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Gospel centred sermons, based on the lectionary often in advance.

Mar 3, 2011

Focus reading: Matthew 4:1-11

Temptation

We all face temptation and we all give into it at least sometimes. The great temptation when we see this story about Jesus is to see it as primarily a set of principals to follow to help us to resist temptation. That's OK if you are good and never give in, but all of us sometimes give in. What do we do then, are we just failures & weaklings. This story has at least three messages for us. First it helps us to recognise temptation, second it does give us at least one useful strategy to overcome it. But for me thirdly and most importantly it tells us when we face temptation, whether we beat it or it beats us we are not alone - God is with us to help and if we fail, to forgive and give us a fresh start.

Questions for thought or discussion.

Where does Temptation come from? What are some of the greatest temptations (for you or for others)? How can we beat temptation and not give in? What if we do give in?


Nancy
over eight years ago

Thanks for the share!
Nancy.R

Andrew Gillies
almost nine years ago

FULL TEXT OF SERMON
We all face temptation and we all give into it at least sometimes. The great temptation when we see this story about Jesus is to see it as primarily a set of principals to follow to help us to resist temptation. That’s OK if you are good and never give in, but all of us sometimes give in. What do we do then, are we just failures & weaklings. This story has at least three messages for us. First it helps us to recognise temptation, second it does give us at least one useful strategy to overcome it. But for me thirdly and most importantly it tells us when we face temptation, whether we beat it or it beats us we are not alone - God is with us to help and if we fail, to forgive and give us a fresh start.
Where does Temptation come from? What are some of the greatest temptations (for you or for others)? How can we beat temptation and not give in? What if we do give in?

I remember in the 1980s there were all those erasers about that smelled like food. A friend’s mother collected these. I remember one which looked and smelled exactly like a cream biscuit. One day I was left alone waiting in the house where these erasers were. Even though I knew what it was I gave into temptation I picked it up and I bit it. It looked and smelled wonderful but it tasted like rubber! And although I did not bite through it, I left teeth marks on it. I think I must have been hungry but we rarely got cream biscuits at home and so my desire overcame common sense.
In the story we just saw Jesus is tempted in a similar way. Hungry in the desert near the end of a fast he’s tempted to turn stones into bread. I don’t know about you, but when you’re hungry the smell of freshly baked bread is one of the best smells in the world. To satisfy yourself and to turn away from your own wants and desires is always really tempting. All of us have at times eaten more than we need rather than considering our health or the needs of others. All of us have at times chosen to look after ourselves rather than stick by our principles. Jesus answer to the temptation was to stand up for principle. There are things more important than meeting your wants and desires. People do not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Words like love God, love your neighbour, and forgive one another.
I remember once going on a church youth camp and just the previous weekend I had won my first ever and only sporting award. Yes you are looking at one of the summer 1992 B grade mixed touch football premiers of Moranbah. I had meant to bring my trophy with me but I had forgotten it. I was upset about this until one of the camp leaders said how on a previous camp one of the campers had brought along a sporting trophy and made a real galah of himself. Sometimes when we hear of Jesus being tempted to throw himself off the temple to be rescued by a host of angels, it’s about doing miracles in order to show God’s power, but I think it’s actually about how we are often tempted to make ourselves the centre of things. This can be dramatic like someone who turns everything into a drama but it can be subtle. How many of us when we are engaged in a conversation with two or more others will find that we have stopped listening. What we are doing instead is trying to work out how we can get the floor. How we can get into the conversation and have our story or issue at the centre. Even those of us who pray often find that our prayer is about telling or asking rather than really listening to hear what God has to say. We put God to the test with a series of selfish demands.
I’m a minister or a pastor and that is a position of power. In some ways it is very frustrating when people are always asking your permission to do stuff like borrow chairs, but its also flattering. It is possible, when you are a minister or a principal or a boss, or a coach to get your own way simply by saying that a thing must be. This must happen, and quite often it does ! The trouble is that when you love power the team or church or workplace can become the real master. Jesus is tempted to take power, and become a sort of unelected president of the world. The problem is that, that kind of power and empire can take over your life. We all know bosses, and coaches, and principals and other leaders whose whole life has become having control over the team, or workplace or school. They have forgotten they are there to serve customers, build a team, and nurture learning. As a minister I sometimes worry that I love the institution more than the people and since it is now 16 years since I was a teacher there is a sense in which I am trapped in the church. I am able to do little else. It sometimes feels as if the church exists to pay my wages. Mostly that feels frightening, but it also has its powerful attraction. Jesus rejects it saying there is a greater power and principle than our power. Worship the lord your God and serve only him.
I hope my words tonight have helped you see temptation just a little bit more clearly. I hope too given Jesus words you can see ways that we might resist temptation a little better. But I hope you can also see in this story of Jesus that when we are tempted whether we resist or give in - we are never alone. For me Jesus is a real human being just like me, but he is also the eternal Son of God. For me that means that God knows by experience what it is to be tempted, and so God is ready to help us when we are tempted to resist and when we fall is ready forgive. To put it another way God may never have given into temptation but in Jesus God once got very, very close.

8. Discussion
Where does Temptation come from? What are some of the greatest temptations (for you or for others)? How can we beat temptation and not give in? What if we do give in? What do you think of the idea that God (in Jesus) knows what it is to be tempted?