PASTOR’S POST First Stop on the Lenten journey: TEMPTATION First Sunday in Lent – March 5, 2017
Dear friends in Christ,
Our Lenten journey is underway. We are journeying with Jesus and His disciples on the way to the decisive events of Holy Week and Easter. Our first stop on this journey is a place we might call temptation. The focus of our worship is Matthew 4:1-11, the temptation account.
Following the account of Jesus’ baptism, Matthew tells how the Holy Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness (the Judean desert) where he fasts forty days. After the fast He is to be tempted by the devil. The Devil confronts Jesus with demands that He take matters into His own hands: turning stones into bread addressing His hunger, throwing Himself off the pinnacle of the temple to prove His faith and trust in God are genuine, and taking power and authority over the kingdoms of this world which the devil seems to think are his to give.
The first two of these temptations begin with the phrase, “If you are the Son of God…” That’s important. They echo the voice of God which proclaimed that He indeed is the Son of God at His baptism in the previous chapter: “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” In other words, the root temptation with which Jesus is confronted is to doubt what God Himself has already said: He IS the Son of God, the Word become flesh, Immanuel-God with us. And if the devil can get Jesus to doubt His identity, he has a chance to derail Jesus from His divine mission.
So at this first stop on the Lenten journey we are invited and encouraged to reflect on the identity that God Himself gave to us when we were baptized. The words God addresses to Jesus are also addressed to the newly baptized. In Baptism God claims us and gives us a new identity as His redeemed daughters and sons, and Christ Himself is our brother.
Whenever I have encountered temptation in my life, and succumbed to it, I have doubted my identity as a child of God, and that it has disrupted the important relationships God has given me in my life, and no doubt my own relationship with God. The temptation to be prideful, for example, disrupts the relationship I have with God because it is a vain attempt to make myself God.
That’s the way it works when we succumb to the voice of the evil one. Jesus shows us the way to deal with temptation. He arms Himself with the Word of God in each case. And this is clearly one important reason to attend worship and join in group Bible study. As we arm ourselves with God’s Word we are better able to face down the evil one, and preserve the goodness of the relationships with which God has blessed us.
Pastor Joe Hughes
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