2/21/99, L1A

“The Devil Made Me Do It”
Matthew 4: 1-11

efore Jesus was ready to begin his three year public ministry there was something he had to deal with. Evil and the allure of temptation was the issue that Jesus seemingly had to resolve before he felt ready to go out and preach the gospel. Although he was fully divine, he was also fully human and faced with the same temptations that we do. So, before he willing placed himself in harms way, he prepared himself spiritually for battle by praying and fasting for forty days alone in the desert place.

My scoutmaster taught me to “Be Prepared.” The scout motto has become a way of life for me. I have a pocket knife, with little scissors, in my pocket at all times. I am never without a writing instrument, and a little extra cash, just in case. But some folks don’t care if their spare tire is flat, and never have an umbrella handy.

If we spend our days chasing after wind, meandering along caving in to every little thing that comes our way, we will not travel far along the roadway of life until we stumble over the corpse of the person we could have been. The easy excuse for our moral failure is to blame somebody else, “The devil made me do it!” we often hear; but, its not really the devil’s fault, that’s his job, its our fault for not being prepared to resist.

Lets look at how Jesus prepared. Matthew says that he was “led by the Spirit” into the wilderness, or semi desert, “negev,” of lower Palestine. There he was alone. We all need to be alone sometimes so that we can commune with God and think things through. And, he did not register in a plush hotel. The sacrifice and rough nature of the desert contributed to his ability to focus of the need to spiritually get ready for his great task that would lead to his cross and empty tomb.

We have all had periods of trial, tribulation, and testing in the desert places of life. There has been nothing good about illness, accidents, and the problems that are common to all humanity; but, if we have allowed God to be in the pit with us we have emerged from the wilderness prepared for greater service. Yet, sometimes the pitfalls have been deep.

My Grandpaw Sides use to tell stories about how deep the potholes were on the country Alabama roads when he was a young man. Once he spotted a wide hole in the dirt road up ahead so he got out of the buggy and walked up a little ways. He heard a man hollering up from the hole, “Get me out of here, throw me a limb.” “You sound like you are pretty deep in that hole,” Grandpaw hollered back. “O, its worse than you think,” the man called out, “I’m standing on top of my horse!”

The good news calling out to us from Jesus Temptation in the desert place is that he was triumphant as a result of being close to his Father. So, when trouble comes, we too can win if we are ready. Victory is in vigilance!

Ross Perot was asked in an interview on national television how he would have responded if a young woman tempted him, as was Bill Clinton. “I would have called her Momma! I would have called her Momma and told her just what her daughter was doing.” In other words, he felt that he would have been prepared to resist temptation. We hope that our President has emerged from his recent desert trials with the fortitude to resist the next time he is tempted. If his words of repentance are true, then he can be given power to resist; but it takes more than words.

In similar manner Satan came to tempt Jesus after his forty days of preparation. The first temptation was to magically turn stones into bread. Jesus was famished and it was no doubt hard to resist. Note that in all three temptations, Jesus quoted scripture. I remember how Dr. Julian McPheeters, President of Asbury Seminary and a firebrand evangelist, used to say, “If you want to see the devil run, shoot him with the gospel gun!”

The second temptation was to jump off the highest building in Jerusalem and to not be hurt. Or, to use his holy powers as a sort of magic show. But the world does not need another Houdini, we need a Savior.

The third temptation was to be given the kingdoms of the whole world, and all Jesus had to do was to bow down and worship the devil. How many folks have we known who have in like manner sold their souls. Riches and success might follow them for a while, but soon the physical vanished and all that was left was dust.

Dr. Scott Peck wrote his book, The People of the Lie, to encourage us to take seriously the wiles of intentionally evil people who hide the fact that they have sold out to Satan. He says that they are hopelessly lost; but, we are the people of the book and we feel that even the worse sinner can be redeemed, if he will cry out for grace.

I feel like the main thing that enabled Jesus to resist temptation was his vision of the fulfillment of the Father’s plan for his life. This is the thing that can enable us to overcome. If we allow God to give us an inkling of what it is we could be a part of building in this world, our eyes are lifted above the temporary and onto that which is beyond. Then, no matter what attractive possibilities are presented to us we can overcome my the power of His grace and vision imprinted upon our hearts.

What better time than the first Sunday in Lent to open up our hearts and ask for God’s vision to be imprinted there? Better than material or magical powers, and even better than great worldly wealth, is to know His perfect plan for our lives.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

2/21/99, L1A