Temptation in 2017

Matthew 4:1-11

“Temptation in 2017” Matthew 4:1-11; 2 Corinthians 10:13 1-15-17  1-15-17 Lake Murray Presbyterian Dr. Ben Sloan
To see a video of this sermon and the anthem, click here

Temptation comes to all of us at different times and in different ways. What tempts you- may not tempt me. It changes in life- but is never fully removed. When I was a young boy- 6 or 8 my brothers were teenagers. They liked girls a lot- and I was not there yet- until I was a teenager. Their temptations were different from mine. The things that fascinated me as a younger man- do not seem quite as important as a man who is getting older. My temptation as an older man is to be a curmudgeon- inflexible and not allowing God to work in different ways. I can tell you that a woman in college is tempted in different ways than a woman who just had a baby. A grandmother thinks differently than someone who is only working. Pride comes at us- evil attacks our souls in different stages in life- taking what is good and twisting it into wrong. Each life stage has different temptations for us. But in the end, there are some temptations that are universal. In our passage in Matthew Jesus is tempted in ways we all are: Materialism, Manipulation, and if I can coin a term: Meism.
It is important for us to realize Jesus refuted and was able to resist each temptation by knowing and quoting scripture- actually it was all from the same chapter of the Bible- Deuteronomy 8.
I. MATERIALISM- TEMPTED WITH PHYSICAL TEMPTATION OF LUST- BODY- Hungry- stones- Bread. Later Jesus would multiply fish and bread enough to feed 5,000+ people. This is the temptation of materialism. It is all about what you see- your work, your money, your house, your car, your ability to buy the new, keep up with the Joneses, have the nicest clothes. It is a natural thing. Dad- everyone else has the nice…whatever. Usually, we are tempted physically when we lose perspective. So Esau was willing to give away his whole inheritance for some stew because he was hungry. So people forget that one day we will have to leave everything we accumulate here, and we could give what we have to relatives who will squander what we have worked for with lack of appreciation.
Somehow we buy into the illusion that temptation will not hurt us. I was listening to the story of a male prostitute who lived in Hollywood and was a top 10 model. He had a lot of money. But he would go home every night and weep and wonder what he was doing to his mind and soul. He ended up getting AIDS. But the good news he found hope in Christ and gave up his decadent lifestyle. If you play with fire- no matter how attractive you will get burned. There was an Indian story about a young boy who climbed a mountain and saw a snake. He was about to walk away when the snake started speaking- “I am cold and about to die- there is no food this high up. Take me down to the valley and everyone will call you a snake charmer and will marvel.” “But you will bit me” cried the boy. The snake assured him- and because he was a pretty snake the boy put him in his shirt- took him down- as he was laying him down the snake bit him. “But I thought you wouldn’t bite me!” The boy exclaimed. The snake said, “You knew what I was when you picked me up.”
One way this temptation shows up is selfishness. We have our bread and we don’t care about anyone who doesn’t have bread- all they have is stones. On this MLK weekend, let us care for those who do not have. Let us seek to be a generous, more thoughtful, less self-centered people. Man does not live by bread alone. King rightly saw that we oppress others when we deify money.
II. MANIPULATION- TEMPTED WITH MANIPULATING GOD- MIND- Throw yourself down to see and show what God can do. Jesus did not manipulate God- but in the garden before his crucifixion he prayed the opposite- “Father-not my will but thine be done.” In the end God lifted him up from the cross and grave. We do not need to manipulate God to our will- instead we need to trust God, and try to get our will to be one with His. Heard one Clemson fan pray right before Hunter Renfrow caught his game winning touch down for Clemson- “Lord if we win I’ll name my first baby after Deshaun.” I think he is trying to figure out now how to persuade his wife. He might be convinced that this one prayer is why Clemson won- God really wanted his baby to be named Deshaun so he moved the universe. Someone said, “As long as there are math tests, there will always be prayer in schools.” Or atheists in fox holes. Manipulation is bad. This temptation is for God to help when we need him and then leave him behind the rest of our lives.
Similar to manipulating God- is the temptation to blame God. This would be- I jumped down and you didn’t catch me. The wife was mad at her husband for being late. He said, “It’s God’s fault!” “Why? She asked.” “Because I fell and God invented gravity.” When we think that we are the vic tims of our circumstances, we fail to look to God to find courage, strength, healing, and hope. Ironically, it is not about our own self-actualization. Our peace is not the goal of the whole world. Jane Alpert bombed hundreds of people. Her lawyer said she is going to therapy to learn to forgive others and myself. What about the people she hurt? What about getting your soul right before God? Self victimization- is very close to blaming God, but it is never healthy and keeps us from taking responsibility for our own behavior. So a spouse empties the bank account and then complains that they feel neglected. The daughter practices self-destructive behavior because no one listens to her. A thief caught red handed claims that it was because they were abused as a child. At some point it doesn’t matter. We need to be honest with ourselves and God and take responsibility- come humbly before God and get things right. You will never get things right is you are trying to manipulate God or blame God or someone else.
Manipulating others is twisting others to our self-centered will. I see it with young children- I want that candy- I’ll hold me breath, I’ll scream, I’ll fall down til you get it for me. I have seen teenage daughters twist their fathers around their little finger to get what they didn’t need. We have a tendency to manipulate God. It is close to God abuse.
In some ways this temptation is an effort for Satan to ask the Father to prove He exists. Prove to me you are God- then I will favor you be believing in you- we are the arbiters- we are the god of God. Demanding such proof is a kind of manipulation of God. Bertrand Russell used to say there is not enough evidence to believe in God. But as someone said to him- is it that there is not enough evidence or is it the suppression of evidence?
Once a man told his wife “I am dead.” He was convinced. So she took him to psychiatrists who tried to convince him that dead men don’t bleed. Finally the man said, “Okay- dead men don’t bleed.” Then a psychiatrist took a pin and pricked him. The man said, “What do you know! Dead men can bleed!” Instead of getting God to show off for us- to prove He is thee- can we not seek to trust and love Him?
III. MEISM- The worship of me. Or Me first ism. TEMPTED WITH POWER- SPIRIT- We lust to be in control- or as the song goes, “Everybody wants to rule the world.” Now we know Jesus is worshiped all over the world- in more countries and more people than any other religion. Despite what is happening in our increasingly immoral and skeptical culture- the faith is growing and spreading in the world. Will you sacrifice your integrity for more respect, being more popular, having more control? Many a politician is a Mr. Smith who goes to Washington until they get there and then they lose who they are. To value money, power, control and their cohorts intelligence, beauty and athletic prowess- above your soul is to sell your soul to the devil.
Oscar Wilde lived a visibly and purposefully selfish, materialistic, manipulative life- and ended up saying his whole life was absorbed in suffering. Malcolm Muggeridge lived in India, and he too was living for selfish pleasure. He went down to the river to bathe and he saw the silhouette of a beautiful woman about to bathe. He swam toward her thinking he would seduce her. When he came up close to her she turned away- for she was a leper. He recoiled, saying to himself, “She is lecherous” But then he knew she was not- he was. That is what prompted him to look for Christ.
Temptations do not stop. You will face them your whole life. You may face them in church. Do not think you are too good to face it. If Jesus- who was great morally faced it- you will too. Jesus faced them in the wilderness when he was tired and hungry. When you let your guard down- after some big success- or when you are close to home- more wrecks happen within 2 miles close to home than anywhere else. It is important to know what tempts you- in your particular stage of life- to love God less- to love neighbor less- to be more self-absorbed and less kind.
I wanted to end with a quote from a preacher from the City Temple in London Arthur Griffith, quoted by Ravi Zacharias about these 3 temptations. – Satan tempts us at physical needs- not to gratify them to excess- but that we might think of nothing else and gratify them at the expense of our usefulness in this world;’ Satan tempts us in our ambitions, not that ‘we might engage in positive evil- but simply accept the fact of evil. Learn to live with it- come to terms with evil- and be silent in the presence of it. Satan Tempts us in religion- not disbelieve in God- but that we would demand certainty and leave nothing to faith. We are tempted to renounce duty in favor of what is attractive. Half goodness- produces more suffering, hatred, war, and misery- than all the designs of wicked and greedy people combined.
What is tempting you in your life right now. What can you see will be your temptations in 2017? Guard your heart, resist your temptation, and flee temptation.