Summary: And chasing temptation for too long, too far, and too low into enemy territory has caused the downfall of many good people. So how can we avoid it?
Story: Manfred, Freiherr von Richthofen, the famous German First World War fighter pilot was better known as the Red Baron -because he flew a distinctive a red Fokker aircraft.
He shot down more enemy combat planes than any one else on either side and his known kill tally was 80.
On 21st April 1918, he began chasing a Canadian plane that was trying to escape the battle over the Mor-lan-court Ridge, near the river Somme.
As the Red Baron pursued his prey behind Allied lines, he didn’t watch out.
He dived too low into the enemy lines and he also he missed a Canadian pilot (Arthur) “Roy” Brown coming up on his tail to help his comrade.
Whether it was a shot from the ground - or a shot from Brown that killed Richthofen, we will never know.
But what we do know is that the end of the “Red Baron” came because he made the mistake of pursuing that Allied ‘plane “too long, too far, and too low into enemy territory” (as one report so succinctly put it)
And chasing temptation for too long, too far, and too low into enemy territory has caused the downfall of many good people.
And as with Richthofen – they are then caught unawares with the conseqences.
Sin takes us
- further than we ever wanted to go,
- costs more than we were ever willing to pay, &
- hurts more than we ever dreamed it would.
And it all starts with how we handle the
temptations that we face.
The book of Hebrews tells us that in Jesus we have a High Priest who is able to sympathise with our temptations.
That encourages me
Jesus was tempted – as our Gospel reading tells us - yet he did not sin.
Having fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, Jesus was on the edge of his mental and physical strength.
And he was vulnerable to sin. Yet Jesus chose not to sin
And for me, Jesus’ three temptations mirror three major areas of Life where we are most vulnerable to sin.
1. The first of these three MAJOR AREAS of life is our daily needs
Let’s just remind ourselves of the first temptation that Luke records:
3The devil said to (Jesus), "If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread."
4Jesus answered, "It is written: ’Man does not live on bread alone.’"
In Jesus’ temptations – his particular daily need at this time was for food.
He’d been fasting for 40 days – probably only drinking a little water
He was hungry - He felt like having some food to eat
Jesus had committed himself to fast and pray.
He didn’t have to but he had.
Fasting and prayer was a time when Jesus gave himself exclusively to seek God.
So when the Devil comes along and tells him what to do, Jesus has a choice.
He can either listen to him or ignore him.
There was nothing wrong with eating bread - the conflict was simply this
“Who was Jesus going to listen to”
His Heavenly Father or the Devil?
Jesus had rights – he was entitled to his creature comforts like anyone else.
But Jesus gave up all these rights to fulfil the responsibilities that the call of His Heavenly Father brought.
He gave up his rights for the sake of preaching
the Good News of the Kingdom of God.
There will be times when God calls us to give up our rights to the good things for the sake of the Kingdom.
And the Devil will sit on our shoulder and give us advice. In fact he might even quote Scripture at us.
The question is : Who are we going to listen to? And prayer is all about listening to God.
2 The second of these three MAJOR AREAS of life that Jesus’ three temptations mirror is our need to be valued.
Let’s just remind ourselves of the second temptation that Luke records:
5The devil led (Jesus) up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6And he said to him, "I will give you all their authority and splendour, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7So if you worship me, it will all be yours."
8Jesus answered, "It is written: ’Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’"
We live in a society where all of us have the need to be valued but there is a fine line between a healthy self image or esteem and an ego trip
Our need to be valued can so often become a lust for power – however we might want to disguise it.