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Taxes, birth, death and ……

March 7, 2012

Death and taxes, Ben Franklin wrote, are the only things that are certain in this world. Margaret Mitchell indirectly added babies to the list when she wrote in Gone With The Wind that there’s never a convenient time for death, taxes, or childbirth. To this list I think the bible would add another condition that is certain and common to us all and that is TEMPTATION. And certainly my experience is that temptation comes at the most inconvenient time – but then again it did for Jesus as well.

‘No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to us all.’ 1 Cor 10:13

I was preaching away from home this week and was given the passages Luke 4: 1-12 about the temptation of Jesus and I Corinthians 10:1-13 and what I preached that day is still living within me, and so I will take a break from Proverbs and share an edited version of my sermon to encourage/challenge you.

The common condition – temptation is something we all face and so we better wise up to it. It is amazing how exact and repetitive the bible is about temptation. It shows us that temptation has three prongs of attack and if Jesus wasn’t immune to it so neither will we be. The three prongs of temptation are towards the body, the mind and the spirit. In the Garden of Eden we read of that very first temptation to ignore God’s way was through fruit of the tree and we are told this was good for food (tempting to the body) and pleasing to the eye (tempting to the mind), and also desirable for gaining wisdom(tempting to the spirit). The three temptations of Jesus we have recorded in Luke 4 (n.b. we read he was tempted for 40days but we only have  three recorded) also are directed to the body (overcome hunger), the mind (desire for wealth and status) and the spirit (pride, God will rescue you, as you are God’s special one). Similarly in 1 Cor 10 and 1 John 2:16 also use this threefold division. So be warned you will be tempted by physical appetites (food and sex the most obvious), desires of ambition (to have and to rule) and pride of the spirit (that you are equal to God, either by believing there is no God or that God deals with you uniquely).  The truth is also that we share the common condition of sin in that we give into these temptations time and time again. Adam gave into temptation, Israel gave into temptation, we all give into temptation. But there was one who did not…..

The conqueror – Luke places the temptation of Jesus where he does, after a genealogy going back to Adam, so we will compare Jesus with Adam. The forty days of temptation is emphasised to remind us of the forty years of wandering. Luke is saying where Adam & Eve failed, where Israel  failed, God has provided a conqueror. The one who can fulfil the purposes of humanity. And just as Jesus identified with us through his baptism so the first step to overcoming temptation is to identify with Jesus at our baptism. To realize the only place to both be accepted by God as one who has not failed and to live as a conqueror of temptation is to identify ourselves in Christ.

The way of the cross is then the way of victory for those who have identified themselves with Christ and is the way to overcome temptation by following Christ. Luke 4 gives some simple steps for the way of the cross.

  1. Be filled with the Spirit – Luke 4:1 – let us ask and keeping on asking to be filled. Know that you are a child of God by the Spirit so that you do not need circumstances, or persecution or affirmation to know it/question it.  That as Jesus could be strong because he knew who he was, so you can.
  2. Be finding solitude – Luke 4:1 – a place to be alone to be with God
  3. Be firm in spiritual disciplines – Luke 4:2 – Jesus fasted and most likely immersed himself with scripture. The spiritual disciplines do not earn us favour with God but provide channels for his grace.
  4. Be faithful with scripture – Luke 4: 3-12 Jesus knew and used scripture but knowing and using scripture was not sufficient, satan also new and used scripture, the difference is that Jesus was faithful to God in using scripture correctly.
  5. Be fast in spotting temptation – Luke 4:13

And my prayer for all who read this, those who have given into temptation, those who are facing temptation that you will learn to conquer as you come to Christ and I pray for you ‘Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever and ever. Amen’.

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3 Comments
  1. 220lily permalink

    My temptations… physical appetites (sex), desires of ambition (to rule), and pride of the spirit (God deals with you uniquely).

  2. 220lily permalink

    Do you know what I realized last night after reading this? That the devil wasn’t tempting Jesus to be ambitious (status, wealth) when he told him he’d give Jesus the kingdoms of the world if the Son would bow down to him. It wasn’t that at all!

    God the Father promised Jesus the kingdoms of the world, i.e. the hearts of people. This was Jesus’s earthly (and heavenly) goal; it’s why he came. What the devil tempted Jesus with was the short and easy path, i.e. self-exaltation + the wrong god. Instead, Jesus chose the long and hard path, i.e. self-sacrifice (the cross) + the right God. Jesus still bowed, but it was on the cross and to the Father rather than Satan.

    The devil tempts us the same way. Let’s pray we choose the cross, self-sacrifice, and Yahweh. Let’s aim at heaven and get earth thrown in, not aim at earth and get neither (= gain world and lose soul).

    • Thanks – yes the one point I missed from my sermon on this was that Jesus went through 40 days of suffering, and this points to the other temptations and sufferings of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and at the cross. We must not see suffering as something to be avoided at all cost or an indication that God is not for us or with us but as the path of the cross to be embraced so that we can know redemption in our sufferings and resurrection power out of them as Paul says in Phil 3 – I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his suffering… So sometimes, as you say, we need to bow our head in worship and submission during times of temptation and suffering

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