So, could you do it? Could you avoid the temptations given to Jesus just as Jesus did? We’d like to think that perhaps if we came face to face with Satan, with evil himself that we would be able to stand strong and deny all of those temptations. We’d like to think we could withstand those temptations, especially if we knew Jesus was watching or in an ironic temptation to perhaps be more like Jesus. I’d like to think that I could resist having glory and dominion over all the kingdoms of the world. I’m fairly positive I could resist worshipping Satan. But, as one whose greatest enemy is carbs, I would most likely fail in the eating stones turned to bread; especially if I was hungry. That could be a theme for a life: it was all going well until I came upon the carbs.
On the face of it, I think it’s easy to say that we resist temptation. In fact, when we baptize Teegan soon, we will all declare that we renounce the devil and all the forces that defy God, that we renounce the powers of the world that rebel against God, and that we renounce the ways of sin that draw us from God. To renounce: to formally (or maybe informally) that you will no longer have or accept something, to give up something. Renounce is just one of those words we probably don’t use much outside the walls of the church. I mean, when was the last time you heard someone say “I renounce carbs!” or “I renounce french fries!” That kind of language outside the walls of the church gets you a second or third look.
But, I think we all know, perhaps a little too well, is that temptation isn’t always as obvious as Satan literally talking to us in the wilderness offering us bread, world domination, and glorious kingdoms. Perhaps if temptation were that obvious and we could actually see it coming it would be easier to say “I renounce them.” But temptation is just candy-coated evil. It tastes really good going down, but does nothing except cause indigestion and regret later on. And maybe we look at Jesus resisting those temptations and think “well, of course he could resist it, he was Jesus!” I, however, am not, and it’s just harder for me to resist temptation. It’s ironic to me, by the way, that we speak of temptation on a day when many of us will be devouring chocolates or candy hearts (which can be a temptation to many).
For me, it’s easiest to speak about temptation and my relationship with food because that is where most of my temptations happen. Do any of the rest of you have packages of Oreo cookies that actually call out your name? Maybe it’s that first beer, or second glass of wine, or third scotch and soda. Perhaps your troubles come in the form of golden arches or the king of burgers. Maybe it’s not something well known by the crowds, but something special to you. Grandma’s rolls, grandpa’s famous fudge, Aunt Jan’s smoked ribs, or whatever. For me, as I mentioned to some of you the other night, it’s Diane Petersen’s creme puff dessert, Lavonne’s dinner rolls, and Evelyn’s chocolate chip cookies. But, for you, maybe it’s not food. Perhaps temptation comes in the form of your favorite TV show, a night out with friends, shiny cars, or time with arts and crafts.
When we speak about sin, I think our minds automatically go towards the things that are or would be categorized as “bad.” I think for many of us, we hear the word “sin” and start to think “murder, adultery, theft” the big ones, right? But, let’s draw on our confirmation days for a minute. What is the first commandment? You shall have no other gods, right? And when temptation strikes, it can look very innocent, very fun, and even, on the outside, very life giving. Let us not give into the temptation (no pun intended) to replace God with other things in our life including those whom we love.
How can we avoid temptation then? Maybe the better question is how do we survive temptation? If we’re honest, we can’t avoid temptation, right? The world is filled with temptations. Even if we were to live in a cave all by ourselves, we’d find temptations. The way I see it, we have basically 2 choices: we can either give into temptation over and over again, or we can find a way to persevere through it. Now, if we’re being honest, we can’t persevere all by ourselves, right? How does the old song go “I get by with a little help from my friends.” We need to keep one another accountable. Ultimately though, we have to rely on God. Look at the first verse of our reading again today. It says “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit….”.
The passage doesn’t start off, “then Jesus, left to his own devices” or “then Jesus, surrounded by his sinful friends.” The passage starts “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit.” It is only because he is full of the Holy Spirit that he is not only able to deny the Devil, but pretty much conquer all of those temptations. Before you’re quick to say “but of course he was filled with the Holy Spirit, he was Jesus, after all” remember that all of us encounter and are filled with the Holy Spirit at least 2 times: during our baptisms and during communion. And while Jesus was human, he was also completely pure and blameless. We can’t claim the same thing. But what we can claim is that we know, encounter, and feel the Holy Spirit on (what I hope is) a daily basis. When we are feeling weak, challenged, and tempted, we should call on the Holy Spirit to help and protect us. The Spirit, after all, is our advocate. It’s another reminder that God is on our side. God doesn’t send these temptations to test our loyalty and our faith. Temptations are sent by Satan as a recruiting tool!
Remember, brothers and sisters, you’re not in this alone. You don’t have to face temptations all by yourself. You too are filled with the Holy Spirit. You too have the power to say “no” to Satan. You too can survive not only the next 40 days, but an entire lifetime of temptations. Trust in the Holy Spirit, friends. Trust that you are filled with it and trust that it will guide you in life. And trust that no matter how many times you may give into temptation, God will continue to love you beyond your wildest imagination!