YOUR ATTITUDE SHOULD BE THE SAME AS THAT OF CHRIST JESUS: WHO, BEING IN VERY NATURE GOD SOMETHING TO BE GRASPED, BUT MADE HIMSELF NOTHING, TAKING THE VERY NATURE OF A SERVANT, BEING MADE IN HUMAN LIKENESS. AND BEING FOUND IN APPEARANCE AS A MAN, HE HUMBLED HIMSELF AND BECAME OBEDIENT TO DEATH – EVEN DEATH ON A CROSS! THEREFORE GOD EXALTED HIM TO THE HIGHEST PLACE AND GAVE HIM THE NAME THAT IS ABOVE EVERY NAME, THAT AT THE NAME OF JESUS EVERY KNEE SHOULD BOW, IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH AND UNDER THE EARTH, AND EVERY TONG CONFESS THAT JESUS CHRIST IS LORD, TO THE GLORY OF GOD THE FATHER. (Philippians 2: 5-11)
WELCOME TO OUR SUNDAY MORNING WEB-WORSHIP.
OPENING HYMN (CH-688): – I NEED THEE EVERY HOUR, most gracious Lord; no tender voice but Thine can peace afford.
I need Thee every hour; stay Thou nearby; temptations lose their power when Thou art nigh.
I need Thee every hour, in joy or pain; come quickly and abide, or life is vain.
I need Thee every hour; teach me Thy will; and Thy rich promises in me fulfil.
LET US PRAY:
ALMIGHTY LORD GOD, we come as Your people to worship You, to praise You for being here amongst us, and to thank You, for all Your goodness and greatness, to welcome us into Your presence. We come, in all our weakness and with all our failings, and we praise You for the inspiration You give us through Jesus – the knowledge that He experienced temptation, just as we do, yet refused to compromise, staying true to His chosen path despite the awful cost. We praise You for the revelation of Your purpose in Jesus, everything we see of You throughout His earthly ministry. Loving God, we come, at this season, to recall Your goodness, to marvel at Your grace, and to commit ourselves to Your service. Give to us Your Word and bless our worship, through Jesus Christ our Lord we pray. AMEN.
OLD TESTAMENT READING: DEUTERONOMY 8:2-3; 6:13,16. REMEMBER HOW THE LORD YOUR GOD LED YOU ALL THE WAY IN THE DESERT THESE FORTY YEARS, TO HUMBLE YOU AND TO TEST YOU IN ORDER TO KNOW WHAT WAS IN YOUR HEART, WHETHER OR NOT YOU WOULD KEEP HIS COMMANDS. HE HUMBLED YOU, CAUSING YOU TO HUNGER AND THEN FEEDING YOU WITH MANNA, WHICH NEITHER YOU NOR YOUR FATHERS HAD KNOWN, TO TEACH YOU THAT MAN DOES NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT COMES FROM THE MOUTH OF THE LORD. FEAR THE LORD YOUR GOD, SERVE HIM AND TAKE YOUR OATHS IN HIS NAME. DO NOT TEST THE LORD YOUR GOD AS YOU DID AT MASSAH.
NEW TESTAMENT READING: – LUKE 4: 1-13.
JESUS, FULL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, RETURNED FROM THE JORDAN AND WAS LED BY THE SPIRIT IN THE DESERT, 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. THE DEVIL SAID TO HIM, “IF YOU ARE THE SON OF GOD, TELL THIS STONE TO BECOME BREAD.” JESUS ANSWERED, “IT IS WRITTEN: MAN DOES NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE.” THEN THE DEVIL LED HIM UP TO A HIGH PLACE AND SHOWED HIM IN AN INSTANT ALL THE KINGDOMS OF THE WORLD. AND HE SAID TO HIM, “I WILL GIVE YOU ALL THEIR AUTHORITY AND SPLENDOUR, FOR IT HAS BEEN GIVEN TO ME, AND I CAN GIVE IT TO ANYONE I WANT TO. SO IF YOU WORSHIP ME, IT WILL ALL BE YOURS.” JESUS ANSWERED, “IT IS WRITTEN: WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD AND SERVE HIM ONLY.” 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. FOR IT IS WRITTEN: – HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU TO GUARD YOU CAREFULLY; THEY WILL LIFT YOU UP IN THEIR HANDS, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.” JESUS ANSWERED, “IT SAYS: DO NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO TEST.” WHEN THE DEVIL HAD FINISHED ALL THIS TEMPTING, HE LEFT HIM UNTIL AN OPPORTUNE TIME.
In 2021 Easter Sunday falls on April 04. The Western Christian Church had determined Easter as the first Sunday following the full moon after the Spring Equinox (March 21), and the calculations were made in Rome by a certain Dionysius Exiguus in 525 AD, following a more general decision of the Council of Nicaea from 325 AD. The date is related to the Jewish Pesach, because biblically that is the time of Jesus’ Resurrection: the fifteenth day of the Nissan month in the Jewish Calendar. Later, the previous six weeks became observed as LENT. The purpose of Lent is a preparation of the believer for Easter through prayer, repentance of sins, and self-denial, which includes fasting in certain cases. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, includes six Sundays and ends on the day before Easter. It is traditionally described as a commemoration of the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert, meanwhile He endured temptation by Satan. The English word LENT is a shortened form of the Old English word Lencten, meaning “spring season,” as Lente in Dutch – and Lenz in German languages. TODAY IS THE FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT, and our Message is accordingly related to it…
Temptation is a powerful force in our lives. We all confront all kind of temptations on a daily basis, and Jesus’ story facing, and conquering it, teaches us how to avoid temptations in our own lives. I still recall a story read or heard in my childhood of how an Eskimo kills a wolf. It is an insight into the self-destructive nature of temptation and sin. First, the Eskimo coats his knife’s blade with animal blood and allows it to freeze. Then, he adds another layer of blood, and another, and another, until the blade is completely concealed by frozen blood. Next, the hunter fixes his knife in the ground with its blade up. When a wolf follows his sensitive nose to the source of the scent and reaches the bait, he licks it, tasting the fresh frozen blood. He begins to lick faster, more and more vigorously, lapping the blade until the edge is bare. Harder and harder the wolf licks the blade in the arctic night. His craving for blood becomes so great that the wolf does not notice the razor-sharp sting of the naked blade on his own tongue, and then ultimately being satisfied by his own warm blood … and finally the dawn finds him lying dead in the snow. Very expressive, isn’t it ?!
Today’s Bible-texts remind us that our capacity to repent and to resist temptation comes from our relationship with God and the grace of His deliverance rather than from our own spiritual strength. We live in a world of competing initiatives. In such a world, we must know the Christian way of avoiding the satanic traps in order to not fall captive. In Luke’s version of Jesus’ temptation we can clearly see the two distinct attitudes regarding the fall into sin and temptation. Why had Jesus be tempted at all? The temptation in the wilderness was in fact an attempt by Satan to trap Jesus into a concession that would force Him into disgrace. Innocent human faith may be pure, but it needs testing to be strong. This wasn’t the case with Jesus, His nature wasn’t sinful like ours, but the uncompromising way of how He defeated Satan is the testing of our own worthiness to celebrate whole-heartedly the Easter-meeting with our Risen Saviour and Lord.
- – TEMPTATION OF HUNGER. (LUKE 4: 3-4) The first temptation seems pretty simple. Jesus has been fasting for 40 days and Satan offered Him a quick way to feed His hunger, by turning the rounded bread-shaped stones scattered in the desert into actual loaves of bread. This is the temptation to meet legitimate physical needs by illegitimate, unnecessary means. There is nothing wrong with meeting physical needs, – food, shelter, protection, medical support, – by … legitimate means; because there is a higher law than our physical desires, and that is God and His Word. By quoting from Deuteronomy 8: 3, Jesus’ point is that physical needs must be met God’s way, not in out selfish, short-cut ways. Humans are tempted to steal, to cheat, to lie, and even kill, to provide themselves what they see as necessary. God is able to assist us in supplying our needs, but we should rely on the requirements and restrictions, put up for us in His Commandments. Bread, physical fulfilment, is not more important than God’s Word and Way. Martin Luther once said, – Not the price of bread is the real expense, but all the rest, people are tempted to give away for it.
- – TEMPTATION OF POWER AND WEALTH. (LUKE 4: 5-8) The second temptation is to authority and worldly glory. The devil led Jesus up to a high place and showed Him the kingdoms of the world. This sounds like a vision. Jesus obviously saw the kingdoms, but Satan wasn’t able to draw Him into a dispute about ownership. Arguing with Satan makes the tempted person even more vulnerable. In higher politics or corporate power that kind of temptations are abundant. Just “play the game”, you are told, or “Just look the other way,” they say. The rewards can be tremendous, and this is how “overnight” millionaires appear; but at what cost? The devil said, – If you worship me, it will all be yours, but Jesus answered with Scripture He had doubtless learned as a boy, – It is written: – Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.” Our God is a jealous God. We are not free agents in His world, picking or choosing between different powers around us to take some benefits. We must rely on the Lord our God, or be sucked irresistibly into the orbit of the devil’s sphere. If we don’t worship the Lord, we are lost. Jesus knew that power was important to His mission as Messiah, but it must be The Power bestowed by His Father when time will come. His was the Hard Way to glory – through the Cross and grave and Resurrection. But in due time the Father exalted Him to the highest place that He deserved, and to the position in which He is publicly proclaimed before heaven and earth (Philippians 2: 6-11). It took longer and harder, but Jesus resisted, taking His Father’s path.
- – TEMPTATION OF INSTANT ACCLAIM. (LUKE 4: 9-13) The third temptation of Jesus was for popularity. God…will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against the stone (Psalm 91: 11-12). This was Satan’s quotation from the Bible when he took Jesus to stand on the highest point of the Jerusalem Temple, asking Him to jump off to the pavement down below. Satan knew that Jesus is the Son of God. His invitation to this visible miracle of walking away from a certain mortal injury would make Jesus instantly so famous in the eyes of the pilgrims to the Temple, that perhaps would be acclaimed as Messiah on the spot. Jesus could choose the path of pride or humility. HE CHOOSE HUMILITY. The Bible says, – (Jesus),… being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tong confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2: 6-8). Jesus answered the devil with the words of Deuteronomy 6: 16: – Do not put the Lord your God to test. In other words, do not take some action that forces God’s hand, that seeks to manipulate God to do what He otherwise would not wish to do. The passage Jesus was quoting referred to the Israelites’ forcing God to act when they were thirsty at Massah in the wilderness. They had tested God by saying, – Is the Lord among us or not? If so, then prove it to us by giving us water. There is a kind of insistent unbelief in these sort of testing. Doubting Thomas said something the same, – Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe it (John 20: 25). Louder and louder claims like, – My will to be done – echo in our tested world, and I just wonder how many of these people know or remember, – Your will be done, – from The Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ reply to Thomas answers all the doubting remarks, – Because you have seen me, you have believed me; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (John 20: 29). Too often, we try to manipulate God, too, with bargains and deals. We need to take seriously Jesus’ words, – Do not put the Lord your God to test!
Have you ever wondered how Luke heard the story of Jesus’ temptation? Jesus was alone in the desert; no one had observed Him. Certainly Jesus himself told His disciples about His own temptation experience to teach them how to resist temptation themselves. I am sure, that over the course of forty days, Jesus experienced more than just three temptations. But He selected these three in order to teach and instruct His disciples. What Jesus teaches us is to answer temptations always with the Word of God, too. We need to know the Bible well enough to answer our doubts and fears and temptations with it, and apply the Word of God to every circumstance of our lives to emerge victorious from all temptations. Satan pulled one piece of Scripture out and tried to use it against Jesus. We should never take a biblical verse out of its context and try to use it alone. If we pull bits and pieces out of the Bible, as many people unfortunately do, we can make the Bible say anything we want. We must always study and use the Bible in its context. Jesus’ Messiahship had been shaped by the principles of God’s guidance. Facing the temptations, He had considered them carefully as His Father’s plan, and as a result of it He triumphed with that power over the Evil. The hard way of service and of suffering led Jesus to the Cross, but after the cross to the Crown. Temptation is Satan’s weapon to defeat us, but it can become God’s tool to build us.
Later, Jesus told His disciples, – I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you (Luke 1o: 18-19). Jesus trampled on the desert snake and scorpion, and He offers us this power to prayerfully consider all the benefits of His death and Resurrection. Lent is the season before Easter, when we should take this exercise. AMEN.
LET US PRAY:
LIVING AND LOVING GOD, You have promised to all who love You a peace that passes understanding. Forgive us that we have failed to make that our own. Teach us to be still, and know that You are God. Speak to us through the example of Jesus – the way He made time for quietness and prayer so that He could speak to You, the need He recognised for space and silence in which to seek Your guidance and to reflect on Your will, to overcome the temptations. Help us to live each day, every moment of this season of Lent and find peace, the rest for our souls that You have promised. Help us to know that Your love flows through us, reaching upwards in worship, inwards in fellowship and outwards in service, to the glory of Your name. We pray for our world, Your world Lord God, and for an end to all that frustrates Your purpose in it. We think of those in countries racked by conflict, famine, disease and poverty; of those who face repression and discrimination, persecuted for their faith or for who they are; and of those who are victims of crime, violence and var. Most of all, we bring before You the world-wide struggle to contain Covid-19 Coronavirus Pandemic in all its terrifying variants, as millions of people are dying, and potentially everyone of us in the world are in that great danger, too. We pray for the sick and suffering, and for those who mourn loved ones whom they not even had the chance to see for the last time before they died. Be, o Lord, with the elderly and the young, the lonely and who feel unloved, the disabled and disadvantaged in any ways. We pray for those in the medical profession: doctors, nurses, scientists, researchers, counsellors, and psychiatrists, whose roll increases day by day. We think in these difficult time of aid agencies, charities, food-banks, churches, politicians, police and members of the armed forces – these, and so many others who contribute to the fulfilment of Your purpose. Bless Your Christian Church in this Lent-season , our Church of Scotland in all its presbyteries and congregations, and all our sisters and brothers in our church, on our Island and in the world. Hear us in our quiet prayers … through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
THE LORD’S PRAYER: – OUR FATHER, WHO ART IN HEAVEN …
CLOSING HYMN (CH-210): – FORTY DAYS AND FORTY NIGHTS Thou wast fasting in the wild; forty days and forty nights tempted still, yet undefiled.
Sunbeams scorching day by day; chilly dewdrops nightly shed; prowling beasts about Thy way; stones Thy pillow; earth Thy bed.
Shall not we Thy sorrow share, learn Thy discipline of will, and like Thee, by fast and prayer wrestle with the powers of ill?
What if Satan, vexing sore, flesh and spirit shall assail, Thou, his vanquisher before, will not suffer us to fail.
Watching, praying, struggling thus, victory ours at last shall be; angels minister to us as they ministered to Thee.
GOD IS FAITHFUL; HE WILL NOT LET YOU BE TEMPTED BEYOND WHAT YOU CAN BEAR. BUT WHEN YOU ARE TEMPTED, HE WILL ALSO PROVIDE A WAY OUT SO THAT YOU CAN STAND UP UNDER IT (1 Corinthians 10: 13). NOW TO HIM WHO IS ABLE TO DO IMMEASURABLY MORE THAN ALL WE ASK OR IMAGINE, ACCORDING TO HIS POWER THAT IS AT WORK WITHIN US, TO HIM BE GLORY IN THE CHURCH AND IN JESUS CHRIST THROUGHOUT ALL GENERATIONS, FOR EVER AND EVER! AMEN. (Ephesians 3: 20-21)