YES, WE ARE TEMPTED

(By Pastor Bob Baker)

CONFESSION / LORD’S PRAYER

(READ OUT LOUD:  IF WITH FRIENDS/FAMILY, READ TOGETHER)

 

Divine God, our Guide, give us the clarity to understand our short-sightedness and be aware that we are tempted. Give us the courage to understand our shortcomings so we may avoid temptation and strengthen us to be all that you would expect from us. Forgive our weakness when we do yield to temptation.

CONFESSION / LORD’S PRAYER 

(READ OUT LOUD — IF WITH FRIENDS/FAMILY, READ TOGETHER)

Divine God, our Guide, give us the clarity to understand our short-sightedness and be aware that we are tempted. Give us the courage to understand our shortcomings so we may avoid temptation and strengthen us to be all that you would expect from us. Forgive our weakness when we do yield to temptation.

SCRIPTURE

(READ OUT LOUD — IF WITH FRIENDS/FAMILY, TAKE TURNS READING EACH SECTION)

 

Luke 4:1-3  1 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,’ 11 and ‘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.

PRAYER

(READ OUT LOUD — IF WITH FRIENDS/FAMILY, READ TOGETHER)

God, our father, help us to understand your message to us this day. Help us to understand that you love us deeply and completely and will help us in our daily struggles. Thank you for blessing us with your Son, our Word.  Amen.

MESSAGE:  “ÝES, WE ARE TEMPTED”   Luke 4:1-13 (By Pastor Bob Baker)

(READ OUT LOUD — IF WITH FRIENDS/FAMILY, TAKE TURNS READING EACH SECTION)

Temptation. Oscar Wilde is quoted as saying, "I can resist everything -- except temptation!" Another humorist observed that, "Most people want to be delivered from temptation but would like to keep in touch." Someone else asked, "Why does opportunity knock only once yet temptation bangs on the door constantly?"

Once there was a small boy who wanted a pair of skates. His parents, hoping to teach him the value of money, informed him that he would have to save the required amount from his allowance. His mother overheard him in his room one afternoon shaking his bank and counting his money. Then she heard the bell on the ice cream truck ringing loudly in the street outside. Mom waited to see what would happen. The boy wanted the skates, but he also liked ice cream. There was no sound from the room until the vehicle had gone, and the bell could no longer be heard. Then the boy was heard praying. "Dear Jesus, please don't let the ice cream truck come down my street anymore."

Temptation is all around us, isn't it? No doubt that is why every year during Lent, this unique period in the church year during which we are called to a rigorous self-examination, the church reads again the story of Christ's temptation in the wilderness.

(TAKE A FEW MOMENTS AND SHARE THE WAYS WE ARE TEMPTED)

Our story from Luke this morning is the classic New Testament account of temptation The Old Testament classic account being the serpent Tempting Eve in the Garden of Eden. As the lesson has it, Jesus is "led by the Spirit" into the wilderness where he encounters the devil.

Immediately, modern readers have a problem. We try to picture the scene - no problem with the rocks and shrubs of the desert, no problem with Jesus (we see him as depicted by artists over the ages), but what to do with the devil? That little guy in the red outfit with horns and a pitchfork that we see on Halloween?  Scary? Not really.

Show a picture of the devil in a red suit to a child and do they recoil in horror? No. Chances are, they might get him confused with Santa Claus. In fact, the biblical picture is not definitive at all. The New Testament sometimes speaks of the devil with human analogies: he is a "ruler" (John 12:31), a "murderer" (John 8:44), "the evil one" (John 17:15), the "enemy" (Matthew 12:39). But we also find animal images - a roaring lion (I Peter 5:8), a serpent (Revelation 12:17), a dragon (Revelation 12:9).  So how do we form our picture? Calvin warns that "it did not befit the Holy Spirit to feed our curiosity" and that we ought not to "linger over superfluous matters" in this area. OK.

As one writer has noted, "Part of our problem with the story of Jesus' temptation in the wilderness is just this inability to picture the devil as anything that is all that menacing. Someone once wrote that this is perhaps Satan’s greatest triumph in our time: that no one believes in him.

(TAKE A MOMENT AND SHARE WHAT YOU THINK THE DEVIL LOOKS LIKE OR WHAT FORM HE TAKES)

It may well be true that folks are less willing to believe in one supernatural source of evil than in generations past, but the fact that evil exists is beyond question. What is the source of that repressed rage, blood lust and violence deep within every one of us which ordinarily surfaces only in our dreams when we cannot control our innermost feelings and desires? Why is it that some decent people, some of them Bible-reading, church-going Christians, can become vicious beasts when they confront Jews or blacks or frightened women trying to make their way into an abortion clinic? Why do otherwise compassionate human beings stand aside and let fellow human beings suffer from the brutality of others? Why do good people and good governments allow the world to be divided into the affluent few and the starving many? The answer is that there is EVIL out there that is beyond the action or inaction of individuals.

A biologist by the name of Lyall Watson has written a book called Dark Nature in which he discusses an idea which suggests that just as genes are the units which transmit biological characteristics from one generation to the next, so also there may be "memes." The theory says memes are units of transmission of culture, and they are spread between us by being caught, by leaping from brain to brain. They are ideas. Memes are like cultural viruses which affect us all. They may be such things as catchy tunes which everybody finds themselves humming, or catchy phrases, or crazes in fashions, or ways of playing games, or following pop stars, or whatever.

The trouble is, successful memes do not have to be nice, they just have to be catchy. So religion could be a successful meme. We are told Christianity has to be caught rather than taught, so that sounds like it could be a meme. But Klan violence, or random mayhem in angry crowds, or anti-Semitism, or vandalism could be equally successful memes. Watson goes on to suggest there may be already enough bad news in the air to infect anyone, anywhere, at any time.

The theological way of describing that phenomenon is called Original Sin. As the Council of Trent in 1546 said, the sin of Adam "is one in origin and is passed on by propagation not by imitation." In other words, we do not have to do anything. We are all infected by it, simply because we live. So biology and theology agree. Isn't that good news?

In a way that might be handy. If evil is all around us, if it infects us like a vicious virus, if its stain is unavoidable, then we have an excuse. We cannot help it. It is not our fault. “The devil made me do it,” to borrow the old Flip Wilson line. But suddenly we are confronted by these temptations of Jesus and are brought up short.

Look at them for a moment – not particularly awful, are they? There are no enticements to ill-gotten gains or incredible debauchery. No inducement to slaughter Romans or assassinate Caesar. If this devil were really evil, why not tempt Jesus to do some of the things we read and hear about every day?

Still, the three temptations presented are strong, and every one of them is based on truth which is a fearful reminder about how the truth can be used for evil purposes. 

1. Jesus, you are incredibly powerful; use that power to meet your own needs. If you do not take care of yourself, you will not be able to take care of anyone else.              

 

On top of that, if word gets around that you turn stones into bread, think how many folks would follow you. Everyone can use a little extra bread. Who could have blamed Jesus for doing something like that?

2. Let folks know beyond the shadow of a doubt that YOU ARE THE MESSIAH, the Chosen One of God. What a spectacular stunt to leap from the Pinnacle of the Temple, drop the 450 feet straight down into the Kidron Valley, and land unharmed. God’s angels will protect you. People will surely listen to your message when they hear what you have done. Would anyone legitimately reproach Jesus for deciding to take that course?

3. The third temptation was enormous – unchallenged political power to right all the wrongs in every kingdom of the world. How incredibly simple, Jesus: you can order folks to listen. You can order justice and an end to all oppression. What a wonderful opportunity! All it will take is a tiny compromise, an ever-so-slight division in your loyalties. You do not have to stop worshiping the God of heaven, just spread that worship around a bit. Jesus, this is the offer you cannot refuse. Who could have blamed him for accepting?

These are three temptations of Christ but no doubt there were more. A little over 30 years have passed since Martin Scorsese’s film “The Last Temptation of Christ” was released. The furor was incredible. People were horrified that the film would suggest that Jesus had sexual thoughts or could harbor notions of abandoning his mission or have fantasies about marrying Mary Magdalene and settling down. There were marches and demonstrations. One Sunday, as the congregation was filing out after the 11:00 o’clock service, a well-dressed young man came to the church door obviously looking to speak to the pastor. In his hand he held a petition and a plan of action to use the pastor to help prevent the distribution or showing of “The Last Temptation of Christ.” The pastor declined because he had not seen the film and would not condemn it on the basis of hearsay evidence. He would make his own decision after seeing it. The pastor finally did see it (after it came out on video). For the most part the movie struck him as silly, but, in its own silly way, it did reaffirm the truth of scripture where we read, “He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

I am intrigued at the way Jesus avoided giving in. Every proposal by the devil was refuted by SCRIPTURE. After each of the temptations was offered, Jesus quoted scripture. Perhaps that should not be surprising. After all, spiritual maturity only comes when we have a deep relationship with the God of all the universe whom we meet and learn from in the pages of the Bible.

Is that the answer to overcoming temptation? Know all the scripture you can? Well, that would not hurt, but…unfortunately, a huge red flag is raised at the end of the lesson. Did you hear it? Verse 13: “When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.” In other words, this struggle with temptation is ongoing…for Jesus, and most certainly for you and me. Isn’t that good news?

No. Of course not. But there IS good news here. As we continue our Lenten pilgrimage, this unique period during which we are called to self-examination, we can note that the temptations we encounter are not new. Indeed, they are most often common to us all.

Yes, there will be wilderness journeys – times when we experience physical or emotional hunger, times when we are tired of being ignored and wish someone would notice us, times when we are frustrated at not being able to make a difference in our own life or anyone else’s – the same temptations that Jesus felt. The message is BE CAREFUL ABOUT SETTLING FOR THE EASY WAY OUT. It may be nothing short of evil.

Yes, there is evil in the world, and yes, we are always in danger of being caught up in it. But we know one thing more, and this one thing is the most important of all: “Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39). Amen!

APPLICATION

Strengthen your resolve through prayer

Become stronger by studying God’s word

Form strategies for resisting temptation

ACTIONS

Continue your Lenten practice

Don’t give in to temptation to break the quarantine and run out for no good reason

Continue to pray for health and safety in the world

Do your best to protect you and your family and friends

LISTEN TO THE FOLLOWING SONG ON YOUTUBE:

https://youtu.be/6glgAYgAKl0

(or type in: “Leaning On The Everlasting Arms Deedra Tari”)

CLOSING PRAYER:

Lord Jesus, we have seen again how you were tempted and tested. We see how you were able, even in a weakened state to resist and reject those temptations. We pray for the same resolve in our lives to resist and reject the temptations that come our way that would prove harmful to your cause, ourselves and those close to us.

Most of all, Lord Jesus, we pray to be able to resist those things that would keep us from you. You are everything to us in life, death and our resurrection into your eternal kingdom. We want to be faithful to your calling upon our lives.

We pray for the world to have healing and peace. May we do our part to help this goal be accomplished. In your holy and precious name we pray. 

Amen.

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms

What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

REFRAIN:

Leaning, leaning,
Safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

Oh, how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
Oh, how bright the path grows from day to day,
Leaning on the everlasting arms. 

 

REFRAIN

What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms. 

REFRAIN

© 2018 by Woodland Hills Presbyterian Church

  • Facebook - White Circle
  • Instagram - White Circle