About Me

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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Nekkid and Tempted

   Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7 and Matthew 4:1-11
   "Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked" – Gen 3:7
   No they weren't.
   They were nekkid.
   Lewis Grizzard wrote: "There's a big difference between the words 'naked' and 'nekkid'. 
   'Naked' means you don't have any clothes on. 
   'Nekkid' means you don't have any clothes on - and you're up to something."
   And these two most surely were up to something.
   They were tempted and they did not resist.
   Another long time ago, Jesus was tempted.
   He was tempted by the devil with 3 things: food, foolishness and fame. 
   But, because Jesus was the Son of God he DID resist temptation for us, which is good, because most of you are still thinking about nekkidness.
   Wouldn't it be great if you could just give your heart to Jesus and you'd never be tempted by anything else ever again? 
   It's tempting to think so. 
   Wouldn't it be great if you could get a pass on temptation either by sloughing it off on someone else - like, Adam & Eve, or some slithering creature? 
   The Russians made me do it!
   Or by pretending you're immune because Jesus won you the victory? 
   No worries. I've got a golden ticket.
   Wouldn't that be great? 
   Not very realistic. 
   Temptation exposes our base desires.
   It reveals how easy it is for us to be up to something, up to anything that defies good sense, up to things that defy the love and care of Almighty God.
   And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden… Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 
   (Genesis 2:8-9)
   In the middle of the garden, God plants the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
   Right smack dab in the middle.
   And God tells the kids – "You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat…" (Gen 3:16-17)
   Clearly, these were God's first children.
   Because by the second or the third child, you know these little buggers are not to be trusted.
   "Oh sweetie. You can eat all the kale in the kitchen. But you shall not eat from, nor shall you touch the cookie jar on the counter."
   God's mistake was trusting these little hellions in the first place.
   This tells us a couple of things.
   First, it tells us God wants to be able to trust us.
   We were designed to be trustworthy little critters.
   Second, it tells us no matter how wonderful anything is, temptation grows in the midst of it.
   Why is the tree of temptation always planted in the middle of our personal paradise? 
   Everybody thinks it was an apple tree.
   And yet, an apple a day keeps the doctor away.
   You're the apple of my eye.  
   Does anybody say that these days? 
   Is there an apple emoji?
   Nothing in the Bible says, "Apple." 
   It was the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
   What does that fruit look like?
   How does it taste?
   Is the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil sweet? Or bitter?
   Once you reach the age of knowing there's a difference between things that are good and things that are evil, temptation slithers in to confuse our tastes.
   Anything sweet can turn sour.
   Anything good can go to rot.
   That's the way gardens grow.
   It's basic humanity.
   We start out with something innocent, some kind of paradise. 
   But we want it so much. 
   We want to keep it so much. 
   We want to taste it so badly. 
   It's so tempting. 
   And before we know it, we're up to something.
   Whenever I go to the mall, I always go in the Apple store. 
   I find it tempting. Beguiling. A pleasure to behold. 
   Actually, I'm pretty happy as an Android-Windows guy these days, so it's not as tempting as it used to be.
   Still, it's pretty awesome.
   Where do you find temptation? 
   Home Depot?
   The golf pro shop?
   I have a friend who spends hours browsing Craigslist for boats.
   He's not going to buy a boat. 
   At least, that's what he tells his wife.
   His browsing is purely recreational.
   Shoe stores?
   The dessert table at the buffet?
   (Hey, it's not like you haven't paid for it. Gotta get your money's worth.)
   Where's your personal Garden of Eden.
   Sure, it's a paradise. 
   But at the heart of every paradise is temptation.
   The Bible I use says this is a story of Creation.
   But maybe the old story's not so much about creation as about we who are created.
   Not explaining how we got this way, 
   (it's not science)
   but stating clearly like a pre-flight safety speech (and you know how well those work), this is how we are and always have been. 
   Temptation is forever near to the heart of every man and woman so open your eyes and gird up your loins. 
   You don't have to look very far for temptation. 
   It'll come to you. 
   It already has.
   Jesus went to the wilderness. 
   After 40 days and 40 nights of not eating, Satan, the devil, the tempter, Beelzebub – he goes by all kinds of names, comes to Jesus and says what I think would be the obvious thing to say to any hungry person,
   "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread."
   After 40 days, even the stones look tasty.
   The temptation of food.
   Then, he says to Jesus,
   "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, 'He will command his angels concerning you,' and 'On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'"
   "I'll hold your drink. Parkour!"
   The temptation of foolishness.
   And then he said to Jesus, 
   "All these [kingdoms of the world] I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me."
   Power, praise and prestige.
   The temptation of fame.
   Food, foolishness, and fame. 
   Those aren't the world's only temptations, but the devil picked them in a pinch. 
   Maybe you've been tempted by all three at once, a temptation trifecta. 
   Makes me think of those restaurants where if you eat the giant burger you get your name on the wall and your meal is free. 
   Food, foolishness, and fame: "Belly Buster" be thy name.
   Jesus never denies he finds these offers tempting. 
   What he resists isn't so much the food, foolishness and fame, but the challenge hidden beneath them. 
   The tempter is smart. 
   He knows Jesus's name and he's pleased to meet him. 
   He knows who Jesus is and begins his tempting by saying, "IF you are the Son of God." 
   "IF you are the Son of God," command these stones to become bread. 
   "IF you are the Son of God," throw yourself off this pinnacle. 
   And if you're *not really* the Son of God, you can have all these nations.
   Sneakily slid under every temptation is the question: Who are you? 
   Who do you think you want to be? 
   Who do you want to like you? 
   How many friends do you want on your page? 
   How many followers do you crave?
   Temptation doesn't come from outside Jesus; 
   it comes from the inside, from his identity, from his sense of purpose, from his faith in who God says he is. 
   Remember what Adam and Eve did when they realized they were in trouble?
   They hid. They hid from God.
   They hid from the trustworthy creation they were intended to be.
   Jesus resists temptation, because he knows who he is.
   He is not his food. 
   He is not his foolishness. 
   And he is not his fame.
   He is the Son of God.
   Who do *you* say that he is?
   Who are you?
   How you answer tells you a lot about how you face temptation. 
   Or how you hide from it. 
   Or lie that it's not there. 
   Or pretend that it's only from outside you and it's someone else's fault. 
   Who are you?
   Are you up to something?
   Or are you wise to the good and the evil at the center of all things good?
   Back in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve realized they were naked, the Bible says they sewed together fig leaves to make loincloths for themselves. 
   People who know plants will tell you this was not wise.
   They're quick to point out that if you're going to sew something to cover your man or lady parts, fig leaves are a very bad choice. 
   Fig leaves are some of the scratchiest, chafing foliage you can find. 
   In the haste to hide their embarrassment, the newly exposed children of God made some very poor choices.
   As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be. 
   People who deny temptation scramble to piece together awkward coverings. 
   When you're up to something, you make poor choices. 
   You leave yourself exposed.
   Someone gets sucked into temptation and they're liable to hear somebody say, "I don't even know who you are anymore." 
   Neither do they.
   God already knows who you are.
   God wants you – wants us – to take off the ridiculous camouflage and to be who we were intended to be.
   Not the products of our own temptation.
   But Children of the Living God, who are up to nothing more than living in and caring for the paradise of this day.