1ST SUNDAY OF LENT - JUST GIVE UP #2
I opened the sermon by showing the video “The Marshmallow Test.”
Before we go on, I want the ushers to pass out the marshmallows. Here’s the deal, you can eat it now or if you wait until the end of the service, I’ll give you a second marshmallow.
Impatience, desire, lack of self-control, immaturity, these are some of the chief tools of temptation. You and I face temptation every single day. It’s a part of life, whether it’s commercials and advertising like we looked at last week or whether it’s our own struggles and desires. We face temptation every day some as simple as the Marshmallow Test but then there are those that can be life altering and relationship shattering. We face temptation every single day. But then, so did Jesus.
Luke 4:1-13 (NRSV)
 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness,
 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished.
 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.”
 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.'”
 Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.
 And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please.
 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”
 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'”
 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here,
 for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’
 and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'”
 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”
 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
Why is it that opportunity knocks only once but temptation seems to bang on the door constantly? So, how do we face temptation? What do we do in the face of temptation?
This is the Season of Lent. We need to remember that Lent is not about us! Lent is about Jesus Christ. Lent is basically a season of surrender; that’s why the title of the series: Just Give Up. Lent is 40 days in which we walk not only in the wilderness of temptation with Jesus but also along to the road to cross. During this journey our purpose is to surrender bad habits; surrender attitudes of the heart; and surrender ourselves to God just like Jesus did. All of this is so that we can celebrate redemption through the resurrection with a deeper understanding of how much God loves us and the sacrifice Jesus made for our redemption.
In order to do all this we have to Just Give Up and Gear Up. So, what do we need to Gear Up?
I. FESS UP:
A. I think the first thing we need to do is Fess Up. And what I mean by that is that we have to admit that we’re not the center of the universe, that God’s Kingdom is much bigger than just us. We have to confess that we’re not perfect; that we’ve sinned before God and we need forgiveness. That guilt is meant to be redeemed by the one who gave his life for us.
B. We need to Fess Up to the fact that we ARE tempted every day and that without Christ we will never overcome those temptations.
My favorite situation comedy of all times is The Dick Van Dyke Show. In Season One there was an episode titled: The Curious Thing About Women. In the opening of the episode Rob and Laura have fight because Laura opens Rob’s mail instead of letting him open his own mail. When Rob gets to the office, Buddy and Sally are stumped for an idea for a sketch. But when Rob tells them about his argument with Laura it turns into a sketch about a snoopy wife by the name of Laura.
When the show airs, everyone thinks the sketch is about Laura. Laura gets mad saying she’s not that snoopy and she’s never done anything like the woman in the sketch.
The next day a package arrives for Rob and Laura is put to the test. WATCH
Sometimes temptation can get the better of us. But if we remember that Jesus was tempted in the same ways we are, it gives us strength to say no.
This is something Wesley learned after his Awakening or Conversion at Aldersgate St. where felt his “heart strangely warmed.” We’ve heard his words immediately after.
Later that night, trying to understand the change he experienced, Wesley wrote: “And herein I found the difference between this and my former state chiefly consisted. I was striving, yea, fighting with all my might under the law, as well as under grace. But then I was sometimes, if not often, conquered; now, I was always conqueror.”
We are tempted every but Hebrews 4:15 (NRSV) reminds us that  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. If we call on Christ in those moments of temptation we can overcome if we surrender to His will like He surrendered to God’s will.
II. STEP UP:
A. As we Gear Up we Fess Up but we also need to Step Up.
We need to Step Up and Give Up all that baggage we have been carrying around for so long; that unresolved anger at our parents or siblings or co-worker; the jealousy we harbor because someone else received a promotion or receive accolades for something and we didn’t. It might old tapes that play in our heads from our parents.
Whatever it is we have to Surrender it to Christ and leave at the foot of the cross so it doesn’t burden our hearts and spirits and weigh us down with unredeemed guilt. Because that guilt is meant to be redeemed by the one who gave his life for us. We need to Step Up and Give Up all that baggage.
B. We need to Step Up and Brush Up on our daily disciplines, those things that keep us focused on Christ; those things that feed our soul for those times when we ARE tempted. The more we read and study Scripture, the more time we spend in devotions, the more our spirit is strengthened to say no to temptation. And we need that so we don’t do like the guy I read about.
It seems this guy decided to go on a diet and in order to avoid temptation he devised a different route to work so he didn’t have to go by the bakery and be tempted. Everybody in the office was aware of his plan and encouraged him in his diet. One day, he came to work with a big box of doughnuts. There was powdered sugar on one cheek and chocolate on the other. When questioned he told them:
“Well, there was construction on my new route and the detour took me right past my favorite bakery. So, I said to myself, maybe God wants to stop here. So, I prayed, ‘Lord, if you want me to stop at the bakery make a parking spot open up right in front of the bakery so I’ll know for sure.’ And, sure enough, on his eighth trip around the block, there it was, a parking spot, right in front of the bakery.”
When we Step Up and Brush Up on our daily disciplines of Bible Study, devotion and prayer we are better equipped and strengthened to face temptation.
A little boy put it this way when he was asked how he faced temptation. “”Well, when I hear temptation knocking at the door of my heart, I just say to Jesus, who lives in my heart, ‘Lord Jesus, would You answer the door, please?’ And when Jesus opens the door, temptation runs away and says, ‘Oops! Sorry, wrong house.'”
We know it’s not that simple sometimes but you get the point. In order to Gear Up for this Journey we have to Step Up and Give Up the baggage in our lives and we have to Brush Up on all the elements of our spiritual life. And if we don’t have one, then it’s an opportunity to start one as you surrender yourself to Christ.
My all-time favorite comic strip is Calvin and Hobbes. In an old Calvin and Hobbes, you see the two of them sitting on top of a snow covered hill on a toboggan or bobsled. With this look of fear in his eyes, Calvin says, “Well, here we are, poised at the precipice of ‘Pallbearer Peak’ on a flimsy, unsteerable sled! The mind recoils in horror to imagine the awful descent! Yes, it’s a thousand foot vertical drop onto a boulder field lined with sticker bushes! It’s a journey calculated to exceed the human capacity for blinding fear!”
Calvin turns to Hobbes and says, “Are you ready to go?” Hobbes simply says, “Ready.”
And in the closing panel you see Calvin and Hobbes walking away from the hill.
Sometimes, the best thing to do IS to walk away. And the Good News is that for those who have accepted Christ we can draw strength to turn around and say “No.” The life, death & resurrection of Jesus created a bridge between us and God. That bridge opens a channel of power from Christ. Through the Holy Spirit Christ empowers our lives and our faith so we can say “NO!”
So, Gear Up for this Lenten Journey. Surrender yourself to God’s will. Gear Up, Fess Up, Step Up, Give Up and Brush Up. In other words. Just Give Up. Give Up all those things that keep you separated from God. Give Up all that negative baggage you carry.
Step Up and Brush Up so Christ can work in you. Just Give Up and Gear Up so when you are tempted, even with something as innocuous as a marshmallow, you can overcome like Christ.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.