Summary: This sermon seeks to encourage teenagers (and, indeed, adults) to consider ’What Would Jesus Do’ when they are faced with temptation.
WHAT WOULD JESUS DO ... about temptation?
Do you wear one of these Christian bracelets which have become quite popular over the last ten years, or so? You can get so many different ones with different acronyms on them, words in which each letter stands for something else: so, for instance, FROG stands for Fully Rely On God and PUSH stands for Pray Until Something Happens. And the idea is that whenever you see your bracelet on your wrist, it reminds you to do something that is good, or to consider something in a different way, often the Biblical way. For some time now, I have been the owner and wearer of the sort of bracelet which started off this whole idea, and here it is ... [show WWJD bracelet]. It has on it ’WWJD’, which stands for ’What Would Jesus Do?’; and, if you haven’t read this month’s newsletter yet, you might not know that it is an idea which goes back a very long time ... in fact, right back to 1896 – 107 years ago! A pastor named Charles Sheldon, who led a small church in an American town called Topeka in Kansas, came home after an evening service one Sunday and, feeling very disappointed that very few people were coming and taking any notice of his sermons, announced to his wife that he was no longer going to preach a sermon in these services, but would instead tell a story. Over a period of 33 weeks, he told his congregation a story, a chapter at a time, about the amazing things that happened to a church when its members stopped to ask themselves the question ’What would Jesus do?’ whenever they were faced with a difficult moral dilemma. The effect of his story-telling on his own chapel was equally exciting: his congregation grew markedly in size week by week, as the story developed, and they grew as Christians as they started to ask themselves the same question: "What would Jesus do?" Charles Sheldon’s story was then published as a book called "In His Steps". The ’WWJD’ bracelets, like this one, began in the late 1980s when a youth leader named Jane Tinklenberg read the book and wanted to prompt her youth group to ask themselves that question.
Over the next few family services, I want to encourage you to start asking yourself "What would Jesus do?" whenever you are faced with a difficult situation; and this morning I want us to think about "What would Jesus do ... about temptation?"
At some time in our lives, every one of us has been tempted to do something which we have reservations about, something which doesn’t seem quite right, and every one of us has found it very hard to resist doing it. Believe me, Jesus knew that situation very well – we only have to look at what happened in the desert to see that Jesus can sympathise with us: no sooner was Jesus baptised by John the Baptist in the River Jordan than he was led by the Spirit into the desert, where he was tempted by the Devil. Now, although none of us will face the exact same temptations that Jesus did in the desert, I am sure that, if we consider how Jesus coped with his testing, it will help us know what to do when we are tempted.
The first thing that occurs to me is that JESUS KNEW HE WOULD FACE TEMPTATION AND WAS PREPARED FOR IT. When the Devil visits Jesus, he is not taken by surprise – the way he answers the Devil without hesitation suggests that he was prepared ... he knew he would be tempted! So, please understand that it is certainly not bad or wrong in itself to be tempted – after all, we see here that even Jesus was tempted – no, rather it is giving in to temptation that is wrong. So, be ready to be tempted, and be ready to resist!
But how should we prepare for it? How can we be ready to resist temptation when it comes? When the Devil tempts Jesus to turn stones into bread, Jesus immediately answers him with a verse from the Scriptures: "Man cannot live on bread alone, but on every word that God utters" – you see, Jesus knows God’s word, and it gives him help to resist temptation. So, read your Bible, and even memorise important verses – if you know without doubt what God says about something, then you may well find it easier to resist temptation when you face it. Now, you may say, "That’s all very well when it comes to stealing, or lying, or being jealous, but the Bible doesn’t say anything about a lot of today’s issues, like taking drugs, for instance." But that’s not strictly true, because, if you look more generally around the Bible, you’ll find that the Apostle Paul tells us we should "honour and hallow" our bodies, and asks us, "Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God." Although not specifically about drug-taking, it’s clear that, if we do not respect our bodies and we abuse them, we displease God. The Bible has a lot to say about all sorts of 21st Century issues, if we will just read it. But it’s more than merely reading the Bible, it’s about enjoying a close relationship with God – recent research has shown that Christians feel better able to resist temptation not only when they study the Bible regularly, but also when they pray. So let us draw close to God, just as Jesus was.