Saturday, April 26, 2014


 The challenge is to keep believing.

Last week we covered the subject of believing.
I asked many of you a very simple question. Several of you came forward and shook my hand.
I simply asked, "Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God?"
Those of you who came forward responded simply with a "Yes" or "I do".

So, you believe. In believing, we find new life in Jesus Christ.
But, are you ready for the next step? What is the next step?


Some of you found new life right at the beginning of this series on discipleship, back in January.
If you have been following Christ, you know that it's not always easy. There are distractions, within and without. We could talk about resistance from both sides of the fence. There are times when human beings resist God and demand their own way. That's another sermon for another day. The kind of resistance we will cover today comes from outside ourselves.

If we give into the temptations from the outside, then we begin to see resistance within ourselves. So, one step at a time. We will cover the outside problems first. In doing so, we need to see a very important verse to help us set a firm foundation in our hearts so the enemy doesn't come in and start making problems on the inside. The Psalmist would write...

Psalm 119:11

New International Version (NIV)
11 I have hidden your word in my heart
    that I might not sin against you.

The word. The scriptures. These pages that talk about God and who He is are truly life for us.
These pages are authority because we give them authority. The church decreed ages ago through councils and meetings that these specific books are the ones that make up our sacred scriptures. The Bible. But, at the heart of it, behind all the men and meetings, is God. The author and authority is the one who gave inspiration to these words and this recorded history.

We will look at some very familiar scripture here. It is Jesus' temptation in the wilderness.
Last week was a new beginning for some. A clean slate. A new life. You say you believe. Jesus also knows what that moment is like, as he went through everything we have gone through. Baptism is one of those moments where new life begins. A starting point. We find joy and God shows us that we are his children. And, just as soon as the specialness of the moment has subsided, here comes our enemy to make things hard for us.

Jesus knows this all to well. He is baptized at the Jordan by John the Baptist in Matthew 3. We turn the page to Matthew 4 and Jesus is suddenly out in the wilderness. Have you been in a place where you feel all alone? Have you been in a spot where you feel like you have to answer the questions all by yourself, no one around to ask or help? Jesus knows what it's like as well. The wilderness is not a place we intentionally go to. It looks like Jesus may have done so. But, everything he did was for our benefit. We see what he endures so that we can learn to be strong and grow in our faith. Our own wilderness experiences stem from moments when we might feel we need to be alone. Or, we find moments when we really could use some company, but there is no one to respond to our phone call or text message. We find ourselves in a barren place. All we have in this spot in life is what we recall from the scriptures and whatever newness of life we can sap out of that baptismal experience.

It's been 40 days. The flood supposedly took that long, with all the raining and down pouring. Judgement is never an easy thing to endure. Neither is temptation. But, for Jesus, the 'fun' has not truly begun yet. It is when he is most hungry, at the point of true starvation, that the temptation comes. Our enemy is just about to enter and ask "Are we having fun yet?" in the form of a statement about bread.

 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Bread. Part of our everyday lives and such a simple need. It's no big request. It doesn't seem like much resistance to our cause and direction. But, focusing on God is the mainstay here. For Jesus, he will not satisfy even the most basic of human needs until the time of wilderness is over.

Matthew 4:4

New International Version (NIV)
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[a]

More than bread, more than basic human sustenance, the desire to follow God comes first.
Are we willing to follow the Lord and give up even the simplest things in life?
Resistance is cut down when the enemy knows that this area of life is of no use in his wiley schemes.

If the need to feed ourselves is not an ample way for our enemy to seek us out, then why not try to approach us on the grounds of saving grace? Satan takes Jesus to the top of the temple mount. The entire religious establishment can be seen from here. Figuring out why we are here on this earth can be a troublesome issue for the human being. Our enemy knows why we are here, and it troubles him. We seek purpose and a need to belong. We seek it out in the most desperate of places, sometimes. We put ourselves in harm's way, at times, in an unnecessary pursuit of fulfillment. Our enemy knows why Jesus is here. He knows the whole game plan, Or, at least he thinks he does.

The road ahead of Jesus will not be easy to endure. People will not listen. People will try to kill him. There is a temptation to see if God is truly there. We need to know that God is listening and will meet our needs. Why not just put ourselves out there and see if God is watching?

“If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[c]

We are God's children. Won't God always help us, forgive us, clean up our messes for us? Should we go through life just doing whatever we want to do, saying whatever we want to say, acting however we want to act? God's loves us, right?

Matthew 4:7

New International Version (NIV)
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[a]

God's love is not to be tested. Have we forgotten the lessons laid before us in the Old Testament? When Israel did not listen, when they went astray and walk their own path, there were consequences to be dealt with. Testing God's love and patience is not a path we want to take. Think of your own children and how much you can take from their mouth and actions. Do you let your own children just do whatever they want, however they want to do it? Any good parent should be shaking their heads "NO". God is our parent. Somehow, we get things turned around when it comes to God. We think he should just cover us no matter what. He's God, isn't he?!?! God's love is unconditional. Yes, his love is. The Christian life comes with conditions to be met. And, one lesson we should learn, preferably very early, is not to put God to the test.

I've never really understood the last temptation.
Does our enemy seriously think he can tempt the Son of God, who is God, in the flesh, to actually worship him? It took some deeper study to understand what is going on here. History has come full circle. All three passages that Jesus quotes are from Deuteronomy. They are from moments when our enemy dealt with the nation of Israel in the past.

What did they do with the bread in the wilderness? They griped and complained. They wanted meat. They wanted things back that they had before, in Egypt, even if the life hey had before was hard. What they formerly had, in their minds, seems better than wandering in he desert. What they needed to do was follow the Lord and let him take them through this dry patch of life to a lusher, fuller way in the Promised land. Jesus makes it clear that the words and direction from God means more than bread itself.

The Israelite people griped and complained some more about God taking care of them. They seemed to think that if God was actually taking care of them then life shouldn't be so hard and rough. Listen to what the Lord was saying to his people.

Deuteronomy 6

New International Version (NIV)

Love the Lord Your God

These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.

Seeing inside the mind of our enemy is a luxury we cannot obtain. Does this last temptation happen purely for history's sake or does he really think Jesus might bow? Is he purely pleading to Jesus' human nature in hopes that the Heavenly Creator might bow down and worship the creation? Why not? Human beings worship the creation all the time. The things we invent. The items that think we need so much in life. Does Satan really think he will win this battle? Maybe he is just that diluted.
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

Our enemy knows not just why Jesus is here. He also knows what the battle is truly for. ALL OF THIS. Everything you can see. Who does it all belong to?  Our time. Our talents. Our energy. Our strength. Our families. Our jobs. Our money. Our church. Our cities and towns. Satan is willing to give it all up for just the simple bend of the knee.

The problem is...we don't actually gain anything and our enemy doesn't actually give anything up. All possessions stay with their rightful owners. Paul refers to Satan as the "god of this world". This system of sin we witness in the realm, this way of life, is controlled by this "god". Giving into temptation won't cause our enemy to give up any kind of strangle hold on this realm. It actually strengthens it. And, the process of resistance continues down a spiral path.

Jesus knows the history of his people. Jesus has seen enough. The people of Israel could not follow on these three points. Jesus has resolutely determined that he will. This battle royale has come to a conclusion.

Matthew 4:10

New International Version (NIV)
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’[a]

 Merriam-Webster would define resisitance as follows...


noun \ri-ˈzis-tən(t)s\
: refusal to accept something new or different
: effort made to stop or to fight against someone or something
: the ability to prevent something from having an effect

Well, bread certainly wasn't new or different. It was the path to obtain it that changed the game.
Going to the top of the temple proved to be a fight. The devil didn't win that one either.
The effect our enemy sought to have on this world, on us, on God himself, was put to an end when Jesus gave it all up for his creation. With arms wide open, the greatest worship mankind has ever witnessed  was performed on a hill called Calvary. A reading of Luke suggests that Satan would leave "until a more opportune time".

Too bad for Satan. That opportune moment turned out to be our victory.
And, I really don't feel too bad about it.

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