Summary: A sermon on growing through temptations and not repressing them. The sermon centers around the temptation of Jesus.
Title: Temptation Is A Good Thing
The Rev. Rian Adams
Spiritual growth happens in the desert. That’s spiritual and literal for me!
Every year Lent begins with Jesus in the desert as he prepared for his ministry. Throughout the scriptures, deserts are places of purification.
I lived in the Mohave Desert for three years. When I was at Edwards AFB, I became acquainted with the factious term, "dry heat." But, I grew more in that desert than anywhere I lived. The desert does not have as many interruptions. It does not draw the eyes to constant movement. The sun shines, and things are calm.
While there I learned that the desert was an excellent battleground for the soul. The desert isn't busy; it allowed me to quieten my mind so I could hear my soul.
When you quiet the mind temptations often follow. But, one thing I have learned about temptations:
Title: Temptation Is A Good Thing
Why? Because they give us a chance to solidify vocation. They encourage us to grow, but they are hard. Temptation is uncomfortable because we usually encounter it alone. But most spiritual journeys begin with a desert. Moses lived in a desert for forty years, Jesus was there for forty days.
The writer says Jesus wandered the desert and Satan tempted him in three ways. Each one is significant, and each one informs our spiritual pilgrimage. Each of the devil's temptations attempt to push Jesus into a natural kingdom and out of the spiritual kingdom.
The devil told Jesus, "turn these stones to bread." First Temptation: To be the Great (selfish) P?rovider
Jesus was in the desert without food for forty days. Temptations present themselves during exhaustion. When I’m drained, I’m prone to focus solely on self.
That's when the devil said, "turn these stones into bread." In an hour of exhaustion, the temptation whispered, “perform a miracle for yourself.”
The ego tempts the same way; it will do anything to keep us from realizing that instant gratification can’t satisfy. I’ve even prayed for instant gratification; “God, I need you to fix this right now because it hurts!”
Sometimes we want the hunger to stop so bad we try to turn the rocks of addiction and denial into food. Do you know why? Because real soul growth hurts.
Growth takes life, death, and life again. That’s how you make bread! The wheat grows from a seed to the full ear. Then it dies, and they grind it to flour. That’s when they knead it, and later they bake in a fire.
Sounds like stages in my life.
I’ve tried to undermine the process of my spiritual growth. It usually says, “Rian, change those stones into bread, and do it without patience.” That is a false hope in a pain pill ease a soul ache.
Jesus didn’t take the bait. He said, “you can’t live by instant gratification alone, you need to wait for God’s bread to come out of the oven.”
Then the Gospel says the devil tempted Jesus to be a savior through the sword.
Second Temptation: The powerful politician
“the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the earth…”
Talk about an ego trip, the king of the known world.
The Jewish people in Jesus’s day assumed the Messiah would be a political figure. He would run the Romans out once and for all. The Messiah had to liberate his people by natural means. That is what their scriptures said. We even see the disciples repeatedly tell Jesus they are ready to fight and die for the cause.
Jesus didn't meet the expectations of a Messiah. He didn't save through kingdoms, countries, corporations, or governments. Jesus defied the temptation to become the politician culture demanded. He chose the spirit over the sword.
I've spent a lot of time in war-torn countries. We did a lot of good, and I know we saved the lives of women and children because I saw it happen. But I'll admit that we didn’t save the soul of those countries with the sword.
Jesus didn’t need to take over the nations as emperor.
The political sword is a well-disguised demon. We seldom see it because it’s parasitic. It quietly steals the soul and still demands more to eat.
How do I know? Because politics have grown into the modern American religion. I know people who have the news on their TVs all day long. It has turned into an obsession, and that eats the soul.
The devil said, “you can be Caesar.” Jesus knew his call was to be a spiritual healer and not a political power.
But one more temptation remained…
The Third Temptation: To Become the High Priest
“The devil took him to the pinnacle of the temple and said, ‘jump, the angels will catch you.’”