Summary: First Sunday in Lent. The sermon is about how our temptations in life can give us information about ourselves, and the world.
Temptation is Information
Temptations are too much for some people to handle. I heard a few years ago a 340lb man sued a hospital for 900k, claiming it ruined his gastric stapling operation.
The man underwent weight loss surgery to cure his overeating.
The surgeon implanted 70 tiny staples to restrict the man’s stomach, thereby decreasing his ability to overeat.
The man’s recovery was going according to plan… until the second day. He walked the hall close to his room and came face to face with the devil. Beautiful porcelain skin, and two arms that waited to open and welcome him… a refrigerator.
Bless his heart, he just couldn’t help himself. He stole everything in the refrigerator. The lawsuit read, "He encountered a refrigerator full of milk., juices and other items." They said he "was allowed to raid the refrigerator, thereby bursting some of his gastric staples that created a life-threatening situation."
The lawsuit continued, “' The nurses knew why he was there, and they knew the refrigerator was there, and they knew what would happen if he got into it. But no one tried to stop it.'”
Emergency surgery followed, and the man spent six more weeks in the hospital with what the lawsuit called "extreme pain and suffering."
Some people just can’t handle temptation.
When I read that I said:
It's Lent, and I think you should fast,
So don't overeat after a gastric bypass.
We all have our temptations, I can’t say no well-made key lime pie. But I have learned something about temptations, It’s actually the title of my sermon:
Title: Temptation is Information
Why? Because they give us a chance to observe ourselves. That requires a spiritual desire for growth and change.
Matthew says Jesus went to the desert hand the devil tempted him. We can argue theology, but we can all agree that there is an ego-centered voice inside that says, “Look out for yourself, and don’t worry about anyone else.”
The devil told Jesus, "Look out for yourself and turn these stones to bread."
First Temptation: Follow the fridge instead of the faith.
Jesus was in the desert without food for forty days. The lesson is that temptations present themselves during exhaustion. When I’m drained, I’m prone to focus solely on self.
Sometimes we want the hunger to stop so bad that we try to turn rocks into bread. We try to turn the rocks of drugs and alcohol into bread that will feed a hungry soul.
Here’s a hard truth… turning rocks into bread never works. Real bread, real food for the soul, is a process… it requires life… death… and life again. That’s how to 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, press it, fold it over and over into itself, and bake in a fire.
“Hey Jesus, take a shortcut. Choose instant gratification.”
“No, I think I’ll stick with God’s way even though it’s difficult right now.”
The first temptation is to do it our way instead of God’s way.
Second Temptation: Save the world with a sword instead of through the Spirit.
“The devil showed him all the kingdoms of the earth, you can have them if you’ll just worship your ego instead of your God.”
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 would liberate his people by with a sword… That is what their scriptures said.
Jesus didn’t form an army. He didn't liberate souls through kingdoms, countries, corporations, or governments. Jesus resisted the temptation to become the politician culture demanded. He chose the spirit over the sword.
You see, the political sword is a well-disguised demon. It quietly steals the soul. How do I know? Because politics is the new American religion of choice.
Let's confront it: The anger in our country is the sword dividing it. When we surrender to the unbridled rage of screaming politicians (on each side), we pick up their sword and turn from the peace of Christ.
The devil said, “you can be Caesar.” Jesus knew he was the Christ, not a politician or a sociologist.
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. It will prove once and for all that you’re the true H.P. and spiritual leader.”
He took Jesus to the top, the pinnacle, of religion, and offered him a spiritual throne in an earthly temple.
The devil probably said, "I can't get him with physical self-indulgence, and I can't get him with political power, I know, I'll seduce him with something spiritual since that's what matters most to him. I'll offer him the chance to become the high priest."