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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. 3

Looking back at the story of Jesus being tempted, we see Satan grasping for straws with one final attempt at throwing Jesus off track. He takes Jesus to “very high mountain”, and shows him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. Then he offers to give Jesus all these things if he will “fall down and worship me”. This is crazy. You know how crazy this is, right? It’s incredibly hard to understand, and yet at the same time reveals something important about this ‘being’ known as “the deceiver”. He’s apparently so good at painting his deceptions, he has deceived even himself here. God, who has created all things and to whom all things are subject – especially any earthly powers or splendor. God himself comes in human form, as the Son. He’s already been declared such at His baptism, just in case any of us wonders if he really knew. And yet here is Satan, promising to give something to Christ that was not quite His to give in the first place. His desire to deceive Jesus runs so deep, he has deceived even himself to think that in this moment, Jesus might look at him and say, “Well actually that sounds quite nice. I’d love to have all of that, and worshiping you is a fairly small price to pay.”

So how does Satan justify even making such an offer? I don’t know.

Perhaps it has something to do with knowing how powerful a draw that offer might be. He knows the hearts of humans. He knows we love to be in power, we love to receive praise. We love to be in control. His offer to Jesus sounds a lot like a promise of power, praise, and control over these Kingdoms. These are all healthy things to appreciate, in the context of serving God. But the tempter was trying to see if, even for a moment, He could catch Jesus in a moment of weakness. If he would turn toward Satan as the source of power and control, turning away third-temptation-of-christfrom God for these things. Doing so, would have given far more than just a foothold.

Such temptation works its’ way into our lives as well. We’re tempted on a daily basis to think there are other sources of power, and other sources of control. The world screams at us to be anxious about this or that happening in other parts of the world, or even events happening in our own country, state, or community. Tempting us to think that we need to serve the powers that be over listening to the voice of God that desires to free us to live in peace. Jesus has become Lord of all, not by bowing to Satan, but by sacrificing Himself out of love, allowing these “powers” to do their worst…yet being revealed as powerless against God.

Jesus responds to Satan one more time, but 3 times is enough. He commands Satan to go away from him. It’s easy to wonder why He didn’t use this response the first time, but maybe it was so that we would have these specific interactions to wrestle with, and connect with our lives. It must be because each of these 3 interactions has something different to offer us, and reveal about God. Again, just another reason I found myself unable to escape a sort of “3 point message” on this one.

So Jesus responds again with words from Deuteronomy, words that every follower of God would be familiar with, and a phrase that appears multiple times throughout the Old Testament, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only Him.” Above any powers of this world, above any glory this world has to offer, we are called to worship and serve God.

The words come as a challenge to us as well, as we begin our season of preparing for Easter. What are we serving? What are we “working toward”? What do we hope to gain each day as we leave the house, and what do we dream about as we head to sleep each night? Are they the things of God, or are they offerings of the world?

The honest answer is this: None of us can stand above the rest and claim to not have desired the things of this world. Scripture tells us that none of us is without sin. That the only person who met with these temptations and remained faithful is Christ. And even He didn’t do so for His own sake, but for ours. That through his obedience and standing before God…we might have access to the throne. That through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we are actually enabled to celebrate Easter! Not as the arrival of our judge, but as the arrival of New Life even NOW!

Will you receive the reminder, to repent and turn toward God? Can we confess together, we’ve not responded as Jesus did in these moments. That we’ve given in, accepted the lies and offerings of power, control, and fulfillment. If not with significant things, then in small ways. Tiny footholds where we’ve bought into the ways of this world, instead of living as citizens of the Kingdom. This morning, Jesus stands as the one we’re to follow, and proclaims to Satan, “GO AWAY!” Can we join together in proclaiming that today? Declaring God as the only Lord we have, and the only One we will serve….no matter what?

If so, look out….transformation is going to happen…come back for the final “Temptations of Jesus, Pt. 4″…

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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″…