Lent – Pride, Doubt and Jealousy - Jon Fryer
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."
Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’"
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: " 'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'"
Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."
Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'"
Then the devil left him until an opportune time, and angels came and attended him.
This Sunday is the first Sunday in Lent, which started last week on Ash Wednesday. Lent is the period of 40 days before Easter, when the Church traditionally prepares for Easter by spending time in fasting and repentance for their sins. The forty days remember the fact that Jesus spent 40 days in the desert fasting in order to prepare himself to do God’s work, and then was tempted by the Devil. They also remember the 40 years the Israelites spent wandering in the desert as punishment for their sins.
Christians often fast during this period, or give up luxuries like chocolate or alcohol, for many reasons. Primarily the reason for fasting is to show God that you are serious about following Him – originally people in the Bible fasted to show that they were serious when they were praying about something – ‘I’m going to stay here and pray, without eating, until you answer me, and so if you don’t answer, I’m going to die!’. Christians fast or give up luxuries during Lent for the same reason, to say to God ‘I’m serious about following you, I’m serious about preparing for your work, I’m serious about repenting of my sin before we come to Easter and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus that pays for our forgiveness’. People who give up meals or other activities during this period use the extra time to spend more time praying, which is another practical benefit. A final reason to fast is to make a statement to the world around us. The Bible says you shouldn’t give stuff up just to make yourself look holy, but I think I believe that its perfectly acceptable to do something counter-cultural in order to get peoples attention with the Good News. Our culture is so obsessed with comfort, and with satisfying every need instantly, and with getting drunk and having fun, that deliberately giving up something for no reason other than to please God really stands out. I’ve spoken to five different people about Jesus so far this week simply because giving up alcohol is so alien to them.
This clip is interesting because it changes the emphasis of the Bible passage slightly. In the clip Jesus’ temptation isn’t just to make bread because he personally is starving, but because he now knows what starvation feels like and there are millions starving, and he could use his power to feed them. It’s a temptation to play God rather than to obey God, a temptation to forget about His mission to restore man’s relationship with God and simply go for a quick fix.
Jesus’ temptation is to do something about the starving millions because he can. We often have the opposite temptation. We look at the world’s problems and say ‘I can’t fix it, its too big, so why bother?’. And then we go on with our living in wealth, well fed and comfortable, and we forget about the world around us. And when we do remember, we just feel guilty.
You may remember last Christmas I talked about social justice, and I kept asking ‘What have you done today to make you feel proud? What have you to done to make Him feel proud?’ Well, here’s a secret. God doesn’t want you to feel guilty. God is proud of you. He’s like a mad father who is always showing off the photos of the kids. God is proud of you. I am sure that everyone of you has done at least one thing that you are proud of, and that God is proud of.
For me, the thing I am most proud of is just a little thing. One of my friends had a friend who died, and she was absolutely devastated, and what was making it worse for her was that her church had taught her an absolute load of rubbish about what happens when you die that basically made it sound like she would never see her friend again. On this particular afternoon I was able to sit and talk with her for hours, and show her from the Bible that what she had been taught was cobblers, and that it wasn’t like she thought at all. Its not a big world changing thing, but during that conversation I felt the Holy Spirit guiding my words and being with me more strongly than I have ever felt before or after, and I knew that I was in the right place, at the right time, doing exactly what God created me to do. By trashing these lies one by one it felt like I was fighting with dragons and actually winning for once, and it really helped her. Like I say, its just a little thing, and its weird, but that is the thing that I am most proud of so far this life.
What is the one thing that you are most proud of. It doesn’t have to be spiritual, it could simply be mastering a complicated trick on your BMX, it could be passing an exam that was difficult for you, it could be anything. Lent is often a time for pondering the times we let God down, but God is proud of you, so lets spend some time talking about the times we actually get things right.
Ok, I’m taking a wild guess here, but I’ll bet that most of your stories took place quite a long while ago. Hands up if your story happened in the past week? Not that many. Well, unfortunately God wants us to live in ways to make Him proud every day, so here’s a tougher question for you: What have you done this week that makes you feel proud, and will make God feel proud? It doesn’t have to be a big thing. Here’s mine: Whilst I was writing this I was looking on the web for some stuff and I clicked on a link and suddenly I was confronted with porn. Was I tempted to have a look around?: Yes I was – there were some very attractive young ladies. But instead I clicked away from the page and carried on with my work. the next time I am tempted with something I might still fail, but this time, just this once, I won. I was tempted by the Devil and this time I said ‘No’, just like Jesus. I’m proud of that. I’ll take any victory I can get. So, what have you done this week that makes you feel proud, and will make God feel proud? It doesn’t have to be spiritual, it doesn’t have to be big – the little things count with God...
The temptation this time is different – Jesus is not really being tempted to do something (e.g. jump off a cliff). What he’s really being tempted to do is to doubt. ‘Are you really the Son of God? Are you really who you say you are? Prove it!’
Jesus tells the Devil to get stuffed, but the thought must have crossed his mind. And if Jesus has to stop and think about what he believes, then why do Christians always have to pretend that everything’s ok, and that our faith is strong? In Hebrews 11 the Bible lists the great men of faith of the Bible, but if you actually go back and read their stories then nearly every single one of them is better described as a ‘man of doubt’. Delirious wrote a song called ‘Men of Faith’ way back when they were still called Cutting Edge, and it was sung in church over and over again, but honestly I don’t find the words very helpful:
Men of faith rise up and sing
Of the great and glorious King
You are strong when you feel weak
In your brokeness complete
Shout to the North and the South
Sing to the East and the West
Jesus is saviour to all
Lord of heaven and earth
Rise up women of the truth
Stand and sing to broken hearts
Who can know the healing power
Of our awesome King of love
Rise up church with broken wings
Fill this place with songs again
Of our God who reigns on high
By His grace again we'll fly
I mean, what is that all about? Jonny Baker puts it better:
Men of doubt you don't need to rise up and sing
We know that your doubt is actually an important part of faith and it is
important to be honest and real in your journey of faith rather than pretend.
It's part of the mystery of God's way that when you are weak there is strength
And God is close to you when you feel broken....
So you really don't need to shout to the north.
It's enough to sit down quietly and be here - (in fact it would be enough to
not even be here)
Be yourself, be real - you are loved.
Christ is with you.
And women who are not sure quite where you are
at you don't need to stand and sing either. It is ok for you to just be here (or take a week off - you deserve it!)
You do so much, you carry so many things - family, friends, work and so on.
So you don't need to carry God's people as well.
God is the God who heals - leave it to God.
So don't worry about shouting (unless that's your thing).
Just be in God's presence.
Let God renew your strength. We've all struggled.
We've all experienced God changing us.
Deep down we all love God and want to journey with God..
So Church you can also relax. You are broken so just be real.
Whether you sing or shout or sit quietly isn't what God is worried about.
Keep on in the journey of faith and God's grace will sustain you.
The guys that God loves and holds up as shining examples for us all in Hebrews 11 didn’t have a clue what was going on most of the time. Job spends thirty chapters of the Bible wondering where God has gone. Gideon, the great warrior of God, spends more time hiding than fighting. Jonah the prophet does a runner as soon as God tells him what he wants him to do. Doubt is not a sin, so don’t worry if you have trouble believing everything at once – talk to God about whatever it is you’re having trouble with, talk to other Christians, and you might just come around to it later. You don’t suddenly become a Christian and then get all of the answers downloaded into your head. It doesn’t work like that. I probably have more doubts about stuff than most of you put together.
I guess my biggest doubt is whether I’ve got the whole God thing right. I believe that he loves me. I believe that He is just and will do the right thing. But do I believe that I am really a follower of Jesus? That I have trouble with. And its not like I don’t know the Bible answers. I believe in them. I believe in Him. I just have trouble believing in me.
So how about you guys? What do you doubt? What do you have trouble believing? Is anyone brave enough to share? It may be there’s a simple answer
that one of us might know that might help you get on with working it out. It may be that there is no simple answer, but it might be something lots of us might struggle with, and it may help just to know that we all worry about the same stuff and its not just you who is a bad Christian. Anyone?
Ok, change of subject for the last section of the evening. What is that makes you jealous? What, or who, are you envious of? What is it that you really want so much that it burns you up inside?
I’ll tell you what does it for me. Every now and again you meet someone whose life is so totally together – they’re happy, they find it so easy to talk to people and make friends, they know what they want to be doing with their life, they’re actually doing what they want to be doing with their life, and in fact they’re so bloody perfect that when you don’t want to kill them then you actually want to be them. that’s what I get envious/jealous over.
What do you envy? What do you get jealous about?
So what has this clip got to do with what we were just talking about? The Devil offers to give Jesus the world in return for his worship. Why? Because the Devil wants to be God – he is jealous of God’s position and power. More, he is jealous of the relationship that God has with human beings, and he wants to derail God’s plan to save you through Jesus. The Devil is jealous of the relationship that you have with God that he threw away and can never have again. He is so jealous that he hates you with an intensity that you hopefully will never understand. So jealousy, yeah. In fact the Bible says that even the angels are envious of the relationship that you have with God. You are the high point of God’s creation. In fact, even God gets jealous – He’s not jealous of you, he gets jealous over you. He gets totally pissed off when anything gets in the way of His relationship with you.
Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. Exodus 34;14
For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. Deuteronomy 4;24
He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. Joshua 24;19
God’s love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Songs 8;6
The LORD will be jealous for his land and take pity on his people. Joel 2;18
This is what the LORD Almighty says: "I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her." Zechariah 8;2
I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. 2 Corinthians 11;2
All it takes to make God ragingly jealous is for someone or something to cut in on his relationship with you. God is the ultimate jealous boyfriend! When Jesus got angry and kicked the moneychangers out of the Temple he wasn’t upset that God was missing out on some worship – that’s missing the
point. He was angry because these guys were stopping people coming to worship because they were in the way – he was angry because he was jealous that someone was trying to take God’s beloved away from Him.
Do you see the difference? Jesus was angry not because it was about him, but because it was about you. Its all about you. And it always has been.
So come to take communion tonight.
Come not because you need to, but because you want to. Not because you have to, but because your lover wants you.
For tonight at least, its all about you. And God will get jealous if you don’t come! Don’t make a big production out of it, and take your time to pray and
think before coming – this is just a romantic dinner for two between you and Jesus. Or if that’s a bit girly for you, its just a quiet drink and bar snacks
between you and your best mate. Don’t rush. Enjoy the time just hanging out.
What was Jesus like?
The Character of God
How do we know what God is like?
The Authority of Scripture
How should we obey what the Bible teaches us?
The Wise Mans Tragedy
What can we learn from Solomon?
What can we learn from the mother of Jesus?
Cain and Abel
What can we learn from the first murderer?
Who is Aslan? Who is Jesus?
When the Fire Burns Low
How do we cope when we have grown tired of God's way?
Fix Your Eyes
How do we look for God?
Why should we look after the world God has given us?
How do we know who we are in God?
Lent - Pride, Doubt and Jealousy
What is the period of Lent all about?
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the House of God than dwell in the tents of the wicked...
How do get to have intimacy with God?
Can we feel the breath of God?
Hearing From God
How can I hear what God wants to say to me?
The Story We Find Ourselves In
The Bible tells the story of all creation - what is my part in that story?
What does Passover mean to us as Christians?
What does it mean to say that Jesus is alive?
What is the Fruit of the Holy Spirit?
Teaching for Christmas Eve...
What does it mean to have authority?
What can we do when it all seems like too much?
I Will Be With You
What does it mean to say "God is with us"?
What are angels, and what can we learn from what the Bible says about them?
A contemplative service for Pentecost
A creative/contemplative baptism service
How do we know what we should do?
A creative prayer/worship service
The Holy Spirit
Who is the Holy Spirit, and what does (s)he do?
A Relationship With Jesus
What does it mean to have a 'relationship' with the Son of God?
The Pilgrim's Progress
If we keep our eyes on the prize, what a journey it could be!
Heroes, Promises and Trust
How does our relationship with Jesus realy work?
A liturgy for masculine prayer
Living Life to the Full
How do we get the most out of life?
What is so speacial about the faith of Abraham?
The Presence of God
What does it mean to say God is present?
How Do I Know My Faith is Real?
We all wrestle with doubt, so how can we cope?
Who is Jesus?
...and what does he want from you?
To Act Justly Every Day...
What does the Lord your God require of you?
Sex and Self Image
Don't you know how beautiful you are?
Will you let Jesus be in charge?
Would you know him if he met you on the road?
The Person of the Holy Spirit
Who is the Holy Spirit, and what does (s)he do?
The Passion of the King
What does Jesus really want?
How can we really 'count it all joy'?
More Than Words
"... but words can never hurt me"?
The Armour of God
What tools does God give us to protect us from the Enemy?
The Heart of the Gospel
The Kingdom of Heaven has drawn near to you, therefore...
Do you really want to follow him?
How should I prepare to give a sermon?
The gift of healing comes from the Holy Spirit, but how does it work?
The People of God
What does it mean when we say that the Bible is the Word of God?
Jesus Part 2: The Deity of Christ
How can Jesus be God and Man at the same time?
Jesus Part 1: Who Do You Say I Am?
Who is Jesus, and why does He matter?
How do we resist?
What is holiness and how do we try to achieve it?
The Art of Spiritual Warfare
We're in a constant battle, so how do we try and prepare to fight?
Forgiveness Part Two: Forgiving Others
What is forgiveness and why do we need to forgive others?
Forgiveness Part One: Forgiven by God
Why does it seem so often that God is a million miles away?
Prayer Part Two: Receiving From God
Why does it seem so often that God is a million miles away?
Prayer Part One: The Lords Prayer
We look in detail at the Lords Prayer
It's one of the spiritual gifts, but what exactly is it, how does it happen?
Becoming a Christian
What is a Christian, how do you become one?
Basics of Christianity
Here we delve into the Nicene Creed