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Sermon for February 26, 2023 – First Sunday in Easter Preparation

Program Transcript


Speaking of Life 5014 | Consulting the Physician
Greg Williams

I recently went to an oil change station to have my vehicle serviced. As I was waiting, a lady came in and approached one of the technicians and told him that her car stopped working. Thinking she was in a full-service garage, the technician had to turn her away because they only did oil changes. It’s always good to know that we’re consulting with the right person.

As people who face problems every day, there are times that we might feel like that lady. Looking for the right person to help us with our problems.

Sin is like a spiritual sickness, and there’s a single qualified physician, Jesus, the only one by whose wounds we are healed and restored. When we wrestle with the problem of sin in our lives it is often made worse because we take it to the wrong person or ignore the symptoms.

 King David knew the source of spiritual strength and healing:

“When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.”
Psalm 32:3-5

Doesn’t that sound great? The benefits of turning to our Lord Jesus – No more guilt of unforgiven sins. Our lives redeemed from the aches brought on by the tension of sin. Freedom from the heaviness and sense of doom.

The Apostle Paul described the liberating power of grace over sin and death in his letter to the Romans, promising us that we will receive “God’s abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.(Romans 5:17)

Freed from guilt we can rejoice in the life he has bought for us upon the cross.

Do not let spiritual pain linger or the guilt fester. You have access to the greatest physician. He’s the right person to consult for your deepest needs.

Come to Jesus and be healed.

I’m Greg Williams, Speaking of Life.

Psalm 32:1-11 • Genesis 3:1-7 • Romans 5:12-19 • Matthew 4:1-11

In our first week of Easter preparation, we reflect on Jesus’ reversal of the sinful state of mankind. Our theme is the dominion of life over death. In the call to worship Psalm, King David reminds us of our need to bring our sins before God to receive his abundant forgiveness and love. In Genesis, we witness how the dominion of death came about through the sin of Adam and Eve, leading to their shame and guilt. Paul explains to believers in Rome how the grace and life given to us by Jesus heals the death and separation caused by sin, and it establishes us in his new and better life. In our scripture passage today, Jesus enters the wilderness and reminds the devil whose dominion we are truly in.

The Dominion of Life

Matthew 4:1-11

Prior to your sermon it would be good to get someone to read Genesis 3:1-7 to prepare the congregation for the parallels with Matthew 4 found in today’s message.

A Question of authority

God is in charge. This is a simple truth, but an easy one to forget. The time of Easter preparation is intended to help us focus upon Jesus’ work of salvation as revealed in his earthly ministry. Here we are reminded of why Jesus chose the cross for our sakes, and how his work of atonement spanned his life, death, and resurrection.

Today we are reflecting upon how the ministry of Jesus changed the spiritual landscape of our world – establishing his dominion of life and grace that supersedes death and sin as the defining attributes of what it means to be human.

Paul tells us in Romans:

For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:19)

This passage in Romans contrasts Adam with Jesus. What Adam caused through sin was not irreversible. Jesus has not only reversed it back to the state of the Garden of Eden, but he has also taken us beyond Eden into the eternal dominion of life shared by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

To understand the obedience that Paul is speaking of, we are going to compare the account of Adam and Eve’s temptation in the Garden with the temptation of Jesus in the desert. There we will see that because Jesus is always obedient as the true authority in creation, he sets right the errors of the past – lifting humanity up with him to a great and glorious future.

Read Matt 4:1-11

We need to remember who’s in charge. If we do not remember the sovereignty of God, the world will seem a lot darker than it is. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve lived in paradise, however, when they lost sight of God’s authority and rebelled against him, they found themselves naked and afraid. The paradise became imposing, the soothing presence of God intimidating, their perfect form became a source of shame.

In the desert, Jesus is far from paradise. Yet here he can endure hardship and deprivation because he is mindful of God’s sovereignty. The desert is holy and the isolation comforting because it was witnessed and experienced in the correct context.

With every question from Satan, Jesus gives a response that draws the conversation back to God, and to the authority and respect due him. Satan is reminded that contrary to how he was acting, he is not in charge and that is never going to change.

We too need to ensure we have the correct perspective.

Growing up, my brother had a picture from a popular adult cartoon series in his bedroom. In it, a little boy is wearing sunglasses and attempting to look important, yelling that people must “respect my authoritah!!” (sic). This is a comical take on a problem many people wrestle with – how to earn respect, and how to respond to misplaced authority.

The challenge of the misuse of authority is always a hot-button topic. It can lead us to ask the question: should we respect individuals by virtue of their role or position of authority even if we hold a low opinion or disagree with them. It all comes back to that age old question found in every family, board room, and school yard: who calls the shots?

It’s a question that has plagued humanity since our earliest days, but it is one we have an unequivocal answer to in Jesus’ response to each of Satan’s temptations.

Hunger

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness 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 shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:1-4)

We are told Jesus is hungry, it is the only descriptor we have of Jesus in the passage, and it serves to highlight the context for Satan’s temptation. We know Jesus has not eaten and is in need, so his response here is not simply a platitude. His faith in God’s control is such that he knows he can truly live solely by God’s sustenance.

Jesus’ hunger also stands in contrast to the state of Adam and Eve. While Jesus endures deprivation, they are surrounded by abundance. They had no need of something to eat; every tree was there for the taking! Why then did they take of the forbidden tree?

To answer that question, we need to look at Jesus’ response to Satan here: man lives “on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” It is of great value to our spiritual life to recognize that in his sovereignty, God has given us everything we need to resist the temptations laid before us. Eve’s downfall came by not living according to the words God had given her.

Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden?” (Genesis 3:1)

Satan begins his temptation of Eve by twisting the words of God and obscuring them. Just as he does with Jesus by using the truth that the Son of God could make the stones bread.

Yet Jesus lives by the words of God and according to God’s timing and plan, so he is not moved to sin. Taking on our humanity he inverts the original sin, thus beginning our path toward the dominion of life and grace Paul is celebrating in Romans 5.

Accordance

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.’” (Matthew 4:4-6)

Just because something can be done doesn’t mean it should be done. I doubt you’d see a three-year-old living by this proverb! But after a few hundred bumped heads, skinned knees, and baths spent having mysterious substances scrubbed out of your hair, it begins to start making sense. The wisdom of this proverb grows the more mistakes you make in life.

Regardless of the warnings, children frequently make choices that lead to harm or loss, and they repeat them as they test the rationale of their parents’ authority. When the devil takes Jesus up to the top of the tower, his temptation of Jesus at first seems to stem from a similar rationale. “Show the world what you can do!” A sinister subtext is found in these temptations. Jesus doesn’t need to suffer; if he does, he can just get the angels to intervene.

The next time Jesus will be raised up looking down upon the world will be upon the cross. And there, this temptation will be presented to him again by one of the two men up there with him. Surely the Son of God ought not to have to suffer and endure all that?! The perfect obedience of Jesus is shown here. Despite pain, suffering and loss, he pursues the will of God with unflinching love.

So, Jesus’ response draws the attention back to staying in accordance with the will of God. Perhaps the angels would catch him if he jumped a tall height, but that is not why he came; it’s not part of the plan. Not testing the Lord, in this instance, is about not testing his will and purpose (not to mention Satan should not being trying to test Jesus!)

Jesus’ death and resurrection were part of God’s sovereign plan, it was in accordance with his will, and Jesus, being God, knew that will perfectly.

Back in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were being tempted by the enemy specifically to put the word of God to the test. Will it really be as bad as he said it would be? And so, they gave in to the temptation to test the word of God with catastrophic consequences.

Jesus asserted his intention to faithfully submit to God’s authority and follow his plan. Once again, Jesus was taking our humanity and reversing the original sin, bringing us into his life of abundant grace. Grace beyond sin and death.

Dominion

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, and angels came and attended him. (Matthew 4:8-11)

In the final temptation of the passage, Jesus is presented with a global vista including all that is. These are claimed by Satan and offered to Jesus. Once more, the subject is focused on power and authority, that the one who has it can follow through on their promises. In the Garden of Eden, the promise of taking the forbidden fruit was the allure of being “like God.” In both instances, the devil is making an offer he is unable to follow through on. While all the others were statements of truth twisted to deceive, these are outright lies intended to corrupt.

The taking of the fruit in the garden was an act of rebellion, not in the teenage sense of an adolescent acting out, but as an attempt to usurp God’s authority. In the garden, the serpent was content so long as the exaltation was redirected away from God. In the desert, Satan seeks to complete what was started in Eden, a worship of himself. Self-determination is a celebrated right in many democratic cultures. It is important to ensure respectful laws and ensure freedoms in man-made institutions, yet it easily becomes a form of idolatry when unchecked.

Jesus’ response to Satan gives us two clear messages. The first is that it truly is not worth gaining the whole world yet forfeiting your soul; the second is that Satan’s so-called dominion is a sham that is swiftly on the way out. The coming of the Kingdom of God was ushering in the dominion of life and grace, and purging the kingdom of sin and death over which Satan ruled. To make clear who truly calls the shots, Jesus rebukes Satan, using the word that comes from God in accordance with the will of the Father.

And Satan leaves.

This is not a choice; this is the power of Jesus’ rebuke. Satan offers all the nations of the world to Jesus, yet he couldn’t even remain in Jesus’ presence without permission. Satan’s power and very existence is contingent upon God. What he presents to Jesus are a series of lies and deceptions, because he has nothing else to offer.

The tragedy of the Fall is that Adam and Eve had this same capacity to rebuke Satan. They walked with the Lord in the cool of the evening; they knew the power of his word and could be certain that if they called upon him, he would deal with the deceiving serpent. Yet they neglected his sovereignty and lost sight of the joy of living in accordance with his will.

We too have the capacity to rebuke the devil. Not by our own power, but by the great reversal of sin wrought by Jesus. He has pointed us back to the one who is in control, giving us a life free from sin, defined by grace and victorious over the grave.

As Paul puts is,

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! (Romans 5:17 NIV)

Let us receive the abundant grace and reign in the life given to us by the only one with the authority to give it.

Not Today, Satan w/ Dishon Mills W4

February 26 – First Sunday of Easter Prep
Matthew 4:1-11, “Not Today, Satan!”

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Small Group Discussion Questions

Speaking of Life

  • When you have a spiritual problem who do you go to? Do you have a support network? Do you remember to bring it to God first?
  • Do you identify with David in his psalm when he speaks of the physical pain caused by the stress of unresolved sin? Why do you think we delay to bring these things before God and reap the benefits of our absolution?

From the Sermon

  • Have you ever found yourself in a position of authority? If so, what was your leadership style, and did you have to work hard to earn the respect of those you lead?
  • The dominion of death and sin were not only defeated, but their legacy was also removed from existence through Jesus’ righteous life. What does this mean for how we deal with the subjects of death and sin in our redeemed lives?
  • We have been called to “reign in the life… of Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17.) What do you think that looks like?

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