We pray in the Lord’s Prayer: ‘Lead us not into temptation’.
We know God doesn’t tempt anyone, so when we pray for our Father not to lead us into temptation we’re really asking God to keep us safe from the devil, from our own sinful nature, and from those who are against God.
We’re praying God won’t let them trick us into losing our faith, giving up all hope, and doing other unsavoury things, yet while also praying that even though we are attacked, that in the end, we will win the victory.
Unfortunately we’re tempted often. We’re tempted in ways that are deceptive and attractive. Even though the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, he loves to dress up as a harmless lamb. He doesn’t wear a red suit, have horns and a spiked tail, and carry around a red fork. He dresses up in things that are attractive and desirable. He’s the king of deception and more likely to test and tempt us through things that seem good, right, and reasonable, just as we here he did in todays Gospel reading.
Jesus was hungry! He’s been in the wilderness without food for 40 days. The stones around him would look pretty tempting even after 4 days! Why not just turn them into bread? Surely God wouldn’t want Jesus to go hungry, would he? Don’t we pray ‘Give us today our daily bread’? Well, through a miracle, God may want to give Jesus his daily bread through these stones! Wouldn’t that seem good, right, and reasonable?
We too are often tempted to satisfy our physical desires. We want to gratify our stomachs, our pleasures, our lusts, and our passions and as it seems everyone else is doing it, it can seem a little unfair if we miss out, and just like those famous two people in a garden who were given everything it had-except of all things an apple: Now I might be getting a bit ahead of myself, but I reckon I could have handled turning down that piece of particular fruit, never mind if the temptation was of the vegetable variety. But what if “the don’t go there” food was a mixture of ingredients that in our modern world we would label a pizza. And that’s the point-we are not tempted by things we don’t want, but things we do want and if it’s not fleshly gratifications, the powers of darkness endeavour to take our eyes of the Lord through the allure power and possessions
Think how much we crave the things of this world. We’re not happy with what we have and always want more. Our TV seems smaller than the one in the shops or in someone else’s house. Our mobile phones don’t look as flashy or sound as good as the person next to us. We want the latest car, the latest gadget, a bigger house; we want the next best thing. More than this, we don’t want to wait. We want glory, power and riches now.
Now I’m not standing up here as a hypocrite, because I fall for a mixture of those worldly things all the time. We probably all have and besides what’s wrong with having these things. Absolutely nothing. The problem is when they become our gods, because when they do, no matter how many things we gather around us, we’re never really satisfied. There’ll always be a new thing we want. We’ll never have enough money. We’ll never be fully satisfied with what we have.
The more we fill our lives with things, the emptier and lonelier we feel, while then being told by the deceiver knowing of how selfish we are, how we’ll never be able to make up for lost times with our families, friends, or with God. Tempt, accuse and tempt the same stuff again through telling us it will then take the pain away from our guilty conscience by doing the same things and all of a sudden, we go from a going to work to buy a beer scenario, to needing the beer to get through work.
We are tempted to put the kart before the horse just like Jesus was by the devil in today’s Gospel.
And Jesus reply, although starving and given a seemingly straight forward and appropriate suggestion given that he hadn’t eaten for forty days certainly had the power to turn the rocks around him into bread, or even Pizza if He wished.
But no, Jesus knew this was not about the devil feeling sorry for Him or caring for Him. This was the devil endeavouring to undermine His Father and the plan He had put in place to save the one’s he cared for and so with even with such a mouth-watering temptation, Jesus quotes a verse from Deuteronomy, saying “Man shall not live by bread alone”.
The context of the verse he quotes is the people of Israel were just about to enter the Promised Land. Before they enter that land, Moses reminds them of God’s law, saying “Remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deut 8:2-3)
For the Israelites, their hunger was to teach them the value, importance and necessity of God’s Word. Food will sustain you briefly, but the Word of God will sustain and satisfy you far longer. No one really lives, no matter how much food they have in their belly, without the Word of God. The testing and the hunger were necessary lessons. Jesus submitted himself to this lesson. He would not be deceived by any desire for instant gratification. The Word of God sustains him.
So will we learn from our temptations and tests? Will we learn to resist the temptation to gratify our fleshly desires right now, or will we learn to wait patiently for what God wants to give us? Through our times of testing, we may learn to be more discerning between what seems good, right, and reasonable, and what really is good and right and reasonable for us.
These temptations are real. They’re real for us, and they were real for Jesus.
Jesus was tempted to abandon the road to suffering and receive the whole world and its inhabitants, but to do so would have meant turning his back on his Father. We are given the same temptations through whatever manner to do the same, to put the kart before the horse, to put things ahead of God.
Things that can be good, but only if subservient to what is truly, good and trustworthy and that is our triune God: God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ our Saviour and the Holy Spirit.
The dark side’s temptations and deceptions are for one purpose. The purpose of taking our eyes off God by manipulating his Word. To take our eyes off Jesus and seeing our self-first.
Not what a great gift and blessing that the Lord has provided me with employment, a roof over our heads and food, clothing family and friends.
Not what a great gift, but turns it to you deserve, it’s your right, if people are in the way cut them down: whatever form it takes is not for the persons care, happiness and a life gained, but the exact opposite.
It’s a “I will tempt with drugs, and once hooked, I’ll tempt to overdose so that they cannot hear the hope and life available to them through the true Word of God.”
So what to do when tempted and with the power of the Holy Spirit hold out. Praise God.
And if you fail, like so many times I do: Then we return to the true Word of God more than ever if that’s possible. Not the Word of God that’s been eroded to maybe’s, if’s and but’s. Not the maybe I’ll be forgiven and saved in Christ version that destroys the truth like a movie director using their creative licence. No we listen to God the Father and the one who lived it Jesus Christ. Jesus who battled and won that even if we do succumb to temptations, by faith, believe God won’t abandon us and doesn’t lead us into temptation. No matter what trials or temptations we face, either in times of abundance or times of scarcity, we can trust in God. He will prove true and faithful to us. We have been set free to put our trust in Jesus who has already walked through many trials and temptations and has proved victorious over them. Through trusting his obedience and victory we are saved. We can trust he’ll give us what we need to endure and persevere in your own times of trouble. We can be certain he will save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.