Temptations and Faith (02/17/13 Sermon)

Luke 4:1-13

4Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in
the wilderness, 2where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing
at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. 3The
devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a
loaf of bread.” 4Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread
alone.’” 5Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the
kingdoms of the world. 6And the devil said
to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been
given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. 7If
you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8Jesus
answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”
9Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the
pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw
yourself down from here, 10for it is written,
‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ 11and
‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot
against a stone.’” 12Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God
to the test.’” 13When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him
until an opportune time.
Today is the first Sunday of Lent. One of the purposes of Lent is for the
community to reflect on the depth of its discipleship and faith in God. Also,
it is time to reflect on God’s abundant grace for all of us.

 

I believe that it is a joy to reenter this Lenten
season. These days, many think that Lent is a dreary season of restriction or
self-denial. However, for the early church, Lent was just the opposite of a
dreary season of restriction and self-denial. It was understood as an
opportunity to return to a life of natural communion with God, neighbors, and
all of God’s creation.

Moreover, this season helps us to remember that God
is the center of our lives and source of all grace. Therefore, for this season,
I invite you to explore what it might look like to live within God’s grace,
trusting in its sufficiency to meet your needs. Then, you will see that this season
will help us, here at the Chilmark Community Church, to restore a right and
faithful relationship with God and increase our sense of joy coming from that relationship.

For the coming 40 days, we will, first of all,
engage in restoring our relationship with God through our worship, preaching,
praise, prayer, the Bible readings and so on. And then, we will have a
discerning process to reflect on the depth of our discipleship and faith in
God. I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide us so that we can humbly engage in
this process.

For the first sermon in the Lenten season, I would like to bring a lesson, a great lesson for
Christians, from a dog. I now invite you to pay attention to this lesson.

 

Dogs are considered man’s best friends. They are
very cute and friendly and love people. Moreover, dogs are faithful. Anyone who
has trained a dog to obey knows this scene. A bit of meat or bread is placed on
the floor near the dog and the master says, “No!” The dog knows that she must
not touch it. The treat looks and smells so delicious that the dog starts to
salavate. However, the dog does not touch the food because the master said,
“No!” The dog will usually take her eyes off the food, because the temptation
to disobey would be too great, and will instead fix her eyes on the master’s
face. Do you catch the point? Even though the dog is tempted by the food, the
dog intentionally takes her eyes off the food and intentionally fixes her eyes
on the master’s face. We know that the dog sometimes glances at the food and
makes a groan. But the point is the dog tries to fix her eyes on the master.
How about that? Isn’t it great? That is the lesson from the dog. For Lent,
please keep this in your mind whenever you are tempted. “Always faithfully look
to the Master’s face.”

 

In today’s Scripture, we also can see Jesus that
fixes his eyes on God, resisting the temptations from evil. After Jesus was
baptized, he went into the wilderness. He was filled with the Holy Spirit and
prayed to God for 40 days without any food. After 40 days, the devil came to
Jesus and tempted him.

The first temptation was to end Jesus’ hunger by
turning stones into bread. The devil tempted Jesus to rely on the values of
material security. Secondly, the devil led Jesus up
and showed him all the kingdoms of the world. And the evil one said, “If you
worship me, all this will be yours.” Finally, the devil took Jesus to
Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you
are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here. God will command God’s angels
to protect you.”

 

Those three temptations have to do
with earthly power and glory. For many people as well as us, those temptations
are too great to resist. Today, many Christians and churches try to seek more
material wealth than they need. Sometimes, we find ourselves testing God. We often
pray to God, “If You do this for me, then I will do this for you.” Sometimes,
we find ourselves seeking more and more power as if we would rule the world.

 

However, Jesus responded to the temptations by
quoting from Deuteronomy. He responded for the first temptation, “It is written,
‘One does not live by bread alone (Deuteronomy 8:3).’” For the second
temptation, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only God (D.
6:13).’” For the last one, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the
test (D. 6:16).’” By refusing to follow the temptations of the devil, Jesus
remained faithful to God.

 

The word “temptation” has so many connotations.
According to a New Testament scholar, Arland Hultgren, it is helpful to think
of the temptation of Jesus as the testing of God’s Son.  Jesus was tested by God concerning his
baptismal vocation as the Son of God. He was obedient to his calling by being
faithful to God. Jesus just fixed his eyes on God’s face, not on the
temptations. Likewise, those who are his followers are tested concerning their
baptismal vocation. Trough baptism, we are called to obedience and to serve God.
But our faith is tested throughout the course of our lives. We often fail to be
obedient to God as the Israelites failed to be obedient in the wilderness. Nevertheless,
there is good news. That is, God remains faithful always, even if we fail to
remain faithful. Yes, God is always faithful to us. That is the good news.

 

As a response to God’s faithfulness to us, let us be
faithful to God for this Lenten season. Even though there are so many
temptations from the world, let us try not to look at them. Rather, try to fix
our eyes on God instead. Try to fix our hearts on God’s word in the Bible. This
is what Jesus did in the wilderness.
Remember the lesson of the dog. We love dogs because
they are not only cute and friendly, but also extremely faithful. In Korea,
there is a native dog called Jindo dog. These dogs are beloved by most Koreans.
Do you know why? Jindo dogs are regarded as one of the most faithful dogs. Masters
love these dogs because of their faithfulness. Likewise, God will shower us
with love when we are faithful to God. There is no doubt about that.
In today’s story, we see the temptations to abuse
our relationship to God. The devil tried to abuse the relationship of Jesus
with God. However, to all the temptations, Jesus responded with the lines from
Deuteronomy. One of the central concerns of Deuteronomy is full-fledged
faithfulness to God despite all adversities. In Jesus we see how to be faithful
to God. We see what Jesus did in the desert.
Let me wrap up today’s sermon. Being faithful to God
is a key practice for this Lenten season. For the 40 days, let us together
practice our faith to the fullest. Whenever we face temptations, let us keep
our faith in God, the faith that God will help and protect us. Let us fix our
eyes and our hearts on the master’s face. When we do this, then God, who always
remains faithful to us, will guide and protect us by giving us God’s grace and
love.

 

Let us pray,

Faithful God, we give thanks to you for the
opportunity to grow closer to you this season. Due to your love and grace, we
come together to worship and pray. Help us fix our eyes and our hearts on Your
face and to keep praying You every day. Enable us to be faithful to you. In
your name, we pray. Amen.

 

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