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Entries in Temptation (5)

Tuesday
Dec062016

Do not Test the Lord Your God

Matthew 4:5-7.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on December 04, 2016.

Today we continue our study of the temptation of Christ that we see in Matthew 4, and look at the second one presented to our Lord.  If the first temptation was to satisfy and sustain yourself with material things, then the second temptation is to promote yourself and make things happen by your own wisdom.  Another way to categorize these three temptation is to use the phrases that are given in 1 John 2:16, “For all that is in the world- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life- is not of the Father, but is of the world.”  The first temptation appealed to the lust of the flesh (make bread for your stomach).  This second one seems to be more about the pride of life.

All of us deal with issues of significance and often desire situations in which we are exalted above our fellow man.  Satan loves to play off of these desires and mislead us into a path of destruction.  For some this path leads them towards religion, but twists it with human pride.  For others the path may lead them away from religion out of a wounded pride.  Either way he wins because there is no other solution for the hearts of mankind than the Creator Himself.  So the first are walled off to Him by the self-delusion that they are acceptable, and the second wall themselves off to Him out of their pain.  May we all learn to lay our pride at the foot of the cross of Jesus and thereby remove from Satan’s arsenal a very powerful, spiritual lever that he loves to employ against us.

 We are tempted by pride

It is often said that Satan fell through pride in his own wisdom and beauty.  Thus it would stand to reason that he would seek to enamor us with his own prideful reasoning.  The Bible does not make it completely clear whether Satan knows he was wrong and is operating out of sheer spite, or whether he still thinks there is a play here where he actually “proves his case” and wins.  Regardless we must expect to be tempted in this area of pride.

We see in verse 5 that the devil takes Jesus up to the highest point of the temple.  It is not really important the mode of this travel, though many can speculate.  The setting is a place that no one may see immediately (while he is being tempted).  But if he listens to the devil there will be a very public spectacle.  How could jumping from of a height that was as much as several hundred feet be tempting?

It starts with being reminded of his relationship with the Father.  The first temptation tries to paint the Father as not taking care of Jesus.  “God doesn’t care about you as much as you think.  Make your own bread.”  However, this temptation does the opposite.  It plays on the pride of such a close relationship with the Father.  “Since you are the Son of God make a public show of God’s love for you.  There is no way He would let you die.”  Of course the devil makes no mention or shows no regard for what the Father’s plan might be.  Jesus loves the Father and has been in a relationship of unity with Him since the beginning.  So He is not only concerned with what the Father wants, but already knows that what Satan suggests is not the plan. 

So what does Satan hope to accomplish?  It is tough to say.  Perhaps he hopes to try and thwart any spiritual help that would come with his own angels, so that Jesus would die.  Clearly he seeks to kill Jesus because of the cross later.  Let’s get one thing clear.  Satan is not interested in promoting Jesus and he could care less about promoting you.  In the end his only aim is to destroy your life.  If he can do that by inflating your pride in your relationship with God, then he will.

Notice that this time Satan backs up his temptation by quoting Scripture.  His first temptation was pushed aside by Jesus reminding him of Scripture.  So he tries to reverse this tactic back on Jesus by quoting some Scripture himself.  One thing is clear in the Bible; the devil always twists the meaning of God’s Word.  He is only capable of abusing Scripture for his own ends, which are contrary to God’s.  An illustration of this can be seen in politics.  Every word of an opponent is generally twisted out of context and used against them by the other side.  Finding a truly, objective treatment of the person is rare.  As Christians we must flee this kind of activity in our own life.  2 Timothy 2:15 says that we must “rightly divide [handle] the word of truth.”  We can see that the devil does not do such a thing but twists the meaning of Psalm 91 by skipping phrases and leaving out the context.  So let’s look at this section of Psalm 91.

Satan quotes from verse 11, skips the second part of it, quotes verse 12, and leaves off verse 13.  It is always important to pay attention to what is left out.  Notice that God’s angels would be commanded to watch over the righteous “to keep you in all your ways.”  The way of a person is a huge theme in the Bible.  In fact the righteous are known by their determination to walk in the “way of the Lord.”  Thus the passage is about a person who is in a trusting relationship with God and living as God has taught us.  When God’s ways are our ways then the devil will find little within us that he can manipulate.  Now verse 12 points out that God’s protection is upon the righteous.  But verse 13 shows why.  We are protected in order to tread upon the lion and the cobra.  Now this is not a passage about handling literal lions and cobras, although God is more than capable of delivering the righteous from such.  There is never a case of people “treading” on lions and cobras in the Bible so that should be your first clue that something deeper is going on here.  The lion and cobra are metaphors for our spiritual enemy, the devil.   1 Peter 5:8 says, “Your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.”  God doesn’t necessarily protect us from ever falling down literally.  But He does offer constant protection so that we may never fall to the schemes of the devil and be devoured by Him.  Similarly, in Revelation 12:9 it says, “So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world.”  The “serpent of old” is an allusion to Genesis 3 and the Fall of Adam and Eve.  Adam and Eve fell before the Serpent (Satan) because they were tricked into distrusting God.  Clearly Satan doesn’t want to quote this part of the passage and highlight that angelic protection is so that we can tread on the devil, not cooperate with his plans.

However, Jesus does not go into Psalm 91 and point these things out to Satan because there is an even greater context to these verses.  All Scripture is context to any one verse.  A very powerful thing about Scripture is that its proper understanding will not contradict any other part.  If it seems to then you know there is an error in your understanding.  So, dig deeper.  Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:16.  Yes, God will protect you along your way.  But we also, must not test Him in this.  Now, God is gracious and many of us have been in times of weak faith and have asked God to give us a sign of his love.  If we do so without the threat of walking away from Him then He sometimes graciously responds.  But, if you lay down something as a test that God must pass or you are walking away, then beware.  Such actions are not born out of a loving relationship with God, but out of selfish love for yourself.  Beware of those who trumpet on Scripture to the detriment of the rest of Scripture.  This is classic cult leader stuff.

We must not put God to the test

So let’s develop that last point that Jesus makes to the devil.  The Holy Spirit had not led Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple; the devil had.  In our own lives it is not always so clear who is leading us.  Thus we must be careful to recognize anything that smacks of trying to force God’s hand, or trying to speed up things.  This is manipulation of the relationship that God wants with us.  Now, a parent loves a child, but would be foolish to allow the child to fall into the habit of trying to manipulate them.  Of course, kids are learning how to love.  They don’t understand such deeper concepts.  It takes a parent who loves them too much to let them get away with it, a parent who disciplines them in such times, in order to help a child grow in love.  Just as your flesh desires material things, so it desires the pride of life: public success, and the accolades of those around us.  Satan plays off of these things.  Yet, Jesus did not operate in such a way as to lift himself up, or try to out think the plan of God.  In fact, Jesus often did the opposite of what self-promoters would do.  Jesus pointed us to the Father and for such a blessing he was crucified.  That was to be his public moment of demonstrating the love of the Father.

But it goes deeper than just crass manipulation.  We cannot force God to demonstrate His love as we dictate.  When a person lays down an ultimatum to God, “either you do this or I walk,” we step out onto shaky ground.  God in His grace does work with our weakness.  Gideon was given a sign by God.  Yet, we must always have as our foundation, “Nevertheless, Thy will be done.”  In fact, God gave the greatest demonstration of love possible when He gave His One and Only Son to become a man and do for us what we could not do for ourselves.  All this is so that whosoever would believe on Jesus would have everlasting life instead of perishing.  It is easy for us to do this to one another.  We can be angry and made that someone didn’t show their love in a particular way.  We can even do the politician thing and twist everything that they do or say into “not love.”  But when we act this way we actually destroy the very love that is being given to us.  Too many people say, “If God would only do such and such, then I would know that He exists and that He cares about me.”  The problem is that you are trying to control God and refusing to deal with the countless ways that He has demonstrated His love for you.  So we can push aside 1,000 ways of love and complain that we did not receive a particular 1.  This is folly and not the path of love.  Love is a discovery of the uniqueness of another and how we can uniquely love them back.  How can we demand more than that?  Love doesn’t dictate how another person loves.  Rather, it receives it freely and with Joy.

Do not Test audio

Monday
Nov282016

Not by Bread Alone

Matthew 4:1-4.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on November 27, 2016.

The commercialization of all things good usually brings out the worst in humanity.  Thus, after a day that is focused on being thankful, many go out and shout, fight, and wrestle over the best deals of the year, Black Friday.  As Christians we must not lose sight of the reality behind Thanksgiving, or its reason for being.  In fact we dare not lose sight of the reason for our lives themselves.  Thanksgiving has nothing to do with getting the best deals on the latest electronic gadget.  But, rather, it is about stopping in the midst of our often busy lives and showing appreciation for what we already have, despite what we may not have.

Today we are going to look at Jesus during a time in his life where we are allowed to see Satan trying to tempt Him.  I believe these temptations are instructive and valuable to us so that we can know that we do not live by bread alone.

We are tested by material things

In Matthew 4 we are told that Jesus is “led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”  It is clear that the Spirit had a purpose that involved this word “tempted.”  In the passage the devil is also called the “Tempter,” (same word but as a noun).  Now we know that the Spirit is not in league with the devil so what is going on here?

Part of the mystery lies in the word that is translated “tempted.”  When this word is used in a situation that is for something good, say refining metal, it means something more like “to prove or test.”  When the word is used in a bad situation, say blowing all your money on gambling and drinking, it means “to tempt.”  We would never say that a teacher is tempting a child when they give them a test because our focus is on the intent.  The Greek’s chose to use the same word because in both cases you are being tested.  Here we know that it is the Spirit’s purpose to test Jesus in order to prove who He is.  But it is Satan’s purpose to tempt Jesus, disqualify Him, and bring Him under control.

Perhaps you have struggled with understanding why God lets temptation or challenges exist in your life.  It is because He knows that they can strengthen and prove our faith in Him.  Even our past failures are used by God to make our faith stronger.  Times of temptation can help us grow by revealing areas of weakness that we need to surrender to God.  God can and will give you the victory over your spiritual enemy if you will trust Him.  On the other hand, Satan actively tempts us in order to pull us away from God and bring into bondage under his dominion.  He uses our past failures as chains to keep us from turning to God and believing Him.

One of the main things that Satan tempts us with is material things.   This is on display in the first temptation.  But let’s further explore the setting.  We are told that Jesus fasted and prayed for 40 days in the wilderness.  You see, the Spirit was leading Jesus towards spiritual purposes.  Jesus was spiritually preparing to go to war against the evil spirits that had taken control of Israel, and then the whole world.  Satan may have showed up throughout the 40 days and Matthew may only be recording three of many temptations.  Regardless, the first we are told about involves breaking his fast by creating bread from the stones around him.  It is here that we should recognize that we often lose the spiritual by pursuing the material.  Even deeper, often letting go of the material is necessary to receive spiritual gain.  Another thing to recognize is that most of what we have spiritually has come through combat with the Tempter.

Most translations quote the devil as saying to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God.”  It sounds like Satan is questioning this fact.  However, this Greek conditional does not necessarily bring the first part in question.  It has the sense of this, “If you are the Son of God [and we both know you are, why don’t you] command that these stones become bread.”  The temptation is to prove what you know to be true for fleshly reasons, rather than trusting God to demonstrate the truth at the proper time.  If we boil it further down, the temptation is to follow your flesh rather than the Spirit of God.  The Spirit of God had led Jesus to a hungry, weakened condition, where there was no food around.  Why not use your power to get off such a loathsome path?

This doesn’t always have to be about something material like bread.  The Corinthian Church members even used the spiritual gifts that God had given them of speaking in unknown languages to please their fleshly desire for pride and high standing with the other Church members.  Thus the material is not so much the problem as the desires of our flesh.  When we let our fleshly desires lead it always takes us away from what God wants to do in our life.

So God is not against the material things in your life.  However, He knows that they cannot save you.  Jesus responds to the Devil by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3. “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”  The passage Jesus quotes is not about forbidding bread to people.  In fact God had supernaturally provided bread (manna) for Israel while they were in the wilderness.  The passage is pointing out that God had revealed to Israel that their life was not about the things we see around us, but about what God says.  Thus a person can be surrounded by food and yet lack life, especially eternal life.  Yet, a person can be in a wilderness where there is nothing and they will live because of what God commands.  Up to 6 million Israelites survived in a barren wilderness because God commanded it.  Can he not take care of you?  God knows that you have physical needs, but He also knows that the desires of your flesh generally pull you away from Him and His ways.  This temptation that the Devil brings to Jesus, he also brings to us.  He wants to rob you of the greater treasure that God has for you, and trap you in a materialistic prison.  If you have failed this test then quit trying to “make bread out of stones,” (a.k.a. trying to make it happen by your power).  Yes, we don’t have the same power that Jesus had, but we are tempted in the same kind of way.  Let it go!

We are given life by the Word of God

Throughout history Christians have pointed to the tactic that Jesus employs here as the key for our own victory.  Jesus used God’s Word (or The Truth) to counteract the twisted, false logic of the Devil.  This doesn’t make it easy.  Often the “lie” that Satan is offering us is something that our flesh wants to believe.  Now Jesus had the power to attack Satan head on.  Through His divine power He could have commanded Satan to be locked up in the Abyss, or Bottomless Pit (a spiritual prison for evil Spirits, 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6; Revelation 9).  But Jesus did not stand against Satan in this way.  Instead, Jesus resisted Satan as a human can, or as you and I can.  If we take time to familiarize ourselves with the Truth of God’s Word, then we are equipped to neutralize the lies of the enemy of our soul.  Each of Satan’s lies and temptations are like a small chain that is used to tie us up into spiritual knots.  Though you may be tied up in a pretzel and powerless, the Word of God through Jesus Christ is not.  No matter how bound up a person is they can be set free through this same tactic: stop trusting the lies of Satan and start trusting Jesus, the Son of God.  Don’t settle for others in your life to know the Bible.  You need to know it for yourself.  Your spiritual life depends upon it.

The Word of God not only counteracts the deceptions of Satan, but it also keeps us in connection with the Source of Life.  Satan ultimately wants to sever any connection you have to the Spirit of God by getting to your trust.  In Romans 8:14 Paul says, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.”  One of God’s amazing truths is that He adopts into His family everyone who dares to believe Jesus and follow Him.  As a believer in Jesus and a disciple of Jesus, the Spirit of God leads us to put to death the deeds that are inspired by our fleshly desires.  However, Satan tempts us to give into satisfying those same fleshly desires.  In fact Scriptures tells us that our flesh is hostile to the things of God even as a Christian (Romans 8:7).  Rebellion against God’s revealed will, or ignoring His Spirit because we are so inebriated with our fleshly desires and materialism, both become a barrier between us and the Source of Eternal Life.  Even though the world around you may say that you cannot live without such and such, it does so because it has given into the temptations of Satan.  When we are trapped in materialistic lies, we become a part of a system that helps the Tempter by being a temptation ourselves.  Why would you want to be like the devil and take on his image, when the Spirit of God is offering to make you into the image of Jesus?  May we shine out as bright lights in this world of darkness.  May we be the children of God who are being led by the Spirit of God to inherit all things along with the One and Only Unique Son of God, Jesus.

Not by Bread Alone audio

Thursday
Sep292016

Society under Siege: The Overflow of Perversion

1 Corinthians 7:1-7.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on September 25, 2016.

There is a growing boldness in our society to call sexual perversion a good thing.  In fact this has spread to many who claim to be Christians and justify much that the Bible labels as immoral.  Now when we read the Bible we find that the open overflow of sexual perversity is always followed by the judgment of the nation or society in which it occurs.  We see it with the pre-flood world.  We see it at Sodom and Gomorrah.  We see it within the tribe of Benjamin during the time of the Judges.  Now it is our own country that is going down the well-worn path of destruction.  I pray that God will wake us up as a nation before it is too late.  Regardless of what happens with America, I challenge each of us as individuals, “Save yourself from this wicked and perverse generation!”  Acts 2:40.

Singleness is good

In 1 Corinthians chapter 7, the Apostle Paul is dealing with some very specific issues within the Corinthian Church.  In some ways these issues are related to our issues today and in some ways they are different.  It is important to note that Paul is responding to some statements that the Corinthians were saying, which he either received by word or letter.  In verse 1 Paul is able to agree with one of their statements, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman.”  To touch a woman is a euphemism here for sexual intimacy.  Paul basically agrees that it is a good thing for an adult to remain single and not engage in sexuality.  However, he is going to have some issues with the lengths to which they take this idea.  But let’s deal with singleness first.

In our society most people who remain single do so in order to have more sex, or rather, sex with more people.  Biblically this is called fornication and is a type of sexual immorality that God has warned will receive His wrath in the end.  However, the Corinthians Christians had a different mindset.  Some of them were seeing sex as unspiritual and therefore celibacy as spiritual.  So when they said it was good for a person to remain single, it had to do with trying to be more spiritual.  This is not true.  Both a single person and a married couple can be just as spiritual or unspiritual.  Imagine a celibate who is inflamed with sexual desire.  They would be a moral time-bomb that is anything but spiritual.  Also, a married couple who is regularly involved sexually can be very spiritual.

Notice that in verse 7 Paul states that his personal desire is that everyone could be like him, which is unmarried and not having sex with anyone.  However he recognizes that not all people have been given this ability from God.  In fact, we know that the larger percentage of people do not have this gift.  Now the word translated gift is “charisma.”  It is the same as the gifts of the spirit elsewhere in this book.  There are some who are gifted by God to thrive as singles.  They may wonder from time to time what it would be like to be married, but they do not have the same drive towards sexuality as others.  They have the ability to live a single life without being inflamed with lust, fantasies, and fornication.  We should confess that Christians have not always been so healthy minded towards singles on this issue.  We can often assume that singleness means there is something wrong with someone or that they are a homosexual.  A parent who wants grand children can overly pressure their adult child to find a mate.  This is not healthy.  In principle there is nothing wrong with being single and abstinent for one’s life.

In fact Paul argues later in verses 26-28 that the “present difficulties” of persecution are a good reason to not get married.  Instead of having to worry about a spouse and their desires, you can focus completely on pleasing the Lord.  Paul also mentions “trouble in the flesh.”  To choose to marry is to choose to deal with certain things that have to do with the body.  It is not necessarily bad; it is just another area of difficulty in your life.  Paul ends that section by pointing out that this world is passing away.  Verse 31 says , “The form of this world is passing away.”  Thus Christians should hold all things that they have in this life loosely.  If my spouse is jailed or even killed because of persecution, I have to learn to trust God and let them go.  Such troubles in the flesh are not insurmountable, but they are extremely difficult.  Our culture has taken singleness and turned it into a hedonistic life-style that plunges into sexual immorality so much that they have become bored with it and seek ever more perverse sexual desires.

Within Marriage Sexuality is Good.

Now that we have talked about singleness let’s talk about marriage.  In verses 2-3 Paul uses two phrases that both point to sex between a husband and wife: “let each man have his own wife,” and “let the husband render to the wife the affection due her.”  Paul underlines that sexuality in the context of marriage is good and that to abstain from sex is bad.  Why?  It is bad because of sexual immorality.  Married people who quit having sexual relations set themselves up for being susceptible to sexual temptation.  Thus marital relations have a certain defensive quality to them.  They can help to strengthen the marriage bond.  Of course, just having sex is no guarantee of fidelity.  Now this is not the only reason for marriage.  Paul is dealing with a question of sexuality and is answering on that level.  In Ephesians 5 we are given a far nobler purpose for marriage and even sexuality.

Within the marital bond are certain commitments that each make to the other.  Paul points out a mutual duty, or obligation, that a married person has towards their spouse.   The phrase “affection that he owes her,” is definitely a euphemism for conjugal duties.  However, it is put in a much softer phrase that implies a greater atmosphere of affection or kindness within the relationship.  When we stand before God and family and vow to love each other until death do us part, we are obligating our self to care for that person in every way.  If you marry only to get something that you want and fail to see your obligation to the other person, then you are headed for a divorce or a very rocky marriage.  Yes, marriage is more than sexuality.  However, sexuality is a part of it that we need to understand.  Paul reminds them in verse 4 that the husband’s body belongs to the wife and the wife’s body to the husband.  In other words, we should not go into the marriage looking at what we want our body to get out of it.  Rather we should go into it in order to give something that the other needs.  The needs of a married couple go beyond sex, but it does include it.

Paul brings up something that the Corinthians were doing.  Some of them had developed the idea of making their marriages “spiritual.”  They would abstain from sex so that they could be more spiritual.  Paul recognizes that abstinence for a time in order to fast in pray is entirely appropriate if it is mutually agreed upon, but doing so for a long period of time is foolish, and a tactical mistake.  Paul says, “Do not deprive one another.”  This is not just applicable to the stated scenario.  Sometimes we can get angry with our spouse and use sex, or lack thereof as a selfish punishment.  A married couple needs to be wise about each other’s needs, both spiritual and sexual.

Satan uses the temptation of sexual desires

We need to understand that what is going on in our society is not just about what people want.  There is a spiritual side to this issue in which we have an enemy who is trying to destroy and plunder us.  Satan did not create sex or sexual desire, God did.  However, he is skillful at wielding it like a weapon against us.  Verse 2 and verse 5 both mention the temptation towards sexual immorality.  Here in this country we live in a sea of sexual immorality.  In this we are the same as the Corinthian Church.  Our media is saturated with sexual images, sexual innuendo, and even explicit in your face sexuality.  Because we have lacked restraint in the areas of pre-marital sex and adultery, the lust for sex has inflamed to all manner of perversions: incest, homosexuality, bestiality, and a sea of sexual fetishes that warp the God-given reason for sexuality into a tool of destruction.  All of this is being promoted and instigated by spiritual forces that are breaking down the strong defenses that God has given us because we surrender them.

This spiritual enemy is looking for an opening for temptation in your life.  Within a society that is “super-saturated” with sexual input, a person is primed to fall in this area.  He is looking for that chink in your armor and that foothold that gives him the leverage to topple you spiritually.  Thus sexual sin becomes a bondage that first starts within our hearts.  It is in the heart that sexual sin is thought to be desirable.  Just like Eve looking at the fruit, we look at what we see around us, or on pages of magazines, and begin to desire to taste it.  Over time a person who desires forbidden fruit will convince themselves that they must have it or can have it.  Our powers of self-justification are also aided by demonic lies that have infiltrated our society.  Lastly we act upon that desire, and when sin is fully grown it brings forth spiritual death in people’s lives.

In verse 5 Paul underlines the key issue in sexual matters, and that is self-control.  Each individual is born with a God-given autonomy over their own mind and actions.  However, through lack of self-control, we can surrender that autonomy to sin and the plan of the devil.  We can end up as slaves to sin.  Thus the one who has become a slave to sexual sin needs to cry out to God for help in true repentance and sorrow for what you have done.  They will have to go back to the arena of their mind and stop surrendering to fantasies of lust.  They will have to reject the demonic lies by meditating on the truths of God’s word.  We are told to bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5).  Thus, the body is not for sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:13).  Don’t use your mind to think about it and what it would be like.  Satan uses the sexual immorality of others to try and plant into your mind the potential for you to taste the fruit of it.  This sets up the next issue.

What begins in the mind is inflamed with GIGO (Garbage-In-Garbage-Out).  When you live in a society that is overflowing with perversion, there is a certain amount of garbage that you cannot shield yourself from.  Thus, I am not pointing to some kind of perfect control of our life where nothing impure is ever seen or heard by us.  But when we willfully cooperate with the garbage around us, and when we willfully go out of our way to bring it into our heart and mind, then it becomes like gasoline to the fires of the impure desires in our heart.  Thus, we have to stay away from certain places and activities because we know they will lead to spiritual destruction.  We must refuse to feed upon pornographic images and videos.  Within the last 2 decades the internet has put pornography at the fingertips of people who would have never been near it before.

Lastly the lack of self-control destroys marriages, families and souls.  When we give into justifying our desires, it will destroy us within and then destroy us without.  Satan baits us to fail in these areas because he hates the God-designed power of a godly husband and a godly wife loving each other and raising up another generation of godly people.  Failures in this area are sin and sin always fills us with guilt.  Sin says to us, “Keep me hidden at all costs.”  But eventually when the seed has matured it will demand to come out in the open.  Many are using Scripture today to justify their failure in this area.  They have given in to sexual immorality and now want to be justified in doing it.  But God is not pleased.  Sexual immorality destroys relationships, marriages and even your own soul.  One day you will stand before God and give account for your life.  Do not go into eternity justifying sexual immorality.  Romans 1:18 says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”  He goes on to point out that gross sexual perversion is a sign that God has given us over to the judgment of His wrath. 

Don’t let the enemy destroy your life!  In fact even in the midst of a society that God has given over to judgment, we can still turn from our sin and be saved today.

Overflow of Perversion audio

Tuesday
Mar012016

Prayer and Temptation

Luke 22:39-46.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on February 28, 2016.

If the cross is the visible, public trial of Jesus then here we see the private trial in which he wrestles with God over the things before him.  Ultimately Jesus gives us a key to facing trials and temptations, and that key is prayer.  Without prayer we are unprepared for them, no matter how strongly our spirit wants to please the Lord.  Peter is very determined to stand with the Lord, but will fail in the time of trial.  Jesus is not just praying for himself.  He is also teaching his disciples a lesson in temptation and overcoming the flesh.  It is also a glimpse of the agony involved in saving mankind.  Rebellious humanity can be saved, but only at great cost to God Himself.

Pray About Temptations

In verses 39 through 41 the scene transitions from the upper room inside Jerusalem to a garden outside of Jerusalem.  Judas is off to betray Jesus, so we only have Jesus and the eleven going across the shallow valley east of Jerusalem.  There they enter the Garden of Gethsemane, which is near the bottom of the Mount of Olives.  He knows he is about to be arrested and is very clearly picking the ground upon which it will happen.  It is important to recognize that Jesus gives them the command to pray.

Jesus is not running away or trying to hide.  We see this in the words “as he was accustomed.”  Jesus could have snuck out of the city and kept going.  However, he stops and spends time praying while his betrayer marshals troops to come after him.  Jesus goes where Judas would know to find him.  They had spent time there and it had become a part of their routine, especially in this last week.

Jesus also tells them why they should pray.  Somehow it will enable them to avoid temptation.  The terminology is actually the idea of entering into temptation.  Temptation itself is merely a trial or a test in which we are tempted to choose something other than God’s will.  There is nothing wrong with praying to avoid such tests.  However, some tests cannot be avoided.  Thus we need to pray also that we will not give in to those temptations or fail the test.  The Bible refers to this as falling.  It is as if you are walking the way of the Lord and something trips you up and causes you to fall down.  We also have some further description in the other Gospels.  Jesus tells them that “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  So when we take time to pray about the temptations and trials that we see ahead of us, it can enable us to overcome the weakness of our flesh.  Peter’s strong declaration of faithfulness to Jesus becomes the perfect illustration of this.  There is no reason to think Peter is lying.  He really does want to be the kind of disciple that would stick with Jesus even when everyone else leaves.  Yet, in the crush of the trial his flesh is unable to stand up.  Jesus is showing us that our lack of prayer and wrestling with God over the temptations of life keeps us spiritually weak.

Another aspect of prayer is that Jesus clearly wanted some people to pray with him.  Sometimes you need people close in prayer and sometimes you need to get alone.  This passage gives us a bit of both.  Luke’s account here is somewhat short.  But the other Gospels tell us that Jesus left 8 of the disciples in one area and then went a distance away with Peter, James, and John.  He even then separated a little further from them.  Thus they are close enough to hear him praying but not right next to him.  When you are facing difficult trials the sense of being alone can become overwhelming.  Having people who will not only pray for us, but also with us is imperative.  Make sure that you have friends who will pray for you and with you.  Yet, some things are so deep and so personal that we need to get alone with God.  In fact, Jesus often went off by himself to spend time in prayer.  This seems to be a mixture of both.  He wants to get alone in prayer and yet he needs them to pray with him.  May God help us to learn how to come alongside of a brother or sister in prayer when they are going through difficult circumstances and hard trials.  You don’t have to force yourself upon them.  Simply let them know that you are there for them in whatever they need.

The Lord Leads The Way

At verse 42 we get a glimpse into the prayer of Jesus.  He is our pattern and template for faithfully serving God.  So this prayer and others are important to understand.  First we see Jesus asking to avoid the cross.  The magnitude of what lies ahead weighs heavy upon the humanity (i.e. the flesh) of Jesus.  As the eternal Son of God he has already agreed to this and is just as committed as the Father.  Yet, here he is in the flesh about to go through with it and his flesh is pulling back away from it.  Now he must reaffirm the commitment in his humanity.  His time has come.  He knows that God will allow him to be taken and killed.  There are moments in life in which we face a particular decision.  Regardless of how we choose, we will then be caught up in a series of events that we can’t control.  The die is cast.  This is that moment for Jesus.  If he runs he can avoid it.  But if he stays here they will catch him.  Of course this is no gamble, but control of how this will end up is being surrendered.  Once he is arrested the human side of Jesus will have no escape short of God’s intervention.  Such heavy laden decisions must be approached with spiritual fear and trembling.  Lord help us to learn to pray in such a way that we are able to discover his will and surrender our flesh to it.

Though the flesh of Jesus is pulling away, it is not greater than his desire to do God’s will.  Specifically he is here to save mankind.  In Hebrews 12:2, speaking of Jesus, says, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  He knew the end game and how important it was.  He knew what would be lost if he didn’t and what would be won if he did.  Jesus was not obligated by anything but his own love for us.  May this image remind you in your own times of doubt that the Lord loves you with an everlasting love that is willing to suffer the depths of sorrow in order to reclaim you.

At this point God strengthens Jesus by an angel.  This also happened at the beginning of his ministry when he was fasting for 40 days and the devil tested him.  Here as well as there, Jesus is in need of physical strengthening.  I do not believe the angel is strengthening the resolve or faith of Jesus.  But rather, the angel is enabling his physical body and physical psyche to endure the stress of the situation.  We do not realize how much our lack of knowledge about things in our life is a blessing.  It is a blessing because it enables us to live with peace.  If we understood completely what lay ahead of us we would most likely not eat or sleep.  Yet, in those moments when harsh realities set upon us and we become fully aware, God has many means of providing strength for us.  In fact, we should pray for the Holy Spirit to strengthen us in such times.  We see Jesus agonizing over the coming contest with severe mental and physical struggle.  This only causes him to pray more earnestly.  Our flesh tends to give up on prayer when we become overstressed.  Yet, it is important to pray more earnestly in these times.  We don’t have to be desperate, although we sometimes are.  Jesus can identify with the agony that we endure in such times.  He can empathize with what hangs over you.  In fact, because He has already overcome the world, we can rejoice.  We have hope that just as God brought Him through, so He will bring us through too.

Jesus is not the only one who is stressed here.  The disciples are exhausted from stress, lack of sleep, and sorrow.  Jesus had to wake them several times calling them back to pray.  I do not believe this is just because they didn’t want to pray.  Stress and sorrow can overwhelm a person so much that they physically shut down.  I am not excusing them, so much as pointing out the issues involved.  Some can even get to a point where they are barely able to function.  We must learn to recognize the spiritual danger around us before we get so low.  Does the Lord understand our lack of strength?  Yes, and he even empathizes with us.  Yet, before his arrest, he makes sure that these words would be stuck in his disciples’ hearts.  “Pray lest you enter into temptations.”  Prayer is far more important than we realize.  Sure we must put feet and hands to our prayers.  But don’t thing that your faith will survive the trials of this life without it, whether from yourself or others in your life who love you.

Prayer and Temptation Audio