Preparing for Ministry
Jesus: Meet Him Again for the First Time • Sermon • Submitted • Presented • 1:18:15
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In our culture there is a persistent myth of instant. As if everything happens in the present. And if you think about it there is good reason for that, we have access to almost everything in seconds. Our computers are faster than ever before. Have a question about: the biological structure of an orchid? How a combustion engine works? or How fast can a swallow fly? You can do a web search and in moments have explanations at your fingertips.
We watch athletes pull of incredible feats of balance, strength, skill, and speed. We turn on our televisions and find unknowns become “overnight” sensations with their talent. We read of break out stars in athletics, music, theater, and the movies.
Yet, if we were to pull back the curtain we would realize there is nothing “overnight” about it.
There is little “breakout” about it.
What we don’t see are where these athletes have toiled day in and day out in the weight room, at practice running scrimmages and drill after drill, we don’t see the discipline of their diet and sleep regimens. The mundane stretching, the endless runs.
What we don’t see are the musicians spending hours routinely practicing their scales, the thespian’s hours of rehearsal developing their character, the actresses’ thirty or more takes to get that one scene so it will play right on film.
And then we tend to hold ourselves to this fantastical standard. It’s unrealistic. It’s impossible. It’s not helpful. It’s harmful. How arrogant can we be to think that we can just step up and do something to the level of skill without such dedication, perseverance, and determination?
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
When we think of our Christian life, and as ministers of the Gospel which is what we all are, we often miss out on how god has been preparing us.
At Jesus baptism it was announced who He was: [God’s] beloved Son, with whom [God is] well pleased.
and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Think about all that led up to this moment in Jesus’ life on earth. His birth, his formative years, his adult life, and now he comes to this moment about 30 years after He was a baby in the manger. Yet in that moment it is announced clearly, exactly who He was. Note it does not say, “You are my beloved son” but “This is my beloved Son.” The announcement was not so much for Jesus as it was for those around him.
It was the beginning of Jesus ministry. But we’re not done yet...
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
And He was tempted. If we are to look at Jesus three temptations we see a pattern. Every single temptation is responded to with Scripture, with God’s Word!
The first two temptations: Turn this bread to stone, and throw yourself down were temptations specifically about Jesus identity: “If you are the Son of God...” the devil chides.
What about the third temptation? Jesus third temptation is also about Jesus identity, because His identity is determined like ours by who or what we worship. We read this morning as our call to worship: Psalm 121:1
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
Let’s take a few minutes to reflect on these two scenes at the beginning of Jesus ministry:
Think about your own baptism or confirmation. In our tradition, some of us are baptized as infants or small children and may not have had any profession of faith associated with it. Most who are baptized this way later make a profession of faith, perhaps as part of a confirmation class or as an adult. For others, we are baptized at an older age and had a better understanding of what it meant and our profession of faith was wrapped up in the baptism as it all happened at once.
In that moment you recognized our sinfulness, your need for a savior, and all that Jesus did for you in taking your sins to the cross (as the paschal lamb), and more by rising from the dead. In that moment, I hope, you recognized that you were now different than before. You may not have heard a voice, but in that moment it was as if God was saying to you and those around you:
“This is my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased.”
This is a profound moment, not only in the life of Jesus and His ministry, but in your’s as well! Yes, your ministry!
In that moment you put yourself under God’s lordship. And your life since has been asking the similar questions Jesus was asked about your identity and whom you will worship.
“IF you are a child of God...” the tempter asks. No, we’re not tempted to turn stones into bread, but we are likely tempted by worldly desires.
It’s interesting to compare the first Adam’s temptation with the temptations of Jesus. In the first Adam’s temptation in the garden, Adam and Eve are surrounded by plenty to satisfy them. Yet one tree in the entire garden is off limits according to God. The temptation is there, which appetite will they feed? Their own desire or that to serve God?
Jesus’ temptation is different. He is not in a place surrounded by and abundance to satisfy Him; He’s in the wilderness, not the garden; He’s hungry after 40 days - I’d say that would be an understatement. Still, note Jesus response as it is clear what His choice will be: Matt 4:4
But he answered, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”
Ever wonder what would have happened if Adam and Eve had responded in the same way?
Jesus’ second temptation is similar, only this time it is sort of demanding of God’s protection - perhaps even taking God’s name in vain - for our own vanity. Again the devil begins, “If you are the Son of God...” and challenges Jesus to “throw yourself down” off the precipice with the expectation God will protect Him.
Again he responds with Scripture: Matthew 4:7
Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”
Finally, Jesus is tempted with all the worldly things one could dream of if only He would fall down and worship the devil. It is here I see Jesus even more strongly asserting who exactly He is as the Son of God: Matthew 4:10
Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’ ”
The struggle is real. Temptation is real. Hunger, desire, longing is real. And in my experience these are all most intense when God is preparing us for something.
I’ve said it many times since early in my faith journey, “The greatest life you can possibly live is the life you were created for.”
Let me ask you some questions to ponder:
For what ministry or way of serving others has God given you a vision?
What are you doing to prepare for that ministry?
What’s keeping you from doing that ministry?
The journey is not over, in fact it’s just beginning - no matter what your age. In light of eternity it’s just beginning.
We read these words from Paul: Phil 1:6
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
It was also Paul who wrote to the church at Corinth saying
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
Just as it is for those athletes, musicians, and thespians, there is much work that is done in the background preparing for that “moment”. For Jesus was baptized and tempted and this only marked the beginning of His ministry, it still didn’t show all the preparation. For you and I as we face all of these temptations, my hope is that we would fix our eyes on the prize. This is only the beginning:
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
To God be the glory!
Preparing for Ministry
Preparing for Ministry
Let me pray for you.