March 08, 2020 | Lisa Degrenia
Passage: Matthew 4:1-4
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Jesus still wet from his baptism in the Jordan. With the affirmation of the Father ringing in his ears, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) Heads into the Judean wilderness before beginning his public ministry.
Here's one of the surprises I had in Israel- The Mount of Temptation is really close to Jericho. Everyone for thousands and thousands of years has wanted Jericho because it’s an oasis. It's rich in people, water, fruits, and vegetables. If you go there be sure to try the dates and bananas and kabob. Jericho is rich in bread.
Jesus chooses to fast for 40 days on the next hill. I suspect he could hear the laughter from Jericho. He could smell their cooking, see the crops growing. I suspect it gave him quite an appetite.
1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was famished. 3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
The wilderness will humble you. It will show you how frail and needy and lonely you can be.
Jesus not only chooses to go into the wilderness, he chooses to fast in the wilderness. Fasting is the spiritual discipline for getting serious with God. It's the spiritual discipline for testing your heart, your motivations. Fasting removes the filters and brings up all the junk. Fasting is roto-rooter for your soul.
The wilderness is also a place to meet the tempter
Temptation #1- Identity
“If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
The Devil slides in and questions Jesus’ identity. The Devil does the same to us. If you are a good parent... Are you really a good parent? Are you really a writer? Are you really a ____________? Are you really a beloved child of God? You’re a pretender. You’re an imposter. Those are the words of the tempter.
Jesus knows he's the Son of God. He was just reminded at his baptism. The Devil knows who Jesus is, too. The question is, do we know who we are?
Jesus is reminded at his baptism as so are we every time we reaffirm our baptismal vows. Look how closely the vows relate to this scripture.
The United Methodist Baptismal Vows
I renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of my sin.
I accept the freedom and power God gives me to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.
I confess Jesus Christ as my Savior, put my whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as my Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races.
According to the grace given to me, I will remain a faithful member of Christ’s holy church and serve as Christ’s representative in the world.
If you are a beloved child of God... Yep, that's who I am!
Jesus knows who he is and the Devil knows who Jesus is. So the Devil double-dog dares Jesus to prove who he is.
Temptation #2- Power
If you are the Son of God command these stones to become loaves of bread
Simple, practical, diabolical
Ok Son of God, prove who you are with a display of your power. Command. Fix the situation. You're hungry. Force the situation, turn stones into bread. Serve yourself. Satisfy your appetite.
Then the Devil turns to us. Ok so you're a Beloved Child of God, use your power to command. To fix and force. Serve yourself. Satisfy your appetite. Be the god of your needs.
Then there are times we turn to God with a devilish demand. Ok God, you say you love me. Use your power to fix and force this situation. Fix and force to serve me, to satisfy my appetite. Lord have mercy.
Matthew 20, Mrs. Zebedee does this. Her sons are two of Jesus' most trusted disciples, James and John. The sons of thunder. Can you imagine these guys, much less mama!
Mrs. Zebedee asks Jesus to fix and force, satisfy her appetite. She requests her sons to be given the highest positions in Jesus’ kingdom. Serve me, Jesus, by serving my boys. This naturally upset the other disciples. Here's his reply.
25 Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 26 It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
It's not about us being served by fixing and forcing in our own power. It's not about expecting God to fix and force on our behalf. It's about humility and service. That's who I am as a child of God.
Temptations = Misuse. In this case the misuse of our God-given identity, power, and blessings.
Temptation #3- Blessings
If you are the Son of God command these stones to become loaves of bread
It is sin and idolatry to twist the blessings of God into something they were never meant to be. Stone was never meant to be bread.
It's twisting God's good gift of work into a workaholic.
Love into lust, abuse, pornography, prostitution, enmeshment
Excellence into perfectionism
Food into gluttony, over-processing, eating disorders
In the wilderness, you meet the tempter but it’s also the place to meet God. Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness just like the slaves leaving Egypt were led by the Spirit into the wilderness. Into the wilderness and in wilderness.
The wilderness is both dangerous and holy. The Spirit doesn't just drop Jesus off and say, "Bye-bye. See you in a few weeks." Imagine how many encouraging, inspiring, intimate conversations the Father, Son, Spirit have those 40 days in the wilderness. I want to see that on the jumbotron when I get to heaven.
Jesus, affirmed by the Father, led by the Spirit, answers the tempter with the word of God. “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4 and Deuteronomy 8:3)
Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 8:1-3
God speaking through Moses, 1 This entire commandment that I command you today you must diligently observe, so that you may live and increase, and go in and occupy the land that the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors.
Notice the command is not self-serving. It's not about control. It is for our good so that we may live.
2 Remember the long way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments.
People of God were led by the Spirit in the wilderness from slavery to freedom.
The same is true for us through the life death and resurrection of Jesus. The wilderness humbles us. Fasting tests what's in our hearts and reveals it.
God tests us to reveal what’s in our hearts so we may draw closer to God. It's always for our good. Testing calls us to the higher road and to life. God never tempts. The Devil tempts us away from God and our true selves.
3 He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
Am I Living Life by Bread Alone?
My appetites rule my life. I'm misusing my identity, my power, and the blessings of God.
My Motivation is to satisfy my appetite. I will use my power to get what I want. “I need it. I want it. I crave it.”
I control. I force. I cut corners. I manipulate. I will justify my actions as practical, "just doing business."
It's idolatry and sin to separate the practical from the spiritual when it’s all spiritual. It's idolatry and sin to take my God-given identity, power, and blessing and twist it into something it was never meant to be.
No! I'm not going to live by bread alone. I live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord!
I know who I am in Christ. Do you know who you are in Christ?
Have you recognized the power God gives you and are you using it for the glory of God?
Do you respect God’s blessings? Can you see them all around you? Are you using them for the common good?
Jesus, help us to see who we truly are. To see the power and blessings you've entrusted to us. Give us eyes to see. Help us to see how we are misusing these gifts. We confess it. We ask for your forgiveness. Turn us right. Untwist us. Do not let the Devil deceive or tempt us.
Jesus, thank you for the ways we are cooperating with you. Using what you entrust to us for good. We know there's good in us because of you. Overcome the evil with the good. Overcome the temptation with your power, your resurrection power, your new life. Forgive us and make us new, Jesus. Use us for your good. I am a Child of God. Glory to God. Amen.
Bread- simple, ordinary, yet a powerful reminder of God and God's ways