The Temptation of “Just Do It”
February 15, 2016 § Leave a comment
Here is the sermon I preached on the First Sunday of Lent. It is on the Temptations of Jesus in the wilderness… If you’d like to listen to it rather than read it the audio is right here: https://soundcloud.com/saint_william/thetemptationofjesussermon
May only Truth Be Spoken and Only Truth Received
“And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing in those days; and when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, ” If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, ‘man shall not live on bread alone.'”
This is the first temptation of Jesus.
And the devil took him up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said ” To you I will give all this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you worship me, it shall all be yours.” And Jesus answered him “It is written ‘ you shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve’ ”
This is the second temptation of Jesus.
I’d like to pause here before we move on to the third temptation and spend some time with these two.
From the first temptation… “when they [the forty days] were ended… the devil said to him… command this stone to become bread” And Jesus said, No!
Hold on a second… the forty days were over! Jesus’ fast was over. He could, if he had chosen, eaten anything he wanted because his fast was over! And yet, Jesus knew this recommendation from the devil was a temptation… but how could it have been a temptation, if it was after his time of fasting and he was free to eat what he chose?
Think of this more as a symbolic temptation. The first thing the devil did here on earth was tempt Adam and Eve into eating. This resistance, even though it was well with His discipline, was a sign of what Jesus was planning to do to the rest of the Devil’s Power.
Again, Jesus is God, Jesus is the One through whom all things were made. Jesus already had authority and glory from all the Kingdom’s that the devil had just taken a moment to show him. How is this a temptation? Well, because Jesus came to earth to Die on the Cross to redeem you and I back to God. If Jesus had taken this temptation, the people of Jerusalem would never have crucified Him because they would be under His authority. Jesus could have simply issued the decree, feed the poor, and take care of the widows… and it might have happened. But that would have left the Power Sin in control because death would remain undefeated. This temptation was the ability to avoid the cross.
The third temptation.
“And he took him to Jerusalem and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here; for it is written, He will give you his angels charge of you, to guard you, and on their hand they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”
This temptation is different. The other two sounded like this, why not satisfy your hunger, your fast is over? And Why not avoid the most deplorable death imaginable while also gaining the power to do all the good you ever want to do?
This temptation is different it sounds like “you think your so high and mighty? Prove it! ” And Jesus said No.
As of last Wednesday, we have found ourselves in the season of Lent. Some of us are in the process of building up a Rule of Life as a Lenten discipline, and others have adopted a shared rule in the Lenten experiment. Some of us have decided to take up a personal discipline. Or like Rachel and I did a few years ago, we took lent off for Lent. Meaning the time leading up to Lent had been desert and wilderness enough, and we were just coming out of it. The last thing we needed was to dive back in… it would have been too soon.
No matter what discipline you have adopted, or even if you haven’t adopted one, temptation will make itself known to you more clearly during these next forty days by the simple fact that we are talking about it now.
And so I’ll ask the question that feels like it is begging to be asked at this moment. Who among us could resist the temptations we just heard offered to Jesus.The Bible tells us no less that thirteen times that all things are possible with God.
Matthew 19:26 “Jesus looked at them and said to them, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’
“So would we be able to resist the temptations of eating when it is within our rights, and yet still a sin, to skip over death and wield incredible power, and prove our enemies wrong when provoked? Well, yes.
But I think if that the story we are telling here, well, I’d like to quote my priest from back home… in Winnipeg. “Talk about adventures in missing the point” Jesus has given us the perfect template by which we might model our future encounters with temptation. But the catch is, as much as it is in-fact possible… it is not required.
Did you get that? As much as it is possible… it is not required of us. But more than that, not only is it not required, it is not even what God wants from us. All God wants from us is that we desire to draw nearer to Him. And so if resisting temptation will draw us nearer to God, which don’t get me wrong I certainly think it can, then it is what God wants from us. But, if we are doing it in the name of God, for the wrong reasons, which ultimately, is any reason other than drawing nearer to God, then forget it… we’re being no better than the pharisee’s praying their loud prayers out on the street corners, so that everyone can see how righteous they are.
Sorry, that last bit was me getting sidetracked at breakfast this morning… back to requirements As much as it is in-fact possible… it is not required.
It was once required, however… we were all enslaved to the Power of Sin along with that God gave us a Law that told us what we NEEDED to do to make ourselves right before God. We needed to do it; it was required. The whole book of Leviticus is full of laws for us to follow so that we could be seen as worthy in God’s eyes. But the problem was that even when we brought that perfect lamb to be sacrificed for our sins, most likely later that very day sin would work it’s way back into our lives, and we’d need to go back and do it all over again.
But that’s all over. All of that ended the day Jesus died on the Cross. Jesus lived a perfect life, He satisfied every law, resisted every temptation, everything that God required of humankind was satisfied in the life and death of Jesus.
And when I say everything, I don’t mean everything but… So, when the temptation to sleep comes, when it is time to pray in the morning when we have committed ourselves, and we give in to that temptation… I mean everything has been satisfied by the life and death of Jesus, I don’t mean everything except for morning prayer at 7:30. I mean everything including our inevitable failure to share our faith, tithe, pray at 7:30, attend Sunday worship, the extra meeting to talk about how things are going, fail to follow through on our own designed rule, to have that piece of chocolate or cup of coffee on a Tuesday even though we gave it up for Lent.
Well, I feel like there is another question begging to be asked at this point. Why bother doing any of this at all? If it’s not, because we should? When what is it?
It is because we can, but do not have to! Again, it is because we can, but we do not have to. We have been given the freedom to take Lent off for Lent if need be.
Our prayer at 7:30 is because we can choose to, our tithing is because we can opt in, our Sunday worship is because we want to be there, our sharing of faith is because the opportunity presented itself, our attending the extra gathering is because we want to share God’s movement in our lives.
On the other hand, if we choose not to, don’t opt in, don’t want to be there, the opportunity does not present itself, or don’t feel like sharing… that doesn’t change a thing.
And so, when temptation is staring us in the face this Lent, and we give in, because we will… don’t think about how we failed, because “with God all things are possible.” Think about the resurrected Jesus making His disciples breakfast on the shore right after they had just rejected him at the crucifixion.
And when the devil is tempting you to sleep-in past morning prayer, and by the Grace of God and through the power of the Holy Spirit, you mumble your way through the prayers, and fall right back asleep. Don’t think about how you had to do it, or else. Think about Jesus making his disciples breakfast on the shore right after they rejected him at the crucifixion, and how glad you are to have spent that time with the One, who would have loved you anyways.