“Into Battle”

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Note on sermon preached 23 May 2010 on Luke 4 v.1-13

This is one the most preached on passages in the gospels. If you have been a Christian for any length of time you will have heard sermons on this before.

The difficulty for the preacher is that there is so much to take from these verses that it is difficult to pick out what to say. This week we shall be looking  at some overall thoughts about the passage, and next time we shall go in detail through it verse by verse.

So…some thoughts on the passage about the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, which we are calling today: “Into Battle!”

1. The Sequence

We have just been reading about the baptism of Jesus, the day when Jesus was endorsed from heaven with the words “You are my Son, whom I love. With you I am well-pleased”. We saw that this was the moment when God showed the green light, when he fired the starting pistol and the world was introduced to the Son of God. It is worth noting here that the enthronement of a monarch is with pomp and splendour – but not here. Jesus was announced in a way that meant that virtually everyone was unaware of it .Don’t  be fooled by appearances.

You might have expected that it would be followed with a dramatic appearance on the world stage, or with the signs  and wonders that  we read about later. But what we see is the Holy Spirit leading Jesus out into the wilderness, a place of solitude and loneliness, where he experienced cold, heat ,hunger and constant battle with the enemy. God’s ways are not our ways!

What can we learn from this? God’s way of preparing his people for ministry is often to take them through a “wilderness experience”. Churchill’s years before he came back into government and became Prime Minister in 1940 are often called “the wilderness years”. The wilderness is the place of testing God’s call, refining it, confirming it and developing it. It is true for individuals and for  churches. Don’t despise the wilderness experiences. And remember – the wilderness experience does come to an end!

2. The Situation

What exactly is happening in this extraordinary encounter?

We saw last time that Jesus is truly God and truly man. He laid aside his divinity and, whilst never ceasing to be God, battled against temptation as man. So this story is a pattern of our own lives, experiencing the attack of the enemy who wants to to cause us to doubt God’s word, to cause us to live for ourselves rather than God.

Every day each of us live our lives in a situation of warfare, when the enemy of our souls does everything he can to cause us to turn away from God. It has been so with every human from Adam to you, and it is so  with Jesus. So we should not be surprised at the battle that engages us every day. And whilst we often talk about the attack of the enemy in circumstances and in illness, the main strategy is to get us to disobey our heavenly Father. Is that not your experience every day?  We will look next time at how Jesus deals with those temptations but for now let’s be aware that we have an ememy who “prowls round like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour”. The exhortation in 1 Peter is simple: “Resist him, standing firm in the faith”, and is repeated in James chapter 4 with a promise: “Submit yourselves them to god. Resist the devil and he will flee from you”

3. The Stakes

God is the biggest gambler in history. It is not the godless gambling in betting shops and Las Vagas, but the gambling that is driven by the love that is prepared to risk everything for those he loves.

Jesus won our salvation by dying on the cross. But in order to qualify to be the saviour of mankind he had first of all to live a live that was without blemish. That meant being in the forefront of the full range of temptations and pressures that we all face. Jesus had to face it all, and to win, without any recourse to his divine nature.

The onslaught must have been horrific.  Just as the first Adam failed, Jesus had to face a re-run of the temptation of Eden. And if he had failed – just one thought or deed out of harmony with His heavenly father – he would no longer have been the sinless son of God. He would not have been the spotless lamb and the opportunity of salvation would have been lost forever. What a moment this was!

But it is not only our salvation that is at risk here. At stake is also the throne of God himself! Adam had been given responsibility for earth, and when he failed, authority passed to the one to whom he had given allegiance. Had Jesus failed here, then not only the earth, but the very throne of God himself would have come under that jurisdiction of Satan! Lucifer would have everything he ever wanted. And God put all that at risk in order to save you.  No wonder Satan through everything into this temptation. No junior demon was entrusted with the task of tempting Jesus – it was Satan himself with all his wiles and all his deception

God is the greatest gambler in the universe. What are you prepared to risk for the One who risked everything for you?

4. The Springboard

There is no springboard for fruitful ministry other than alone with God. It is no accident that Jesus starts his ministry alone with God. And it is no surprise that the enemy attacks it for all he is worth There are three things that we should note here:

–          Prayer: we are not specifically told, but it is reasonable to assume that Jesus spent this time in prayer, preparing himself for what was to come. Prayer is the foundation of the success of anything we do for God.

–          Fasting: victory after victory in the word of God comes as a result of God’s people fasting. It is clear that God intends fasting to characterise the life each Christian and of his church. Does it?

–          Holiness: we have already seen what was at stake in the temptation of Jesus.  Our obedience to God is what drives every other area of our lives. Does resisting the enemy characterise our lives?

5. The Sequel

At the end of this long, lonely period of time the enemy leaves Jesus.( 4 v.13) The present crisis is over. And something else happens. Jesus returns to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.(v.14) He has gone from being “full of the holy Spirit”(v 1) to being “in the power of the Holy pirit. And in that power he drives out demons, proclaims the good news of the kingdom, heals the sick and raises the dead. The wilderness victory leads him into the power of the kingdom. The strong man is bound – and the kingdom of God comes.

We long to see the power of the Spirit released amongst us. Are we prepared for the testing, the resisting, the prayer and the fasting? If we are – there is no reason why we should not see what Jesus saw.

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