Sunday, February 22, 2015

Follow to the Wilderness

into   LENT

Goodness, we have had alot of snow in Ohio.
We have now cancelled three Sundays in February at TUMC.
We didn't get to have Ash Wednesday, again this year. 
Lent has begun, and so has this emphasis. "FOLLOW"
Follow into LENT and allow God to change your heart.

"How dry I am..."

Luke 4:1-13

New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Is Tested in the Wilderness

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted[a] by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’[b]
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’[c]
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.’[d]
12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[e]
13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

6 Sundays cover the time of Lent.
That's just not adequate time to actually cover all the scripture that has to do with the Lenten season. 

For the preacher, there is so much we'd like to say and so much scripture that is pertinent to this season. But, alas, we are forced to pick and choose. So it is with these six weeks. I have felt the need to cover these particular scripture as we walk towards Easter. We'd like to cover all of Jesus' ministry. I only had 6 weeks before we actually got to Lent. Not enough time to talk about all that Jesus said and people he healed and miracles he performed. Now, we'd like to see and cover all the preparations and times he referred to the cross and the temple and the moments he dealt with Pharisees and religious leaders.  

Just not enough time. 
So, it is with the wilderness. 

What is the "wilderness"?
Well, if we're just talking plainly, Jesus went out to the desert.
What is the desert like? It's barren. Not much grows there. 

It's hot. Nothing to protect a person from the sun. 
And, because of the harsh conditions, there's just not enough time.
What in the world are you talking about? What do you mean?
I mean exactly that. Stop and think about it. 

There's no time for anything to grow out there. By the time you took a young plant and stuck it in the ground, tried to water it, left it to grow, by the end of the day the heat and harsh climate would have certainly killed it. You don't have good soil in which to help a plant grow. Just a bunch of sand. Because of the sand, the water just gets soaked up or rolls away. It's just not a real good place for anything to survive. 

And, this is where Jesus goes. The desert. The "wilderness". 

The moment leading up to this is a grand one. 
Jesus was baptized at the Jordan. The heavens broke open. A dove descended. Some people thought they heard God speak. "This is my Son, whom I love". Mountain top material. Emotions escalated. Feelings of invincibility at an all time high. "I'm here to take on the world and nothing can stop me." 

And, then we head to the wilderness. Why?
Why can't we hang on to those moments of elation and awesomeness?
The scriptures say that the dove was the form of the Holy Spirit. 

Then we turn the corner into this scripture and it begins by saying "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit..."
It seems when we find ourselves in those moments of elation that the very next thing that happens is that the hard times approach. In fact, in Jesus' case, it says he was actually "led by the Spirit into the wilderness". Using the parallel bible study feature over at Bible Gateway we see that every translation you can look up in our English version uses the same phrase. "led by the Spirit into the wilderness". No variation there. If you're an avid bible reader, you should be used to seeing various translations using different phrases and words to actually say the same thing. Not in this passage and not on that verse. It's the same all over. "led by the Spirit" God the Father shined down upon his one and only Son, told him he loved him, fills him with the Spirit, and then sends him right into hard times. What in the world?

You've heard me refer to it many times. James, the earthly brother of Jesus, in his only letter, opens up by stating, "Count it all joy brothers, when you encounter various trials..." (James 1.2) Most all of us are not jumping up and down with joy at having to come down off the mountain top and go back to our pasty faced, dry, boring lives. We want to hang on to the elation. The joy. The excitement. The good times. The good feelings. But, the awful truth is that it does not last. Nor, is it supposed to. Trial always comes after excitement, elation, empowerment. Here comes the moment of testing. 

Some people are not comfortable with it, so I'm going to make note of it here. 
Yes, I am intentionally putting ourselves in Jesus' shoes. Why? Because we want to follow.
The Apostle Paul would make it clear to us that Jesus endured the same trials that we face. The same temptations. The same struggles. There's no shame or harm in going right for it and saying that what Jesus went through, we go through it also. Jesus was in the wilderness and so are we, at times. 

The wilderness is where we go to see if we can hang on to the great experience we just had. 

Any born-again Christian will attest to the fact. 
You come through a revival service where you worshipped like you were on the mountain top...
Hard times are going to hit you when you come down.
You go away for a retreat weekend and get full of good fellowship and awesome spirit...
Hard times are waiting for you when you get back.
You go away on a mission and feel incredible because you've been doing God's work...
You come home and have to go back to your same old boring life. 

This is the process. Mountain top to valley. 
To see if we can hang on to what we have. To energize us to face what's ahead. 
Hard times. They are going to come. Dry spells where things are rough and mean. Can't avoid em. 
Trying to make sure you never have another misunderstanding or argument with your loved one? Not going to happen. There are going to be moments when you don't see eye to eye. The truth of it is, you can manage how you handle yourself in that moment. Oswald Chambers would speak of coming back around to the same moments again and again until we learn how to overcome that "thing". That rough moment when our faith fails and we give into the temptation to do the wrong thing. We will revisit it again and again until we get it right. The wilderness is unavoidable fact of life. It will come. And, we need to learn how to handle ourselves when it arrives. 

How did Jesus handle it?
Well, we need a closer examination of what exactly he went through. And, the examination doesn't take very long, because our enemy doesn't use but the very basic of things to try and distract us. 

You might be used to me referring to Matthew 25, if you've followed enough of my messages. 
What is it that Jesus uses as his illustration of those who are following him? Remember the sheep and the goats? Where the sheep doing that Jesus liked? Feeding people. Clothing people. Visiting them when they were sick or in prison. They were meeting the needs of people on that very basic level. Food. Shelter, Clothing. Hospitality, Love. Fellowship. 

Now look at what our enemy, the devil, is tempting Jesus with in his wilderness moment.
tell this stone to become bread" Hey feed yourself. You know you're hungry. 
Jesus is focused on something other than food in this moment. God's word is what kept his steady. 
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’
"The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world." If only Jesus would worship the devil. Was Jesus so lonely and desperate out there in wilderness as to turn away from all he knew? He had no fellowship. Hadn't had any in 40 days. Maybe he was that lonely. maybe he felt the power of that Jordan River moment slipping away. 

No, Jesus is still in touch with that voice he heard from the heavens. He has a fellowship with the Father that few understand. Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only. He would continue to hang on to his mountaintop experience. But, there's one last thing the devil would push his buttons on. An abuse of power. 

Men have gone to prison for abusing power. And, some people have gotten away with much, never paying a cent for their crimes. Jesus knows how hard thins road to the cross is going to be. By the time we get to the Garden of Gethsemane in about 3 years, while Jesus is praying, the scriptures say that "his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground." (Luke 22) That was what it would take to say mankind. Blood. Sweat. Tears. Was it all really necessary? In the Garden, it says an angel visited him and comforted him. In the wilderness, there is no comfort. No visitation. No fellowship. It would be really easy to abuse some power here and simply make this all easier. No fuss, no muss. 
 “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.

The devil would like to see an angel appearance now. Jesus knows better. 
The only way to get this done is through the road that lay before him. To the cross. 
Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.

We actually get to see something grow in the desert. 

It took 40 days. There was a need to stay with it. Stay on top of it. Not let go. 
It got it's beginnings right here. What was it?


Jesus needed faith? You better believe it. 
Don't you need faith? Jesus went through everything that we go through. 
These wilderness moments are meant to try our faith. We have these great moments where everything is going good and wonderful. What does that do for our faith? It certainly helps it. We think God is listening. We think our prayers are being answered. And, then life goes sour. It seems like nothing is going right. It seems like God is distant and far off. What's being tried in that moment? Faith. 

Jesus went through this wilderness to be shown hat his Father would never abandon or forsake him.
In turn, we are shown that the father would never leave us or forsake us, just as the writer of Hebrews would state in the 13th chapter. Check these words out.

Hebrews 13

New International Version (NIV)

Concluding Exhortations

13 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
    never will I forsake you.”[a]
So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?”

What were we looking at from Matthew 25? How can we meet the basic needs of people? In doing so, they won't find the need to give in to temptation trying to meet those needs in a wrong way. See all the ways we could get off the path of faith and following here in this Hebrews passage. All because we think God has forsaken us or given up on us. We end up taking matters into our own hands. We try to do things our own way. Wasn't that what the devil was tempting Jesus to do in the wilderness? That's what happens in thos wilderness moments. We are tempted to give up on God. 

The truth is...God hasn't given up on us. 
And, our faith will be stronger when we come to grips with that.

No comments:

Post a Comment