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Matthew 4:1-11 40days-40nights JUMC 03132011

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”  Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'” Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.  -nrsv

The Workings of Temptation

1. There is a progression from small, to medium, to the larger. This is measured by the consequences: self, family-social-work circle, regional or global.

  • The little temptations crop up about things that are small. Thoughts about self or others. We agree with them or even ignore what needs to be confronted.
  • Little temptation usually question our personal value, individual strength or ability.
  • Little temptations usually have no witnesses and few immediate consequences.
  • Medium temptations begin to witnesses and consequences that could be twisted to be good, even though we know they are not truly helpful to self or others.
  • Big Temptations are much easier when we are able to justify the pile of little ones and occasional medium ones. We are the victims anyway, right?

2. There is a relentless and persistant repetition of temptation.

  • It is in the context of a vacation for rest and preparing that temptation comes to Jesus
  • It comes day and night, relentlessly.
  • The Devil doesn’t make anyone do anything. They are our thoughts, our perspectives, our evaluations, our trust, our contemplations.. In our mind and hearts we have the God given capacity to think, imagine terrible things.  We don’t need to blame anyone for that beyond our self.
  • As long as our minds our growing and challenging new discoveries, we will be confronted with the misuse of every good thing. It is the context and balance that goes with growth and goodness.
  • Wesley’s “Oh For a Thousand Tounges to Sing” Charles writes a request to God to “take away our power of sinning.” His brother John corrects him saying “take away our bent toward sinning.” Charles quickly prints and packs the books up to be sent to the American colonies. John offers to take them to the ship and stays up all night hand editing Charles hymnals. (folklore, maybe)

3. If it is regular and dependable and has a tendency to grow, if treated or ignored. It is best to address it one at a time, as it is presented, whatever the context.

  • Temptation is real.
  • Temptation is the moral questioning of self, others and God.
  • Temptation is a healthy test, unpleasant-but-helpful for personal, relational, and spiritual growth
  • Temptation is all in your head.. when the thoughts move to inappropriate actions, perceptions or values.. it is no longer temptation, it becomes sin.

SO WHAT ARE WE TO DO?

the tests, they are coming… study up and be ready to pass them as they come.

take them as they come

don’t assume they will lighten up or leave you when your resistance is low

Value the exercise as a spiritual sparing partner that will make you stronger when you stand your grown with God’s help, God’s word and Gods’ time.

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