A Story About Conquering Evil
Pastor Duane Smets
March 19th, 2017
I. Paradise Lost
II. Paradise Won
III. Paradise People
Well, this year we as a church are walking through the book of Luke in the Bible and his story about Jesus. We’re just over six weeks in and today we are finishing up Luke’s introduction to his story. So far we’ve heard about why Luke wrote this book, the events surrounding Jesus’ birth and childhood, Jesus’ baptism as His preparation for His ministry and then last week, Jesus’ family tree.
What we’ve got for today is the final thing that happens in Jesus’ life before He goes to work starting His preaching, teaching and healing ministry. And what we have really is a story that ties itself to the first main story of the Bible, which really kicks off the whole narrative of God and His people through the pages of Scripture.
Before we get into that I want us to first think for a bit about the nature of story itself. More and more studies are coming out not only about the power of story but how all of our brains universally interact and respond to story regardless of our race, culture or language.
Just last week, at the South By Southwest conference and festival in Austin, Texas a talk was given by two experts titled “This Is Your Brain On Story: Neuroscience and the Moth.” It was based on a recent Cal Berkeley study where they mapped the brain and watched how different parts of the brain responded while the individual listened to and engaged a story.
Pretty incredible. It seems that regardless of who we are and what are background is, each one of us as human beings are very similar in the way that we connect to and respond to story.
It’s becoming very clear that we are essentially a story formed people. In fact, it’s one of the things which makes us different than every other species. Animals do not tell stories. Only human beings do.
In short, we can’t help but think about stories. How we see ourselves and the world around us is shaped by story. There’s the story of our own individual lives that we are trying to make sense of and are developing. Then we draw from various religious, philosophical, and cultural currents to help us with our story.
The German philosopher’s used to call it “weltanschauung” which means worldview. We have and develop a view of the world. It’s what every religion, every philosophy, every book, every TV show, every movie has latent within it…a certain point of view about the world and the way it is and the way we are.
So for example, have you guys seen the Trolls movie yet? It’s a great story. My kids saw it in the theater and now we bought the DVD. I think the other day they said they’ve seen it now for the 14th time. So if you haven’t seen it, you’re behind the times and I don’t feel bad, I’m gonna spoil it for you.
The story of the Trolls movie is that once upon a time there was a tree that bunch of little trolls lived in, in the center of Burgen town. The trolls are these little, very colorful creatures who are happy all the time singing and dancing. The burgens, in contrast, are grey, grumpy, much larger creatures who believe the only way they can be happy is by eating a troll once a year.
Obviously, the trolls aren’t too stoked on this so the king of the trolls creates tunnels below the tree and helps the trolls escape to this other place so they won’t ever get eaten again. The problem is eventually the burgens find them and capture them. Well, almost all of them.
The king’s daughter escapes and she goes to Burgen town on a quest to save her family and she ends up doing so by starting with one burgen, showing her love and teaching her that…and here’s the message of the troll movie…that “happiness is inside you.” So you don’t have to eat a troll, put something in your body, or need some other thing in your life to make you happy. Happiness simply is inside you to discover.
You see, the Trolls movie is a great story and it’s great fun. But it has a very clear and distinct message: happiness is inside you, so just look inside and then all the problems and evils of the world will go away.
With that, let’s read our story from the Bible today and what it offers us as the solution to the happiness we all long for and were created for. Why don’t you stand with me in honor of the Bible being the word of God, penned by Dr. Luke.
And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself own from here, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. – Luke 4:1-15
• Pastoral Declaration: This is the Word of the Lord.
• Congregational Response: Thanks Be To God.
• Pastoral Prayer
Alright. Well, it may not look like it but what looks like a story about Jesus and the devil really a story about paradise.
This week during the staff meeting I asked for some input as preparing for today and I asked them what they thought of evil, what connotations and associations they had with the idea and concept of evil? Last year, when we were in Psalm 23 I did a whole sermon on evil and the devil and so I was looking for something fresh and a new way to approach it.
What they said was interesting. One person there said we don’t talk about evil much these days. That evil is more of a fantasy idea, like what’s found in movies and shows about magic or horror flicks. Instead, they said, we most often just use a broader generalization about people or situations saying they’re “good” or “bad.” But the idea of “evil” really ups the ante and another person said, the idea of evil almost really demands a story.
I found that very interesting and very exciting because that was the same conclusion my study had been leading to from our text for today. That today’s story really is a story about paradise. So I’ve got three points to help us see that and the one take-home line for today is this, “We are meant for more.”
That and the paradise thing are kind of mysteries right now, but I think you’ll see it soon. Here are our three paradise points: “Paradise Lost”, “Paradise Won” & “Paradise People.”
I. Paradise Lost
Let’s jump into our first point, “Paradise Lost.”
So far in the book of Luke about Jesus, Luke has referred to Jesus in various ways as “son” eight different times. It’ll really become a theme for Luke throughout the book, that Jesus is a “son.” The question is what kind of son is He?
His story began with angels telling the virgin Mary would give birth to a “son” and that this “son” would be the “son of God.”
When Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan river, the voice of God the Father spoke from heaven saying Jesus was His, “beloved Son.”
Then last week we went through Jesus’ family tree, His genealogy which starts with him as human son, and traces his bloodline all the way back to the first son God ever created, the first man, Adam.
Luke’s story about Jesus is one that shows Jesus to be full and real human being, a real human son. But at the same time so much more. He’s also a divine son, the son of God.
And this is is the center and subject of each of Jesus’ interactions with the devil in our story today. The question is whether or not Jesus is really the son of God?
Chapter three ends by calling attention to Adam and the kind of son he was. By doing that…Luke calls our attention the whole story of Adam in the garden called, “Eden”. What goes down there gets described by John Milton in one of the most famous poems ever written as, “Paradise Lost.”
The story says there was a beautiful garden, full of life, love, food, friendship, animals, peace, and joy. God created a man and then a woman and performed the first marriage ceremony. Then he gave the man work to do, to love Him, love His wife and to build a garden city. And things were good. For awhile.
The man and the woman have a good relationship. They also have a good relationship with God who walks with them as a friend in the garden. The Bible says, they were in that state and felt no shame.
But then, the devil in the form of a talking snake shows up and tempts Adam and Eve and he does this by shaming them, causing them to doubt the way they saw themselves and saw God, the devil suggests a different narrative, a twisted story.
I’ve been reading this great book this week by a guy named Curt Thompson. He’s not only a medical doctor who’s done a lot of research on the neurology of the brain but he’s also a Christian counselor. He first wrote Anatomy of the Soul and this is his most recent book titled The Soul of Shame. One section really struck me this week. Here’s what he says in talking about what happened in the garden:
“The voice of evil has a very different intention than God does. Its intention is to twist and sully the story of joy and creativity that God created the man and woman for.
The devil engages in a conversation that introduces the possibility for doubt to enter the man and woman’s mental framework. Doubt not only about God but also about their recollection of history and by extension - and more importantly - doubt about the nature of her relationship with God. As Michael Polyani has pointed out, in order for us to doubt anything, at the moment we do we simultaneously put our trust in something else. We are invariably made for faith, to operate out of a need to trust something we cannot control.
In stating flatly that the man and the woman will not die and will be like God, the serpent offers a new rendition of the truth. The implication is that God does not want you to be like him. God does not want you to have what he has. He does not want you to be as close and connected to him as you might think he does. And by further implication, therefore, you are not as important as you think. You, as it turns out, are less than you think. You. Are. Not. Enough.”
Sadly, as the story goes, Adam and Eve gave into the shame from the snake, doubting God and rejecting Him and right away, the moment the give into it…the feel the consequences deep in their soul. They feel shame and guilt deep down and hide from God in the bushes.
God shows up and offers them two things. Both justice and grace. God would be corrupt not to follow through on the natural consequence of rejecting Him and disobeying His word. But He grants them grace. Making coverings for them as a sign that one day He would fully cover the sin and guilt of mankind and He promises that one day, through their seed a special Son will be born who will crush the snake and do that.
There are varying consequences for the man and the woman. But one natural consequence they both share is that they are no longer fit to live in the paradise garden, so God sends them out into the wilderness and bars the gate to the garden with two angels holding flaming swords.
So. Back to our story in the book of Luke. Chapter three chronicles Jesus’ heritage through 77 different sons ending by saying,
“…the son of Adam, the son of God.” Then chapter four starts up saying, “And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil.”
Do you see the connection? The climax of Adam’s story pretty much ends with him being sent into the wilderness. As a result, we’ve all been there ever since.
So what is Jesus first action as a marker at the beginning of His ministry? As the true Son of God, Jesus goes into the wilderness to do battle with the snake in order to win back what Adam, the first son lost.
You see, our story today is a story about paradise, about what was lost there and what Jesus came to do about it. And the funny thing is, is that the story of paradise really is a story about our lives…it’s one we’ve all repeated and all experienced. In each of our stories, we’ve all given into doubt and shame and have lost something because of it.
What’s that for you? What has been lost in your life? What things have really been your deepest desires and joy that have somehow been crushed and stolen away because of the Satan’s evil work in the world and in our hearts? What has been lost to make you think you are not enough and that God isn’t interested in you?
Whatever those things are today, what I want you to hear and know is that God sent His Son Jesus to win back was lost. There is healing and wholeness to be found through Jesus and what He did. We are meant for more. We are meant for more.
Jesus came to do battle with the devil in order to succeed where all of us since Adam and Eve have failed. Jesus came to bring us out of the desert and to bring us home to God. We are meant for more. We’re meant for a life of love and joy and peace with God as our friend and caring Father. Let me say that again, “We are meant for a life of love and joy and peace with God as our friend and caring Father.” And Jesus can give it to us.
Well, let’s transition into our next point, “Paradise Won” to look into how Jesus won back what was lost.
II. Paradise Won
With this point what I want to do is walk through each of three temptations Jesus undergoes and successfully resists the devil. There’s three sequences, three encounters with the devil where he attempts to get Jesus to feel shame, doubt His identity and to fall into the same trap that Adam did.
In short, Jesus as the divine Son of God had all power of God at His fingertips, but Jesus refused to use it for His own personal human needs. Throughout Jesus life and ministry we’re going to see Him in the book of Luke perform many supernatural miracles for the benefit of others. But He never, ever uses His power and privilege for His own human needs because He came to be the perfect man for us to win back paradise for us.
So let’s check out Jesus three direct encounters with the devil.
First, we’ve got the devil suggesting Jesus turn the stones to bread thing. Jesus is out in the wilderness for 40 days, which is kind of a special Bible number. It’s how many days Moses fasted on the mountain when God gave Him the 10 commandments and it’s how many years Israel wandered in the desert until God brought them into the “promised land.” It’s also about as long as you can go without food.
You guys ever fasted? I mean like real fasted, not just like dieting. I can barely go a few hours without food. Fasting is gnarly. I did five days once. Experts say after the first week goes by a sort of hunger-less feeling overtakes you but then once you hit a month then a gnawing deep hunger overwhelms the body’s nervous system, saying “I must eat food!”
Notice, the way the devil phrases things. Verse three he says, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” “If you are…” The devil always twists the truth. Jesus is the Son of God, but as the Son of God is like God who is always pouring Himself out in the service of others. Jesus says in Mark 10:45, “the Son came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Jesus is a servant. He did not come to serve himself.
In resisting the devil, in each case, Jesus uses a source and means that is available to all of us, God’s Word. Each time Jesus quotes Scripture. That’s one reason why it’s important for Christians to read and memorize passages of the Bible. So that you can call them to mind when needed.
In the garden, the snake starts his attack with the words, “Did God really say…” In response Adam is quiet. He should have directly quoted what God said, instead He doubts and questions the word of God.
Jesus here goes the opposite route and essentially communicates His trust and care in His Father’s provision. God’s Spirit led Him there and Jesus trusts that God will provide for Him. Ever get scared about money and whether not God really cares and will provide? I’ve been dealing with that a bit lately. We’ve all failed like Adam in that one haven’t we? Whether God knows or care about our situation?
Jesus’ words on the bread are not only a fitting response but the Scripture He uses drives at the deep truth and reality of who we are as human beings. Yes, we need money for food and water to survive, but it’s not food and water that really define us, it’s our inner spiritual life. It’s the story of who we are and the life we are living and whether or not we are living one where we follow God and trust Him and His Word.
Next up is the devil’s attempt to get Jesus to divert His loyalty to God the Father. He offers Jesus worldly glory. Which I imagine was tough for Jesus. For all of eternity, Jesus and the eternal divine Son of God was used to the glories of heaven and the angel's song and service and then He is born to a poor family, just looks and seems like any other man and no one knows He’s really the one and only divine Son of God!
The devil’s temptation here once again is the same thing he tempted Adam and Eve with, to be like God receiving the praise and glory only God truly deserves. The ironic thing is Jesus actually deserved it but His role and mission on earth was to be the perfect man, to win back what was lost and to save mankind.
So in response, once again Jesus quotes Scripture, this time quoting a piece right out of the 10 commandments saying only God is truly worthy of worship and glory. Which like the bread piece also drives at something deep in our souls.
We really are not designed to receive glory. All the great artists steal as Pablo Picasso said. None of us are truly original. Everything good any person has ever done has done so because they were created in the image of a truly good, wonderful and creative God.
And the truth is reflecting Him feels a whole lot better than receiving praise from people, because deep down we know it isn’t true. Yet we so easily attempt to build our own kingdoms, seeking money, success and stature instead of seeking to build God’s and bring attention to His greatness. Do you ever wish that you were wealthy and powerful and that people thought you were great? We’ve all failed like Adam in that one haven’t we?
The ironic thing once again is that Jesus was fully God, so He deserved to be worshiped. Yet He came to be the perfect man and to show that one of the reasons God really is God is because He does not have some petty need to be praised. He really is just that good and worthy of it.
That brings us to the third temptation where the devil attempts to get Jesus to force the Father’s hand, to make Him act in a certain way. Once again the devil uses that line, “If you are the Son of God…” and suggest Jesus throw Himself off the temple pinnacle, about 450 feet, about 41 stories high and then have angels catch him.
As with the other two temptations, doing so would have been Jesus prerogative as the divine Son of God. Later on when Jesus is arrested to be crucified one of the disciples resists and Jesus tells him to put away his sword because if Jesus wanted to He could call down 12 legions of angels to fight for Him.
But one of the things we’ll see consistently in Jesus’ life is that He is always obedient to the Father and keeps in step with His Spirit. Jesus says in John 5:19 “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing.”
So in response, once again Jesus quotes Scripture saying, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” Ever done that? Made deals with God? Trying to force His hand and make Him act in some way we want or think would be better. “If you just do this God, then I’ll do this.” Yeah, we’ve all failed like Adam in that one too haven’t we? Doubting God will really follow through on His Word and so we make other deals.
But Jesus always did the will of the Father. Never sinning. Always trusting. He succeeds where all of us since Adam have failed. It’s one of the most remarkable things about Jesus.
Mark 7:37 says that people “Were astonished beyond measure [at Jesus], saying, “He has done all things well.”
1 Peter 2:22 in the Bible says, “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.”
And even Pilate right before He allowed Jesus to be crucified said, “What evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt [in Him] (Luke 23:22).”
You see, Jesus truly was and is the sinless Son of God. He always resisted the devil. Not just these three time but throughout His entire life. Jesus did what you and I were not able to do. And He did it to undo what Adam did so that we might all go back to the garden one day.
The devil attempted to shame Jesus, telling Him that the Father didn’t really love Him because He wasn’t supposed to use His divine power for Himself but only to save others. But Jesus knew that was a lie. He trusted God’s Word, resisted the devil and after three failed attempt the devil gave up and peaced out.
There’s good practical lessons for us in this sequence of trusting God’s Spirit to be with us and guide us and to read God’s word, memorize it, quote it and to resist the temptations of the devil that we all experience in life. We all do.
1 Corinthians 10:13 says this,
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
There are good practical lessons here we can follow Jesus example in.
But I think the bigger lessons are what Jesus teaches us here about the love of the Father.
In the bread sequence He teaches us that God promises to always provide, so we don’t have to worry and take things into our hands.
In the kingdoms sequence, Jesus teaches us that God is truly glorious and it far better to give Him glory than to live for our own.
And in the angel's sequence, Jesus teaches us that God has a plan and always does all things well, so we don’t have to try to manipulate God into acting right.
In each scene what we see is that we’re meant for more. We’re meant for more than we give ourselves credit for. We settle for so much less. So much less than what is given to us through being in the loving and caring hands of our good heavenly Father.
May God help us to believe we are meant for more than the evils of the world offers us and that that more is found in being in relationship with God.
Well, we’ve got one last point for today, “Paradise People.” So let’s get into to that and then sing a little more eh?
III. Paradise People
With this last point, I want to take just a couple minutes to look at the last two verses of our passage for today, verses 14-15. So here they are again.
Luke 4:14-15 says, “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.”
In the scheme of the book of Luke, these two sentences function both as summary and transition. It’s the Spirit who led Jesus into the wilderness to conquer the devil and it’s that same Spirit now that leads Jesus out into His teaching, preaching and healing ministry to people.
Later on, after Jesus dies and rises from the dead and has His disciples start a bunch of churches they are constantly telling people about how good Jesus is and what He accomplished. On one occasion Peter, one of Jesus’ original disciples is preaching and he says this about Jesus’ ministry…
Acts 10:38 “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”
When Jesus resisted the devil in the wilderness it was an epoch-changing moment. For hundreds of years, the devil’s scheme and plot had been winning and working amongst the children of Adam. But when Jesus confronted the devil and resisted Him it broke that chain and released the powers of the new and better age to come.
From that point on and as we’ll see in the coming weeks, what Jesus says and does is all the outworking results of the devil’s power being broken and the power of God’s Spirit being released. And what people gain from that is a taste of the garden paradise to come for those who believe.
To those who hear Jesus’ words and believe and follow Him, Jesus says they receive the reward, promise, and gift of eternal life in heaven, the kingdom of God, the garden city paradise. It’s really the whole goal of Jesus life, to gather a people who will follow Him back to the garden, where they will live, work and play in the joy and light of God’s Son.
The Bible says all who believe, receive and follow get their names written in God’s book, the Lamb’s Book of Life and in the very last two chapters of the very last book it gives us some pictures of what life is like there in the garden city. Here are a few snapshots.
“I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:1-4
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.” – Revelation 22:1-3
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” – Revelation 22:16-17
There is no price to pay for paradise. Jesus lived the perfect life for us, resisting the devil and then ultimately defeating the devil on the cross when He offered up the payment of that perfect life to God, in order to buy us back, allowing us entrance into this garden city. Jesus paid the price for us so that we could be a paradise people.
To us today, Jesus says come. Come be healed from the damaging works of the devil. Come be freed from the oppression of sin and shame. Come and know the love of the Father which is greater than we could ever imagine. Come and receive the gift and promise of paradise.
That is what is ours through Jesus who came to save us. We are meant for more. We are meant for paradise. How do you need the prince of paradise to minister to you today?
Today, where do you need healing? What’s been broken by your fall and the fall of Adam passed on to us?
Today, where do you need freedom? Where have you felt the bonds and constraints of shame and darkness in your life?
Today, where do you need God’s love? Where have you felt like you are not enough and that He doesn’t want you?
Through Jesus God’s arms are wide open to us. He’s a good God. He loves you. He loves His people and promises to transform our stories and to restore us.
Paradise was lost. But Jesus won it back. And through Him we can become a paradise people.
We started out today talking about our stories and how significant they are to us as human beings. Where we end today is seeing that our story is part of a much bigger story…the story of God and His people and what Jesus has done to conquer evil so that we might know God and His love.
In the beginning of the sermon, I told you about the Trolls movie. In that movie, the Burgens find out from a hero princess named Poppy that they don’t need some other thing in their lives to make them happy, like eating a troll but instead that happiness is inside them in accepting who they are.
That’s close but not quite right. In the story of Jesus, we have a hero who is the prince of heaven, but He doesn’t come and just tell us happiness is inside us. He comes and gives His life for us, to pay the price for all the unhappiness brought about by sin and the devil.
Jesus is the true and better Poppy, who was willing not just to risk His life to save His people but to actually confront the source of evil and then actually give away His life so that we might know the happiness of God and receive the gift of heaven.
When Jesus was dying on the cross one of the two convicted thieves was overcome with the magnitude of who Jesus was and what He was doing. He said to the other thief that they were guilty but this man Jesus had done nothing wrong!
And then He turned to Jesus, with what I imagine were tears in his eyes and said, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Then Jesus turned to the thief, with what I imagine was the most loving and comforting eyes you ever look on and with a smile on His face and said, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”