Summary: How to face temptation.
In the Broadway Play, My Fair Lady, one of the characters sings a memorable song.
The Lord above made liquor for temptation,
To see if man could turn away from sin,
The Lord above made liquor for temptation,
BUT, with a little bit of luck,
with a little bit of luck,
When temptation comes you’ll give right it.
We all know about temptation, and there is a sense in which we like to trivialize temptation.
We whittle it down to things like, “Oh, I’ll just take one piece of chocolate cake – I know it is against my diet, but it won’t hurt to yield to temptation.”
Or… “I’m going to fudge on those numbers just a wee bit on the tax return.”
Or… “Honey you look fine. Of course that suit isn’t out of style. Now let’s go before we miss our dinner reservation.”
White lies, cheating on diets – those are temptations, but to think only of temptations in those terms trivialize the power and danger of many temptations.
It is, in fact, almost frightening how often we encounter people whose entire lives are destroyed or forever changed because when temptation came, they gave right in.
A baseball player addresses Congress and swears under oath that he has not now and never has taken steroids.
Opps – drug tests reveal he has and now he is on suspension.
President Clinton, who although he survived impeachment, will forever be known as a President who lied to congress and who constantly cheated on his wife.
Or closer to home -- the young person whose life is destroyed because of giving into the temptation to take drugs, or the child who dies because an alcoholic gave into the temptation to drink and drive, or the marriage that is destroyed, or the career that is lost.
In spite of the song of My Fair Lady, temptation is no laughing matter. It destroys us and even the people around us.
Early in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus encounters evil and faces temptation. You find it in your Bibles by looking just a couple of pages before Jesus teaches about prayer. The temptation of Jesus is found in Matthew 4, beginning with verse 1.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."
Jesus answered, "It is written: ’Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’"
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.
"If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: "’He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’"
Jesus answered him, "It is also written: ’Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’"
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.
"All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."
Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ’Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’"
Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
Resisting temptation means we must remember three things. First, we need to remember that temptations often begin in forms that, on the surface, seem very innocent, very subtle.
In order to resist temptation we must remember how quietly and gently temptation comes to us. They don’t come like a hurricane, but like a gentle breeze. They come as subtle and almost innocent opportunities.
To help you to understand what I mean, remember that the temptation of Jesus takes place when he has been in the desert for 40 days. Now, that is a long time. Where were you 40 days ago? Take a calendar and calculate that date. A lot has happened to you since then.
Imagine how you would feel if you had been in the desert for 40 days. Imagine having very little to eat or drink.
Now, imagine you are Jesus and the thought crosses your mind -- You could, by the sheer power of your will, turn the stones in front of you into bread.
What would have been the big deal?
That is the real problem with temptation. It is so easy to respond to the temptation with the phrase, "It’s no big deal."
If you jump to the end of the temptation passage you see Satan telling Jesus, "Worship me!" Now it is easy to see why that is wrong, and it is simple to understand that this is something Jesus should not do.