Summary: This is the eighth message in my SURVIVOR series, focusing upon following Jesus’ pattern for resisting temptation (11-03-02).
Before the sermon, arrange for a helper to make several calls to you as you begin to speak. Carry a cordless phone to the stage, and answer it when it rings. Prepare to ad lib the dialogue as it would relate to dealing with telemarketer calls.
Begin the sermon by briefly stating the title of the message and relating it to the TV series Survivor. As you begin, have the helper begin making a series of three or four annoying calls to you. Deal with calls about a new lower mortgage rate, cheaper telephone service, and vinyl siding for your house. Tell each “telemarketer” that you’re really busy and you aren’t interested in what they are selling. On the fourth call, just let it ring once, answer it, then hang up immediately.
(Idea taken from Creative Sermon Starters, Group Publishing (2000), p. 53.)
Debrief Living Illustration
You know, those frequent and annoying telemarketer calls are a lot like the temptations that Satan constantly throws our way. The calls are so annoying. They come at some of the worst times. And they are sometimes so hard to get rid of … just like our temptations. This morning, those calls kept me from being able to begin this message. They broke my focus and my concentration. They kept me from doing what I am here to do. Temptations work the same way. They distract us, make us lose our focus on Christ, and keep us from accomplishing the good works that God has planned for us.
We all experience temptation. But many of us just don’t know how to deal with it. One old southern preacher had some pretty good advice for dealing with temptation. He said, “When you’re passing by your neighbor’s watermelon patch, it’s hard to keep your mouth from watering, but don’t have to stop and eat!”
Another preacher once said that temptation is a lot like gravy. It looks good, but you don’t always know what’s underneath it.
In keeping with our SURVIVOR theme, I like to compare temptation to an event on the TV show called an immunity challenge. On each episode, the tribes compete against one another in an immunity challenge. The team that stays focused, uses all of its resources, and does the best planning always wins that challenge. And by winning it, their tribe does not have to vote a member off that night.
But the team that is least focused and weaker loses the immunity challenge, and someone from that team goes home. They lose a member. And their weakness deepens. They grow further and further away from their ultimate goal, which is to win the big money.
Friends, that is what the process of temptation can do to our spiritual lives … to our walk with Christ. The weaker we are, the less focused upon Jesus that we are, and the less prepared we are to do spiritual battle can all lead us to fail our immunity challenge … to fail in our fight against temptation. Now, don’t misunderstand me. We don’t lose our place in the family of God when we fail against temptation … but we do find ourselves distanced from the relationship that God really wants to have with us.
Today we are going to look at an event in the life of Jesus. As we follow the Scriptures, we see that He has just been baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, and He is prepared to begin His three-year ministry. But before that ministry begins, Jesus must first deal with the process of temptation.
Now, many people do not understand how Jesus could be tempted. Many have asked, “Isn’t Jesus the Son of God? Isn’t He fully God as well as fully man? So, how could God be tempted?” Maybe you have wondered about those same things.
Well, those are good questions. And perhaps there are no simple answers. But you must understand a couple of things to have a theologically sound understanding of these events.
The first thing we need to understand is this … Jesus is the Son of God. He was fully God as well as fully man. I don’t really understand how that works. But that is the truth of Scripture, so we accept it … knowing that none of us are smart enough to understand everything. And that’s okay.
So, being fully God, Jesus had available to Him the supernatural power to resist all temptation. But Jesus voluntarily laid that power aside in order to live and experience life as a man. If he had invoked His Godly power to simply turn temptation away, it would have invalidated His role as Savior … as that perfect, sinless bridge of salvation between sinful man and a holy God. So, Jesus had to experience life as man. He had to be tempted. Hebrews 4:15, speaking about Jesus, tells us, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.”