Saturday, February 09, 2008

Where Are You Going?: Sermon Matthew 4:1-11

Dear God, take our minds and think through them; take our hands and feet and work through them; take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire for you. Amen

Have you ever gotten lost? I mean really lost, like you don’t know what state you’re in lost. Usually, you start out on a designated path to a designated destination. You know where you want to get to and you basically know how to get there, but you get distracted. Maybe you were changing the station on your radio or looking at the scenery and you miss and exit or a turn. Maybe you fell prey to the dreaded, “shortcut” distraction. Whatever the reason, you look around and the fear begins to crawl up your spine and you realize that you have messed up.

We talked last week about Jesus having a particular path to follow. We talked about how the Transfiguration was an important crossroads in Jesus path and how Jesus had a choice to make. The path that God laid out for him ended at the cross. This week we see Jesus much earlier in his journey, actually before Jesus even begins his journey. We are familiar with this story. Jesus is lead out into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. He is preparing for the beginning of his ministry. He fasts for 40 days, he prays constantly, he breaks down to his weakest human point. Now if this regiment was a prerequisite for ministry there would be even less people entering the clergy, but Jesus follows the direction of God. He is at his weakest point which is the point when lure of distraction is the greatest.

Then who should arrive, of course it is the devil himself. Many people in the modern Church and in modern theology don’t want to talk about the devil. They want to believe that the devil does not exist and they call the belief in the devil archaic and superstitious. We if you are looking for the dude with horns, in the red suit, with a pointy tail, and a pitch fork in his hand then you might be out of luck. But if you are referring to a source of evil in the world and an entity that wishes to put you off track from your journey with God then the devil is completely real. Make one notice here that the devil tempts Jesus at his weakest point and he does the same with us. When we least expect temptation that is when it rears its ugly head.

The devil tries to tempt Jesus in three different ways, physically, spiritually, and politically. The devil says to Jesus, who is famished, starving, and hungrier than most of us have ever been, turn the stones into bread. In other words, use your powers to satisfy your needs, who is it going to hurt. This was not just a temptation to satisfy Jesus’ own personal hunger, but a distraction to change the path that God had put Jesus on. One loaf of bread would have been enough to satisfy one man’s hunger, but the devil tempts Jesus to make many loaves from many rocks. Jesus could have fed many people with those loaves. This was not just a temptation for a personal hunger, not just a selfish request, but a temptation to get Jesus off track by tempting him to do something good. This sounds like a good thing to do, feed the hungry, help the poor. However, this was not Jesus’ purpose; this was not the path that God had placed Jesus on. Jesus wasn’t supposed to be a baker, but a savior.

We are tempted to physical distraction, just like Jesus. These temptations are not just limited to the advertisements for junk food and sugary soda. We are distracted from the paths that God has put us on. We might be tempted to think that work or leisure are more important that church. We might be tempted to think that little league or big league sports are more important than supporting the church. I’m not saying that taking a vacation or playing sports is a sin. However, these things can become distraction if we let them. Anything in our lives that can take precedence over God is an idol and sinful. One physical thing that get a lot of people into trouble is money, or the love of money. I believe that greed is the root behind lot of the evil that humans do to one another. Murder, robbery, drug selling, slavery, genocide, many of these things can be traced back to greed. People will do terrible things to one another over money and material things. We must be aware of the physical things that can distract us from the path God has place before us.

Jesus is also tempted spiritually. The devil takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem and says that if you are the Son of God throw yourself off and God will protect you. In other words the devil is telling Jesus to put his wants and needs above and beyond that of God. This kind of temptation cuts to the heart of Jesus relationship with God. The devil is tempting Jesus to doubt his trust of God by getting Jesus to demand proof of God’s protection. Do you trust God enough Jesus? Jesus trust God enough not to do it. Jesus does not need proof because he has faith that God is with him always. The devil is tempting Jesus into selfishness; put God to the test so that he will bless you.

We become tempted like this as well. We are always tempted to place our needs and wants above what God wants for us. We have our laundry list of prayers for God. We need this and this and that and we want this and that and this and oh yeah if you have time help those people in Africa. This kind of mentality has hit the pulpit. We have preachers who preach a gospel of prosperity. God wants you to be rich. God wants you to drive a Mercedes Benz and wear $10,000 dollar suits and live in a multi-million dollar house. All you gotta do is send a little cash my way. Buy my book, buy my prayer cloth, or my special oil for $19.95 and God will bless you into wealth. This is a temptation of selfishness, of putting your needs and wants above and beyond others. This temptation goes against everything the gospel says. The least among you on earth will be the greatest in Heaven. The greatest will be the servant of all. This spiritual distraction goes against the prayer we say every week, “thy will be done”. The devil will try to tempt us with selfishness. He’ll tell us that we deserve God’s blessing and everything that we get is just what we are due.

Now we are blessed people. We drive cars, maybe not a Benz or a beamer, but we are among the wealthiest people in the world. God blesses us according to his plan not ours. We are blessed not because God loves us more than he does those who are poor, but because God has given us the responsibly, the stewardship to help those who don’t have enough. We have a responsibly to help those who don’t have enough. We have to remember that to those much is given, much responsibly is required.

Finally, Jesus is tempted politically. What I mean is Jesus is tempted to distraction with a promise of power. The devil takes Jesus to the highest mountain and in a feat of special effects shows him all the kingdoms of the world and says all this can be yours if the price is right. What was the price? All you have to do Jesus is worship me, show me a little love and I will give you the world. Now the thing about it is Jesus will eventually receive dominion over world according to Revelation, but it would be in God’s time and it God’s way. It meant, like we said last week, going through Calvary. The devil was giving Jesus an easy way out.

We are also distracted with easy ways out. We become tempted when the path that God has for us becomes bumpy and difficult, when tragedies and heartaches shadow over us. We want to take the easy, smooth road. We have our own ambitions, our own goals to fulfill. I have know people who will come to church every time the door is open and be the last person to leave and yet the rest of the time they are working toward their own agendas and often at the expense of other people. We have to stay on the straight and narrow, even when it gets dark and bumpy.
Jesus broke through these distractions, he overcame these temptations. The way that Jesus did is the same way that we can. How can we, like Jesus stay on God’s path? First, we need a road map that is our Bible. Each temptation that the devil threw at Jesus was met with a Scriptural reply. We need keep up our Spiritual armor. This is our road map, this is our guide. We also have to look at the road signs. When we have problems at work, problems at home with our families, when we have that feeling of guilt that let’s us know that we are following the wrong path. We also need to be willing to ask for directions when we are lost. That is we need to be in constant prayer. Prayer is crucial to a good life along God’s path. We remember that Jesus was constantly in prayer, asking for direction from God. We shouldn’t we ashamed or embarrassed to ask, because we all make mistakes and God knows this. We all take wrong turns and fall to the temptation of distraction.

I have good news. As many times as we mess up, God’s grace is even more abundant. God’s grace is more abundant than we can possible imagine. Wherever we kind ourselves, even it is lost in the wilderness, God is with us. Let us walk together down the pathway of God and keep our eyes on the destination.

Let us pray…

Grant, O Lord,

that what has been said with our lips we may believe in our hearts,

and that what we believe in our hearts we may practice in our lives;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


At 7:56 AM, Blogger Jane Q Public said...

Thank you for creating this Blog


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