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Jan 23 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 23, 2011

 “Christ In the Wilderness”
Ivan Kramskoy 

 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Holy Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He became hungry. Luke 4:1-2

[Yes, we re returning to the temptation story again this week. There are a couple more points that I wanted to draw out before moving on.]

INTRO: These first two verses set the stage for the episode that follows 

The camera zooms in on Jesus first – his name appears as the story begins
– he is a long way from home, from family, and from the old neighborhood
He is being guided through a transition
– he’s not in charge of this moment in his life, but he’s ready
– he braves the desert alone, subjecting himself to two opposing forces

  • “led around by Spirit”
  • “led” here and there by the devil (vv. 5 & 9)

Before he leaves the wilderness, he will be won over by one influence or the other 

On this barren battlefield, Jesus is the representative of humankind
– the contestants in this struggle are fighting over us 

“What an exciting revelation this is to us! We matter, as individuals, to the Living God. However–here is a sober warning–we also matter to Satan!” Edith Schaeffer

Temptation draws our attention to various facets of the spiritual journey 

We are confronted by the supernatural 

In elementary school, we learned about sound waves and light waves
– but physicists discovered something interesting about light:

  • If you run tests to determine if light is wave, it behaves as a wave
  • If you run tests to determine if light is particles, it behaves as particles
  • In no test can it be seen that light is both wave and particle at the same time

I want to make an analogy from light to help us perceive what happens in temptation

  • Let’s compare particles to the physical world 
    – they represent objects and forces like rocks, and bread, and nations, and gravity
  • Let’s compare waves to the world of spirit
    – we’re are so submerged in world of particles, we don’t know the world of waves even exists

It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit” (Acts 19:1-2) 

Temptations come to us in world of particles, but that does not mean world of matter is bad!

I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. (Ro. 14:14)

Temptation doesn’t originate in the particles of light (matter) but in its waves (supernatural)
– but the wave vibrations run through particles
– in our world of human experience, we cannot separate spirit from matter (even if we can’t see both at same time)
– there are not two separate universes (as in Plato and Gnosticism), but multiple dimensions
– our experience is confined to the four space-time dimensions

By following temptation to its source, it can help us discover the world of waves
– even more, we can learn to see more clearly the Spirit who works in and through nature  and is at work in our own spirit as well

We learn to surrender 

Notice the temptations were designed to make God dance to devil’s tune
– for example, the devil offered Jesus “all this domain [of world empires] and its glory”

Astute psychologist that he is, I find it interesting that the devil offered Jesus not only “all the kingdoms of the world” but also their “glory.” So if he could not snare Jesus by appealing to a “will to power,” perhaps he could tempt him with the glory of fame.
I once asked another minister if he wanted to be involved in a project that was . . . edgy. His response was, “I don’t want to die on that hill!” In other words, he did not want his reputation to be destroyed by taking a stand on a controversial issue, even if it could benefit people who have been locked out of churches. His answered disturbed me and I remember wondering, Well what hill do you want to die on?  I mean, after all, Jesus died on a hill between two theives. What do you think that did to his reputation? But he was willing to be “numbered with the transgressors” (Isa. 53:12) and “made himself of no reputation” (Php. 2:7).

The most famous verse of the Bible: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16)
– here the world is being handed to him without having to be “despised and rejected” or go to the cross
– if Jesus took the bait, he may rule kingdoms, but they would be Satan’s kingdom and he would rule by Satan’s authority
– this is nothing but a card trick, “Take a card; any card”
– the Trickster forces you to take the card he wants you to take while making you believe that you drew it by your own free choice 

A lot of religious people have bought into this temptation
– they want to know, “How does having God improve and enhance this self-centered life of mine?”
– this is what it means to “get religion” (like getting a new car or new suit)
But when we get serious about God, he is not an accessory
– my whole self-centered life goes from my hands into his

I have been crucified with Christ; and it it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Gal. 2:20)

That is why Jesus’ words, “It is written” are so important!
– it is written by God who owns me – his word defines me
– if I do not belong to God in this way, then “it is written” has no power on my lips 

This raises the question: When the devil quotes Bible, is it still word of God?
– doesn’t he twist it into a diabolical word?
I believe we lose something when we turn God’s self-revelation into doctrine
– some people think I’m against doctrine, but I’m not
– it’s simply that we have to understand the limits of conceptualizing God
– we can talk about God and his word theoretically and theologically, in a third-person kind of way
– then it becomes an impersonal word and  we are neither confronted nor transformed by it

Does our religious education give us all the answers and teach us when to use them?
– or does it bring us to Jesus and teach us how to find our answers in him when we need them?
– we want our own walk with Jesus – not dogma handed to us 

The difference between the devil quoting Bible and Jesus quoting it is
– the devil uses it like tool; he manipulates it
– Jesus stands on it, he lets it speak in its own voice, and he surrenders to its authority

We are led into times of solitude 

There’s a lot we can say about solitude, but in this story the context is temptation and I want us to consider how God uses solitude to evaporate our illusions 

  1. The illusion that what tempts us is always something external
    a. The earliest monks considered city life to be filled with distractions and temptations
    – the wilderness, however, was a kind of emptiness with few temptations
    – but it was in the wilderness that Jesus was tempted
    b. In solitude we discover the real problem; namely that temptation does not lie in the things around us or outside us, but in our heart
    For there is no good tree that produces bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit. . . The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks that which fills his heart (Lk. 6:43-45)
    – in the wilderness, where everything else is absent, our hearts are revealed
    – we don’t need external enticements, we carry the disease within us and we we cannot get away from temptation any more than jump over our own shadow
  2. The illusion that we enjoy real connections with each other
    a. Is it possible I don’t like solitude for just this reason, that it reveals what I am – what I’ve let myself become? that I don’t like what I learn about my thought life and my motives when I’m alone? Or that I’ve become addicted to entertainment, to parties, or whatever?
    b. I don’t want to be alone, because of possibility I’ll discover how shallow and empty are my heart and mind
    – and the fact that when I’m alone, there’s no one else to blame
    c. Maybe that’s why I resist being told, “There will be no laptops or accessing the internet on this retreat,” no earphones for listening to “my music,” and why I refuse to shut off my cell phone
    – if for one moment I lose the illusion of being connected to others, I will have to face myself and the fact my connections are superficial froth and foam (like the kisses that the queen of the Rose Parade blows to crowd)
  3. The illusion that the only response to my failure in the face of temptation is to despair
    a. That is not why we are led into wilderness
    You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart . . . make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD . . . that the LORD your God was disciplining your just as a man disciplines his son . . . (De. 8:2-6)
    – the last thing God wants is for us to lose heart
    For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin . . . (He. 12:3-4)
    – it’s true that solitude undermines our self-confidence, that we learn our brokenness, our weakness, and our need
    b. But we are taken into wilderness to learn that we never go it alone
    – instead, we enter solitude with the Spirit, and the word, and the Savior of those who are tempted
    – we learn that it is God who is at work in us, nurturing us, shaping our spiritual development through even the mundane and routine events of our lives
    – what we cannot do for ourselves, he does for us

The things that are impossible with people are possible with God (Lk. 18:27)
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in me. . . . for apart from Me you can do nothing (Jn. 15:4-5) 

CONC: Why does God go to all of this trouble with us?
Because you’re a masterpiece, a painting in progress, an unfinished poem, and it’s God’s pleasure to see you develop into the whole and complete work he has in mind

And the Lord your God takes as much joy in the process of working with you and in you every day as he does in receiving you to himself in perfection

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