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Beginning God’s Mission: Kingdom Temptations

Matthew 4:1-11

Theme: Christ leads us from the wilderness of our power to the rest of God’s purposes.

Image: Kingdom conflict

Introduction: Kingdom Images

A.           The concept of Kingdom is an important Biblical image, but it is not always easy for us to relate to

1.            What do you picture of think of, if you think of a kingdom?

a.            A king

b.            Where do you see the king?

i.              On a throne

ii.             In a castle

iii.           On the battlefield

2.            Kingdom is a political word

a.            At the heart of politics is power

b.            With power there are conflicts

c.            But there is always a hope of peace

B.           We live in the midst of conflict

1.            There are world conflicts

2.            We have interpersonal and intrapersonal conflict

3.            Behind it all is a spiritual power struggle

4.            In his book Screwtape Letters C. S. Lewis cleverly exposed many of the enemy’s tactics

a.            One of them is to not let the tactics be know

b.            The enemy is much more dangerous when we are blind to the conflict

5.            In Matthew 4 the Spirit drew the devil into conflict with Jesus to expose the dangers and show the way of victory

C.           Tonight we address Kingdom temptations, conflicts over power

1.            Exposing our problems with power

2.            Exploring God’s kingdom program

I.            The Secular Temptation: The Wilderness of Need (v. 1-4)

A.           Our Power Problem

1.            We start with the secular temptation and our power with power—read v. 1-4

2.            How can this be a temptation for us?

a.            I have never been tempted to turns stones into bread

b.            I hope you have not tried this

c.            The temptation is in how we address the wilderness of need

3.            This is not a new problem

a.            Abraham had it when he went down to Egypt because of a famine

(1)            To meet his need for food and safety what did he do?  He lied

(2)            He forgot about God and turned to his our methods

b.            Israel in the wilderness had this problem

(1)            When they were hungry, they complained against God and Moses

(2)            All they saw was their immediate physical need

c.            This was the temptation for many at the time of Jesus

(1)            To meet their needs by their own power

(2)            In one way this was the program of the Sadducees and in other that of the revolutionaries

4.            This is the secular selfish problem

a.            The temptation to see only our own selfish needs

b.            The temptation to forget about God and to address our issues with our own power

c.            Now this is my temptation all the time

B.           God’s Power

1.            Jesus addresses this problem by challenging its secular perspective

a.            Life is far more than the physical

b.            Life is about the purposes of God in the world

2.            Even more Jesus states the true power to meet our needs

a.            God is active in this world

b.            God is addressing this world

c.            God’s word is powerful to overcome the needs of this world

d.            That word is Scripture, but it is far more than that

(1)            That word is God’s work in all of his creation

(2)            That word is also Jesus who meets us in our wilderness of need

3.            Our power is in seeing and hearing God in our lives and world

II.           The Spiritual Temptation: The Temple of Testing

A.           Our Proving Problem

1.            But when we turn to God’s power, we can run right into the spiritual temptation—read v. 5-7

2.            Again, how can this be our temptation?

a.            I have never been tempted to throw myself down from a Temple or even a church wall to see if angels with catch me

b.            We would call this temptation mental illness, not a temptation

3.            2 Maccabees does tell us of a certain elder of the Jews named Razis who did jump from a wall to kill himself

a.            He did this while under Syrian attack against him

b.            He did this calling on God to give him his life back

c.            This story highlights the problem, the temptation to make God fit our agenda

4.            Again, this is not a new problem

a.            Jacob, after his dream of God’s care and protection at Bethel, says, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s house, then the Lord will be my God” (Genesis 28:20-21)

b.            This is Israel’s problem with idolatry in the wilderness, attempting to manipulate God

c.            In Jesus’ day many were still trying to force God to show himself according to their ways

5.            This is my temptation of testing God

a.            Making God prove himself to me

b.            Asking God to do the spectacular to make me believe

c.            Making my religious practice a business deal to gain God’s blessings and actions

B.           God’s Promise

1.            Jesus directly challenges the problem of testing God

2.            Even more his is the evidence of God’s care and promises

3.            The answer is not testing, but trusting

a.            This is at the heart of faith

b.            When we trust God, we will see his spectacular care

c.            When we test God, there will never be enough evidence

4.            I once heard it said that God could align all the stars to spell out “I exist”

a.            Only those with faith would see it

b.            Those who are always looking for more evidence would explain it away

III.         The Success Temptation: The Mountain of Success (v. 8-10)

A.           Our Process Problem

1.            The third temptation challenges our mountain of success—Verse 8-11

2.            Again, what is the temptation?

a.            I will not literally bow down to Satan, but I do every time I compromise with evil

b.            The temptation is about process

c.            The temptation is to let the good end justify the wrong means

3.            Again, this is not new

a.            Abraham did it in Egypt and with Hagar

b.            Moses did it when he struck the rock in anger to bring forth water

c.            Almost everyone who uses violence justifies it, and in Jesus’ day there were many doing this

4.            Still today

a.            Student cheat to get good grades

b.            Employers and employees cut corners to increase profits

c.            Athletes take steroids to improve their game

d.            Countries make war in the name of peace

5.            Jesus was tempted to use the devil’s means for God’s purposes and so are we

B.           God’s Process

1.            Jesus strongly calls this what it is idolatry

a.            The idolatry of another means to God

b.            The idolatry of divided loyalty

c.            The idolatry of success by all means possible

2.            Jesus remained faithful

a.            He trusted God’s process

b.            He did not compromise even when his physical needs were great, when it seemed God was not caring, when it seemed that he was losing

c.            Jesus remained faithful and let God take care of success

3.            We are called to faithfulness, not success

Conclusion: The End

A.           We live in the kingdom conflict, but the story does give us the ending—verse 11

1.            In Jesus’ faithfulness the victory comes

a.            The devil is defeated and leaves, the goal of the third temptation

b.            The angels come to him and care for him, the promise of the second temptation

c.            The angels bring him food, the need of the first temptation

2.            God does bring about his victory in Jesus for us

a.            God brings us out of the conflict and into his rest

b.            In his kingdom there is safety and peace

3.            “Seek  first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

B.           John Lee led the congregation through the Lord’s Prayer

1.            It is a fitting conclusion in the face of temptation

2.            It prays for God’s kingdom, God’s way, God’s power to meet our daily needs, God’s care and deliverance, and God’s victory

3.            Please join in this prayer together

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