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Sunday sermon 4 October 2015 – dealing with the voices

MESSAGE

Psalm 55:4-8, 22 Page 892; 1 Peter 5:1-11 Page 1892; Luke 12 :25-34 Page 1618 (NIV)

CAN YOU REALLY FLY AWAY?

Let’s listen to a musical introit from Mendelsohn’s “O for the wings of a dove”  – the second part of “Hear my prayer”.  The first part of “Hear my prayer” is also from of Psalm 55, revealing the turmoil and the anguish of the writer who is calling on God for help in the face of the godless and various enemies. “O for the wings of a dove” is part of the prayer and seen as a way to ecape.

The singers are The Choirboys (2005) – a trio who were together for a short while.

In fact in Psalm 55 it is a close friend who has betrayed David. One of those worst disappointments. This is stuff that breaks your heart. Like betrayal in marriage. Divorce and separation. Or conflict of any sort that is too hard to bear.

The idea that one can escape with the wings of a dove is not a bad one.

Go off into the wilderness. The desert fathers did that – shifted into a parallel zone to be connected with God in a deeper way – a conscious choice to be in that zone. For them the wilderness was a place of solitude and solitude.

We need that too – that ability to find a place of “repose” – restfulness and tranquillity – calm and peacefulness.

Our prayer life is part of that – plus our ability to zone out in other ways – through rest, music, reading and creative writing. Journal keeping – drawing – whatever works for us. For some its running!

IT’S IN THE RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD THAT THE PEACE IS FOUND

The impulsive apostle Peter – in his older wiser days when he stopped putting his foot into things – wrote this:

1Pe 5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 1Pe 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

The Christians then were persecuted – many were dying for their faith too like today.

There is a way forward, says Peter. Rest in the Lord – cast your anxieties on him – because he cares for you.

Just as in Psalm 55:22 David grounds his trust in this faithful God too: Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you…

This being peaceful – “chillaxing” as the young people say today – is not a complacency however. The verse that follow make that very clear:

1Pe 5:8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1Pe 5:9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

There is a war on.

The Apostle Paul supports Peter in this idea of standing firm – in this locus classicus or key passage in the New Testament on spiritual battles:

Eph 6:10  Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

Eph 6:11  Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

Eph 6:12  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Eph 6:13  Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Eph 6:14  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,

Eph 6:15  and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

Of course there is more – and this too is grounded in the word of God (remember our discussion last week about the two sides of the same coin?) and prayer through the Holy Spirit:

Eph 6:16  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

Eph 6:17  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Eph 6:18  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. 

JESUS REENFORCES THIS STANDING FIRM IN HIS TEACHING IN THE GOSPELS

  • This steadiness – ability to fly away into a safe zone…
  • The fear, worry and anxiety we deal with – is to be left with God. They are distractions in the big picture of the battle for truth – the Truth of God, His Kingdom, and his desire and purpose for the world.

Yes – this is true! Listen again to the links in the readings today:

  • Psalm 55:22 “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you…”
  • 1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Jesus says this too elsewhere:

Joh 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

And in today’s reading from Luke 12:

Luk 12:25  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

Luk 12:26  Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

He’s really saying – cut the c**p! This obsession with stuff! And your needs in the consumer Christian cult we all get sucked into.

Luk 12:29  And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.

Luk 12:30  For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.

Luk 12:31  But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

Luk 12:32  “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.

Luk 12:33  Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.

Luk 12:34  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Your treasure in heaven is not really, primarily, about a bigger and better mansion that you invest in the sky (the idea that if you don’t you’ll just get a batch with bad/Asian/English/South African neighbours – or whatever matches your prejudice.) And don’t be anxious and fearful.

Luk 12:32  “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.

The Kingdom. Has been pleased to give you… Now! Its values – its economics. Its purpose for living – living out Kingdom values and standardsseeking the Kingdom above other things – bringing people into the Kingdom – investing your tithes (still 10%) into the work of the Kingdom through first and foremost the local church.  It’s about doing the works that God gives you.

Remember the women at the well story and sermon? When they went shopping and Jesus was able to get on with things? Remember the food debate? Here it is in John 4:

Joh 4:30  They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

Joh 4:31  Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

Joh 4:32  But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

Joh 4:33  Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”

Joh 4:34  “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.

His work was the very substance of his being. Obedience and redemption. These are bread and butter issues, if you like.

Jesus’ work was a war too.

When Jesus once healed on the Sabbath, they accused him of doing the work of Beelzebub – Lord of the flies. The devil. The Satan – is the correct way of talking about him. Here’s the passage in Matthew 12 this time:

Mat 12:24  But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”

Mat 12:25  Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.

Mat 12:26  If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?

Mat 12:27  And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges.

Mat 12:28  But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

You can’t do his stuff – his work – unless you are steady – grounded – standing firm and alert – with your intelligence operatives doing their job.

Jesus’s work on earth ended on the cross. But the story didn’t end there. This is the Kingdom of the 3rd day. Resurrection. And giving the Spirit. And His intercession for us. And His coming again in the future to judge us all.

It’s what David didn’t live after – he lived before it. We live after the resurrection. We know the results of the real World Cup.

But David knew it was coming. He spoke of Messiah aka Christ:

Psa 110:1  Of David. A psalm. The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” 

When people asked Jesus this question, he referred to this. 

Mat 22:42  “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” “The son of David,” they replied.

Mat 22:43  He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,

Mat 22:44  “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”‘

Mat 22:45  If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?”

Mat 22:46  No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.

SO HOW DO WE DO IT?

The wrestling in prayer is no easy task. Jesus had his time in the wilderness – but it was not a place of rest and refuge. It was a struggle with the voices that challenged his identity and destiny. (He was led there by the Spirit!)

And in the garden of Gethsemane too. He didn’t ask then to fly away like a dove.

He did pray this though:

(Mat 26:36  Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”

Mat 26:37  He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.)

Mat 26:38  Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Mat 26:39  Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

(Mat 26:40  Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter.

Mat 26:41  “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”)

Mat 26:42  He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

(Mat 26:43  When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.)

Mat 26:44  So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

In his temptations it was “If you are the son of God…”. In Gethsemane it was about facing the suffering and darkness of the sins of the world. It was being the Lamb of God – except unlike the lambs at Passover who had no idea what was coming – he knew exactly. And like David, he knew the betrayal of a close friend. He need to know in all this that he was the beloved Son of God. He needed the voice he heard at his baptism again – and his transfiguration. Here are the passages from the ESV:

Mat 3:16  And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;

Mat 3:17  and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Mar 9:7  And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” 

WHAT ABOUT US?

Henri Nouwen put it like this:

“Many voices ask for our attention. There is a voice that says, ‘Prove that you are a good person.’ Another voice says, ‘You’d better be ashamed of yourself.’ There also is a voice that says, ‘Nobody really cares about you,’ and one that says, ‘Be sure to become successful, popular, and powerful.’

But underneath all these often very noisy voices is a still, small voice that says, ‘You are my Beloved, my favour rests on you.’ That’s the voice we need most of all to hear. To hear that voice, however, requires special effort; it requires solitude, silence, and a strong determination to listen. That’s what prayer is. It is listening to the voice that calls us ‘my Beloved.’” 

  • Music – helps you step out of the zone into his peace. It’s God’s gift.
  • Reflection – helps too, like meditation on his word.
  • Quietness – be still and know (Psalm 46) or Stillness.
  • In the face of terror – Escape like a dove to those safe places.
  • Standing firm – in the face of Terror – is in His strength alone.
  • Being strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.

This is us. Amen.

Receive the blessing – from the choirboys again:

Sunday sermon 17 February – The temptations of Jesus

The Temptations of Jesus

Luke 4:1-13

4 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.’[a]

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 splendor, 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.’[b]

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. 10 For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully;
11 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[
c]

12 Jesus answered, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[d]

13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

Footnotes:

  1. Luke 4:4 Deut. 8:3
  2. Luke 4:8 Deut. 6:13
  3. Luke 4:11 Psalm 91:11,12
  4. Luke 4:12 Deut. 6:16

 

Sunday Message

There are two Adams in the Bible. And the comparison between the two is a very helpful way of looking at the story of God’s rescue plan of the world. The Christian story.

In Luke’s gospel – in the previous chapter – there is a fascinating verse which gets us thinking again today about the two Adams. Luke outlines the genealogy of Jesus – his family tree – after the account of his baptism, and ends with this verse, verse 38: 38 the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

  • Adam – the first Adam – the son of God.
  • Jesus – the second or last Adam – the son of God.  (1 Corinthians 15:54)

It doesn’t take much to figure out what the main difference is between these two! It’s in how they respond to the devil’s temptation.

THE TEMPTATIONS

Funny that we don’t always take them seriously – in the sense that we are NOT the son of God so we assume that the temptations Jesus faced were unique to him.

Good news, or bad news if you like – we are sons of Adam by birth and nature. The same stuff comes at us, but in different ways. So let’s look at the passage today.

Temptation 1 – Serving Self.

Luke 4:  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.”

This is very close to home. The first temptation involves food. That pretty much settles things doesn’t it? Standing before the fridge at odd hours we have a new incentive to lock the door (of the fridge I mean). In the country where I came from you could lock your fridge which is not a bad thing if you have midnight raiders!

This temptation comes to Jesus at a time of extreme hunger. And one has to be sympathetic.

On Tuesday at our morning worship (See http://wp.me/p2bTnS-7f ) I shared about the three assumptions Jesus made when he spoke to his followers in Matthew 6 – when you give, when you pray and when you fast! We did not do a survey about who actually fasts as the congregation believes me usually – and the passage told us not to tell anyone!

But I know it’s not common! We hardly skip meals. Can you imagine what Jesus went through?

But this is about more than the food. The temptation to make food from rocks is only a symptom.

At his first day at work, in a sense, Jesus is tempted to use his power to serve his own needs.

Later on the cross he would be tempted in a similar way by the voices who taunted him by saying:   “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.” (Luke 23:35).

Of course it didn’t stop there. The soldiers:  “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” (Luke 25:36). And one of the criminals hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39).

It’s about using your power to serve your own needs.

We have different power available in our lives. Resources, time, money are all forms of empowerment. Perhaps the temptation of Greed is related to this problem that we have – we could easily use our resources not to please ourselves but to be a blessing to the needy and poor.

We have power in the organisations we work in or serve in. The classic adult bully abuses that power in a self- serving way. Positive influence on the other hand is a blessing to others!

Many things we influence in the church are actually not about others but about ourselves. That’s the truth. The temptation is to serve ourselves.

The dialogue in the text today goes like this:

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.’[a] 

Of course he was quoting Deuteronomy 8:3

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.

Jesus resists this temptation because he knows his bible – which teaches that life comes from God in the fullest sense. Only the real life we have in God makes us fully alive! (song from NW)

We are fooled in thinking that getting our own way satisfies.

The story continues in the second temptation:

Temptation 2 –  The temptation to take control through compromising true worship.

For Jesus is was a stark choice:

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.”

It would have been so easy to embrace the expectations of the people and become a political Messiah. Military and civil power – the power to rule and control the nations – is a great temptation. It could be achieved by a brief moment of worshipping Satan.

Like the turning of stones into bread – it’s another short cut option.

I’ve already talked a little about our abuse use of power.

So many of our temptations are about short cuts bringing instant gratification.

And of course the Kingdom Jesus was ushering in was quite different from political hopes the locals had. It was about a long hard obedience to a new set of truths and assumptions about life.

  • Is this a real temptation?
  • Was Jesus REALLY tempted to worship the Devil?
  • And are we?

I’m not going to try to answer those questions. I’d rather point you to a key verse in the Bible:

Hebrews 4:15  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.

And behind this saga in the narrative is the same command that applies to all human beings:

Exodus 20:3  “You shall have no other gods before me.

Power and worship are close allies. It’s about the things that capture our hearts! We are dealing here with Jesus who became fully human.

We need to be so very careful here, because we know that the stuff of this world doesn’t really satisfy. Two illustrations help here. The first is by the 17th century French Philosopher Blaise Pascal:

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in humanity a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This we try in vain to fill with everything around us, seeking in things that are not there the help we cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God alone.”
Blaise Pascal, Pensee 10.148.

And then more well-known perhaps from Augustine the 4th century African bishop of Hippo, the modern city of Annaba, in Algeria:

“You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you.”
St. Augustine, Confessions 1.1.1

It’s the on-going temptation to seek fulfillment in things and from other sources.

Worship is about what we give worth too – what captures our hearts and imaginations. And we are very vulnerable to this idolatry.

Temptation 3 – The third but not final temptation – a cross-avoiding spectacle

And so we come to the third one. It would have been much easier to perform a stunt. Listen again:

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. 10 For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully;
11 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[
c]

12 Jesus answered, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[d]

A couple of things come to mind here. The misuse of the Bible – how easy it is to abuse scripture.

  • Again the short cuts of wanting instant results.
  • But especially the avoidance of the cross.

Most real achievement comes with long hard commitment and courage. The cross required that in the extreme.

We too should not test God (I am not sure if we do take huge risks though). It’s probably the most difficult temptation to get our heads around and to apply to our lives.

SOME CONCLUSIONS AND SOLUTIONS

I think in all of them there is a FAITH as TRUST issue here. Jesus had to trust His Father fully. So what about us?

  • Do we really believe that God’s way is best for us?
  • Do WE want to force His hand?
  • Are there things we don’t really trust Him for?

LET’S WATCH THIS PRESENTATION OF THE TEMPTATIONS BY CHILDREN – it will give us some insights into the problem and some solutions. It may make this sermon more memorable.

WATCH VIDEO:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntnvr5sbl04

I loved the hamburger thrown in. Typical kids. But the “on my knees” theme is the key! The song grabbed my attention – as did the Lord’s prayer reminder.

The chorus in the song: On my knees! I am on my knees! I’m on my knees!

  • Prayer is at the heart of our victory against temptation.
  • We pray better when we know our Bibles!
  • When we’ve been on our knees (literally or not – it means devoting time to prayer) then the decisions when on our feet through the day become so much simpler. The power of the Holy Spirit applying the Word of God to our lives means that like Paul we can say: “But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16 )

So for your encouragement, read this passage which helps press on and not give up:

Hebrews 4:14-16:  Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Amen.