Here We Go Again
Today we hit the first week of Lent. Sundays are not counted within the 40 days of Lent because each Sunday is a little Easter. Each Sunday we celebrate the resurrection of the Lord. Today we do that by looking into how Jesus fought off temptation. In the synoptic gospels, that’s Matthew, Mark and Luke, immediately after Jesus is baptized he is then off to the wilderness to be tempted. There he fasts for forty days, hence the 40 days of Lent. At the end of the forty days he is tempted by the devil. He is offered food, power, and glory and he denies it all. He makes sure he says no in order to say yes to give us eternal life with God.
Temptation is real and it is ever present. In a society that wants what is wants immediately it makes it even more present. We are surrounded by opportunities and at times it can feel hopeless in the pursuit to push them all away.
In the video we watched during Financial Peace University a couple weeks ago, Dave Ramsey told us that children born today will see over 1,000,000 marketing advertisements in their lifetime. If you have a child under the age of five, they will see 1,000,000 ads before they are 82. That is crazy. It is scary how we know without realizing how much we actually know. Let me give you an example. On the screen there is going to be a piece of a company’s logo. When you know what product this is, simply raise your hand, don’t blurt it out, just raise your hand.
[Logo Quiz in a PowerPoint during worship]
Isn’t it crazy? Did you know that you could identify Google by just looking at the ‘O’? Did you know that Disney or Chevy has branded itself so far into your minds that you only need a piece of its logo to identify it? Companies have done a fabulous job at sinking into our minds their product and our need for it. The ones that are the best at it are the ones who do it without us even realizing it. This is how temptation works best too.
Temptation at its core is something that pulls us away from God. When we fall into temptation and give into sin we are moving away from God. It is only a little something to drink as a nightcap. It is only one website. It is only on more a couple of ten miles an hour over the speed limit. It is only one night with someone else. As we slip into what is tempting is we rationalize and build up excuses that make us feel better but we end up in the same place each time.
We live in a world where nothing is our fault. We watch celebrities and politicians play word games to wiggle themselves out of being held accountable for their actions. As we do this we start to think if we are ever at fault for doing anything. I mean temptation is all around us. It is in the palm of our hands. It is easy, ITS RIGHT THERE, how can we be held accountable for giving in?
“Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels.” That is a quote from Kate Moss. Now you won’t find many quotes or examples that are usable from the life of Kate Moss but here she hits the nail on the head. I am nowhere near skinny but she has a point. After you loss a ton of weight you feel great. For people who have indulge in over eating what they lose sight of is what it feels like to be thin. Instead they are caught up in that moment and all they know is that this Cookout milkshake is the best thing they have ever tasted and 5 minutes after they have licked the cup, they start to feel guilty about their decision. When we give into temptation we are truly saying that the object of our desire is more important than living like God desires. Mark Twain says, “I deal with temptation by yielding to it.” But when we do that we place something as more important that God. Our vision is only about what is right in front of us and we cannot see the forest within the trees.
Here is a quick video to demonstrate this point a little clearer. [show the marshmallow test].
What I like about this video is the temptation is right there in front of these kids. The marshmallow is RIGHT THERE! Some smell it. Some take stick their figure in it. Some do anything else they can not to get consumed with the temptation of eating this marshmallow. Why? Because they know what is coming is better.
There are some, like the last little girl, that doesn’t even worry about it. She just picks it up and eats it before the woman can tell her about the other one that is to come. We do that with some things don’t we? We know there are some things we do that we shouldn’t. We know that we should cut back on the time we spend doing our vices because it really isn’t useful to life. But there are others who don’t care and light up, drink up, and kiss up without thinking what this is doing to the relationships around them and the relationships between them and God.
The season of Lent is a time of self reflection. It is a time to probe deep within ourselves and get to the core of who we are. After forty days of not eating it would have been so easy for Jesus to turn those rocks into warm, just out of the oven bread. But the result of saying no to temptation was more important than bread at that moment. It is so easy to get lured by the power that comes with riches. You are famous and looked up to because you are rich, but Jesus saw beyond that temptation too. To have the ability to tell God what to do, that has be sought after since humanity was created. Adam and Eve told God they knew better and ate the forbidden fruit anyway. Yet, Jesus knew he was sent to make right what they made wrong.
If we are able to step back and look at the big picture it is easy to put things in perspective. If we had a window to look through and see how the choices we make today would affect the people we love and ourselves, we would probably make different choices. If we could see that habits we think we are hiding from our children, they actually know about, and then do as they get older, would you continue to do them? If you saw that the amount you drink on a regular basis leads an early death and heartache for your loved ones, would you continue? If you saw the toll the medications you can’t stop taking does on your body and the people you hurt by putting your need for you meds in front of them, would you continue? If you saw how spending more than you actually make adds so much pressure to your marriage that eventually you divorce, would you stop?
There are consequences to our actions. They happen internally and externally. Temptation can wrap it up in pretty paper and a bow or put a nice cherry on top but the reality is, it all leads down the same path. Moses gave into the temptation to let his anger get the best of him and killed a man. David let the temptation of a beautiful woman get the best of him and it lead to an unexpected pregnancy and the death of her husband and the child. Jonah gave into the temptation of running away and it landed him in the belly of a fish for three days. Peter will give into the temptation of denial and Judas the temptation of telling God what to do. Paul gave into the temptation of power and the list goes on and on. Temptation hits everyone and every time we are faced with it we think…here we go again.
There is only one person who has ever stared temptation in the eye and sent it packing. There is only one person who has been able to keep his eyes on the prize and not give into the immediate satisfaction of it all. He got two marshmallows in the end and he enables us to get them too because of it. We can name corporate logos and we may be able to see how they affect us, but can we name the temptations and sins that grip our souls? It is time we are honest with God and ourselves. It is time to kick temptation to the curve and look at the broader picture. If we are to be the people of God we need to put God first, always.
And all God’s people said…Amen.