The St. John’s Pulpit
St. John’s Baptist Church 300 Hawthorne Lane Charlotte, NC 28204
TEMPTED TO BE CHRIST’S CHURCH
First Sunday after Epiphany, January 13, 2019
by Senior Minister, Rev. Dennis W. Foust, PhD
Two weeks into this New Year, how are you doing with your resolutions? You have such good intentions and desires; yet, temptations to compromise are also constant companions.
We are always tempted to compromise our commitments. And the temptation to compromise always enters through the gate of our desires. Jesus taught the principle: “…where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” [Matthew 6:21]. You value what you desire. Your character is revealed in your true desires.
Last Sunday, we focused on the baptism of Jesus and considered our own baptisms.
We discussed what it means to commit our lives to the Living God who is committed to us.
I encouraged you to think of baptismal waters as the Love of God which covers you.
As you hear God affirm you as God’s “Beloved child,” you are able to share love with others.
The love you share with others is actually the love of God at work in you and through you.
Your baptism allows the real you to stand up and all other imposters within you to sit down.
Immediately following Jesus’ baptism, he entered the wilderness.
This is the way life works: every commitment is followed by temptations to compromise.
Do you think you experience more temptations to compromise than Jesus encountered?
After all, the world is much more complicated and pluralistic than was the first century.
You have choices those residents of Israel could have never imagined possible.
I am offering three ideas for you to ponder today in these temptations of Jesus.
Consider how these three temptations which confronted Jesus still show up in your life and in the life of St. John’s as we seek to be actively faithful as part of Christ’s Church in the world.
First, there was the temptation to turn stones into loaves of bread.
Jesus was hungry after fasting for 40 days; the temptation to eat would have been strong.
Yet, he knew he could not satisfy an eternal desire with a bite of temporary tangibility.
Jesus refused to compromise his desire for a nourishing relationship with God.
Jesus lived by and taught the principle that there is more to life than temporary needs.
BELOVED, as part of Christ’s Church, we pursue God’s gracious, redemptive love.
There are many temptations in this 21st century for a local church to focus on tangibility.
However, we must focus on nourishing our relationship with God above all other cravings.
Our culture is obsessed with self-gratification pursuing short-range visions.
As Christ’s Church, we must always be counter-cultural pursuing God’s vision of wholeness.
Second, Jesus was tempted to have power and be in power, rather than to be empowered.
One of my professors used to say, “Jesus loves you and everybody has a plan for your life.”
Jesus followed God’s plan; he did not need a position of political power in earthly kingdoms.
He was committed to the ways of the kingdom of God.
Jesus located the kingdom of God within the person; “the kingdom of God is within you.”
Throughout the past two thousand years, Christ’s Church has often lost touch with this idea.
Numerous times, the ‘church,’ has lost its way focusing upon institutional or political power.
Beloved, the message Christ’s Church has to offer the world is the Good News of God’s love.
This message affects politics, sociology, economics, business, and on and on.
Beloved, the Good News of God’s love is direct North on the compass of our mission.
When we seek to be guided by any other power other than the power of God’s love, we fail to be Christ’s Church.
To follow Jesus is to be learners in his kingdom school of God’s love.
Third, Jesus was tempted to compromise his commitment to God’s intention.
He was tempted to trade God’s intention by making himself the center of God’s attention.
Our culture encourages us to place ourselves at the center of our decisions.
Constantly, advertisers tell us to buy their product because we deserve the very best.
As Christ’s Church, we must guard ourselves against fixation on self-gratification.
If Jesus had jumped from the highest point of the temple, he would have caused quite a mess.
Jesus revealed it is God’s intention for us to clean up messes of sin in this world; not make them.
Yet, many people create messes for others to clean up rather than helping God clean up.
When we desire to be the center of attention, we express indifference to the needs of the world.
In her book, A Circle of Quiet, Madeleine L’Engle observes, “Like it or not, we either add to the darkness of indifference and out-and-out evil which surrounds us or we light a candle by which to see and to help others see better.” [p 99]
Let us strive and pray that we will always be the light that Jesus described: a light reflecting the
love of God in a world filled with hatred and prejudice.
Some churches spew more condemnation than grace; more hate than love.
Let us assure that St. John’s is always known as a church that shares the love of God.
This year, we will expand how we message our interpretation of God’s love in Charlotte.
Our message is not about us; our message is about the gracious love of God.
It’s like the Dennis the Menace cartoon where Dennis and his friend Joey are leaving Mrs. Wilson’s back porch with their hands full of cookies. Joey says, “I wonder what we did to deserve this.” Dennis answers, “Joey, Mrs. Wilson doesn’t give us cookies because we’re nice; it’s because she’s nice.”
As you resist the temptation to compromise your commitments, the love of God guides you to be Christ’s Church in the world. Amen & AMEN!