Temptations of Christ (Lent 1) – Sermon 21st February 2021 (Luke 4)

Baptism decision questions

In baptism, God calls us out of darkness into his marvellous light. To follow Christ means dying to sin and rising to new life with him. Therefore I ask:

Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?

CandidatesI reject them.

Do you renounce the deceit and corruption of evil?

CandidatesI renounce them.

Do you repent the sins that separate us from God and neighbour?

Candidates – I repent of them.

Do you turn to Christ as Saviour?

Candidates I turn to Christ.

Do you submit to Christ as Lord?

Candidates I submit to Christ.

Do you come to Christ, the way, the truth and the life?

CandidatesI come to Christ.

The first three answers are very active words reject., repent, renounce. The battle against evil is not passive but active.

The second set of three, are also active in turning, submitting, and coming to Christ, a transfer of spiritual activity is at work and this will not be easily given up by the enemy.

I don’t know what secret sins you wrestle with, what bad habits distract you and hurt those nearest you. None of us are perfect, squeaky clean,

The church is full of sinners who know there need of God. And that’s the wonder of having a Saviour like Jesus, he knows our weaknesses and he is powerful to save.

On this first Sunday of Lent, we hear the story of Jesus in the wilderness, Where he fasted for 40 days, went without food, he prayed and was sustained through this fast by prayer with his heavenly father.

After 40 days When he was hungry and at his weakest, it was then that the enemy came to tempt him.
We might think that temptation is having a second helping of food, or a cream cake where we don’t really need it, or buying shiny shoes because we think we need them. That isn’t so much temptation as self-discipline, a characteristic which we develop over time.

The temptation Jesus faced was about his motivation for ministry, and from it we can learn about our motivations as disciples.
Whilst we do not have the same power to turn stones into bread we do potentially have the wrong motivations for our Christian lives.

To please ourselves over serving others.

On each occasion the devil tempted Jesus, Jesus responds by quoting scripture, the word of life quotes from the written word of scripture. It reminds us that we need to be students of scripture, people who are familiar with the Bible so that we know the right thing to say.

On the third occasion, the devil mis quotes scripture and tries to catch Jesus out. People around us will try to catch us out by sounding genuine when in fact it’s devious or manipulative. As Christians we need to be alert and ready to challenge wrong assumptions.

I don’t want to give the devil too much credit or over highlight his impact upon our lives but we must recognise that we are in a spiritual battle between good and evil.

We know Christ has won the victory on the cross, but we are still caught up in earthly skirmishes where the victory has not yet been won.

In Pauls writings he includes the idea of wearing spiritual armour. Ephesians 6:10-18, Paul writes;

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

The armour provides spiritual protection, but we have to be prayerfully active to take it up and wear it. Stand firm and not give up.

During Lent we seek to improve our lives and discipline ourselves to be better Christians. And this will not be easily won, the devil likes nothing more than passive Christians, who are complacent, or inactive.

Lenten Spiritual activity will cause opposition and resistance to change, which we have to work through and by focusing our eyes on Jesus, wearing the armour, holding each other in prayer on a daily basis so we can move forward in our discipleship.

We seek to make changes to ourselves but also it highlights the necessity for change in our society. Injustices in our world around us are also where the church needs to be at work.

Previous Christian generations have sought to change the evil of our world like The Abolition of Slavery, or with great charitable work we can think of the children’s society, and the reform of education and healthcare have all started out of church life.

As we seek renewal in ourselves, we seek reform in our society, locally and internationally.
So what are the evils in our day that the church needs to respond to? Climate Change? Vaccination inequality? Issues of injustice and unfairness and inequality which all need addressing by the church.

The diocesan mission statement is “healthy churches transform communities”,

After 4 yrs of this mantra we should look outwards and see where we can make changes outside ourselves.

In the season of Lent let us take to heart the spiritual dynamic of personal discipleship and growth and add to it the necessity for churches to transform communities on a wider scale than our immediate locality.

Lent is probably the most difficult season of the churches year as it is the most challenging. But we are not alone, Jesus is with us, he has walked this way before us, and has sent his Holy Spirit to inspire us and help us in our daily lives.

May God guide us through these days of Lent.

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