and gladly serving of the Lord of my life.

 12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”

Friends, we cannot manipulate God. He is God. He is life. Our lives are in his hands and because of this 40 days in the desert and all that would happen after it on the way to the way of suffering in Jerusalem, we know that we in very good hands.

There is no need to bargain with God with your life. He is your life and your life is given to you as gift from the author of life. Your life is caught from falling into the abyss of hopelessness, self-interested, regret, fear and hate by the love and kindness and suffering of this Saviour.

So of course, as his people, we have no need to put the Lord your God to the test.”

So, temptation in whatever form is about what is going on inside of us. It is tempting because of the idol factory we carry around within us. We will trust anything for our wellbeing and life than the Lord. From this basic flaw comes all of the above.

But as we believe in his desert journey, his suffering, his love for his world we can see things anew. We believe and then we see. For us it is not “Seeing is believing, but “believing is seeing”.

As we trust Jesus our in the desert and his Word on these temptation we face, we see that he is in our desert – our place of temptation, hunger for meaning and that grinding sense of aloneness.

As we believe, we see. As we trust we become more aware of his Word piercing our soul and breathing new life and joy into us – in whatever desert, whatever God-sized hole in our relationship, whatever deep longing for purpose, whatever doubting or ourselves and God’s church.  Believing that his Word is for you, his promises are true, and his life is in you.

Friends, I want to believe and then see more of what the Lord has in store for us as a church as we together face our temptations. I can pray to Jesus and trust him for our present and future because I know we will triumph in the desert with him.  Can we seek him together, you an I, this 40 days and seek his will for us at this particular time, trusting him to steer this ship and help us avoid being beach on the desert sands, but instead being gushing streams of life in this place?

 Believing is seeing that we can triumph in all temptations and see him at work in all we face.

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