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Temptation Tactics


Temptation of Jesus

Luke 4:1-13

1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.

3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”

5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendour; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.”

8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”

9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; 11 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

(after reading)

This is the Gospel of the Lord.

Praise be to you, O Christ.



SERMON


There are certain lessons I have learned the hard way in my life and one of them is not to go shopping when you are hungry.

Because when you are hungry, you are not so likely to resist temptation. All the things you know are no good for you are all of a sudden just looking SO good!


It’s hard to resist temptation when you are hungry. Or, when you are tired, or, when you are weak, or when you are sad. Or when you are sick.


Do you get an idea of the strategies of the evil one, at how nefarious and evil he really is? He isn’t going to have a go at you when you are strong, and well rested, and healthy and happy and supported by those around you.


He wasn’t going to attack Jesus when he was fresh from his baptism, and being led by the spirit into the wilderness, he was fasting and praying. At that time I imagine that Jesus’ relationship with his Father was at a very strong point. But then we get that little detail about the 40 days: ” And at the end of them he was hungry”. And that’s when Satan shows up. When Jesus was at a low point. When he was isolated.


We have seen the emergence and radicalization of all sorts of ideas during covid, in part because of the isolation that so many people are finding. When we are isolated, we do not have people around to tell us if we are going the wrong way, or if our thoughts and ideas need changing. These days we can increasingly also stick to internet sites that tell us what we want to hear, and we are no longer forced to hear dissenting views from our own, to keep us balanced.

That’s why it is so important that we do not neglect the habit of meeting together, as We are told on the letter to the Hebrews, chapter 10 verse 25. When we are isolated we are more vulnerable.


Satan knows this and uses this tactic. Divide and conquer, wait until Jesus is weak.

Then he uses another one: A very clever one. He plays to a fear that has always been there, but has been recognised lately to the point where it even now has it’s own acronym. We call it FOMO. Do you know what FOMO means? Fear of missing out.


And it is such a hard thing to fight against. Do you want to know how people play on this fear of missing out? I am sure you have heard a sales tactic designed exactly for this reason: An ad comes on tv for a ladder or a miracle knife sharpener, and you think: “well I don’t need that”. I already have a ladder, and sharp knives.


But then the line comes at you, “Hurry now while stocks last!” Wait, you mean there is a chance I might be too late? I might miss out? And the other little voice in your head tries to tell you that it doesn’t matter if you are too late, it doesn’t matter if you miss out on something that you don’t need, but it gets drowned out by the next manipulation: “Be one of the first 50 callers and you will also get…”


And again the FOMO kicks in: What if I am too late? What if I am not one of the first 50 callers? I won’t get the bonus stuff! And again the voice is saying: “but you don’t need the bonus stuff either!”


But you are running for the phone, your fear of missing out has been played upon, and you have been sucked in.


Playing on the fear of missing out is certainly not a new thing.


In fact, I would go as far as to say that it is the oldest temptation there is!


And so the serpent asks : “Did God really say that?” You will not surely die, he just doesn’t want you to be like him. In other words, he is holding out on you, his heart for you isn’t really good, you are missing out on something!


And the strange thing is that once they give in to the temptation, the fear they had is what actually comes true. All of a sudden, they are isolated, they are ashamed, and they are out of the garden. They are missing out on EVERYTHING.


They had settled for the counterfeit, and lost the real thing.


This story is so often told to us as an admonition to read our bibles more, so that we can fire back chapter and verse from the bible which we will know backwards.

But there is a real danger in that. The devil knew his bible well enough to be able to throw quotes at Jesus left right and centre. But random quotes plucked from the bible that are not in the context into which they are written are dangerous, and do nothing for our salvation.



Jesus was able to answer Satan because he was secure in his relationship with his Father. He knew the heart of God, and he knew that the heart of God for him was good.


If we are to take up that advice to read our bibles more, and it is good advice, let it be so that we can every day learn to know more and more the heart of God, to know that the heart of God for us is good, because in that word we find Jesus.


Not random chapter and verse proof-texts that make us sound smart. So don’t worry if you can’t do that. I can’t do that either, and I tend to get a bit suspicious of people who can.


Read you bible to find Jesus Christ, and him crucified and risen, the proof beyond doubt that the heart of God for us is good. Find in your bible the truth that we are baptised into his death and raised with him into life, and that there is nothing that we are missing out on that its more important than that.


I would like to relate a story found in a book that Anne has had since before we were married. It is called “More stories for the heart”, and it’s called The Treasure, by Alice Gray.


The cheerful girl with bouncy golden curls was almost five. Waiting with her mother at the checkout stand she saw them: a circle of glistening white pearls in a pink foil box. “Oh please Mommy. Can I have them? Please, Mommy, please!”

Quickly the mother checked the back of the little foil box and then looked back into the pleading blue eyes of her little girl’s upturned face.

“A Dollar ninety-five. That’s almost $2. If you really want them, I’ll think of some extra chores for you and in no time you can save enough money to buy them for yourself. Your birthday’s only a week away and you might get another crisp dollar bill from Grandma.”


As soon as Jenny got home she emptied out her piggy-bank and counted out 17 pennies. After dinner, she did more than her share of chores and she went to the neighbour and asked Mrs. McJames if she could pull weeds for ten cents. On her birthday, Grandma did give her another new dollar bill and at last she had enough money to buy the necklace.

Jenny loved her pearls. They made her feel dressed up and grown up. She wore them everywhere: Sunday school, kindergarten, even to bed. The only time she took them off was when she went swimming or had a bubble-bath. Mother said if they got wet, they might turn her neck green.


Jenny had a very loving Daddy, and every night when she was ready for bed, he would stop whatever he was doing and come upstairs to read her a story. One night when he finished the story he asked Jenny: “Do you love me?”


“Oh, yes Daddy, you know that I love you.”

“Then give me your pearls.”

“Oh, daddy, not my pearls. But you can have Princess- the white horse from my collection. The one with the pink tail. Remember Daddy? She’s my favourite.”

“That’s okay honey. Daddy loves you. Goodnight.” And he brushed her cheek with a kiss.


About a week later, after the story time, Jenny’s daddy asked again. “Do you love me?”

“Daddy, you know I love you.”

“Then give me your pearls.”

“Oh, Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have my baby doll. The brand new one I got for my birthday. She is so beautiful, and you can have the yellow blanket that matches her sleeper.”

“That’s okay. Sleep well. God bless you, little one. Daddy loves you.” And as always, he brushed her cheek with a gentle kiss.

A few nights later when her daddy came in, Jenny was sitting cross-legged on the bed. As he came close, he noticed that her chin was trembling and one silent tear rolled own her cheek.

“What is it, Jenny? What’s the matter?”

Jenny didn’t say anything but lifted her little hand up to her daddy. And when she opened it, there was her little pearl necklace. With a little quiver, she finally said, “Here, daddy. It’s for you.”


With tears gathering in his own eyes, Jenny’s kind daddy reached out with one hand to take the dime-store necklace, and with the other he reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue velvet case with a strand of genuine pearls and gave them to Jenny. He had had them all the time. He was just waiting for her to give up the dime-store stuff so he could give her genuine treasure.


So much like our Heavenly Father.


No, you aren’t missing out on anything. The heart of God for you is good.

Amen.

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