A young newlywed was sitting at his desk paying bills when he came upon the Visa bill. As he scanned through the charges, he noticed a charge from a department store for $250. He called his wife to join him. When she entered the room he asked her, “Why did you do this? What on earth did you buy for $250?” “Well,” she said, “I was standing in the department store and saw a dress. Then, I found myself trying it on. It was like the Devil was whispering to me, “Gee, you look great in this beautiful dress. You should buy it.” “Well,” the young husband answered. “You should know how to deal with the Devil! Just tell him, ‘Get behind me, Satan!” “I did,” she said. “But then he said it looked great on me from the back too!”
Webster’s definition of the word Temptation is”
“The desire to do something, especially something wrong or unwise”
What Tempts you? What “pulls” you to be tempted. Desiring you to do something wrong or unwise?
Are you able to control these temptations or do you succumb to them?
Let’s start with low hanging fruit temptations
There’s a bag of M & Ms in the cupboard, you know they are not especially healthy for you, but everything in moderation you say to yourself, then – the bag is gone.
You’re at Costco and you see a beautiful living room set, it’s $3,000. You are challenged each month to meet your financial obligations, you buy it, put it on the credit card and pay excessive interest fees each month adding yet more stress to your finances.
You report on your taxes that you gave more monies to charity than you actually did?
How about wanting what your neighbor has, the fancy car, the house, maybe even his or her husband or wife?
I use these as small examples of just a few of our daily temptations, but we all know there are more, and they are known to us alone.
This morning’s Gospel reading of Jesus’ temptations came immediately after his baptism by John, when Jesus was led into the wilderness “full of the Holy Spirit”.
We need to understand how important that line is. Jesus went out into the wilderness by himself, but he wasn’t by himself, he was “full of the Holy Spirit”.
Did you notice that Jesus wasn’t tempted immediately upon entering the wilderness? He was tempted after 40 days of fasting. When he was hungry, weak and exhausted. Is this a clue as to when we can most expect temptation to creep in on us?
When we are most weak and vulnerable.
Or are we also sometimes tempted when we are at the top of our game? When we feel the most “in control”? When we can “do it all”.
Said another way, temptation seems to come at us anytime.
It comes to us when things are going really good, when we really don’t need God’s “help”, when we think we’ve got everything under control.
It comes when things are tough, and we do things, we know may not be in God’s plans, but we need to fix things on our own.
After all, the Bible says, “ God helps those who help themselves”.
Oh – can anyone find that verse in the Bible? I can’t. PS – it’s not there.
Looking back at our reading
The first temptation is the Devil telling Jesus to turn stones into bread. Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness represents Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness, remember, when the Lord provided the Israelites mana to eat. When the Devil tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread, it wasn’t about food. It was about Jesus taking control of things and not trusting in God to provide.
But Jesus did not take control, he trusted in God. Remember, Jesus said “ Man does not live by bread alone”. Jesus is referring to scripture in the book of Deuteronomy.
Think about that. Jesus must have been filled with the Holy Spirit, because he had fasted for forty days! I do believe many of us would have taken the bait, doing what the devil tempted us to do and would have taken matters into our own hands.
The second temptation is the Devil, promising worldly power and glory in exchange for Jesus’ devotion. This temptation is about abandoning God. Jesus tells the Devil, “ You shall worship only the Lord God”. Again, scripture taken from the book of Deuteronomy.
Jesus, again, filled with the Holy Spirit, doesn’t fall for the trick. He stays the course, stays with GOD. What would we do if someone promised us worldly power and glory?
Would we abandon GOD for wordly power and glory?
The third temptation is the Devil quoting scripture to Jesus. The message here is that anyone can quote scripture or make something sound justified to us.Remember Tammy Fay and Jim Baker, there were many others, who used scripture for personal gain.
But again, Jesus, being Jesus quotes scripture telling the Devil “Not to put the Lord God to the test”. Another quote from the book of Deuteronomy.
Jesus recognizes mis information, being filled with the Holy Spirit, he doesn’t fall for fake news.
What’s with all this scripture stuff? Are we expected to walk around quoting scripture, to ward off the Devil like Jesus did? Sounds kinda like watching one of those old movies with some guy screaming scripture and wearing one of those sandwich boards about how the world is coming to an end, to me. And just knowing scripture in your mind or academically doesn’t seem to be what Jesus is trying to teach us.
So, I have a question
“Is it the Devil speaking to Jesus, or is it Jesus’ mind or his ideas in his own head talking to himself”?
How does the Devil work? Does he speak to us or is he a “sniper”, who plants ideas, temptations into our being, such as our minds, our hearts, our spirits and then while that “stews” like beef stew in a crockpot, temptation starts fomenting.
Remember – “being filled with the Holy Spirit”. If we are filled with God’s spirit, we don’t leave room for a sniper to do his or her work.
This morning’s reading is about the responses Jesus gives to the temptations, not about the temptations themselves. Just like it is to our temptations. It’s not about being tempted. It’s about how we respond to the temptations.
How do we handle the temptations, the “tests” that come into our lives? Do we take the easy way, the short-cut? Do we rely on ourselves taking control of the situation or do we rely on God?
Are we filled with the Holy Spirit?
Temptations come to all of us. What do you say when tempted by the devil, your mind, your ego?
Richard Rohr a Franciscan Frier said:
As long as you think you’ve got to fix it and control everything and explain everything and understand everything, you will never be a peaceful person. He goes on to say, when you are in your mind, you are never at peace.
Said another way
Love is not of the mind; it is of the “heart”. Love makes no sense. We love people for reasons we can’t explain and people love us for reasons that cant be explained.
Being filled with God’s spirit can only come through listening to God, not speaking.
It is a gift – God’ mercy
Again, by being filled with God’s spirit, we put up fences to temptations.
As we begin this Lenten season, this first Sunday in Lent, I’d like to offer up some ideas that may help us to be filled with the God’s Spirit and building our wall of defense against temptations.
Lent is the perfect time to renew our commitment to prayer. Whether we choose the formal structure of Morning Prayer or more open-ended approaches , look to find some practice to commit to prayer during Lent. If you need a place to start, the Prayer Book on page 136 is helpful and quick.
Take ten minutes each day. Pick a book in the Bible. Read a chapter or part of a chapter, whatever time allows you. Then, just sit for two minutes, by yourself, quiet. Don’t do, think or say anything. Just let God sneak his way into your heart.
Block out the sniper.
By doing something like this, it gives us a foundation in which to be filled with the Holy Spirit, much like Jesus was when on his way to the wilderness to be tempted. This foundation gave Jesus the “armor” he needed to “stay the course”, and this will also help us “stay the course of God”. It won’t solve all life’s problems, but it will give us a foundation of which to build on and to defend ourselves from life’s temptations.
Fasting is a spiritual discipline in which one refrains from eating some or all foods for a specific period of time. As a fast one might reduce portions at every meal, eliminate a daily meal, or refrain from eating altogether. The duration and details of a fast are always between God and us.
Fasting has played an important role in the lives of God’s people throughout history. References abound in the Old Testament: fasting for repentance ,for guidance ,in trouble. In the New Testament, Jesus himself is our model as he fasted in the wilderness before being tempted as we read today and as he endured his Passion (his betrayal, arrest, trial, and crucifixion) without food and drink.
Jesus commended fasting to his disciples, saying, “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.” .His words presume that his disciples will fast.
Reasons for fasting are many: a conscious uniting of oneself to Christ; humbling oneself before God and acknowledging one’s sins; clearing the mind and body to focus on prayer.
Abstinence differs from fasting. Abstinence involves the elimination of a particular food, beverage, or activity throughout the entire season, often something of a “luxury” nature. Abstaining from meat, sweets, coffee, or alcohol are common Lenten practices. Some give up television, games, or social networking for the Forty Days. Others make a deliberate effort to abstain from negative attitudes such as fear, worry, complaining or criticizing others.
Finally – Almsgiving
Almsgiving is the act of donating money or goods to the poor or performing other acts of charity. ... almsgiving, is an outward sign of Christian love for others. Generally, it involves some type of sacrifice on behalf of the giver in order to provide for the needs of the other.
These are some ideas that may help us all grow closer to God during this Lenten season. These will help us to be filled with God’s Holy Spirit and build a wall of which temptation has to climb in order to get in.
Fr. Harvey also has some materials for Lenten devotions in the narthex. He is also offering a Lenten discussion group.
Each Friday during Lent we will have our Stations of the Cross devotion in which we retrace the final steps of Jesus.
Our Gospel reading is teaching us how to respond to temptation, by showing us how Jesus delt with it. So, start today, start building your wall to deal with temptation, start opening yourself to God in order to be filled with his Holy Spirit.
These 40 days offer us a time to cleanse ourselves of some of the dirt that lies within us.
Consider this “our Spiritual Spring cleaning”. Just like our spring cleaning at home, everything shines. You’ll shine.
Get your broom out!
Rev. Dr. Harvey Hill
Third Order Franciscan