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Sermon and for Lent One - Year C
Luke 4:1-13
"Faith and The Importance of Temptation"


READING:  Luke 4:1-13
SERMON :  "Faith and The Importance of Temptation"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-le01se 413

   Sources:   Some of the basic points in the following sermon are 
   not original, but the source of them is lost in the recesses of 
   time.  In any case the blame for the details can be assigned
   to me.  -- Richard


     Bless, O God, the words of my lips and the meditations of our
     hearts that they be of profit to us and acceptable to thee, oh
     our Rock and our Redeemer.  Amen

Temptation is  a serious matter - tells you who you are
     - comedians and TV Commercials make jokes about it
     - but there is nothing funny about it
          - experiencing temptation can be guilt producing - even when you
          do not succumb
          - and it can be harmful when you do.

It is important therefore to know what the importance of temptation is and
how it relates to the life of faith.


First, 
it is important to know that feeling temptation does not mean you are
sinful

In fact may mean you are strong, worthy of attack

Jesus was tempted - and we know that he was regarded as sinless by God and
by those around him.
          
The devil is not interested in tempting you if you are already on his
side...  you should worry more about your spiritual state if you feel no
temptation than if you do...

The fact that you are tempted is not proof that your faith is weak, or that
you are a bad person - it is only proof that Satan is trying to get you do
to something you ought not do.
     
Which leads to the second important thing to know about temptation.


Second
Temptation needs to be taken seriously 
because it is designed to take you away from God 
and deprive you of the life of that Christ died to give you. 

People who believe and do God's will are a real threat to Satan.

The devil tempts us - not to get us to do specific bad things, but to
forget God, to forget God's love and care, to forget God's mercy and to
either worship the Devil, or at the very least, do things contrary to what
God wants. 

This we see in Jesus 
- the temptation to turn stone into bread was an effort to get Jesus to see
if he was really what God had said he was 
- IF YOU ARE GOD'S SON - DO THIS - 
the unwritten message being that God has lied.

This temptation can also be seen as one in which we are tempted to replace
God in our lives with material possessions and comforts - to seek the gifts
of the creator instead of the creator himself.

The second temptation is to get Jesus to outright break with God and to
worship Satan.  All this he says, pointing at the world, will be yours if
you but worship me.

This temptation can also be seen as the temptation of compromise.  This
temptation says that the means we use to obtain something are not
important, only the thing we obtain.

The third temptation is bring into question God's care for Jesus.  Will he
or will he not protect you if you jump off the temple roof.  Test his care
- see if you are really important to God - see if God will save you.


Third:
it is important to know that while all temptation has the same goal, 
it comes at us by different means.

Jesus's temptations were quite vivid - he was an exceptionally strong
person and so exceptionally strong temptations were necessary if he was
likely to fall off the straight and narrow - hence the 40 days in the
wilderness before the devil even appeared to him to tempt him.

The temptations of Jesus are the same ones we experience as well, but
because we are different people, they come at us in different ways.  After
all you can not tempt a rich man with a meal at MacDonalds or a child with
the promise of a return to the days of youth.  

What are the things that make you doubt God? or Forget God?  or try to put
God to the test?  These are your temptations... for these, if given into,
will take you ever further away from God until you finally perish.. . 
          
One man told me once that he could not come to church and worship God
because Big Wheel Trucks came on at the same time on TV...     

Another time a church organist at a small rural church in New Brunswick
failed to show up when she was expected because she had to cut her
husband's nose hairs that morning... seriously....

There are countless ways that we are encouraged to forget God on the
Sabbath let alone in our daily lives.

For some people TV is sufficient to make them forget what God expects of
them.  For other people it is money problems, others are only rattled in
their faith when they see innocent people getting hurt.  

In any case - the important thing is that the goal of all the temptations
is to shake your faith in God - and if this can be done by getting you to
do nothing then that will be the way it is offered to you.  If it can be
done by getting you to do something other than what God would have you do -
that will be offered.  Or if it can be done by getting you to question
God's love by having you look at the pain around you instead of the good
things around you - then that will be done.


Fourth,  
Temptation is Important to the life of faith because it tests us
and provides us with an opportunity to grow.
          
Jesus did not perform his ministry until he had been tested, and this is
good - for how could we place confidence in a person who tells us what is
good and how it can be done if that person  has not been there when the
going was tough...

Temptation can, if we look at with the eyes of faith, be good for us and
good for God's plan for our lives.  A faith that is tempted, or tested, and
survives, is a better faith.

The question remains therefore - how do we survive temptation?  How do we
turn if from something potentially very bad for us into something that ends
up making us stronger?

Jesus is the model.  We see Jesus turn aside every temptation by turning to
the word of God.  He remembered, in each situation what it was God expected
of him and told the tempter so.

Jesus we see speaks to temptation, recalling what is right 

To successfully resist temptation, we too need to recall the good things of
God, to remember what is right, and speak of it.  Like Jesus, we need to
know the Word of God so that we can do what God would have us do in every
situation. 

But there is more - Those who are wise in the faith tell us that   every
temptation is an opportunity to flee to God and that the best way to escape
evil is to pursue good.

I watched a mother with her child the other day have a conversation about
stealing.  When asked  what one should do when tempted to steal something
she replied "well you walk away - that is best - and some people say a
prayer while they do so - they ask Jesus to help them.

The lesson of the scriptures is that he who is able to resist temptation is
able to help us resist.  If your mind is on Christ, if you are asking him
what you should do, you are not going to be able to think a whole lot about
what is tempting you.  Jesus will help you.

The bible says because Jesus was tempted he is able to help others, and
make intercession for them before God.  Indeed, in the prayer that he
taught us Jesus said we should ask God to "lead us not into temptation, but
deliver us from evil..."

Perhaps saying the Lord's prayer is a good antidote to temptation.  It is
awfully tough to give into temptation in the middle of a prayer.


Fifth 
the last thing that is important to know about temptation is this: 
Temptations are sure to ring your doorbell, 
but it is your fault if you invite them to dinner.

The story is told about the student who came to take leave of his teacher
so that he could return to his family and business.  When he entered the
teacher's presence he asked for something to carry away with him.

The teacher said: Ponder on these things:
     - It is not the fire that is hot, but you who feel it;
     - It is not the eyes that see, but you who look;
     - It is not the compass that makes the circle, but the draftsman.

Temptation is always a test of the heart of the person - and if you recall
that this is the case - then you can combat it - if you want to. 

No elaborate rituals are needed to resist temptation,
     one does not have to make a big deal of it,
     one just has to say no 
          and to turn to God for his help - in prayer, and in positive
action - in doing other things that you know are in his will for you.

Finally 
because it is Christ we preach, and not our own strength, 
     if you are like Paul and find that you still end up doing that which
     is wrong, despite your wishes do not despair and give Satan another
     opportunity  by that despair.

Satan, remember, wants you to forget God - or to doubt God - and if he can
get you to think that you are beyond God's love because of your sin, that
is what he will do. 

If you have fallen to temptation,
     if you have let it in to dine at your table and feel guilt over it, 
turn to God immediately
put your sense of guilt to good use
     and use it  as an opportunity to claim Christ's victory over sin and
     temptation 
     -  accept in your heart that he forgives you. 
     - Thank him 
     - and then ask his help to try to walk once more without falling.

Praise be to God who gives us the victory.  Amen


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 1998 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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