Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: We can resist temptation by refusing to take short cuts

I am told that one of the hottest shows on Television these days is called "Temptation Island." It is a ’reality’ show like "Survivor". Four unmarried couples, who are in long-term relationships, are taken to a Caribbean island for two weeks to test and explore the strength of their commitment. Upon their arrival, they are separated from their partners and sent to thirteen hunks with whom they will mix and date during their stay. The four men go to the other end of the island where thirteen gorgeous single women are waiting for them. The purpose of these thirteen men and women is to be the "temptation" for the couples … who are not allowed to communicate with each other for the duration of their time on the island. They do see each other, though, in person and on video dating the singles.

The whole process forces the individuals into situations where they are tempted, and their emotions manipulated. At the end of the two-week period, the couples decide whether they still want to be together or with one of the people they met on the Island.

It is really unfortunate that the producers did not consult me ahead of time. Because I know of a surefire test that will help couples decide whether they want to be together or not...if that is really what they wanted to accomplish. I could’ve spared them all the expenses, yet produced “reality” television. This is how it works. Set up cameras in every house where these couples live. And follow their every move from the time they begin to talk about it, do their planning, shopping, prepping, until the final moment in the privacy of their bedrooms when they consummate the messy business of hanging wallpaper on at least 2 walls! The couples that are still talking to each other and show no symptoms of verbal, mental or physical abuse will be together for life!

But, of course, sex sells better than wallpaper. And, let’s face it, we all have this fascination with temptation. Because, each and everyone of us is tempted each and every day of our lives in one way or another in the choices we make about how we spend our money, our time, our life. Over the next few weeks, many people will give in to the temptation of withholding vital information about certain sources of income from Revenue Canada! Many who made wonderful resolutions about giving up something for Lent will find themselves getting back what they gave and more!

Recognizing that temptation is a fact of life, the good folks who put together the lection-ary insist that we read the narrative about the Temptation of Jesus at least once a year, on the first Sunday of Lent. We can analyze them one by one and try to classify them under different categories as scholars have already done. However, I would like to show you how, in every one of those three instances, the Tempter was attempting to get Jesus to take A SHORT CUT. Let me explain what I mean.

Jesus had just emerged from the shadows to publicly begin the mission that God had set before him. He has been baptized, declared by a voice from heaven as the Son of God, the one in whom God is well pleased, the one to whom all should listen. Jesus knows that God had sent him to be the Messiah, but not a military Messiah who would use excessive force to liberate the Jews from their oppression under the Romans. Instead he would be the Suffering Servant who was foretold by the prophet Isaiah. As a matter of fact, within a very short period, Jesus would tell his disciples that accomplishing his mission would include suffering, rejection, persecution and ultimately lead to his death.

But the Tempter offers him an alternative. He advises Jesus to follow Plan B, that would help him accomplish the mission of drawing people to God’s cause...without all the pain and suffering of Plan A. Watch how he operates.

The devil offers Jesus temptations which seem, on the surface, harmless enough. They are certainly not temptations to do evil. The devil is just encouraging Jesus to take the easy road in order to show the world that he really is the Son of God. Look, again, at these "harmless" temptations. "Command this stone to become a loaf of bread." Temptation number one. Not a bad idea, really. Think about it. A lot of good could come from such a move. It would remind the Jewish people of how God fed their ancestors in the desert with manna and help them see Jesus as the Messiah! And, hey, what’s inherently wrong with feeding the hungry anyway? Isn’t it a good thing to do? Isn’t God concerned with the hungry people of this world? Jesus, you’ve got the gift, baby! Put your miraculous powers to good use here and transform this barren tract of land into a booming bakery. Take A SHORT CUT.

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