St Andrew, Glencairn
Glencairn Methodist Church
Lent is described as a season of Discipline and Self-denial. It is intended that we should make some sacrifices in our way of life in order to reflect on our sinfulness and to seek forgiveness. This requires self discipline, such as getting up a bit earlier to spend more time in prayer, or eating a bit less to help us remember Jesus and his time of temptation in the wilderness. After Jesus' baptism in the River Jordan by John the Baptist, he was getting ready for his time of ministry. He heard God tell him that "you are my son whom I love", and Jesus knew that his time had indeed come. But he needed to work out in his head how exactly he was going to fulfil his calling to announce that the Kingdom of God had arrived. How best to persuade people to accept and follow him. He went on retreat in the wilderness to be close to God. He denied himself food and went hungry.
But he was not alone with God because, as we can expect in times like this, that old devil, Satan, was there as well, putting ideas into his head on how to carry out his mission; wrong ideas, ideas that would have the very opposite effect.
He was hungry. Why not do something miraculous to conjure up some food, turn stones into bread, perhaps? Surely God did not want his Messiah to be hungry, and would not mind if he used his supernatural powers to satisfy this. After all, this would attract the hoards. But Jesus resists this urge to satisfy himself; his powers were to be used only for the benefit of others as they were later on, to feed the 5,000, to raise Lazarus from the dead, and to heal all manner of sick people.
So how is he to proceed to attract people? Well, how about using the ways of the world? Give the people the Messiah they wanted to lead them to freedom from the Romans; raise an army with horses and weapons. Oh the Devil was crafty. Surely this strategy would work? Wouldn't it? But Jesus resisted this also. His Messiah would win people only through the power of love.
Well then what else could he do? How about something really spectacular like jumping off the roof of the temple? Surely God would send his angles to save him from breaking all his bones when he hit the ground? Jesus resisted this temptation. It was just downright wrong to put God into a position like this, to achieve a shortcut to fame.
When we read in the Gospels the account of the temptation of Jesus, all seemingly good ideas, we see that Jesus did not attempt to rationalise his temptations as something that was OK to do. He debated these ideas, neither with himself nor with the Tempter. What he did do, and this is something we should always remember when facing temptation, was to remember and recite passages of Scripture.
"Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God."
"You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him."
"You must not test the Lord your God."
And the Tempter left him for a while. he would comer back again and again.
But Jesus had won the first round, and we can overcome our temptations by looking to him, to have him in our hearts as well as in our head. Once we start to rationalise our temptations to ourselves - just five minutes more in bed, just one more biscuit - was have lost the battle. Better not to go down that road at all. Just say, "No, this is wrong for me."
So use Lent wisely to get close to God, to sort out in our heads and hearts what he wants us to do for Him and to ask for God's Grace to help us. And prepare to celebrate Easter with JOY
Ken (27 February 2016)
NOTE - Previous "Monthly Messages" are archived at http://glencairn.connor.anglican.org/previousmessages.htm