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Sunday, July 24, 2005

Word For The Week

I preached today at Temple of Faith Baptist Church - this is the text of the message (continued in the comments)

In our text today we find Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. There seems to be something special about the greenery of a garden. A garden is a place of rest and relaxation, a place of peace and tranquility, a solitary sanctuary from the sources of stress that spoil our situations in this life. You know, there’s something special about a garden. The Babylonians created the Hanging Gardens in order to cheer up Nebuchadnezzar’s wife who was from the country and couldn’t stand the city life. The White House has a rose garden outside of the Oval Office to cheer up the president whenever he looks out of his window. When God created Adam and Eve He put them in the perfect place for people – the Garden of Eden. There’s something special about the serenity found in a garden.

Yet it was in this place of peaceful meditation that Jesus faced His final temptation. His last temptation was the same as His first temptation – the same as Adam and Eve’s temptation – because there is truly only one temptation. All sin and all temptations can be boiled down to one simple question – will you submit to God? It is a matter of the will. It doesn’t matter what you think about a situation and it doesn’t matter how you feel about a situation, all that matters is what you will to do. We have to submit our will to the will of God – anything contrary to that is sin, and every temptation that comes our way tempts us to overthrow God’s sovereign rule. Satan told Adam and Eve straight-up – "And you will be like God." That is the essence of all temptation – instead of submitting to God we want to be God.

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 2:38 PM

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I believe that the Fall of Adam and Even impacted humanity in ways that we don’t fully realize in our fallen condition. In our fallen state we are the center of the universe – the God of our own existence – it’s all about us, and I don’t mean that in some nebulous super-spiritual way. In a very real and tangible way each of us is the center of the universe as we perceive it. Everything that we experience happens with us in the center of it – we see it before us, or to the left of us, or to the right of us, or behind us. We hear it above us or below us. We taste it in our mouth or we smell it with our nose. Everything that we experience has us as the point of reference. In a very real sense each of us is the center of the universe as we perceive it. We may know better, but our experience tells us that we are the center of the universe, just like our eyes tell us that two railroad tracks come together as they end on the horizon. It is an illusion – a lie – that we have to overcome. Ah, but we do know one who has overcome this illusion, this lie, and through Him we too have overcome the lie of self-centeredness. It is by the name of Jesus that we can throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and run with perseverance the race marked out for us. It is through the name of Jesus that we can do all things, since He strengthens us. It is only by the name of Jesus that we can overcome our sinful self-centeredness, and it is only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God that can transcend self and submit to the Savior.

The last temptation of Christ was for Jesus to assert His will over the will of the Father – no matter what Martin Scorsese tried to hypothesize. Rebellion against God’s authority is always the temptation – no matter the form of the temptation – and Jesus overcame it. Prayer – watch this – prayer is blending our will into the will of God, but too often we try to bend God’s will into our will. Sin is rebelling against the will of God and trying to turn our Master into a slave. We’re good for coming to God demanding that He bless us indeed, but we ought to be on our knees declaring, “Not my will but Yours be done!” Just whose kingdom are we seeking to advance? God’s kingdom or our thingdom? Often our daily lives are centered around buying and consuming more and more things when God wants us to focus on bringing more and more people to Him! Only that which is done for Christ will last, and if we seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness then all of that other stuff will be taken care of for us. We need to focus on the Father instead of searching for self-satisfaction because our souls will only find solace in service to our Savior – it’s a matter of submission, and Jesus submitted Himself to the will of the Father in our text today.

There are three thing that we see Jesus doing in this brief prayer in our text, three things that we must do to overcome temptation when we face it. First, we have to ACKNOWLEDGE OUR CREATOR.

“My Father!” The first words out of Jesus mouth was an acknowledgement of God as His Father. It was personal – MY Father. Don’t you know that if you want to get a prayer through to God then you have to know Him for yourself? You can’t get a prayer through based on mama’s relationship with God or daddy’s relationship with God – you have to know God for yourself. You have to love God for yourself. You have to acknowledge God yourself – MY Father! The first step that Jesus took to combat temptation was to acknowledge the Father.

If you go back and look at the first temptation of Jesus in Luke chapter 4 you will see that before Jesus even addresses temptation He recognized who He was dealing with. One thing that I find sorely lacking throughout the Church universal is a discerning spirit. What fellowship does light have with darkness? Yet we find Christians overtly partnering with and submitting to those who do not submit to our Savior for the purpose of acquiring political pork. I have to ask, “Who’s your daddy?” My Father separated the light from the darkness. My Father hung the stars in their place. My Father created the heavens and the earth. My Father would not have His children unequally yoked with unbelievers. Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Yet we still see saints yoked with unbelievers.

Part of the problem that we have in the Church is that many so-called believers are in fact equally yoked with unbelievers. There’s no difference in their talk, there’s no difference in their walk, there’s no difference in the way they live. For a whole lot of people who call themselves Christians the only difference between them and an atheist is two hours on Sunday. They don’t acknowledge God at home. They don’t acknowledge God at work. They don’t acknowledge God amongst their friends. They don’t acknowledge God in public. The only time they acknowledge God is when they need something, then all of a sudden “It’s me, it’s me, it’s me oh Lord! Standing in the need of prayer!” God is not your genie in a bottle, and this is no Christine Aguilera song. If we are to overcome temptation then we have to acknowledge our Creator in every facet of our life – either He’s Lord over all of life or He’s not Lord at all in our life. We have to acknowledge our Creator.

In Luke 4 Jesus was first tempted to turn stones into bread in order to feed himself. On the face of it there seems to be nothing wrong with that, but this is where a discerning spirit is needed. When you recognize who you’re talking to you can know how to react. Jesus is talking to Satan himself – nothing Satan has to suggest is going to be for Jesus’ benefit so you know his suggestions need to be resisted and rebuked, and that is exactly what Jesus did. But look at the temptation itself. Satan said, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” First, there is the temptation to doubt – “If you are the Son of God.” When you acknowledge your creator and your focus is on God there is no room for doubt because God is faithful. Satan tried to sow a seed of doubt to weaken Jesus resistance to the actual temptation – “tell this stone to become bread.” Now tell me, what’s wrong with turning a stone into bread? Jesus fed the 5000 by multiplying fish and bread, what’s wrong with turning a stone into bread? Watch this – Jesus never used his power for his own benefit. Never. That was not his mission; His mission was to redeem mankind from our fallen state of sinfulness. Jesus used His power only according to the will of the Father. That’s why many of us don’t have any power – God can’t trust us. You see if God gave us that kind of power we’d go buck wild – using it for our own benefit. We’d be bling blinging, sporting gators with the most pimped out rides and cribs that MTV couldn’t fit into a one-hour show. Some of us would get to smiting folk – you know who you’d smite, and some folks lists are mighty long. And then we wonder why God won’t answer our prayers. It’s because we’re focused on ourselves, on our own sinful desires. We’re focusing on the lusts of our eyes, the lusts of our flesh, and the pride of life. We’re poppin’ collars because we’re all about self. That’s why we can’t get a prayer through. That’s why we don’t have any power. That’s why we sit around crying, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” But God has not forsaken us, we have forsaken God. We have to acknowledge our Creator 24/7 – all the time, and that was the first thing that Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane. MY Father.

The second thing that Jesus did in the garden was to admit His condition. We have to ADMIT OUR CONDITION. The quickest way to find yourself in a mess is to deny reality. We can’t deal with reality if we deny reality. We have to call things as they are if we are to have any hope of changing those things. We have to admit that we are poor if we expect to get out of poverty. We have to admit that we are powerless if we expect to become empowered. We have to admit that we are sinners if we expect to be saved. We have to admit our condition.

Jesus admitted His condition. He said, “if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it.” Jesus knew that it might not be possible for the cup to be taken away. Jesus knew that He just might have to drink of the cup. Jesus knew that crucifixion was coming, and He admitted His condition. One of the hardest things for us to do is to admit our condition. Like they say, denial ain’t just a river in Egypt. But if we are going to blend our will into the will of God then we have to deal with reality as it is because that’s where God operates. God doesn’t operate in our own little fantasy lands, the creations of our own minds. God operates in His world. He moves within His world. And if we want His power operating in our lives then we have to get with Him in the real world. We have to understand reality as it is and admit our condition. I’m a tall Black man and I’m a NASCAR fan. When I go to the race I need to keep my eyes open – not everyone there is from the New South, if you know what I mean. I can say that it shouldn’t be that way or that I shouldn’t have to watch my back, but reality as it is dictates that I keep my eyes open. I have to admit my condition. As an aside, I’ve been to race tracks all over the country from Texas to Tennessee to Daytona and the only place where I had any kind of incident was in Indianapolis – not even in the South. But the same thing goes for a White man at a rap concert – you have to admit your condition. Our desire for reality to be different does not make it so – prayer can change things but we have to admit our current condition in order to bring about the condition that we would like to see. And God can still say no.

You see, even Jesus had a request rejected by the Father – and He was without sin – so it should never come as a surprise when we hear God say “No” to our prayer. We have to blend our will into the will of the Father. We have to see where God is moving and get with His program. We have to admit our condition and say like the songwriter, “Yes Lord! Yes Lord! Yes Lord! Yes!”

And that is the third thing that Jesus did, which we must do – Jesus accepted His calling. We have to ACCEPT OUR CALLING. Jesus said, “may Your will be done.” Jesus accepted the fact that ultimately it is the will of the Father that supercedes our every desire, and that He was sent here with the cross in mind. God has a plan for each of our lives, and He has called each of us to work for the advancement of His kingdom. We are saved to serve, not sit. Each of us has a job to do, and when we accept our calling after acknowledging our creator and admitting our condition we can resist temptation when it comes. You see God will always provide you with a way out from temptation, but God’s provision is centered on His purpose, and if you are operating outside of God’s purpose for your life then you our also operating outside of God’s provision – you have to face Satan by yourself in your own strength. The seven sons of Sceva will tell you that you don’t want to go there. If you want God’s protection and God’s provision then you have to walk according to God’s plan – you have to accept your calling. Not everyone is called to vocational ministry, but everyone is called to be a faithful witness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you call yourself a Christian then you are witnessing about the Gospel in everything that you do. The question is, what kind of witness are you? What are you witnessing about the gospel? That all Christians are hypocrites? That Christians have no power? That there’s no difference between a Christian and a heathen? What are you witnessing about the Lord Jesus Christ? Has your light lost its luminance? Has your salt been saturated with sin? Has your faith found its fidelity? Have you accepted your calling to be a faithful witness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

We are all called to be faithful witnesses, but each of us is also called to specific tasks within the body of Christ for the advancement of His kingdom, and He has given us spiritual gifts to accomplish those tasks. Do you know what your spiritual gifts are? Do you know what you have been called to do within the church? Well the discipleship class meets here in the choir stand every Sunday morning at 10:30 – if you don’t know what your gifts are and what your calling is within the life of the Church then we’ll look forward to seeing you up here next Sunday. If you do indeed know what your gifts are and what tasks you need to be accomplishing within the body of Christ then you need to get with one of the cluster leaders and we will get you connected in the right ministry so that you can fulfill the calling that God has placed on your life. God has not saved any of us for the purpose of coming to church on Sunday for a couple hours of spiritual entertainment. If you want entertainment then watch Benny Hinn – you’ll never see a funnier comedy show. But if you want to be in the center of God’s will, if you want God’s protection and God’s power running through your life then you cannot merely come to church, you have to be the church. You have to accept your calling! That’s how you resist temptation like Jesus did. If you look back at Luke 4, after the devil finished tempting Jesus he went away – watch this – look at verse 13, the devil left him until when? Until an opportune time. Satan doesn’t fight fair – he’s going to come at you when he’s most likely to succeed. He come at you when you’re weak and likely to fall, but he’ll also come at you when you think you’re strong – standing in your own strength. You resist temptation by submitting to God, not by standing in your own strength, and Satan will find an opportune time to tempt you.

Now, none of the Gospels spell out explicitly that Jesus was tempted in the Garden of Gethsemane, but Jesus’ reaction is that of one resisting temptation, and I can think of no better model to follow than that of Jesus Christ our Lord. You see Jesus acknowledged the Creator, and He came down 42 generation offer Himself as an atoning sacrifice for your sins and mine. Jesus admitted His condition and drank the bitter cup of God’s wrath so that you and I wouldn’t have to. Jesus accepted His calling and allowed the Jews and the Romans to take Him, to beat Him, to spit on Him, to mock Him, and then crucify Him. They hung Him high and stretched Him wide. For you and me he bled and died. But on the third day, early Sunday morning, He got up with all power in His hands. He got up I tell you! And now salvation’s free for you and me. Our sins separated us from God, but Jesus paid it all so that to as many as receive Him, to them that believe on His name, He gave the right to be called the Children of God.

Posted by Blogger Athanasius @ Sunday, July 24, 2005 2:46:00 PM #
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