Summary: A look at the devil’s temptation of Christ and what it gives us for dealing with temptation in our own lives.
February 29, 2004 — First Sunday in Lent
Christ Lutheran Church, Columbia, MD
Pastor Jeff Samelson
Jesus TURNS Away Temptation
Use God’s Word
(note: An outline for the congregation should be printed in the bulletin, put on screen, etc., with just the first letters of TURNS:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
He was a good Christian man — a good husband and a good father — or so everyone thought. But that all changed when it came out that he’d been carrying on an affair with a woman from his office. He’d been attracted to her from the first, but figured he and his marriage were strong enough to hold up against the temptation. But when he found out she was attracted to him, suddenly his life, his marriage, his family, and his values didn’t mean what they used to. He gave in. Two years later, having lost just about everything he held dear, he’s wondering why he was so … stupid.
She was a good kid — a college-bound high school senior. Everyone liked her and thought she’d do well in life. And she’d told her parents all the right things, and she meant them — she’d stay away from drugs and alcohol, she’d save sex for marriage, and if she ever found herself at the wrong kind of party, she’d leave. But somehow that night she just couldn’t bring herself to walk out the door. She didn’t want to spoil her friends’ fun. It was late. She was tired. And Ryan, that cute guy from her biology class was there. And when the police woke her up at 5:30 in the morning, passed out in the back seat of Ryan’s car, with no idea how she’d got there and some of her clothes missing, her world just fell apart. It was just one night, and one bad decision, but her life was changed forever.
You were a good person — a Christian man, woman, boy, or girl. You really wanted to live according to God’s will, because you loved Jesus and wanted to thank him for all he had done for you. And you knew exactly what it was you were supposed to do and exactly what you weren’t supposed to do, but when the time came and the temptation presented itself, you chose the sin instead of your Savior. Again and again and again. And every time you look back now you kick yourself for being so weak and so … stupid. You know that Jesus died for your sins and that you are forgiven, but you’d rather not be committing the sins in the first place. You want to stop giving in to temptation.
Well, our Gospel today has a message for everyone who struggles with temptation — for those who lose the big battles and those who lose the little ones, for those who fail frequently and those who … well, that would be all of us, wouldn’t it? Let’s look to Jesus and what happened when he was tempted — Luke 4:1-13:
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’”
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time. (NIV)
This is the Gospel of our Lord.
We like the way that ends, don’t we — with the devil leaving? Obviously, there was something not only right but effective about how Jesus handled the devil’s temptations, and we can learn something from this. We can sum up the lesson with a simple statement that says a lot: Jesus TURNS Away Temptation.