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Temptations of Jesus, Pt. 4

Temptations_of_Christ_(San_Marco)If we’re willing to reject the temptations of Satan, along with Jesus and by the power His Spirit brings through us, big things can happen. All over the world, March 9th was acknowledged as “FREEDOM SUNDAY”. God’s people are being broken for the sake of the poor and lonely, the imprisoned, the trafficked, and the powerless. You see, when humanity gives into the temptations Satan has offered Jesus here…this is what happens. Other people become consumed. Walked on. Imprisoned as objects. Treated like animals.

When we believe that inanimate objects are more important than living faithfully – people (our brothers and sisters) become sacrificed on the altar of low prices. Most of the products you and I use on a daily basis were made from materials and minerals taken from countries where laborers are paid next to nothing – if they’re even paid at all. Now I’m not gonna call us to boycott a specific store, give up clothes, and stop using cell phones. But I am going to ask you – when’s the last time you prayed for those communities? When’s the last time you treated someone the world called “insignificant” with the significance Jesus gives them by dying on their behalf?

Just one of the many reasons our family is in the midst of an adoption process, is to give a voice to the voiceless. To tell a story about a place and a people who are being taken advantage of by the world, and call God’s people to pray. Because as we see in the Lords’ Prayer – how we pray, leads us to how we live.

And that’s only the first temptation. How about the second? When we let go of all that God’s done, and all that God will do in the future – living only according to what it seems like God is doing right now in this moment – it can lead us to wrong thinking. It can make us lose hope, and forget all that God has done. It can seem incredibly hopeless for the 30 Million slaves living in our world today, and those of us who are enslaved by behaviors or sins that we need God to provide freedom from. Instead, we remember that God has provided freedom, and will provide complete freedom and healing someday for every single of the 30 million. Until then…we lift them in prayer, and support organizations and movements that embrace bringing freedom and release from bondage, wherever and however it exists. Even something as simple as sponsoring a child through ICCM can save a child from becoming a slave tomorrow. How is your life connected to Christ bringing freedom in our world?

And finally, the third temptation. The temptation to see statistics like “30 Million”, or Bible verses like “For all have sinned and fall short”, and throw our hands up saying, “We give up.” This is giving value, and bowing to something that does NOT deserve our worship. We believe in a God who is Lord over ALL creation. A God who has provided release from sin and bondage both NOW and FOREVER. We will not worship the forces of evil that pretend to be in control, but we will boldly declare by our life and resources today, GO AWAY SATAN. You have no right to declare ANYTHING over my life. God has already declared powerful words of Love, Grace, Release from Sin, and New Creation, and those are the words that will reign.

And in response, the devil will leave…and we will find ourselves in the midst of those serving God together. The whole world will be transformed as we go out into creation as those who have been set free in Christ. Will you allow yourself to be “of freedom”?  Will you respond as Jesus has, decide even now how you will live before temptation even comes to you?

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Temptations of Jesus, Pt. 2

So here we go into temptation number two. Satan doesn’t give up reaching out for a foothold in the life of Jesus. He doesn’t give up easily on us either. If we succeed in choosing God’s will for one area, evil isn’t walking away sulking. There are plenty of places in our lives that evil would love to get a foothold…just one place to begin chipping away at what God has offered to do in our midst.

And so we see the same happening to Jesus in the wilderness. Satan takes Jesus to Jerusalem, the holy city, and places him on the pinnacle of the temple. As he’s looking out over the city he loves, Satan even tries to use scripture for his own purposes.

Recently our home group was reminded by John Ortberg in our Bible study, that Satan often works this way. That he doesn’t usually try to tempt us to do a complete 180 from what we believe. Often it’s just a slight change in direction from where we were originally heading. Just a small amount off course…something we may not even notice if we’re not paying attention.Jesus_Satan

Jesus was filled with God’s love for the city of Jerusalem. For the people of God living there. To be standing on the pinnacle of the temple, surrounded by the city God Loves, must have filled Jesus with large amounts of emotion. Pride. Confidence. Love. Joy. Hope for what God has in store. And it’s while He’s standing there, taking in everything around Him, that Satan whispers… “Go ahead, God has promised to take care of you no matter what…you think the joy you’re feeling now is cool? Just wait until you feel the rush of angels protecting you from the fall!”

We don’t know how much time passes. Whether it’s instant, or whether Jesus does stand and imagine what it might be like to experience this. But we know that the next significant thing that happens, is a response right from the same Word of God that Satan tried to use. A very solid “no”, spoken in a way that practically dares Satan to try it again. Jesus reminds Satan, and us as we read, that the purposes of God’s Holy activities in our midst are not for show. He draws his scripture from the story of God’s people as they’ve finished wandering the desert. They’ve been rescued from slavery in Egypt. They’ve followed Moses, and God has been faithful to provide for their escape and survival. But now they’re thirsty, and ask Moses if God has brought them into freedom in the middle of the desert, only to die by thirst. They reveal that even though God has moved in mighty ways on their behalf in their past, promising them an incredible future – they’re still struggling to trust Him in the present. Jesus had this same temptation, and so do we. Jesus knew about the past of God moving through His people, and prophecies about the Messiah. He knew about the future redemption and salvation that was being made possible. But Satan was trying to get Him to lose sight of His purposes and calling in this moment.

We know God has been faithful. As a people, we all know someone, or have experienced ourselves, the way God can bring life transformation. We read scriptures about movements of God’s Spirit, and know God has moved throughout all corners of His creation. We also believe in a “someday”, when God will bring to completion everything He began with Christ. When heaven and earth will be made completely new, and we will live with Christ forever. But what we’re tempted to lose sight of is what God wants for us today, right now, in this moment. Tempted to base our entire experience of God on what is happening right now. Satan knows he can’t erase the past ways God has been faithful, and He’s pretty powerless to remove the future as well. But if He can just get us to put God to the test in a single moment, sometimes that’s all it takes. This could be less a caution against temptation, and more a reminder of the faithfulness and promises of God. Maybe that’s something you need to hear today.

What are the circumstances of your life this week? What burdens are you carrying? What is happening in your world, that make you wonder if God is even with you? Our reminder is this: God has been with us…and God will always be with us. Most importantly, God is “Immanuel – God with us”, even now. Despite what Satan may have been whispering to you as you suffer. Nevermind how heavy the burdens may seem. God suffers with you, offers to carry our burdens, and offers us a solid Hope for what He has in store…if we will have faith in His purposes through today.

As we prepare ourselves to celebrate Easter together at the end of this 40-day season, it’s a journey that becomes a reminder of how we live. The “40 days” confuses many people, because as we look at the calendar, from Ash Wednesday to Easter is actually like 46 days. But that’s because as the early church was forming this tradition, they recognized that every Sunday – especially the Sunday’s during Lent – stood apart as miniature celebrations of Easter. Existing in “God’s Time”, and not our own, they occur throughout the 40 days of Lent, inviting us to celebrate in small ways, what eventually is celebrated fully. It’s the same in our lives. We experience only glimpses, and places where the Kingdom of God “breaks through”, as the veil continues to be worn thin. But someday we will experience and know fully as New Creation, what today we only see here and there throughout our lives. Will we continue to be faithful from Monday through Saturday, believing that Sunday is coming? Or will we listen to the voice of Satan, that tempts us to test God according to what we think should be happening right this moment?

God is with you, right now.

Stay tuned for “Temptations of Jesus, Pt. 3″…

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Temptations of Jesus, Pt. 1

Close your eyes for a moment, and try to imagine the very first time you heard the word “temptation”. For many of us, we heard it as children, or at least as teenagers. I remember clinging to the words of 1 Corinthians 10:13 throughout my young teen and older teen years. Whether substances, bad choices in general, or decisions with how to relate to the opposite sex, I heard these words: “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 endure it.”

christ-in-the-wilderness-1898I knew there would always be a way out, and words to say, to escape having to choose the “wrong thing”. But as we see in the temptations of Jesus, “REAL temptation” is a much bigger deal than choosing A or B.

Jesus was “led up by the Spirit” to be tempted by the devil. There are all sorts of questions at this phrase, most of them too large for us to even know how to ask. But it seems like God wanted Jesus to experience the temptations he was going to face throughout His ministry…right up front. To make a statement to Satan, the forces of evil, and possibly even Himself…that when these temptations arrive throughout his journey – He has already decided and proclaimed how He will be responding. Maybe that same purpose is found in why this story has been written down for us to read as well. That we will decide this morning, how we will respond ahead of time. Because if it hasn’t yet, temptation will come. It’s the same reason in youth ministry, we recommend talking with your children and teenagers about topics like sex, and substances. Because you want them to know AHEAD OF TIME how they will respond, not wonder in the moment what decisions they should be making.

It’s important to note, Jesus was tempted when he was “famished”. We also face REAL temptation whenever we hunger, and our world tells us to hunger/builds hungers within us pretty much 24/7. Hunger is being discontent or unsatisfied with what we have. Sometimes it can be a good thing…reminding us to eat, or compelling us to take a move forward toward a fuller life. But many times, it’s simply selling us the belief that we would be “more content” if we acquired whatever is being offered.

If we were content…most of our temptations wouldn’t be as difficult a choice. Jesus knew this, and was constantly painting a picture of His followers as peace-filled, not serving anxiety, and those who held even possessions with a loose hand.

But not so for us today. We are a hungry people. Hungry in all of the same ways Jesus was tempted here.

One of the primary ways, is this: Bread – actual hunger. Remember, it wasn’t “40 Days of being Tempted in the Wilderness”. It was 40 days & nights of fasting, and then AFTERWARD, he was HUNGRY. To not rely on God for our “daily bread” is a regular temptation in the life of a Christian. Jesus knew this would be a major part of our struggle, so much that even though He talked about it several times, He also made it a part of teaching us how we should pray. That we ask God to provide for our daily bread…and live a life that reflects that kind of contented “coming before God.”

We know from experience in a broken world, where 3.1 million children under age 5 die each year from poor nutrition…that trusting God to provide our daily bread is not an economic transaction mindset. It’s not that we enter into an economic relationship with God saying, “God, since I trust you with providing my daily bread, I’m guaranteed to receive this many calories to intake every 24 hours.”

But Jesus does not respond here with a promise that God will provide for His every need. He responds with scripture that highlights something even more important – the Word of God. He reminds Satan there’s a hunger that goes beyond a grumble in the stomach…it’s the grumble in our souls. We want our days and lives to be a part of something larger. That grumble isn’t going to be satiated by anything this world has to offer.

We give in to that temptation all the time. We realize we haven’t spent much time in prayer or Bible reading this past week…because life’s just gotten too busy. But then you look at how much we’ve spent online, or watching TV, sports, movies, or other choices we’ve made. We’ve proclaimed that there are other things that bring greater satisfaction than time with God himself.

We buy into the promise from Satan, that this inanimate object that offers very little, can be transformed into something that brings us satisfaction enough to choose IT over the very presence and Word of God. We need to confess, and turn back to God.

The early church knew we would need such seasons of confession and repentance. Which is why they built in this season of “Lent” as we prepare to celebrate Easter together. Take a moment to think about it: What are the “stones” in your life? What has Satan offered you, promising it can be transformed into something satisfying. Something that brings contentment, and fulfillment, but in all honesty it’s actually robbing you of something you need more than anything else? Are you willing to put down the stones? Are you willing to declare to Satan that God intends to be the only thing we depend on for satisfaction?

As I was preparing for this message, I was trying to avoid a traditional “3 point sermon”. It’s a bit too obvious, as we read the temptations of Jesus, that doing anything BUT a 3 point message could be unfaithful to the text. So stay tuned for “Temptations of Jesus, Pt. 2″…