The grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you always. This week’s Memory Verse from Romans is ‘”Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Paul also tells us in Philippians, ‘Above all else, live in a way that brings honour to the good news about Christ.’ (Philippians 1:27 CEV)
Today, we confront the challenge of temptation and the power of God’s Holy Spirit to aid us in overcoming temptation. So that we can honour Christ Jesus by living in a way that brings him honour.
Let’s join in a word of prayer: O God our Father, this morning we gather to worship You and to begin our journey with Your Son from His victory over temptation to His victory over the cross. We praise you for the gift of salvation that He has given, and for His life and ministry that we witness together through the Scriptures. Father, guide our time together so that we may confront our own temptation with confidence. We pray together in the name of our risen Saviour, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
An American local sheriff was looking for a new deputy. One of the applicants – who was not known to be the brightest candidate, was called in for an interview. “Okay,” began the sheriff, “What is 1 and 1?” “Eleven,” came the reply. The sheriff thought to himself, “That’s not what I meant, but he’s right.”
Then the sheriff asked, “What two days of the week start with the letter ‘T’?” “Today and tomorrow,” replied the applicant, smiling confidently. The sheriff was again surprised over the answer, one that he had never thought of himself.
“Now, listen carefully, who killed Abraham Lincoln?”, asked the sheriff. The candidate seemed a little surprised, then thought really hard for a minute and finally admitted, “I don’t know.” The sheriff replied, trying to be gentle, “Well, why don’t you go home and work on that one for a while?” The applicant left and wandered over to his mates who were waiting to hear the results of the interview.
He greeted them with a cheery smile, “The job is mine! The interview went great! First day on the job and I’m already working on a murder case!”
When Jesus was baptised in the Jordan River, we heard the words of God, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” I am convinced that these words from God the Father would have rang true throughout the spiritual realms. And that would have perked the attention of the devil. It appears he was permitted to test Jesus, just as he was given permission to test Job. And just as he often is given permission to test us.
In our Gospel reading this morning it is Jesus’ first days on the job of ministering to a wayward people. Immediately he is confronted with three major temptations. Ultimately Jesus is confronted with a choice: Would he take the crown without the cross? Would he allow his humanity to overcome his divinity.
We are often confronted with a similar choice. Would we enter the Kingdom of God in eternity, without a commitment to the community of believers here. Would we go through this life holding onto the Good News of our own salvation without reaching out together with that Good News of Jesus Christ bringing honour to his name.
Like Jesus, we are confronted with the most basic temptations in life that bring us ultimately to this choice. We face these temptations in our attitudes, actions and words we use every day. We don’t need the devil to bring on these temptations. We do a fine job by ourselves. But when we are intentional and serious about following Christ Jesus, the devil will surely try to distract us.
Thank God, we have three very strong supporters in our confrontation with temptation. We have the Holy Spirit who will encourage our faith, we have the law of God which will point out when we fall to temptation, and we have each other to share our journey, remind us of God’s forgiveness and strengthen our resolve to live our Christianity.
The devil has been active in the world for almost as long as God himself. Their purposes are opposite from each other, of course. God created the world and preserves it. Satan desires to destroy the world. God loves and nurtures His people, while Satan is filled with a consuming hatred for God and all his creation.
God provides for the justification of all believers through the gift of His own Son as a sacrifice for our sin. Satan tries his worst to distract Jesus and then to destroy him. Scripture tell us that God ‘will remember our sin no more’. Satan stands as a constant, hollow but hounding accuser, trying to heap guilt upon us for every failure.
And here we are. Living the tension of our Christian challenge. To live in community as forgiven children of God, with both the guilt over sin and the freedom of forgiveness. God hates the sin but will never hold back his love and forgiveness for every person with faith in Jesus Christ.
Through our faith we already have a place in eternity with Jesus. We don’t even need to fret over that. But we still live with a certain tension every day. As we live our faith in community, we feel the urgency to offer others this freedom and joy of salvation. We also often feel fearful about sharing our life of faith openly. Showing our neighbour the care we have for them. Reaching out together with an intentional attitude of compassion, and care is easier together. As we follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God saw that the world was captivated by sin, and he grieved for the humanity that he loved so much. In the same way, we often see the brokenness around us, in our families, among our friends, and throughout our neighbourhoods.
In order to account for the human will that was captivated by sin, God took this sin upon himself. God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Father shares in what the Son experiences. The Son acts in unison with the Spirit to accomplish the will of the Father. And all three in their eternal unity, share in our joy and sorrow. In the same way, we can gather in community to pray. To assist where we are able to reach out with both compassion and the Gospel.
Pray intentionally and specifically for those around us who are still wandering in the dry and dark places. In community, we can make a difference by being available and ready to introduce the reality of God’s grace together. In what the world witnesses about our love for one another.
Through Jesus Christ, God renewed our relationship with himself. But here’s the rub – that renewal didn’t stop the brokenness of the world. Jesus calls us to join together to bring a small bit of calm and order out of the chaos of that brokenness. We reach out better together. And in those times when we feel powerless to present the love and grace of God to others we can remember the words of Christ to Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9 NIV)
I am sure that after the waters of the floods that affect our coastline and rivers recede there will be so much opportunity to assist our neighbours on the Mid North Coast with sustenance and clean-up. But we can only do this in community with others, working together. Trusting Christ Jesus for his grace, power, and presence.
Today, we were to confront the decision to call a pastor for part time service to our Congregation to bring a new energy to our outreach in Port Macquarie. And to join with the community of Lutherans in NSW to support that pastor’s part time service to the Gospel through the District initiative of Frontier School of Mission. Again, trusting Christ Jesus for his grace, power, and presence.
The Gospel tells us today that after His baptism, Jesus spent forty days preparing for his journey to the cross, in the solitude of the desert hills. In Lent, we embark on forty days as well. To prepare for the remembrance of God’s sacrifice. Forty days for Jesus, and forty days for us. But for many, those forty days are little more than tradition. And for so many more, these days go by without even a notice.
Thank God, he sets no time limit for our preparation for eternity. When we receive the gift from our triune God of baptism, God will use our whole lifetime to prepare us to receive his ultimate gift of eternal life. And God gives us each other to journey together through our life of faith, hope, and love. Especially during these forty days of intentional Christian living. They say that it takes about six weeks of intention to break a bad habit. And it takes about six weeks of intention to build a good habit into character of living. When we are faced with the temptation to ignore our commitment to Christ and to community, we can turn to the scriptures and to each other for encouragement. And we can remember the words of James, ‘Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22 NIV)
When we are faced with the temptation to accept the Kingdom of God without living our commitment to Christ and to each other here in this broken world, we can gain strength against temptation. Jesus responded to the devil, “The Scriptures say, ‘Do not test the Lord your God.’” We test God when we act contrary to God’s will for our lives and still expect every blessing from God for the here and now. We already have God’s blessings for eternity by our faith in Jesus Christ.
We can also take courage from Paul’s letter to the Romans. ‘If we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead, we will be saved. For it is by believing in our heart that we are made right with God, and it is by confessing with our mouth that we are saved.’
The great English statesman and man of God William Wilberforce once wrote that “Christianity can be condensed into four words: admit, submit, commit, and transmit. Admit Christ as Lord, submit to Christ as Lord, commit our lives to Christ as Lord, and transmit the Love of Christ to a dying world. (Draper’s Quotes, Accessed QuickVerse Platinum 2010) Samuel Wilberforce (1805–1873) We transmit the love of Christ to the world better when we hold onto each other and reach out together.
We can pray, “Thank You Jesus! For entering humanity for us. For holding strong against the temptations that so easily beset us. For holding fast to bring salvation into this broken world. And then for loving us even when we fall victim to temptation.” The grace and peace of God, keep our hearts, our minds and our voices in, Christ Jesus. Amen.
Rev David Thompson