Lent – 1st Sunday
February 10, 2008
Everybody faces it. We’ve been dealing with it since Adam and Eve in the garden. It’s the whole idea that there are things that are bad for us or bad for others that nevertheless look very appealing to do.
Food is great. But if we eat too much or eat the wrong stuff our health gets affected.
Sex is great. But if we have it with the wrong people or in the wrong way then the family and society are destabilized and public health is compromised.
Power is great. But if we abuse it then lots of people get hurt and we ourselves become dehumanized as we dehumanize others.
And so it goes. Adam and Eve wanted to be like God. But instead of receiving this godly identity as a gift from God, they decided to grasp it for themselves. They listened to a lie, took the forbidden fruit for themselves, and the rest is history. We, the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve keep trying to grab a hold of the things we want. Tendencies toward pride and fear and greed keep the old cycle of temptation going.
And yet God in his graciousness sent us a gift through Jesus. Today we are going to learn how to overcome temptation by meditating on the temptations of Jesus.
Let’s take a look at his situation. He has been alone in the desert fasting and praying. In this situation he is probably at his weakest moment. Think about it. For those who are involved in recovery groups they have a little saying that when you are “hungry, angry, lonely, and tired” you need to HALT. These situations leave us vulnerable to our addictions and our temptations.
Certainly Jesus was hungry, lonely, and tired.
And then the temptations came
If you are the Son of God, then turn stones to bread.
If you are the Son of God, then jump from the parapet.
I’ll give you everything if you worship me.
What a sequence.
The first and most basic temptation the devil had was to strike at Jesus identity as the Son of God. Notice how he puts it to the question? Then he suggests something innocent enough. Turn stones to bread. But the whole idea here was to strike at Jesus core identity. And he strikes through the temptations of appetite. That is why people fall into sins of the appetite. They first believe a lie about their own identity. We believe that we are not loved. So we look for love and satisfaction in all the wrong places. We use food, drugs, sex, and other entertainments to mask our inner doubts. We believe the lie.
How did Jesus overcome? He never doubted who he was. He was grounded through prayer and knowledge of the Word of God. He was ready for this temptation and he overcame.
The second basic temptation the devil had was to strike at Jesus’ relevance in ministry. He takes Jesus to the parapet of the temple. This is the center of worship. This is a high place both literally and spiritually. And he says, just jump and see if the angels catch you. Satan even quotes scripture here. Satan strikes through the temptations of security and relevance.
This is how people fall into sins of insecurity and fear. We begin believing the lie that we are not loved or wanted or are important and so we do risky things to get noticed and to get attention. We believe the lie.
How did Jesus overcome? He never doubted his role. He was grounded in his identity through prayer and through knowledge. He was ready for this temptation and he overcame.
The third basic temptation the devil had was to strike and Jesus power and authority. He shows Jesus the world and promises to give it all to him in exchange for a little worship. Remember, Satan wants to be God and wants to be worshipped. For that matter, so do some people. So many people become willing to sell their very souls for power, money, and influence. All manner of evil and human misery come from these temptations.
How did Jesus overcome? He was solidly grounded in the idea that power and influence are ultimately a gift from God. You can’t grasp at these things. Rather, one must receive them with open hands from God and then return them to God. This is the fundamental idea of worship.
Our identity, our relevance in life, and our power are ultimately gifts from God. The problem is that we constantly forget that fact. And so we try to grab hold of them for ourselves. But Jesus teaches us through his example that all these things are a gift we can receive with open hands.
So do you want to know how to overcome temptation? Do what Jesus did. The long and consistent practice of three things:
Prayer. He was completely grounded in his identity through prayer. That’s what it does for us. We know God and therefore we know who we are in God.
Fasting: Jesus became disciplined with his appetites. He ruled his body. His body did not rule him.
Bible. Jesus knew the word of God from memory. This gave him tools to call to mind when faced with temptation.
These three things – prayer, fasting, and the bible will strengthen you by God’s grace to overcome. Victory over sin and death is God’s gift to us through Jesus. Through the open hands of faith we can receive it.