Summary: How can we be protected from the temptations of Satan?
First United Methodist Church
First Sunday of Lent--Sunday Night
February 29, 2004
“Protection for the Spiritual Journey”
INTRODUCTION: Today’s scripture sets the tone for the Lenten Season. The temptation of Jesus takes us on a spiritual journey into the wilderness and ends on a Friday in Jerusalem where the old rugged cross is standing on a hillside. During this time we have an opportunity to recall the details of that treacherous journey. Satan tried to trip him up at every turn, yet Jesus experienced protection for the spiritual journey choosing good over evil.
The beginning of Lent--what does it mean? What does it mean for you personally?
It means a variety of things. It is meant to be a time of reflection and self examination as well as a time for inner healing. We can look back to the times we have fallen into the snares and traps that Satan set for us along the way. We can examine our attitudes, our ways of responding, and root out such things as unforgiveness and bitterness. The Lenten Season is a time to allow the spotlight of the Holy Spirit to bring to the surface those areas that have brought failure and disappointment. The Lenten Season is a time of hope for us as well. No matter how far we have strayed away from His plan for us, God is there to lead us back to safety. His protection for our spiritual journey is there for us each day.
We know that living the Christian life is far from easy. There are many stumbling blocks and chuck holes along the way. The decisions life asks of us too often overwhelm us. We often have to choose between almost equal choices, not knowing which would be the better of the two.
STORY: A little boy named Bobby desperately wanted a new bicycle. His plan was to save his nickels, dimes and quarters until he finally had enough to buy a new 10 speed. Each night he asked God to help him save his money.
He prayed, “Dear Lord, please help me save my money for a new bike, and please, Lord, don’t let the ice cream man come down the street again tomorrow.”
What happens when we decide to take the easy way out? What if we are not aware of Satan’s subtle suggestions? What happens when we compromise? Most of the time we are torn between those important decisions. How do we obtain protection for our spiritual journey?
What can we learn from this scripture that we can apply to our lives as we begin this journey?
1. Preparation for the Journey: Some significant things happened to Jesus just prior to this wilderness experience. At His baptism heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him like a dove and a voice from heaven spoke, “You are my Son; whom I love; with You I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). But will he continue to please the Father? Will He continue to do His will and complete the mission He set out to do? Before He went out into His public ministry, Jesus had to be tested to see for sure. What would His responses be if a really subtle temptation came along? Would he respond differently when no one was looking?
Scripture says He was led of the Holy Spirit into a wilderness which represents a place that no one wants to be, a place often associated with demon activity. The account in Mark says he was “with the wild animals” (Mark 1:13) showing how dangerous it really was. How did Jesus handle it?
We have a few details here. Scripture says he was:
1. full of the Holy Ghost. Matthew Henry says, “Well armed against the strongest temptation are they who are full of the Holy Ghost.”
2. He fasted and prayed for 40 days.
3. He knew the Word of God.
Spiritually he was clearly not running on empty like we are at times. You might think that if He was at His best spiritually that things would go without a hitch. But no, when he was physically hungry, Satan moved in and took advantage of Him. Satan sees an opportune moment to get at us too. He sees a weak link in the chain and says, “Ah, hah! I’ll get him now. I’ll trip her up so fast that she won’t know what hit her.” How many have had this happen to you? I know that we all have. Just when we think we are so strong.
STORY: A little boy was in the grocery store with his Mom. He just happened to be standing next to an open box of chocolate chip cookies.
The grocer spotted him and said, “Son what are you up to?”