On Sunday March 5th I led worship at Park Grove Chapel. Worship began when we read Psalm 32 responsively as the call to worship. We sang ‘Lead us heavenly Father, lead us’ before I led the prayers of praise, thanksgiving, confession and the Lord’s Prayer. I gave a children’s address which explained how we can only be changed and helped to be better people if we give our lives to Jesus and remember to live as he would want us to do, being loving and caring for people. We sang, ‘How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, good news, proclaiming peace, announcing news of happiness, Our God reigns, Our God reigns.’ The readings were Genesis 2.15-17; 3.1-7 and Romans 5.12-19 before we sang, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God’. We had a dramatised reading based on Matthew 4.1-11 before I preached.
Genesis described the creation of man and woman who were made in God’s image and told to name the animals and take care of them. They only had the one rule not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because those secrets of life and death only belonged to God. The serpent in his magic knowledge and promise of life and fertility made him the fitting tempter. He slyly suggested that God was preventing them from having full knowledge. Why did God not want them to be wise and have as much knowledge as He did and anyway the fruit looked good to eat. Having eaten it they became aware of their nakedness and tried to cover themselves with fig leaves and hide from God. Too late they realised their mistake and guilt. Adam and Eve were created in the image of God and being in obedient fellowship with him formed their identity. When they disobeyed God’s one rule they found that they were no longer in harmony with and fellowship with God. How do you identify yourself? How do I identify myself? I am learning that my true identity is in God through Christ Jesus.
Jesus had just at the high moment of his baptism received the Holy Spirit, and God had assured him that he was his beloved son in whom he was well pleased. Sent by the Spirit into the wilderness for 40 days and nights, where Jesus had to work out what kind of Messiah God had called him to be. The temptations Jesus faced when he was at an extremely low point tired, hungry and thirsty could only be faced by a person who had very special powers, if indeed he was the Son of God. In the first temptation Jesus was challenged to use his powers to meet his own needs. He countered the devil by using scripture to say that man did not live by bread alone, but by every word that came from the mouth of the Lord. Jesus knew he had come to serve and only used his powers when he responded with compassion to the needs of the 5000 people as sheep without a shepherd and teaching them, using what the disciples had brought him.
Next the devil took him to the highest point of the temple and challenged him to throw himself from the temple, because if he were the Son of God, the angels would protect him from injury. The devil knew his scripture and cunningly used his knowledge to test him. Jesus was challenged to be a dare devil and draw people to follow him, if he used his power for ever greater sensations. That was not the way God wanted him to use his power. Jesus again challenged the devil with scripture reminding him that he should not put the Lord God to the test. True faith was not dependent on signs and wonders.
The tempter knew Jesus had come to save the world and argued that it would be easier for him to accomplish if he fell down and worshipped him, as he would give him all the kingdoms of the world. The devil wanted him to compromise by coming to terms with him, not setting his demands as high. Jesus had made his choice to reject bribing people, being sensational or compromising God’s message; his identity was being obedient to God. Paul saw Jesus in terms of the second Adam who undid the disobedience of Adam by being obedient to his heavenly father, even to death on the cross. Jesus declined the temptations by using words of scripture. Do we know our Bible as well? How can we overcome testing? Does our Christian faith make a difference to the way we live our lives? How can we be true to our beliefs? Surely we can keep our eyes on Jesus and ask ourselves what Jesus would do. Only as we focus on Jesus our guide, friend and redeemer can we truly resist temptation.
After the sermon we sang, ‘For the healing of the nations’ and I led the prayers of intercession. Worship concluded when we sang, ‘O Jesus I have promised.’