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Yesterday at St. Matthew’s Erin and I both preached from Luke 4: 1-13, the temptation of Jesus. Each Sunday we preach from the same text, it’s one of the things that we to do help our church be unified through our three services. By the way, you can listen to any of our sermons by visiting the podcast portion of St. Matthew’s website.
Temptation is something that we all struggle with, and I think in reading what happened to Jesus, we can learn a lot about how we can deal with temptation ourselves. Listen to what the text says:
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” 4 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”
5 Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 Jesus answered him, “It is written,
‘Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.’”
9 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,
‘He will command his angels concerning you,
to protect you,’
‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”
12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
As I read this text, there were (at least) four things that jumped out to me about temptation. And maybe this is one of the reasons Jesus was tempted, to show us how to resist it.
First, notice the devil attacks Jesus when He was weak. It says that Jesus had been fasting and was famished. And that is when the devil came at Him. You will face temptation. You will. Know that the devil knows your weakness. He will hit you there. You will face temptation in the spots where you are your weakest. Be aware. Be on guard. Know these places, know these spots. And don’t give temptation a foothold. Don’t play with fire. The devil knows where you are most vulnerable. Be on watch in those areas.
Second, the devil tries to make Jesus doubt. He tells Jesus, if you are the Son of God. Jesus knew who He was. The devil tried to make Him doubt. The devil will make us doubt. He’ll try to make us doubt God’s love. He’ll try to make us doubt our worth. He’ll try to make us doubt God’s truth. He will do all in His power to put those doubts in our minds. Don’t let him. Because you have to remember number three.
Third, the devil lies. If you don’t remember anything else about temptation. Remember this. Temptation is a lie. Temptation is a lie. It always is. It looks good. But it kills us. In the text the devil says that all authority has been given to him to give to whomever he wants. Nope. That’s God’s call, not His. He is lying. Temptation is always a lie. When you hear that voice, tempting you, always know that voice is a lie. If the devil’s lips are moving, they are lying. Temptation promises life and fun and ends in destruction. Temptation is always lie.
And last the devil misuses scripture. In the text, the devil quotes the bible to Jesus. But he is misusing it. Not everyone that quotes the bible is of God. Know your Bible. Remember your context. Be aware of the truth of God’s Word. The devil will try to use the Bible for harm and for destruction. So that means that you have to know the Bible for yourself. Read it. Study it. Pray with it. Make it yours. When you know the Bible, you will better be able to stand against those temptations.
Temptation is coming. We will all face it. Jesus faced it, so will we. And when it comes, may we find the grace to stand against it.
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Sorry for missing last week! My week began with me not feeling well and then spiraled out of control from there! Thanks for your patience, we are back up and going this week.
Today we close out Mark 9 by looking at verses 42-50:
42 “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, 48 where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.
49 “For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
Today in this passage Jesus speaks with some great hyperbole. He says if you hand causes you to sin, cut it off! If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out! If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off!
Is Jesus advocating mutilation? No, He is not doing that. Across scripture, we see that the body is good and we are called to take care of it. By the way, real quick, when the Bible talks about “the flesh” it isn’t talking about our literal body, it’s talking about the sinful desires that we all have. The “body” is good, it was created good. But after the fall, our desires were corrupted. So, when you hear “flesh” in scripture, know it’s not talking about the actual body, but the sinful desire.
The point Jesus is making here is this, sin is a big deal. It really is. It is destructive. It hurts. It causes pain, it causes ripples. It hurts you, it hurts others. Don’t, through your actions, cause others to fall. Especially one of the little ones.
I spend a lot of time talking about grace, because it all comes down to grace. Everything. But we need to be aware of the power of sin. Sin is destructive. Sin is harmful. Sin hurts so many, it hurts us, it hurts others, it hurts our walk with God.
Jesus is saying here, because with sin. Sin is not a play thing. It is not something to be ignored. It is something to take seriously. It is something to be aware of. Don’t ignore it, don’t play with it, don’t think it’s not a big deal.
It is. It is destructive. So, better to get rid of something that allow sin to run wild.
So, while maybe we don’t need to cut off a hand or a foot, is something in our lives we need to “cut” off or get rid of? Because if something is causing us or leading us to sin, it’s not a good thing. It’s a destructive, bad thing.
Today, may we look within and find the things that are destructive to us, to our souls, and to others. And may God give us the grace to get rid of them within our lives!
Tomorrow we’ll look at Mark 10:1-12.
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One of the best things in the world that we can do is know ourselves. Know our strengths. Know our weaknesses. There’s an old saying – Know Thyself. That’s a good thing. Because when we know ourselves, we know what to be on the lookout for. What are things that could cause us trouble.
What are the things in our lives, in our past, in our present, that could trip us up? Tempt us? Cause to get ourselves in trouble? Do we know ourselves?
One of the things I really believe is that the Bible is the revelation of God’s truth for us, it points us to Jesus who is the author and perfecter of our faith. But it also points us for how to live, and for is just true. The Bible points us over and over again to truth. In fact, that old saying really be better understood in the light of James 1: 12-15:
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
James tells us, when you are lead into tempted, don’t say – God is tempting me. Know where your temptations come from. Within us. Our flesh. Our desires. Our stuff.
That’s why we have to know ourselves.
What tempts you? Where are you weak? Where are you easily knocked off course. Where does trouble come for you?
When you know where your weak spots are, you’ll know where to be on the watch. You’ll know what to avoid. Where to be careful.
We aren’t all tested by the same thing. We have different weak spots. Different temptations. Different struggles. Different histories. Different everythings.
What tempts me may not tempt you, and vice versa. But I need to be aware of what tempts me.
That way I can (1) avoid it and (2) guard my heart against it when it can’t be avoided. When I know myself, and you know yourself, we can (through God’s grace) better stand.
Today, what tempts you? What is it that gets you? Know that, and be aware. And, when we know our weakness, we have a better shot of being faithful. We have a better chance of being salt and light!
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What is this secret? What can change things so radically?
It’s this. Temptation is a lie. It is temptation, in all of its forms, is simply a lie. Think about temptation. What does it offer? What does it promise?
Fun. Or power. Or wealth. Or status. Or popularity. Or a million different things. Temptation always promises us something that we would want to have.
Every temptation does that.
And what does temptation always give us? Guilt. Shame. Self-loathing. Hatred. Destruction.
Death. In the end. It gives us death.
So, temptation promises us something good and gives us something bad. It’s a lie.
Remember that. Seriously. Drill it down into your skull right now. Temptation is a lie.
Listen to what Jesus said in John 8: 44-45:
You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.
Jesus tells the Pharisees that they are doing the work of their father, the devil. They are lying because the devil is a liar. He is the father of lies.
That’s all he’s ever done is lie. Everything he says, everything he does, he’s a liar.
Temptation is a lie. The devil is a liar. When temptation comes, don’t listen to the promises of fun and life, remember what it is.
A lie. Temptation is a lie.
Always. Never forget that.
And when we see it for what it is, we can resist it (through God’s power) a little bit easier!
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