Text: Matthew 4:1-11
You know that I spend a few moments each week telling you a story, sometimes a tale of marvellous feats, of amazing people, of outstanding events. Rarely, do I speak of the supernatural, of the strange and mysterious.
But tonight I will. Yes yet tonight we will also speak of something entirely common to all of us, something not supernatural at all, but what we have to confront everyday of our lives: temptation.
Temptation. Big things or small things. Insignificant lies to major theft, the short cut to an easy life or the next cream bun.
Just before he started his work amongst us, after nearly 30 years below the parapet, keeping his head down, waiting, waiting for the right time. He went out to a lonely place, a desolate place, to work out what it was all about. Forty Days and Forty Nights: a long time with scant food or water or company. It was there the Tempter came to him.
Do you think that the devil appears with horns and a pointed tail? Do you think that temptation looks so horrible? Temptation rather looks quite attractive, quite beguiling. Temptation comes in forms that seduce. The Tempter came alongside the Man and tried his best to do what he does O so well.
“If you are so hungry, why not turn the stones around us here into bread. After all, you are the Son of God”
Why not serve your own needs, your physical needs, before all others? Why not use the immense power you have to make your own life comfortable, why deny yourself a little food, a lot of food, a world of food, all the world’s comforts?
“You cannot live on bread alone, but by everything that God says”. There is more to life than the purely physical, there is more to life than what you can touch, taste and smell. Think beyond the boundaries of your physical needs. And the Tempter knew he was beat.
Then the Tempter took the Man up to the highest part of the temple, the tallest place they could find, and tried to use the Man’s faith against him – to manipulate him by placing more emphasis on words than on God.
“If you are the Son of God, throw yourself off the top here, the Bible says that the Angels will come and save you from even bruising your feet on the rocks below”
But the Man knew not to get wrapped up in the words, trapped by taking the book too literally, and shot right back: “it also says ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test!”. And the Tempter knew he was beat.
So the Tempter tried once more, and took the Man to a high mountain, where he could see the whole world, all of the kingdoms, all of the riches.
“I will give you all this: power, riches, an easy life if you will worship me”. The greatest temptation, the easiest life. All you have to do is to submit to the worst of your tendencies.
But the Man had his priorities right: “The Scriptures say ‘You must worship God, and only him”. Not musicians, or politicians, or trainers or football teams. Not Reality TV shows or violent video games. Not food or drugs or the girlfriend, or the boyfriend. Worship none of these things, for they will lead you to the worst of yourself.
“You must worship God and only him”
And the Tempter knew he was beat.
Temptation doesn’t always appear in supernatural form, and certainly not with horns and a tail. But temptation is all around, and is constantly at your side, discouraging you, undermining you and trying to get you to betray yourself.
The Man had the Tempter beat. And you can have the Tempter beat.
Seek God. Do not test. Worship only him.
And the Tempter who is always there, and will always be there will be beaten.