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Lent - Temptation

Temptation and testing are two sides of the same coin. Satan wants to see you fail. God wants to see you succeed. Here are some thoughts to help you succeed with the Lord.

Corby Stephens
Corby Stephens
14 min read
Lent - Temptation
Photo by Laura Baker / Unsplash

Table of Contents

The following text is the raw, unedited transcript from a sermon given on Feb. 26th, 2023. You can also listen to the audio. Better yet, subscribe to the podcast! :-)

I have to tell you that I struggled with today's teaching, not because of trying to come up with something to say, but because there was too much to say. I would have loved to gone on a deep dive into each one of these readings today. But I also love a good pattern, I love a good theme. And since today, particularly in our collect, we observe the temptation of Jesus by satan, we're gonna talk about temptation. That's just what you wanted to hear about. To understand temptation, there are some other things we have to understand or have a basic grasp on things like what sin is and what sin costs and who is the one who tempt us, tempts us and what's the difference between tempting and testing.

Adam Is A Model of Jesus

So we're gonna we're gonna touch on all of these things.  We, in the Romans reading today, we have a great. Type is a, is a biblical study word that basically means a pattern or a model. And those are my those are the things, those kinds of things are what really got me interested in becoming a pastor or priest, a bible teacher or whatever you wanna call it, somebody who helps other people to understand God's word. Because there's these patterns are just so amazing.

And Paul gives this one with Adam and with Jesus and to sum it up, he says that in Adam, all sinned, but in christ those who are in christ all are forgiven Adam is there's this idea of headship in the bible Adam as the first Adam and Eve Adam is the first creation of God. The first human being is the head of the human race. We are all in Adam and I mean that you know literally biologically we all come from Adam, our D. N. A. Was in his and now we're all the way we're all the way down here to us.

He is he is the head, he's the we used to use the freight head of the household. I don't think we use it as much. Maybe we still use it in taxes. I don't know I do pay taxes but that's not a phrase we use as often today in common speech but in traditional, you know classical American speech. The the father was the head of the family, the head of the household, the representative of the household. That's what Adam is to us. The the head were in him and because we were all in him when he sins, it's like we all send but then we inherited this sin nature from him.

How Many Sins Does It Take?

So we actually do all sin right? Paul says that it was through one transgression that the condemnation came judgment and condemnation one. Imagine that there is this cliff and coming off this cliff, there's this like iron girder and off the iron girder. There's a chain hanging down over the cliff and it's pretty far down. It's very far down. And oh yeah at the end of the chain is you or me hanging there Now in the law in the old testament? There are to some people's Count 613 laws.

613 commandments. So let's imagine that chain has 613 links in it. How many of those have to break before one falls to their death One. Okay that's too many. Let's make it 503. 10 commandments. Don't lie. Don't covet your neighbor's wife. Don't honour your mother and father. How many of those 10 did you have to break before you fall to your death? One still too many. Let's make it one link. You see what I'm doing one. We like to think of sins sometimes I think as some sins are really bad and some are well you know we all little white lie.

I took a paperclip from work. So what who cares? It's sin is sin right? It just takes one and then comes condemnation of death. The wages of sin is death. Both a sin and our sin nature. Well the same concept translates over to Jesus. If we are in christ, he is our new head. If you're in him, he now represents you and me to the father. And because of what he did. We can have that same righteousness. So Adam did one thing because of what he did.

We all perish because of what Adam did. If anyone is in christ. They now have that newness of life. That access to God. Is that tracking? Does that make sense? I think that's a beautiful, wonderful picture and I would again love to deep dive into that Romans passage but I think you're getting the picture. So there's that model, Adam Jesus.

We read from Genesis today lots of fun little chunks of Genesis 2 and 3. Now we've talked a little bit about this passage before, but the idea that when Adam and Eve sinned, this is something I shared recently when they sinned and God kicked him out of the garden, he wasn't kicking them out as a punishment. He was kicking them out as a protection because he told them you can have you can eat from anything you any tree you want to eat. There's there's even the tree of life, but there's also this tree of the knowledge of good and evil and if you eat from it, you will die one, one rule, one link in the chain.

And then Satan comes and tells Eve three things he says you will not surely die for God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God knowing good and evil. Now of those three things, how many of them were false. One of them? You will not surely die. That was true, that was false. I'm sorry the other two were true. So you have two truths and a lie. It's like a sandwich, easier to, I like food analogy, so it's easier to eat when it's when the lie is tucked in between two truths, it was true that their eyes would be opened and it was true that they would be like God knowing good and evil.

I'm Boss

And we talked about how knowing means, not just understanding, not just experiencing because God never doesn't do anything evil. So therefore it's not by experience, he knows in the sense that he decides, he decides what is good and evil. And when Eve chose to eat, she was deciding what was good and evil. That was the sin. The sin of saying I'm boss, I decide I'm not gonna do what God said, I'm gonna do what I say and here we are, right, That was sin. That's where sin came from.

That is the essence of what sin is. It's I'm deciding what's best for me. I'm gonna overrule what God said. Now, it when Eve, when they were having this little conversation, Eve and the serpent, it says in verse six, so when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was a delight to the eyes and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, She took its fruit. Those are three good things, aren't they? Those are three good goals, good aims, It looked good.

It's gonna be good for food and it was going to make her wise wisdom is a good thing, isn't it? We should all seek God's wisdom at least sometimes sin and temptation are disguised as good things. However, achieving them, the method by which we achieve that thing is what can be said. So sin is can be disguised in a good outcome, a good goal. But the means by which we go about it, that can be sin, whether maybe it's supposed to be done peacefully, but you do it angrily.

Maybe it's supposed to be done out of generosity, but you do it out of pride. There's all kinds of combinations and ways that can happen. But those three things are the basic elements. The basic description of what sin looks like. In fact, in in first john chapter two, there's there's there's sort of an echo of that in 1 John 2;15. John writes

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the father is not in him For all that is in the world.The desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of life.

Same three things as back in genesis, lust of the flesh List of the eyes. The pride of life as it says in the translation, I have stuck in my head. Those three things are not from the Father, but are from the world and the world is passing away along with its desires, Who who, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

So we have sin and we have temptation which can appear to be a good thing. Although most of the time we think of temptation as like it's, you know what's wrong, but it's gonna feel good. So you want to do it right? That's just kind of what sin does it? It can be colored both ways. When we look at the psalm, this is perhaps my favorite psalm is the psalm of David after he was confronted by the Prophet Nathan about his affair with a woman named Bathsheba. For those of you who might not know the story. It's a, it's an incredible story.

He, David sees a woman bathing on in the house next door somewhere close by. She's married to one of his soldiers and he who's off at war, he sees her, he lusts after her, he wants her, he has sex with her, she becomes pregnant or they jewish, it's okay. He decides, I'm gonna bring Uriah, who is the soldier home from the battle and he'll, when he's home, of course, he'll take comfort in his wife and then everything will be, nobody will know the difference. Well, your idea does not, he's respect, out of respect for his fellow soldiers, does not take comfort in his wife.

And so David sends him back with a note to the general to have him put to the front of the battle. So he gets killed. So we have adultery we have, what is essentially murder. And there's a baby born and the benevolent king comes and marries the woman and everything looks like it's great. Except you know, who saw it? Right. God did. And he tells Nathan, his prophet, to confront David with this story about, hey, there's this guy who stole his neighbor's lamb and what do you want to do about it?

And David's like, kill the man. Whoa, David, What's going on? And Nathan says, you're the man, you're the one who stole this man's wife and David is crushed by it. And one of the fruits of that crushing. Is this somewhere he just pours his heart out. Now, what did it take? It took somebody else to confront him with it. Now he didn't come in this instance, Nathan didn't come at David with your evil, your bad, you, you know, pointy finger, you're gonna burn in hell.

He came at him with God's discernment and God's wisdom to help David see what had happened in such a way that David identified in fact with what had happened. From curious perspective or, or who knows what? His response.

Have mercy on me. O God according to your steadfast love, according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

That's humility. That's Brokenness. That is what repentance looks like. That's what we should experience when we are confronted by our own sin and sometimes that takes somebody else in our community to do that.

The Body Helps Heal Sin

We're the body right where the body of christ, that's part of what we do. We, when we see somebody else experiencing a weakness in the body, we want the whole body to be strong. So we come alongside out of love and try to help them understand what they've done, what its effects are on the rest of the body. And hopefully they have this humility to you're right. I'm busted. I and not only am I busted with you, my brother or sister, I'm busted before God and I feel shame and I feel terrible and you might be, what can I do?

Maybe I'll sacrifice something to God. So no, you can't even do that because God wants your broken heart. That's the sacrifice that God's after that of the broken heart. And all of this starts with temptation, doesn't it? It starts with but it's good for you. But it's not God's way is it? David's reaction I think is a wonderful, perfect reaction to what to having given to temptation. Now in the Matthew passage it opens and this is where it went down some rabbit trails. It opens by saying that the spirit led, Jesus out to be tempted.

Then Jesus was led up by the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Now at first glance all by itself, that seems wrong, doesn't it seems kind of contradictory, God we know from James that God doesn't tempt anyone with evil because he himself can't be tempted. So he doesn't he doesn't put us in a position of temptation. So what is temptation tempt? It's the same word for testing. It just depends on the context. So when if we are tempted by Satan with a situation or if a situation is in front of us, Satan wants us to fail the test.

That's the temptation, he wants us to fail. He wants us to to not trust in God to trust in anything but God. Whereas God can use the same situation as a test and he wants you to succeed. He wants you to rely on his strength, he wants you to rely on everything in your life that's come before, in that moment to pass that test. David could have done that, but he didn't. And here do you think God wants Jesus to fail? I don't think so. I think he wants Jesus to succeed.

And of course, after the 40 days and 40 nights, he's very hungry. Satan comes to him three times and each time, of course Jesus responds with God's word. And again, this could have been another fun deep dive into each of these scenarios, but maybe for another time. Jesus replies with God's word. In this case, Jesus is isolated. So this tells me with with David. That situation tells me that we need one another. This situation tells me that we need God's word in us in order to draw upon it.

You In Thw Word, The Word In You

When temptation hits like this, this has to be in us. If your only time in the bible is this 20 to 25 minutes on Sunday mornings, that is not enough, I'm not gonna give you, like, minimum requirements for holiness, that's not my job. But we all need to spend time getting God's word into us. We get into the word, it gets into us and I'm telling you something happens, something starts to change. The more that it gets in you, the more that you just sit and read and it gets in your head and your your brain starts chewing on it.

Suddenly it's there when you need it, suddenly you start seeing people differently, Suddenly you start thinking differently because you're putting other stuff in your head. At another church there was a guy who struggled with anxiety and so I asked him like, what, what's your day? Like? He's a, he was a landscaper. He listened to, he listened to a lot of talk radio and I don't know if you I can handle about two minutes of talk radio before I want to punch the radio. Lord forgive me.

Because when you listen, whether it's liberal or conservative, It doesn't matter when if that is what is mostly going into your head, something like that, of course you're going to be anxious because it's just all so inflammatory, it's all just so extreme in this or that and, and really ultimately unimportant. But if you take the time in his case, I said get the bible on tape, that's how, well that's how long ago this was. It was, you know, cassettes. Kids ask your parents later, it's fine.

Yet the bible listen to that while you're mowing lawns and trimming hedges instead of listening to the am talk radio stuff and see what happens. I don't think he did it because he kind of slowly disappeared, but it's the old expression garbage in garbage out, that's what it is. So we need one another. Like David needed Nathan, we need God's word in us.

Be In Christ

But we also need to remember where we started with this little talk that we are in christ 2 Corinthians 5,

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, old things have passed away, behold, all things have been made brand new.

Not just new, brand new new creation means you're a new creature, your new, like something that's never existed before. New creature, new creation. Because we are in him now being in him can be work sometimes because we spent have spent so much time just in our flesh and in our own heads and with the constant bombardment of media, social media, news, media, whatever that it can be difficult to choose to be in christ. But the choices, the choice has to do with our identity like who, who are you, who's are you. Paul tells us to "put on the mind of Christ." Paul tells us to "don't be conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds" and that is where this comes in and the more that we can think about ourselves as being in Jesus, he is the head then the easier over time it will come, it will become to address temptation because if I'm in christ and you're in christ and you're in christ and you're in christ and we're all in christ together, we have one another to draw on, don't we?

We have one another to come alongside and lovingly confront, we have one another to go to and confess and ask for help, ask for accountability. We have one another to pray for, the one who has wandered away from the body. Being in christ, staying in christ is the first best answer to temptation. It's probably the first best answer to a lot of things in life. But if we're talking about temptation today, Jesus was in the father is in the father, he was in the word.

Jesus tells us to abide in him to live in him just like a branch abides in the vine and draws life and sustenance and becomes fruitful and multiplies were to abide in the vine dealing with temptation to me the strongest thing is to be in christ with one another. And interestingly that's one of the hardest things for christians to genuinely do. I think it's, I mean we come from a background of really large churches where people would travel and come together and then disperse like from all over the county, even across state lines and come together, but then leave and there was no sense of us.

It was difficult, it wasn't impossible, but it was difficult to have a sense of togetherness. And that's the point isn't talk about big church versus small church. The point is that it can be difficult even in a small church, it can be difficult. So as we are in christ, we can deal with temptation and the stronger that muscle becomes, the better we are able to help one another, right? Isn't that how Jesus told the disciples that the world will know your mind because of your love for one another Bearing one Another's Burdens.

And one of the ways we celebrate that, that we're going to do here in a moment is communion. It's his body, it's his blood that we all partake of together because I've had some and you've had some, we've had this together, we have this in common. It's a beautiful, wonderful, powerful thing to experience. So if you are one who is dealing with temptation, please talk to somebody I'm available to talk to somebody. Talk to somebody on the vestry. Talk to somebody you trust. Just talk to somebody, get some help.

Even if that help is just somebody else knowing that they don't give you like a pat answer. Well, here's what you do. 12345. Just getting that off of your unburdening yourself of that can be helpful if it's the right person. So I just want to I don't know why I feel compelled to share that. But if that's you, please take advantage of the body. Sorry, one final thought in Genesis 50:20 it's the end of genesis. It's the it's Joseph and his brothers, his brother sold Joseph off as a slave.

And Joseph just went through all kinds of garbage. And at the end his brothers were after they reconciled, his brothers were afraid thinking he might still come after us and he he tells them,

As for you, you meant evil against me. But God meant it for good to bring it about. That many should be kept alive.

And they are today as they are today. That's that tempting testing difference. It might seem evil, but God can still use it for good



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