We had a bit of a bittersweet weekend at First Covenant Church this week, as we celebrated the homegoing of Cliff Johnson on Saturday morning (Cliff actually passed away back in December, but due to inclement weather, we all decided that it would be safer for traveling family members if we held off on a memorial service until now). It was poignant and sad to say “Good-bye” to our friend and brother -- and yet, it’s never entirely sad to take part in the funeral of someone who so clearly had a warm and loving relationship with God, because we know precisely where Cliff is now, and that he’s with his Lord (and with Carol).
It was also a joy to hear so many stories from so many people who’ve known Cliff for years, as well as to see so many familiar faces who haven’t been around for a while. So it was a bit of a “family reunion” around here on Saturday -- especially at the luncheon that we hosted afterwards. In fact, we had so much food that we hosted an ad hoc lunch after the worship service this week as well.
In the message this week, we started a new sermon series leading up to Resurrection Sunday, looking at “Jesus vs. _________.” See, as much as we like to think that Jesus was always positively for people because He loves us so much, He was also consistently against the things that would poison and hurt the people whom He loves so much. The very loving and positive heart that we appreciate in Christ is also what made Him growl at hypocrites, cleanse the Temple courts, and otherwise take stands for truth and health and purity in His ministry.
So we began the series by talking about “Jesus vs. Temptation,” looking at the story of Christ’s temptation in the wilderness by Satan. It’s telling that the Holy Spirit Himself -- who had just affirmed Jesus at His baptism -- is the one who sent Christ into the wilderness to be tempted. Though Satan really was trying to trip Jesus up, every part of their interaction demonstrated the sovereignty of God.
But the Devil began -- as most of our temptations begin -- not with a call to sin, but simply an innocuous-seeming suggestion to do something that wasn’t what God had planned. Whether it’s “Turn these rocks into bread,” or “Stay in Jerusalem while your troops go out to war,” the introduction to sin usually sounds painless and costless enough. And Satan picked a time when Jesus would be at His most susceptible to that initial temptation as well, just like he does with you and me on a regular basis. That’s part of why it’s so dangerous to try to “muscle through” temptation in our natural strength -- because if we’re feeling tempted, that means that our natural inclinations are already leaning that direction, so they’re probably not gonna help much.
No, instead, Jesus leaned on the foundation of Scripture, and He made God’s plans and will His first priority, and He ultimately made Satan flee by exercising His own authority. And if that’s what Christ did in standing against Satan, isn’t that more or less what you and I should do when facing temptation?
When you’re tempted, nail yourself to Scripture, remind yourself to ask, “What would honor God here?” and order Satan out of your life -- not through your own strength and authority, but through the strength and authority of Jesus Christ.