CHOICES IN THE WILDERNESS
Introduction: How we feel about temptation
1. Helpless & scared: "I can't pass by the strawberry cheesecake at the Westgate banquet"
2. Arrogant: "It won't affect me"; "I'm invincible"
3. Daring: "I can play with fire and not get burnt"
4. Easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission
Stories that make the point
1. Not strengthen willpower; but weaken conscience
2. Man who parked his car in a "No Parking" zone with a note: "I have searched the area for an hour and now am late for my appointment... FORGIVE ME MY TRESPASSES." On his return he found this note: "I search this area every day and must give you a ticket or lose my job... LEAD ME NOT INTO TEMPTATION."
· "If you keep courting trouble, you'll soon be married to it".
· "Avoiding the mud hole is easier than scraping off the mud."
· "It is hard to resist temptation if you go out of your way to find it"
· "You can't keep birds from flying over your head; but you can keep them from building a nest on your head"
· No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. 1 Cor.10:13
Focus back on the congregation. (law/judgment)
· Letter of John Wesley's mother to her son: "Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off the relish of spiritual things, whatever increases the authority of your body over your mind, that thing for you is sin."
I. Jesus faced temptation in the wilderness
· Jesus was led into the dessert to be tested.
· Let's think about the Palestinian desert for a moment: dry, wild animals, eerie - evil spirits, lonely
1. The account in the Gospels
· Matthew 3,13-4,11: Preparation for Jesus' ministry - Jesus answers with scripture; then begins to preach and call disciples
· Mark 1,9-13: John prepares the way for the Messiah; Jesus commisioning for his ministry (baptism & temptation)
· Luke 3,21-22 4,1-13: Preparation for ministry; Jesus answers with scripture; word spreads about him and he is rejected in Nazareth
· (John 1,32-34): Does not mention the temptation. John the baptist denies being the Christ; testifies of Jesus as "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world"; and Jesus starts calling disciples
2. Echos from scripture: 40 days in all three synoptic gospels:
1. Noah: God cleansing the earth - it rained 40 days and nights
2. Preparation time of Moses and Elijah
3. Israel's 40 years of wandering in another wilderness
3. Significance of this report in the synoptics:
· Time of preparation for Jesus ministry
· Discernment of the nature of Jesus' ministry
· The attacks of Satan were strong and to the point.
Options offered by Satan:
1. Bread: social
2. Worship: political
3. Pinacle of the Temple: religious
II. We face Temptation in our wilderness
1. We don't like to talk about our vulnerabilities, the temptations that can trip us up in our Christian walk
2. Let's get up-close and personal - Name our temptations:
· Disobey our parents/God; cheating in exams or writing papers; lying; get rich quick; power and fame; being popular; abuse of authority; shady business dealings; dirty movies or Internet sex; compulsive shopping; gambling; substance and relationship abuse; cheating on our spouse; cheating God of that which belongs to him; overeating; Television; and a million others
III. Jesus walked away from temptation
1. Jesus was tempted in every way as we are - not in his divine nature, but in his human nature.
· Jesus temptation was real: these were all options that Jesus must have given serious consideration.
· The offers of the devil are always shortcuts to success and happiness.
· They promised shortcuts for Jesus: to be a popular social leader; to be a mighty political leader; and to rule the world with miraculous signs and wonders.
· They promise instant gratification to us
· He chose not to exercise his "stock option"
2. Jesus withstood the test: his way was not going to be that of social reform, political power or religious magic
3. Jesus took the road less traveled - the way of the suffering servant of God.
· Jesus choice: suffering servant (lamb of God)
IV. We can walk away from temptation
1. We too have to make choices in our desert experiences
· What is your desert like?
· Hurt by your friends or family; Depression and loss; unfulfilled in your job… marriage… sexuality…
· Temptation is the strongest when we are lonely
· When we feel that nobody knows what I'm going through & nobody cares
2. Our tendency is to seek excuses:
· We say: "It really was no contest, because Jesus is after all the Son of God."
· "but I'm only Ferd, and I had a deprived childhood (no 7-eleven where I grew up), so what chance do I have against the big horny fellow with a tail and pitchfork?"
· In this Season of Lent we want to celebrate Christ's victory over temptation, sin and death.
· Through him we too can have victory over sin in time of temptation
· Jesus has stared in the face of greed, lust, anger, fear, hate, and the whole range of primal sins.
· And he walked away ready to do God's Will - armed with the Word and Spirit of he living God.
Invite and encourage
1. Praise God for our victories in the past
2. We also know that as soon as we walk out of the church doors this morning, temptation will be there to meet us at every turn
· And we are guaranteed to give in again, unless we take the outstretched bleeding hand of our Savior
· God alone con give us the strength to stand up to temptation and walk away from it
3. Our best defense is to repent and honestly confess our temptation and sin to God and to a trusted friend who will not let us get away with it.
· We need God to keep an eye open for us
· We also need each other as brothers and sisters in Christ to help us in our moments of weakness.
· Lets put our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
· God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. 1 Cor.10:13
· God's way out: lean on each other - in our battle against temptation
· Let us care for one another enough that we will support each other in our time of need