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Through Temptations - St John's Papatoetoe

Through Temptations

Lent 1 – 6th March 2022

Lent has begun.

Lent is not equally observed in all churches but the ideas of reflection and repentance are familiar to all Christians. Pilgrimage has a history of being a penitential undertaken but has evolved over the years to become so much more. It is a literal walking humbly with our God.

Lent is the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter morning. There are 40 days and 6 Sundays in the season. The season is inspired by the text of today’s reading. Jesus went out into the wilderness for 40 days and was tested.

We have an opportunity in Lent to allow our inner and outer faith to become more and more aligned. As we walk humbly with God through this season, it allows our shame and insecurities to be healed. We discover the healing grace of God which justifies life’s sufferings.

  • Forty days to walk closer with God.
  • Forty days to trust in God in the wilderness.
  • Forty days to reflect, repent and reorient our lives to doing the will of God in the world.
  • Forty days to gaze at the stars and feel the ground beneath our feet as we connect with the wonder of Creation.

Walking with Christ

Over the next 6 weeks, our sermons will have the theme, “Walking with Christ.” Each week, as we follow the gospel readings from Luke, we will take another step through the life of our Lord. Lenten is often pictured as a journey. It is a pilgrimage. Like Jesus entering the wilderness to retreat and discover the Holy Spirit’s power, we enter Lent so that we may discover Easter’s resurrection power.

Today’s text sees us walking with Christ through temptations.

Our lectionary readings begin in Deuteronomy where God’s covenant people are encouraged to remember the times they were divinely delivered from peril. The response in Psalm 91 is often claimed in isolation from the Wilderness story of God’s people. Saints claim the promises of Psalm 91 protection as a divine guarantee for divine abundance. The Roman passage demands heart-felt confession of God’s salvation.

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Romans 10:8-13 (NKJV)

But what does that mean: “You will be saved”? Some exclude its answer to mean salvation of your soul only from death, hell, and sin’s nature. Others exclude its answer to mean salvation from sins, sickness, sorrow, and short lives on earth. The truth is both.

Wilderness Temptations

There is no physical prosperity in the wilderness . It is lonely, deserted, and harsh. The environment will kill you if you are not careful. And it was the Holy Spirit who led Jesus into the wilderness.

Walking with Christ means that as a Christian, you will be expected to pass through wilderness experiences. There will be times of temptations. There will be trials that weigh heavily on your soul. There will be a testing of your faith.

And that is normal. That is Christ-like. That is reality.

Have you heard the story of the Toad and the Frog? (Ray & Anne Ortlund)

Toad baked some cookies. “These cookies smell very good,” said Toad. He ate one. “And they taste even better,” he said.  Toad ran to Frog’s house. “Frog, Frog,” cried Toad, “taste these cookies that I have made.”

Frog ate one of the cookies, “These are the best cookies I have ever eaten!” said Frog.

Frog and Toad ate many cookies, one after another. “You know, Toad,” said Frog, with his mouth full, “I think we should stop eating. We will soon be sick.”

“You are right,” said Toad. “Let us eat one last cookie, and then we will stop.” Frog and Toad ate one last cookie.  There were many cookies left in the bowl.

“Frog,” said Toad, “let us eat one very last cookie, and then we will stop.” Frog and Toad ate one very last cookie.

“We must stop eating!” cried Toad as he ate another.

“Yes,” said Frog, reaching for a cookie, “we need willpower.”

“What is willpower?” asked Toad.

“Willpower is trying hard not to do something you really want to do,” said Frog.

“You mean like trying hard not to eat all these cookies?” asked Toad.

“Right,” said Frog.

Frog put the cookies in a box. “There,” he said. “Now we will not eat any more cookies.”

“But we can open the box,” said Toad.

“That is true,” said Grog.

Frog tied some string around the box. “There,” he said. “Now we will not eat any more cookies.”

“But we can cut the string and open the box.” said Toad.

“That is true,” said Frog. Frog got a ladder. He put the box up on a high shelf.

“There,” said Frog. “Now we will not eat any more cookies.”

“But we can climb the ladder and take the box down from the shelf and cut the string and open the box,” said Toad.

“That is true,” said Frog.

Frog climbed the ladder and took the box down from the shelf. He cut the string and opened the box. Frog took the box outside. He shouted in a loud voice. “Hey, birds, here are cookies!” Birds came from everywhere. They picked up all the cookies in their beaks and flew away.

“Now we have no more cookies to eat,” said Toad sadly.

“Not even one.”

“Yes,” said Frog, “but we have lots and lots of willpower.”

“You may keep it all, Frog,” said Toad. “I am going home now to bake a cake.”

Can you relate? We are faced with temptations. Jesus was faced with temptations. When we try to conquer them in our own power, we eventually fail. Removing the temptations are the only way we will be able to overcome them.

It is in the wilderness that our greatest vulnerabilities and needs are laid bare before God. And in the words of an Arabic proverb, ‘The further you go into the desert, the closer you come to God.’

Combating Temptations

How do you remove temptations? The example of Jesus uncovers a secret power in Scripture. Bible reading, memorisation, meditation, and learning gives us mental, emotional, and spiritual strength to combat physical temptations.

When we see a brother or sister in sin, there are three things we do not know:

  1. How hard he or she tried not to sin.
  2. The power of the forces that assailed him or her
  3. What we would have done in the same circumstances.

Our Lord exited the wilderness empowered by God’s Spirit. Your strength to face life’s battles is gained from wilderness experiences.

Through the wilderness tests, away from the eyes of the world and the security of control, we discover the hard road of humility and whether we are willing to take up the demands it places on us.

Here, Jesus faces that testing. The devil first offers Jesus the temptation of His own comfort and when this fails he changes tack, suggesting ways Jesus could strengthen His mission by seizing wealth and influence and dramatically proving God’s power at work in Him.

But again and again, Jesus chooses the path of humble obedience. This is the path of trust in God over the security of meeting the world’s expectations. But even more than that, this is the path which makes the work of justice possible.

It is in the humbling wilderness that Jesus prepares to announce good news to the poor. Freedom for the oppressed. The year of the Lord’s favour.

On this first week in Lent with the forty days stretching out before us it might be of value to spend time setting our intentions for Lent. Intentions inspired by the themes in these passages of Scripture.

Lent is a time when we walk humbly with our God. Walking with God is how we learn to trust God. When we learn to depend on God, we gain liberty! Confess your belief in the Lord Jesus Christ with your mouth; confess your belief God raised Jesus from the dead; you will find salvation.

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