Summary: When we start out wanting to serve God it is so easy to get distracted by what will please the people around us. But we have to choose one or the other, please God or please people.
I had quite a dream last night. Spring training hasn’t even started yet, but in my dream I saw the final game of the 2007 World Series. It was in Wrigley Field. The Cubs were winning in the bottom of the 9th. Two outs, bases loaded. Kerry Woods is on the mound, looking to cap a phenomenal year. Everybody knows he has the Cy Young Award wrapped up. Who should come up to bat, but Paul Konerko, for the White Sox, to cap an amazing season with a batting average of .418. The pressure is on Konerko. With a strikeout the Sox lose, to the Cubs. With an infield grounder the Sox lose. With a deep sacrifice fly, the Sox lose. Everybody knows Konerko’s going to be swinging to put it safely out of the park. Kerry Woods opens up with a fast ball, low and inside, but a strike. Konerko swings furiously to catch up with the pitch, but just tips it. Strike 1. Woods tries to trick him with a curve that goes outside, but Konerko doesn’t fall for it. The count is 1 and 1. Kerry Woods blows a fastball past him that just barely catches the upper inside corner of the strike zone for a called strike. They both know that Konerko has to swing at anything close to the strike zone. If he just stands there and watches a third strike go by to end the World Series, it would haunt him forever. So, Wood gives him 4 of his hottest fastballs in a row, each one in that gray space where the umpire might call either way. Konerko just swings to put some wood on the ball, hitting them safely foul, waiting for his moment to really swing at one. People are wondering how many of those fastballs Woods has left in his arm this late in the game. The crowd is on its feet and yelling for all it’s worth as they watch history being made in a truly epic baseball battle. Chicagoans will be talking about this game for generations.
And then I woke up, so I don’t know how it ended. But don’t worry. All you have to do is wait for October to find out what happens.
Today we will wrap up the gospel of Luke’s account of an even greater battle of the titans. This was Jesus, the Son of God, versus the devil, once one of God’s top angels, a battle that had been in the making for centuries, a battle with eternal consequences of life and death. The devil threw his best pitches at Jesus. And we know the results of this battle. Jesus handled every one.
Have you noticed how he handled them? He did the same thing with each of the three temptations. He didn’t try to argue with the devil. He didn’t try to build up his will power to do better. He just quoted scripture. And that ended it. The devil had to flee. That’s one of the values of really grounding yourself in the Bible. If you know clearly what God has commanded, it is easier to recognize the devil’s tricks. If you just aren’t clear on what God has said, then he’s got you.
Please stand for the reading of God’s word, from Luke 4:1-13.
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. 3 The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread." 4 Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone.'"
5 Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And the devil said to him, "To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours." 8 Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'"
9 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written, 'He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,' 11 and 'On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'" 12 Jesus answered him, "It is said, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" 13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.