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Lead Us Not-h

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Scripture: Matthew 4: 1-11

1.  Knowing when you are full. (vs. 1-4)

Matthew 4:1 ¶ Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  2  After fasting for forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.  3  The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."  4  Jesus answered, "It is written: `Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" {Deut. 8:3}

The temptation to step ahead quickly in my own resourcefulness rather than learning to depend on God

o       Waiting means waiting.  It is always difficult to wait for God’s provision.  For most of us, it becomes even more difficult once we are assured of an answer or the arrival of someone or some particular thing.  Or you take in the case of Christ’s temptation doubly difficult.  He had gone without food for 40 days and survived.  One might think that the testing would have been merely surviving the fast but the scripture tells us that the Devil never came to him until he was hungry – after the 40 days.  So what was to stop him from satisfying his own need?  He certainly had the capacity to do what was suggested.  No one else would have had to know.  That is one of the modern day tests for each of us.  We are many times tempted more greatly by the things that we can easily hide or by the things that only God knows.  Strange that the little inhibition that we have comes from the knowledge that people would gain of our true selves – especially so because we have to answer to no man on earth.  We do however have to give an answer to God and He does know – everything and we will answer to Him someday.  Perhaps it might have been that Jesus did not want to draw on resources that we do not have because he wanted to show us that He did it without advantage.  The playing field was level when it came to meeting temptation.

Hebrews 4:12  For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  13  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.  14  Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, {Or gone into heaven} Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  15  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin.  16  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

o       Easier when we have no other option.  When I have no other choice, I find waiting much easier.  When my ability to effect the outcome is removed then I wait differently.  I find a greater peace in my heart once I know that I can place no trust in myself. 

THE SERENITY PRAYER

God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change

Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;

Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.

Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.

Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will;

That I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with Him in the next.

Amen

Reinhold Niebuhr

A person who reads a book or who watches television or who glances at his watch is not usually interested in how his mind is organized and controlled by these events, still less in what idea of the world is suggested by a book, television, or a watch.  But there are men and women who have noticed these things, especially in opur own times. Lewis Mumford, for example, has been one of our great noticers.  He is not the sort of man who looks at a clock merely to see what time it is. Not that he lacks interest in the content of clocks, which is of concern to everyone from moment to moment, but he is far more interested in how a clock creates the idea of "moment to moment".  He attends to the philosophy of clocks, to clocks as a metaphor, about which our education has had little to say and clockmakers nothing at all.  "The clock," Mumford has concluded, "is a piece of power machinery whose `product' is seconds and minutes."  In manufacturing such a product, the clock has the effect of disassociating time from human events and thus nourishes the belief in an independent world of mathematically measurable sequences.  Moment to moment, it turns out,  is not God's conception, or nature's.  It is man conversing with himself about and through a piece of machinery he created.      In Mumford's great book Technics and Civilization, he shows how, beginning in the fourteenth century, the clock made us into time-keepers, and then time-savers, and now time-servers.  In the process, we have learned irreverence toward the sun and the seasons, for in a world made up of seconds and minutes, the authority of nature is superseded.  Indeed, as Mumford points out, with the invention of the clock, Eternity ceased to serve as the measure and focus of human events.  And thus though few would have imagined the connection, the inexorable ticking of the clock may have had more to do with the weakening of God's supremacy than all the treatises produced by the philosophers of the enlightenment; that is to say, the clock introduced a new form of conversation between man and God, in which God appears to have been the loser.  Perhaps Moses should have included another

commandment:  Thou shalt not make mechanical representations of time.

This is a great lesson for us to learn.  God has struggled to teach His people  this lesson over the years.  I know that Elaine and I have had our own struggles with it.  The scripture tells us:

Romans 8:28  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

When I start thinking that way it is good.  When things don’t change quickly enough I begin to reason in my own mind once again to better affect the desired result or to bring about change.  And then I do it, many times leading myself away from God’s approaching answers to my self-inflicted problems and difficulties.  When you are lost in the woods there is a cardinal rule.  Stay where you are.  When we try to find our own way out of the woods we walk in circles.  Let God find you in your confusion – don’t make it more difficult by trying to find Him.

Isaiah 30:1 ¶ "Woe to the obstinate children," declares the LORD, "to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin;  2  who go down to Egypt without consulting me; who look for help to Pharaoh's protection, to Egypt's shade for refuge.  3  But Pharaoh's protection will be to your shame, Egypt's shade will bring you disgrace.  4  Though they have officials in Zoan and their envoys have arrived in Hanes,  5  everyone will be put to shame because of a people useless to them, who bring neither help nor advantage, but only shame and disgrace."  6  An oracle concerning the animals of the Negev: Through a land of hardship and distress, of lions and lionesses, of adders and darting snakes, the envoys carry their riches on donkeys' backs, their treasures on the humps of camels, to that unprofitable nation,  7  to Egypt, whose help is utterly useless. Therefore I call her Rahab the Do-Nothing.  8 ¶ Go now, write it on a tablet for them, inscribe it on a scroll, that for the days to come it may be an everlasting witness.  9  These are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the LORD's instruction.  10  They say to the seers, "See no more visions!" and to the prophets, "Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions.  11  Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!"  12  Therefore, this is what the Holy One of Israel says: "Because you have rejected this message, relied on oppression and depended on deceit,  13  this sin will become for you like a high wall, cracked and bulging, that collapses suddenly, in an instant.  14  It will break in pieces like pottery, shattered so mercilessly that among its pieces not a fragment will be found for taking coals from a hearth or scooping water out of a cistern."  15  This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.  16  You said, `No, we will flee on horses.' Therefore you will flee! You said, `We will ride off on swift horses.' Therefore your pursuers will be swift!  17  A thousand will flee at the threat of one; at the threat of five you will all flee away, till you are left like a flagstaff on a mountaintop, like a banner on a hill."  18 ¶ Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!

o       Flashing the sword.  Jesus quotes scripture in response to the tempter.  Al three quotes come from the book of Deuteronomy.  They were the words of Moses the deliverer of God’s people.  He lead them under God from bondage in the land of Egypt.

The scripture is the only weapon of offense in the arsenal of the Christian.  We read of it earlier.

Hebrews 4:12  For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Ephesians 6:17  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Psalm 119:11 ¶ I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

Psalm 119:103 ¶ How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!  104  I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.  105 ¶ Nun Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

Knowledge of God’s word is essential for the person who wishes to grow and gain greater understanding of the heart and nature of God.  How can you gain it?  Little by little.  Read.  Learn to read things that challenge your thought process.  There are people who reject the discipline of reading because it makes them tired.  That is merely an endurance issue.  A mind that tires quickly is one that is out of shape.  The only way that we gain strength in this area is to do that thing that tires us incrementally more and more.  If you are not a reader you will grow old more quickly.  If you keep stretching your mind you’ll stay sharper longer.  Two of the most voracious readers that I know of among our seniors are Rev. Trafton and Mrs. Cochrane.  These folks inspire me.  They are way ahead of many who are much younger because their minds are sharp and not accidentally or even incidentally.  Deliberately and on purpose.

2.  Enjoying the scenic routes. (vs. 5-7)

Matthew 4:5  Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.  6  "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: "`He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'" {Psalm 91:11,12}  7  Jesus answered him, "It is also written: `Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" {Deut. 6:16}

The tendency to look for shortcuts is something that trips us all up.

The scenic routes always take longer.  People travel more slowly. They choose these routes because they appreciate beauty.  Don’t ever try to take a scenic route to make time and when you get behind someone traveling slowly on a scenic route, please don’t hurry them.  The person who is out of place is you – not them.  Life is a journey, a process not a destination.  It is governed by different cadences from place to place.  On Grand Manan it is 6 hour intervals.  The question is not, “What time is it?” but “What’s the tide?”.  On that island the tide is what determines a person’s activity – at least for many of them.  They accept that pace because it is out of their control.

Jesus was a ”man on a mission’ but not a “man in a hurry”.  When I get in a hurry, I make mistakes, I forget more things, the quality of what I do is diminished.  There is nothing worse that trying to deal with people who are in a hurry.  The harried busy man who habitually looks at his watch – more than to tell the time but sometimes to send signals to people that they don’t have time for them.

o       Notice the spiritual context.  Look at the place where He was taken.  The temple.  Sin is deceptive.  Sometimes the Devil can ruin us merely by hurrying us.  He can set us on the quest for shortcuts.  It was a ridiculous temptation when you think about it.  I think that the devil was tempting Jesus to accelerate his mission by capturing the attention of the people in some spectacular manner.  Imagine at the temple, in front of the sceptical Pharisees who harassed him Jesus would jump from the highest point and walk away unharmed.  He’d have them all then.  They would follow him as the Messiah.

o       Does the end justify the means?  Rarely or perhaps never.  I remember bits of wisdom from “The Cowboy’s Guide To Life”.  The best way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket.  We are safest when we march by divine cadence.  When He establishes the pace and we live by it.  What’s the point?  Basically you’ll have your turn.  In God’s time he’ll give you the podium.  You will gain sufficient life experience to propound your values and your philosophies, to lead, to influence.  When we strive for it prematurely people are not impressed by the truth that we carry regardless of how true it may be – they are blinded by our immaturity.  The tragedy is that there are some that the world never chooses to hear simply because they have spoken to soon.  I remember coming to a multiple staff in Moncton.  I determined that I wouldn’t allow myself to develop or at least vocalize any hard and fast opinions until I had been there for at least a couple of years.  If I had done that I would have compromised my ability to influence.  You have to earn that right.  I had a young man from out of town make an observation relative to my life the other day that he had not earned the right to make.  In the 20 years that I have known him we have spent less than the same number of hours together.  I listened to his remarks and they stung me just a bit to be truthful – normally it is the truth that hurts.  But he had not gained the right to give input.  Until we have taken time to get to know a person’s heart we really have little right to evaluate their actions.  There would have been no mission that would have been more worthy of a spectacular inception that Jesus’ mission but even that end would not have justified that means.  I believe with all my heart that we would be better off if we stopped looking for shortcuts and enjoyed the sceninc route.

o       Life legacies.  There is a legacy to every action that take.  We send messages that endure beyond us, we communicate values.  The good things that we do today (good by our own scale of measurement) may turn sour tomorrow.  That is why it is so crucial that we be influenced and lead by the Spirit of God.  Jesus was lead by the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil.

3.  I treasure my own company. (vs. 8-11)

Matthew 4:8  Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour.  9  "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."  10  Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: `Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'" {Deut. 6:13}  11  Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Is it really possible to worship the Devil?

These were the words of an old song by Mac Davis called, “O Lord It’s Hard to Be Humble”

o       Can you buy a man’s heart?  No you cannot.  A man can give you his heart – his loyalty and he can support you wholeheartedly but it has to be his choice.  Can I convince you that 1st Wesleyan is a great church, worthy of your support in time, talent and treasure?  I can try.  You’ll never become convinced by my words alone.  I used to tell people that if they came in the summer we had a special promotion on.  We offer a 9% tithe in the summer months.

Joke 3 for 5 special.

We give our hearts to people who value us.  You cannot value people by paying them.  Pay is related to productivity.  You know how dismal it is to be valued merely for what you can produce.  We believe that people should tithe their incomes in accordance with God’s direction in the scriptures.  I understand that this is a faith-testing step to take for there are relatively few people who have discretionary money that they can just let go of on a weekly basis.  But still I believe  that God honors us as we take this particular step of obedience.

At the same time I want to tell you that we are happy to have you as a part of this church whether or not you put a penny in the plate as it passes by.  Yes we need funds to operate but God is faithful to meet our needs as a church.  We believe that as much as we believe Him to be faithful to meet your own needs as you worship Him through your finances.

o       What is the price?  If we could buy a man’s heart what would the price be?  Obviously it would be what he wants.  So we satisfy self in exchange for the illusion of loyalty.  This is not Christianity – this is consumerism.  The gospel is not a call to self-satisfaction but self-sacrifice.  It just can’t happen any other way.  If we try to build a great church by keeping everyone happy and satisfied then we won’t have a church – we’ll have a co-op.  The most divided people in the world are those who seek to satisfy self.  The most fulfilled people in this world are those who truly surrender themselves to a greater call not give not to get and to spend themselves in service to God rather than serving their own interests.  Could you turn your back on your dreams for God’s plans for your life?  Everything that your potential could produce may not be what you are ultimately looking for.

o       The worship of Satan is the worship of self.  This is the most important thing to remember.  Satan knows that in appealing to our selfish nature – the desire to get, to look for shortcuts, to make our own way, - that our hearts are not his.  When we contract with him to meet our needs it is the worship of self.  When we worship ourselves he wins.

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