Sermon Series: Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places
Title: Look for the Resistor
Matthew 4:1-4, Psalm 32:3, 5, 7
March 3, 2019
Rev. Sandy Johnson
This morning we begin a six-week series entitled, “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places.” Some of you may be remembering the song of the same title from the movie Urban Cowboy. Do you remember that movie? John Travolta and Debra Winger starred in it. “Looking for Love in all the wrong places!”
How often do we look for love in the wrong places, through the wrong things and with the wrong people? How often do we miss the love that God has to offer us through his son Jesus Christ? “The story at the center of our looking for love this week is the story of the temptation of Jesus.”
Following Jesus’ baptism, he set out on his own to prepare for the ministry God intended. He needed to prepare for what lie ahead and he did so by fasting and praying for forty days. After Jesus had endured the 40 day fast, the tempter showed up. He waited until Jesus was at a low place, feeling vulnerable and weak. “The tempter carefully, subtly, and skillfully chose his time to attack Jesus.”
I want to point out that even though the scripture uses the word “tempted,” the word “tested” is a more accurate description what was happening. The Greek word actually means to test. Being tempted in our language today implies being tempted to sin or tempted to do something bad. That isn’t really what was happening. God doesn’t tempt us to sin, but he does test us.
Jesus was being tested. He was preparing to explode into the world, changing history like nothing before and nothing since. Jesus had prepared his entire life for this moment of testing. He had been raised in a Jewish family and had studied the Torah, he knew the scripture and was prepared to rely on it when the need came. And it was coming!
God allowed Jesus to be tested and he tests us too. If God gives us something small to do and we do it well, we are entrusted with more responsibility, a more in-depth call to ministry. If God calls us to go out of our way to share with someone in need and we decline the offer, we are telling God that we aren’t yet ready to be in partnership with him. We fail the test.
God does test us. God needs to know whether we are ready for what lies ahead. God sends us into the wilderness from time to time so that we can endure a time of testing and struggle. The struggle is internal. What lies inside of us is most important when it comes to our relationship with God. God knows what’s in our hearts. God knows how it is with our soul. When we think that we can fool others and appear to have it all together, let me assure you that God knows what’s inside of each of us. It is through these inmost thoughts that the tempter comes and attacks us. “The very power of the devil lies in the fact that he breaches our defenses and attacks us from within. He finds his allies and his weapons in our own inmost thoughts and desires.” He uses us against ourselves.
The tempter first tried to hit Jesus where he was most vulnerable in that moment. Jesus was hungry, he wanted nothing more I would imagine, than to go to a friend’s home and have a meal. The devil tells him to turn the rocks into bread. Tempting for sure but Jesus replies that he lives not by bread, but by the word of God. God’s words are his sustenance.
Next, they went to the holy city, to Jerusalem. High up on the pinnacle of the temple, Satan told Jesus to jump off the tower, because God would send angels to keep him safe. Jesus again responds, with scripture like a sword, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
Finally, they went to a very high mountain, the view must have been tremendous. They could see for miles and miles. Everything they could see and some they couldn’t, the devil offered to Jesus, if only he would fall down and worship him. Do you wonder how the devil could offer something so grand? Was the earth his to give? Luke 4:5-7 tells of the account this way:
5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
The devil wouldn’t give up. He kept coming at Jesus, trying every angle he could think of to get Jesus to give in, to succumb to temptation and to fail the test. But Jesus stood his ground. He was prepared and he fought the temptation using scripture to remind himself and the devil that he worships the Lord, not Satan or anything else.
“In this story, we see the futility of looking for love in the things that only provide temporary satisfaction, in seeking empty highs, tempting fate, and in mindless adoration. Rather, as Jesus demonstrates, it is in our resistance of evil that we find true communion with God.
“Resistance to evil starts with our own confession of complicit acts that move us further from love. Our groaning can turn to “glad cries of deliverance” as we choose good over evil time after time—even and especially if it isn’t the “popular” thing to do.”
Looking for love? Look for the resistor – Jesus. He resisted temptation – passed the test given to him and we can too. What will it take for us to resist? For us to seek, find and side with the resistor, Jesus Christ.
First it “takes discipline to resist temptation, and it takes discipline to make a difference.” Think about areas of your life where you could use some more discipline or focus this Lenten season? How is it with your soul? Are you seeking God in all you do? Are you taking advantage of the spiritual practices we learned about the first of the year? Are you praying, reading scripture and studying with fellow Christians? What area of your life could use more discipline?
We know that Jesus fasted before he was tested. Fasting is something we are encouraged to do, especially during Lent. Sometimes we decide to resist a temptation by giving up something for Lent. Tuesday night, JJ, Cami and I went to dinner at Red Lobster and I joked that since it was the night before Lent began, I would give up lobster for Lent. Not much of a sacrifice really since I eat lobster maybe once a year.
No, for it to be something worthwhile it needs to be something that is a real temptation, a stumbling block, something that you would notice if you gave it up. Maybe a glass of wine in the evening? Or perhaps chocolate? What are some other popular things we like to give up?
When we give something up, it becomes a spiritual practice, not just the absence of that rich, dark, chocolatey goodness. It isn’t just food we could give up. What about games or things that are time wasters? I gave up doing virtual puzzles on my iPad. I spend hours in the evening watching TV and doing puzzles. I have decided during Lent I’m going to spend that time reading, instead of mindless puzzles. What about giving up negative attitudes? Things like apathy, prejudice or fear?
I encourage you to consider a more traditional fast. I have information for you about the Wesley Fast. Our founder John Wesley fasted on Wednesday and Friday each week. He usually began his fast at sundown on Thursday and would end the fast at 3 p.m. on Friday. Fasting is a spiritual discipline when it is accompanied with prayer. “Fasting can be a way to intensify prayer and increases its effectiveness. Some believe that by denying our physical hunger for a time, our spiritual sensitivity is heightened or enhanced. Essentially, fasting makes prayer more powerful and can also help us to hear God’s voice more clearly.” Anyone interested in hearing God more clearly?
The last way we can look for the resistor and resist testing is to demonstrate love in our community. Where do we see injustice in our world? “What can we do to resist complacency and spread love into areas of darkness and pain? Showing love is undoubtedly one of the best ways to resist evil in all its forms.”
Looking for love is what we do. Unlike the Urban Cowboy, we’re
going to begin to look for love in all the right places. Let’s look for the resistor and imitate his resistance,
and become stronger in the process, being able to pass the test and be freed to
follow Christ! Amen
 Barclay, William. The Daily Bible Study Series. The Gospel of Matthew, Vol 1. The Westminster Press. Philadelphia. Page 64
 Ibid, page 65