Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from our Savior Jesus Christ who with the Holy Spirit are three-in-one,
Our Gospel lesson for this morning is the very familiar account of Christ’s temptation. Another example of Christ’s humanity and one more instance of Him living a life that we too live as victims of a sinful world.
A minister parked his car in a no-parking zone in a large city because he was short of time and couldn’t find a space with a meter. Then he put a note under the windshield wiper that read: “I have circled the block 10 times. If I don’t park here, I’ll miss my appointment. Forgive us our trespasses.”
When he returned, he found a citation from a police officer along with this note “I’ve circled this block for 10 years. If I don’t give you a ticket I’ll lose my job. Lead us not into temptation.”
All of us are all too familiar with Satan’s greatest tool. On the one hand we know how God would want us to live but then temptation rears its ugly head and takes us away from the path that God would have us take.
The temptation of Jesus was for the same function, to distract Him from His ultimate goal and purpose for life. And that goal, that destiny, was to go to the cross as an atoning sacrifice for us all.
Satan’s intent in the wilderness was to defeat God’s purpose for Jesus and he knew that in this case it wouldn’t be easy, so he would once again count on the greatest tool in his tool belt, temptation.
The very name Satan means “adversary, or the one who opposes. Just as God had a specific purpose for Jesus, he has one for His church on earth, for Prince of Peace and for us as individuals. Satan’s will is to cause all of God’s creation to deviate from their purpose and, in doing so, frustrate the will and design of God.
Our goal in life comes in two parts, 1 – to be conformed to the image of Christ and 2 – to spend eternity with Him in heaven. The first part is summed up in Romans 8:29, “For those whom He foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn of many brothers.”
The second goal is summed up in 2nd Timothy 4: 6-8, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
Our goal as God’s children is to have the same attitude as Paul when we pass from this world to the next and anything that would draw us away from that goal is temptation that leads to sin.
We are to have tunnel vision when it comes to reaching our purpose but temptation comes to draw our attention away from our ultimate purpose by convincing us to center our lives on things other than God and His purpose for us. If we surrender to that attraction the result is sin and ultimately a separation from God.
When we look back to the story we see that Satan used three types of temptation trying to lure Christ away from His goal and we can expect the same kind of strategy toward us. So if we’re going to have any success against Satan, we need to look at how Christ overcame temptation.
The first temptation Satan tried was Jesus’ physical hunger. Verse 3 of our lesson says, “The Devil said to Him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread’.”
If Jesus had given into this or any temptation he would never had the courage to face the cross. He would have been lost with the rest of us. For some people, the greatest temptation many people have is through their appetites. God gives us appetites so that we might sustain life. We have appetites for food, sleep, sex, success etc. but, as with all things, if these appetites take our focus off of Christ then they in turn become our God’s and Satan has won again. When they take our focus off the goals that God has set for us they lead to destruction.
One example is pornography. Pornography has become a multi-billion dollar business as it draws more and more people off the path to salvation. Our natural appetite for procreation is turned into obsession and sin. I have heard that over ½ of all sites visited on the internet are pornographic and the problem with this is that it means that millions of people are being lured away from their ultimate purpose. A person cannot reflect the purity of Christ if they are involved in pornography and the Devil knows it.
Rev. 21:8 says, But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
The second temptation that Christ was faced with was in taking moral shortcuts. Luke 4: 5-7, “And the Devil took Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to Him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours.
Jesus already knew it was His destiny to rule over all the kingdoms of this world. He also knew that the only way to that goal was through the cross.
After His resurrection Jesus appeared to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and reminded them in Luke 24: 26, “Did not Christ have to suffer these things and then enter His glory?”
Christ knew exactly what that sacrifice meant so Satan says to Him in effect, “You don’t have to go through all that suffering and rejection, I’ll just give it to you now if you agree to worship me.” He says the same kind of things to us. He leads us to believe we can reach the same goals God has set for us through ungodly shortcuts.
Finally, Satan tries to temp Jesus into thinking of himself before God. Luke 4: 9-11, “And he took Him to Jerusalem and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “He will command His angels concerning you, to guard you, and On Your hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”
The temptation is to show this power to impress and influence someone other than God, namely himself, but this is simply unbelief pretending to be faith by convincing yourself that the only way to show people your faith is to show them your power.
I think this is one of the greatest temptations facing the church today.
Instead of fulfilling our purpose to go and make disciples of all nations we have elected to become less Gospel driven and more entertainment driven and more church building driven and less church body driven. Whatever the secular world wants we can provide even if it falls short of what God would have us become.
So how are we to face the temptations that come across our path to Christ on a daily basis? We have but to look at Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus dealt with each of these temptations by focusing His life on God through His Word. Temptation deals with the immediate moment, but it doesn’t look to the ultimate goal or the ultimate consequences of not achieving that goal. Temptation is Satan’s way of blinding us by filling our eyes with the NOW. How will it give us pleasure NOW? How will it satisfy me NOW? God’s saving Word refocuses us on our ultimate purpose in life and towards eternity.
God has appointed Prince of Peace and everyone in it with a very special purpose that will never be realized if we continue to let our attention be drawn away by temptation. Our ultimate goal will never be seen if we cannot focus our attention on Christ and Christ alone. We have some very important questions to ask as we consider what direction God is taking us.
First and foremost we must ask the question, what is God’s purpose for this church and how can we, together, rally ourselves around His goals for us? As we listen for God’s direction, satan will try to continue to try and lead us away through temptation. Be wary of what he is trying to do. Understand his determination to lead you away from the purpose God has given you and as you look toward the future, base all your decisions on God’s purpose for you and on what he has done to win you to Him.
Our calling will become clear, but the Devil will use any method he can to try and lead us from completing the tasks God has placed before us. Temptation is his greatest tool and he will use it over and over again. He will try and tempt us with things that look good on the surface but will ultimately lead us away from Christ. He will try to tempt us with ill conceived power, with misguided wisdom and with lies disguised as certainty.
But we must set our faces like flint on the goal of our everlasting relationship with God. The harder we try to do what is right, the more the devil will tempt us to do what is wrong. God believed in this relationship with us so much that He was willing to sacrifice His Son to strengthen it. Let’s not make that greatest of sacrifices meaningless. We were given to each other for the purpose to doing great things in the name of the Triune God. Let’s see it happen together. Amen