“Fall Down and Worship”
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11
What can we say in regards to what is happening in the world this year? Protests and horrific violence happening in the Middle East, massive earthquakes and tsunamis, you have to wonder if there is a greater meaning to what we are seeing in the news.
If nothing else, we are learning about the fragility of life. Even in our own communities we’ve had a number of surprising deaths impacting our own thoughts on the meaning and value of life.
So far people have been fairly quiet. But remember some who were declaring in recent years that punishments were being delivered for the sins of the leaders and people who live in affected areas such as Haiti and New Orleans. There has been some backlash for Japan, though nothing made by a larger public figure, that this is retribution for Pearl Harbor.
I don’t believe any of this to be true. This is not the God that I know. However, people will use this to further their own agenda and create fear. The problem is, this also creates division within the church. How does it make Christians look when all they see is our so called “great leaders” attacking one another on the news?
Sin is very alive and real in our world. In our readings from Genesis and Matthew we see the temptations we face, and how the devil uses them. In the Garden of Eden, satan came as a serpent to tempt Eve and Adam into eating from the forbidden tree. He tricked them into believing they could be more like God, and they ate from the tree. We know the rest of the story; Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden.
In our Gospel reading, Jesus has gone into the wilderness following his baptism in order to be alone so he could prepare himself for the work he was about to do. At the end of 40 days, satan came to Jesus and tempted him in his weakest moments. Fragile and weak from lack of food, he offers Jesus bread. Weak and helpless, he offers Jesus unlimited power over all things. Weak and tired, satan offers Jesus immortality. Jesus rebukes him every time, standing by his faithfulness to his Father in heaven.
In both these examples, satan was attempting to thwart God’s plan. He was trying to separate people from God. In the example of Adam and Eve, it worked. He succeeded in separating Adam and Eve from God. But it did not work with Jesus. Jesus was well prepared for the attack, he was ready with his response. Jesus responded faithfully to the temptations put before him so that he would not be separated from God, so he couldn’t be separated from God. Jesus would not fall to this trap.
There is a reason why we look at this scenario for the first Sunday of Lent. Lent is a time of repentance and also a time to get closer to God through our own actions. Traditionally Lent is a time of preparation, a time when people seek to learn about God through prayer and devotion so when Good Friday and Easter comes we know much more clearly the significance of these days. So we take 6 weeks to explore the meaning behind why God sent His son into the world to save us all from our sins. This means repentance needs to be part of this process. Repentance needs to happen because sin is a destructive force in our faith in God.
This is what sin does in our lives. Sin destroys our relationship with God, it pulls us away from God and makes us question the priorities in our lives. Notice what satan does with his temptations. He tells Eve she will acquire knowledge, she’ll be equal with God. What is the priority in the lives of Adam and Eve? Is it to tend to God’s garden, or to acquire knowledge on par with God? Up to the point right before they met the serpent they were more than happy with their roles in the God’s plan, but temptation caused them to reconsider their priorities, it caused them to question God, it caused them to sin, to put their own selfish needs above the needs of the greater good.
It was the same with Jesus, satan urged him to make selfish decisions which would cause him to sin and be separated from God. Satan wanted Jesus to choose to serve his own needs over the needs of the people he was sent to save. People he would give his life for.
So what of our needs?
I find it interesting the devil used the term, “fall down and worship me” when tempting Jesus with great riches. Isn’t that how it seems to be? It seems as though the world worships many things now, none of which tend to be God. How often do we find ourselves tempted by things that we hear will fulfill our greatest needs? How they will make us so much greater than we already are?
Bev and I were watching CBC the other night, and there was a documentary on the huge business of “Magical Mystery Cures” (I seem to be watching lots of documentaries lately). It was about the giant industry that tells us we can feel better, look younger and live longer if we use their products.
Now having a strong background and interest in science, I had some pretty high doubts about some of the techniques that were being plugged. Enhanced water with condensed H2O was a bit off the wall. A lot of these techniques made grand claims and some even used deception in order to make people think they were actually working. There was some really dubious science happening in some of these products. Yet, because the presenters claim to be scientists (one confessed he was an actor when asked) people buy into the scheme and part ways with their money. All of this so they can look younger and live longer.
The body is designed to live and eventually die. Cells reproduce, cells die. It’s in our cycle, and eventually our cells begin to die faster than they reproduce and our bodies will fail. It’s called aging. Some of you may have experience with aging.
These products, and they are some legitimate options out there, they are all designed to help us feel invincible, to make us more god-like so we can feel more superior to those who don’t undergo such treatments.
Honestly, we like to feel this way don’t way? We like to believe we’re superior, we like to feel indestructible, we like playing like a god in the world. But there’s only one God.
Remember what was said in the 10 commandments, “I am the Lord your God; Do not have any other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them…” (Exodus 20)
We are putting ourselves ahead of God. We are creating idols of many different types and worshipping them. There are industries that do nothing but create idols for us to worship. Movies, music, sports, these so called healthy living industries, banks, cars, all designed to make us worship something else besides God. This may not be intentional, I’m sure these industries didn’t sit down in a meeting and say, “We need to get people to stop worshipping God!”, but because most of the population worships money, it becomes a natural transition. And if we worship these things enough, they separate us from God.
Paul ties together our Gospel reading and our Old Testament reading. He reminds us how through one person’s disobedience, through the sin of Eve and also Adam, we are all sinners. Their sin brought sin into all our lives, we cannot escape it, we cannot avoid it. Sin has entered the world, and it threatens every day to keep us separated from God.
But, Paul also writes, “just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.”
Through the obedience of Jesus Christ, through the payment he made in buying our freedom, our everlasting life, by sacrificing his life on our behalf, we will be made righteous. We have new life in Jesus Christ.
When we come to know Jesus Christ as our Saviour, we can be saved from our sins. The temptations will still come, sin will still exist. But with his help, we are better equipped to stand before our tempter and rebuke the sin we are offered.
This is Lent. Let’s take the time to build our relationship with our Lord, our Father in heaven, so we will stand worthy in the death that saves us all on Good Friday, and so we can stand in victory with the risen Christ on Easter morning, celebrating in his victory over sin and death so that we all may live in him. Let’s let the devil know, the only one we will fall down and worship is our Lord and King, God almighty, and his son Jesus Christ.
Let us stand strong together in this season of Lent. Let us grow in faith, let us get to know Jesus Christ our Lord all the better. Let us fall down and worship our King and let us not be separated from him!