God's Wide Plan - Seld Interest or Self Sacrifice - Hope 103.2

God’s Wide Plan – Seld Interest or Self Sacrifice

By Simon ManchesterSunday 5 Oct 2014Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 0 minutes


St Thomas’ Anglican Church
North Sydney

12 Week Series
God’s Wide Plan – Self-Interest or Self-Sacrifice?

Based on the Book of Luke
Luke 4:1-13

Our Gracious God we ask that you would,for Jesus’ sake,open our eyes to see wonderful things in your word. In Jesus’ name,Amen.

In our passage today from Luke’s Gospel we’re in Luke’s Gospel,Chapter 4,verses 1-13.  we seek Jesus take his first steps in the business which he came for,the work which he came to do. And the business for which he came was the saving of people.  And this most impressive life of Jesus begins to walk in the world and instead of trouble moving out of his way as you would expected,you know the Red Sea sort of splitting in front of him,we see in this chapter the start of his ministry confronted and attached by the devil.  And it is a very forceful clash.  I don’t think we could ever really enter into what these temptations were like for Jesus.  And they were prompted of course by his mission.  That’s why the devil stepped in front of him – every evil backlash.

Now as we come to this passage this morning,here in the leafy area of the Lower North Shore where I also live,where do we see evil?  The famous phrase ‘The world,the flesh and devil’ – where do we see these things?  Do we see much evil in this country in which we live,in this city?  We almost have to open a history book,don’t we to come face to face with evil in the world?  We almost have to turn on our television; not the commercial channels which may focus on small lost kittens and things like that,but global news.  We will need to see in a way if we are to see the evil of the world,perhaps we need to visit some of the harder suburbs of our city.  It just doesn’t confront us as blatantly very often and therefore we can minimise the fact that the world is an evil place.

In the book by Oz Guinness,called ‘Unspeakable’,(subtitle,’Facing up to the Challenge of Evil’),he tells that on September 11,2001,he was due in Manhattan to run a seminar that evening on the subject of evil and he’d sent out some reading material ahead of time.  When the seminar eventually took place some weeks later one man came to the seminar who had lost 70 men from his company and he said to Oz Guinness – when I read the discussion material that you sent out it seemed too dark,I now think it was not dark enough. It’s easy isn’t it to underestimate the evil until it really comes at you? And many in my street have little white picket fences,it’s hard to think about an evil world isn’t it in a little street with white picket fences? 

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Or think about the flesh,the flesh which is meant to be inside us; the flesh,the sinful nature or in the neighbours who are around us.  It seems like a very small issue doesn’t it,to think about the evil flesh?  Every now and again we read about an evil act done by an evil person but we think of them as being pretty few and far between.  Most of the people we bump into are pretty nice people,pretty upright and to talk about the evil of the flesh,especially for you to come and talk about the evil of MY flesh or for me to come and talk you about the evil of YOUR flesh?   It does seem to be a fit sort of forced,something monastic,medieval,a little on the fanatical,mad side? 
Or the devil.  What do most people think of the devil?  Well for many he’s a myth.  For some he’s just a cartoon.  For many of us he seems to be in another country,he’s just not around.  And so the idea that evil would frighten us,the idea that our own evil would frighten us,the idea that the devil would frighten us it’s not very real to us and therefore the work of Jesus in defeating evil is no big deal unless we think hard.  And we would be very naïve to think that we are accurate if we are to think like this.

There are millions and millions of people in history who’ve known almost nothing but evil,they’ve not had one good day.  Millions and millions of people right now,every day experience great evil in the world.  And a lot of it is perpetuated by people like us,people like me and people like you.  Some of the evil that’s going on in the world has no rational explanation which shows the devil to be as real as the scripture says he is.  And that’s why this section in Luke Chapter 4 this morning is so important.  Jesus faced evil as a reality and Jesus himself defeated it.  Now you probably know he defeated it in the dialogue of Luke Chapter 4,but he primarily defeated it at the cross.  Now what took place at the cross?  Jesus took away the devil’s case against believers.  He disarmed the devil.  He took away the devil’s case,argument,against a believer at the cross.  And of course the Bible tells us that there will come a day when he will remove him altogether.

So we mustn’t miss what is happening here in Luke Chapter 4 because you need it,it’s a key to understand the world and that the world is not a place that is random or ‘chancy’ or that we’re in a kind dualism where God and the devil are slugging it out as if they’re equals.  It’s not like that at all.

So will you look at Luke Chapter 4 with me,it’s on page 1017.  I don’t need to make up three points today because there are three famous temptations; they’re like the three prongs of the devils ‘fork’.  And they’re all asking the same question and that is,’Jesus,will you go the path of self interest,which is such a wise way to go,or will you go the path of self sacrifice,which is such a crazy way to go?  And of course everything is going to hang on the answer to this question.

Let’s think about the three temptations,we’ve heard them read,we know them pretty well.  Temptation One.  Just notice as you look at your Bible laid out this morning,that on the left hand side you will see at the bottom of page 1016 that Jesus was baptised.  Why was he baptised?  Not because he needed to be forgiven,baptism never does the job of forgiveness.  No,Jesus was baptised because he was fully repentant.  He began his life as a life should begin,opposed to evil and that’s why he took part in the baptism armed repentant,fully repentant said Jesus; I am fully devoted to God’s will.  And then we see at the end of Chapter 3 the genealogy is set out,setting the family of Jesus all the way back to God,showing that Jesus is part of a human family that goes right back to God.  And at the baptism what did the Father call out? – this is my son.  So you get to the end of Chapter 3 and the father has said,’this is my son’  and you get to the end of the genealogy and genealogy says,’he goes right back to God; It’s a double reminder that  Jesus has come in as the Son of God to do a rescue work and the rescue work is going to be by self sacrifice and that’s why the devil steps in front of him because if Jesus does the work of self sacrifice then people can be forgiven and if people can be forgiven they can be set free from the devil’s clutches and therefore the devil steps in front to make sure that the mission never takes place.

It’s not as though Jesus is looking for trouble,because we read in Chapter 4,verse 1,that he was full of the Sprit and he was led by the Spirit; so he was in the will of God and faced temptation.  Don’t ever think that because you’re being tempted that you’ve suddenly sinned.  Temptation is not synonymous with failing.  Temptation is something that Jesus experienced and every believer will experience.

Well let’s think about this particular temptation.  The devil said,Verse 3 – if you’re the Son of God,tell this stone to become bread.  And Jesus answered – it’s written,man does not live on bread alone.  Now notice what the devil is doing.  It took me a long time to think about this,I’ve heard this passage many times I had to sit and think again,again and again this week – what are these temptations all about?  And you work out a lot of what they’re about by what Jesus says back to them.  Why does the devil introduce this thing about eating bread?  And what he’s doing,he’s opening the case very gently for self interest and he’s doing it in a very reasonable way.  He’s saying to Jesus,let’s think about this whole self interest thing – you need to eat; you’ve got power use it for your own basic necessities.  Behind this of course is the idea who else is gong to help you if you don’t help yourself?  It’s obvious God’s not providing for you.  It’s been 40 days,you’re starving,so make some bread and you’ll live and you’ll be able to do your job.  Subtle!  Jesus’ reply is amazing,he quotes Deuteronomy chapter 8,from the Old Testament in verse 4,and he says – there is something which stands against your temptation and that is the word of God,that says many does not live on bread alone.  And in Matthew’s account of this in Chapter 4,he adds the little phrase,’but by every word that precedes from the mouth of God’.  And we’ve often read that and said,oh,that means read your Bible and of course reading your Bible is a good thing.  But that’s not what Jesus means here.  What Jesus means here is,how does a person live?  He lives because God says so.  God is a God who speaks and produces life and sustains his world.  It’s the word of God that gives you life.  It’s his speaking that sustains you.  Why are you here today?  It’s not just because of the bread,it’s because God speaks and sustains you and behind your life is not just the bread and the creation,but God and therefore God can be trusted because everything comes from God.  And therefore,says Jesus,I am not going down the path of self interest.

Temptation two… a little more crafty.  The devil comes back and gives Jesus some kind of picture or vision of the whole world and he says to him in Verses 6 & 7 – I’ll give you all this if you worship me,it will be all yours.  And Jesus says – it is written,worship the Lord your God and serve him only.  What’s the devil saying in this second temptation?  He’s still on the subject of self interest.  Let’s forget about being hungry says the devil,ok your ok,your on a mission,your on a mission to win the world; you’ve been told the world will be yours.  Psalm 2 – you’re my son,says God,I’ll make the nations your inheritance.  Ok,says the devil,your on  a mission to get the world,think about the path that God has plotted for you,it’s a dreadful path,it’s a costly,painful,cruel path; you’ll lose everything on that path,you’ll lose your life,you’ll lose your fellowship with God.  Now listen to me,says the devil,I’ll give you the same outcome,all the world and I’ll hand it over to you much more kindly,all you need to do is worship me,just bow to me and it’s yours – no crucifixion; the plan of God for you to get the world is dreadful,my plan is infinitely kinder.  And Jesus replies – it stand written,Deuteronomy Chapter 6,worship the Lord your God and serve him only.  In other words,says Jesus,you may have a clever offer,the fundamental issue however is not the clever offer or even the benefits that may come or the outcome,the fundamental issue is that only God is worthy to be lived for,only God is worthy to be served,your not worthy to be served,nobody is worthy to be served but God.  And so if the wrong person is going to be served everything goes wrong.

Now friends you must know this from your own experience,I do from mine.  As soon as you fail in your thinking and planning and determining to serve God himself everything goes wrong.  It’s like getting the wrong button in your shirt.  Get the first button wrong,every button goes wrong.  And the Lord Jesus you see,he turns to the devil and he says – if God is not worshipped and served and if he’s dishonoured the mission is distorted and if the mission is distorted everything is going to be evil,every allegiance is going to be transferred the wrong way; but God alone is worthy,he is great,I will serve him,I will not yield to self interest,this is the absolutely fixed thing,says Jesus,I serve him,then I can trust him,non negotiable,it’s written.

Temptation Three.  A very clever finale.  I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about this whole thing about throwing yourself off the temple?  I used to think it meant,throw yourself off the temple and everybody will be super impressed and they’ll come to believe in you,that’s the reason.  No,no,the devil takes Jesus to the temple where God promised to be with his people and he says – if you’re the Son of God throw yourself down,angels will catch you.  And Jesus replied – it says,don’t put the Lord your God to the test.  Now notice the power of temptation three,first of all the devil said- it doesn’t look as though God cares for you,feed yourself; it doesn’t look as though his plan for you is any good,I’ve got a better plan,it’s not working.  So the devil comes back with number three and says this – God has promised that you will be secure and safe,he’s given his word. And the Devil quotes Psalm 91 (never forget that it’s possible to quote the bible in the interests of the devil),  Psalm 91,Verse 11 & 12 – he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways,they’ll lift you up in their hands so you’ll not strike your foot against a stone.  The devil says – you want to quote scripture to me,I’ll quote some scripture for you – God has promised you no harm; that’s his words if you jump from this temple he’s obligated to catch you,do it you will see he’s obligated to protect you,no harm will come to you,no harm should come to you,your mission should involve no harm,do it.  And Jesus comes back with this perfect reply – in the end,Jesus says,your setting the promises of God against the commands of God,which is unnecessary,I’m going to trust him with the promises,he’ll keep them,I’m going to obey the commands and the command which I’ve received is to do the mission of self sacrifice.  My part,says Jesus,is to do his will,not to test him.  Everybody’s job in the end,Deuteronomy Chapter 6,is not to put God to the test.  You don’t need to put God to the test.  You don’t need to bring good out God,it’s unstoppable that God will do good and therefore you should never take the high ground of testing God,because he’s always going to do good.  And then,says Jesus,don’t test God and the devil stops testing Jesus.  It’s a very interesting way for it to finish.

And the devil moves off,it says,and waits for another cairos – another time,another opportunity.  I don’t need to tell you that the temptation to avoid the cross came back to Jesus again and again.  And we’re given two examples of it in the scriptures.  One is where Peter says to him on one occasion – don’t go through with the death,don’t go through with the crucifixion,we’ll protect,we’ll save you.  And do you remember Jesus’ shocking words – get behind me devil,Satan.  And then of course when Jesus is there on the cross,hanging in order that people would be saved,along come the religious leaders and the people and call out – get down,get down and we’ll believe,just hop off and we’ll believe.  And Jesus,you see stays,because he knows that only if he stays and pays a person can believe and live.

So at the beginning,the middle and the end of his ministry every possible weapon was thrown at him in order that he would turn away and go down the path of self interest and not the path of self sacrifice.

Now we have to be very careful not to isolate this passage so that you go home and say – well Jesus was great,I must be great; he was brave,I must be brave.  That may be true but it’s not the most important thing here.  The most important thing is to realise first that Jesus is quoting three times from Deuteronomy.  And he’s quoting three times from Deuteronomy cause in Deuteronomy that’s where the people of God were travelling through the world,through the wilderness and failing.  You remember the Israelites out of Egypt,across the Red Sea,through the desert did they trust God to feed them?  No,they grumbled,mistrusted him.  Did they worship God?  No,they turned to other idols.  Did they put him to the test?  Absolutely,they tested his patience and they brought upon them his wrath.  And you can go even further.  You say,well that’s the Israelites they were pretty hopeless.  But go right back to the beginning of the Bible and there you’ve got Adam in the garden and everything is perfect for Adam.  Absolutely everything laid on for him.  He’s only got one thing that he can’t touch.  What does Adam do,does he trust god?  No,he doesn’t trust god.  Does he worship God?  No,he doesn’t worship God.  Does he test God?  Yes,he absolutely tests God.  And the whole human race has followed.  We’re exactly like this you see,we’re shot through with the same self interest.  It’s the disease which is in my life and your life and in every person we ever meet and the symptoms vary but the disease is the same.  And basically it goes like this – I can’t trust God,he just fails my agenda.  I must care for myself,he’s obviously not caring for me.  I’m going to have to take things into my own hands.  And I won’t worship God,he can have a little place in my life… maybe,but he’s not having first place,cause when the crunch comes it’s going to be what I say,not what he says.  And therefore,ok I may test God,I may test his patience,I may bring his wrath,but it’s no big deal,it’s just the way it has to be.  That’s the human condition.  If God is acknowledged at all by anybody,that’s the human condition. 

And so the human race from Adam on is shot through with self interest and rebellion,which brings the wrath of God and death. And even when the Israelites are saved by God and they’ve come out of Egypt and they’ve gone through the Red Sea,miraculously,and they’re going through the dessert,they’re still failures.  There’s nobody you see who’s free of this self interest until Jesus and in the face of the worst possible temptation to abandon the most costly path and even to take what he could rightly take for himself,he just lives perfectly. He doesn’t make a single compromise and therefore he becomes the one perfect,sufficient powerful saviour. 

Gresham Machen who was a 20th Century giant in Reform Theology,when he was on his deathbed said to his friend – thank God for the righteousness of Christ.  We often thank God,don’t we,for the death of Christ?  We should.  We often thank God for the resurrection of Christ.  We should.  But the righteousness of Christ that at every single point,thought,word and deed he just went on being faithful.  That’s the reason we can have somebody who can stand in our place and take what we deserve and give what he deserves and therefore bring us to Glory.  What a saviour!

Now Jesus,you see,by going through with his mission,not giving way to self interest but staying with the work,is able to arrive,finally,on the throne of Heaven,hear the cry or the call of a sinner for forgiveness,give forgiveness immediately and begin to transform a heart so that it becomes more and more like his and one day as we see him face to face,perfectly.

I want you,just as we finish,to think about this over the next days and weeks if you remember this incident,think about it in the area first of all of despair.  If you ever despair of the world,if you ever look at the world and you say – it’s just hopelessly corrupt and evil,just remember that when Jesus came into the world he lit the fuse at the temptations of the overthrow of evil,he achieved it at the cross and he will mop it up at the end.  The evil of the world in the flesh,in the world itself and in the devil itself has been fatally wounded. 

And when you think about your own doubts and you ask yourself every now and again – does God really care for me?  Look at the circumstances he’s given me.  Look at the lack of resources,Look at the lack of supplies that he’s given.  Look at the abundance of troubles that he’s given me.  Does he really care for me?  Has he forgotten me?  Is he neglecting me?  Does he understand me? – Just go back and say to yourself – I remember what Jesus said,I don’t live by bread alone I live by God.  He’s the one who sustains me,he will provide for me.  And if you ask whether your on a path which is unfair go back and remind yourself of the path the Lord Jesus was on a path which looked unfair but which was absolutely what God wanted,perfectly ordered by God,perfectly sustained by God,perfectly completed by God and say to yourself – If I’m on a path which God has set for me I can’t be on a better path.

If you are also faced with disobedience and you say to yourself – there are certain sins and I just cannot seem to get free of them,what hope have I got,I’ll never get rid of this? Do I have to fight and face this every day,every week,every month every year for the rest of my life?  Just remember this,the Lord Jesus went right to the end and therefore you’ll go right to the end.  He’s your saviour,he’ll make sure you get through to the end. You may fall and fail,but he will make sure that you’ll arrive.  And if you say to yourself – how can I face him,I’ve just been so sinful?  Just remember that because the Lord Jesus didn’t sin he has a very sympathetic heart.  He’s the great sympathetic High Priest,he sits on the Throne,you can go to him and say to him – I’ve fallen and failed – there’s nobody more interested than him,there’s nobody more sympathetic than him,there’s nobody more able to help you,there’s nobody more able to forgive you,there’s nobody more able to strengthen you.  And therefore we have in Him everything that we could need for the present and future because he did not get deflected but stayed with the task of self sacrifice,which is the end of evil soon to come.

Let’s give Him our thanks.  Lets pray.  Father we thank you for sending the Lord Jesus and we thank you for His faithfulness at every point,at every moment,right to the end;  the victory we’ve seen today,the victory of the cross,the victory which will be completed soon.  And we pray as we walk in His steps,confident in His salvation,in His victory,you would encourage us in mind,strengthen us in heart and help us in will,to keep trusting and obeying.  And we ask it in His Name.  Amen.