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Luke Study #32 – Temptation #2: “The Wrong Road”

The Gospel Of Luke

Luke 4:5-8 (CEV)

Then the devil led Jesus up to a high place and quickly showed him all the nations on earth. The devil said, “I will give all this power and glory to you. It has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. Just worship me, and you can have it all.”

Jesus answered, “The Scriptures say: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him!’”

Temptation #2 – “The Wrong Road”

We just had one of the biggest doping bans in Olympic history with 30% of Russian able-bodied athletes and 100% of Russian Paralympic athletes banned from participating in Rio.

Have you ever wondered what goes through an athlete’s mind when they decide to participate in doping? Or in a coach’s mind when they decide to help or even coerce their athletes to engage in doping? In the case of Russia, the Wada Report suggests that the doping was state sponsored, which gives some pretty clear motives, such as “money” and “getting to stay on the team”, but what about athletes who do so on their own? Isn’t the point of athletics to push your body to its own limits? Sportsmanship and fair play are the key commitments athletes make as part of their Olympic oaths, and I always thought the point was to see who was actually the fastest, strongest, most able to endure, etc., etc., etc.

Obviously winning is kind of the goal. The winner gets the prize of a medal and an anthem played and the accolades of fans and even sometimes money. Winning at the Olympics is a big thing. And winning isn’t a bad thing – there’s nothing wrong with winning – but sometimes athletes seem to get a bit side tracked. They seem to take the wrong road to their goal. Maybe they see themselves falling off pace a bit from a competitor at a training meet. Maybe there’s pressure to prove that the investment that parents or family are making into their training is “worth it”. Maybe they start to think that they need to win to be “ok” or to prove something to somebody. We don’t often get to know the reasons why people give in to the temptation to engage in athletic doping, but we do know that it kind of wrecks the competition – for them and everyone else. It makes it hard to get excited by new World Records or by incredible athletic feats when you’re not quite sure whether the athlete in question was actually doing it on their own, or whether they were doping. Because even though at the end of the day someone has won a medal, it’s just not the same if they got there by cheating.

Jesus knows that ultimately he’s going to get the glory and the power. He knows that ultimately all nations will bow down to worship him (for example, see Revelation 5:9).

This is the goal – a world that has chosen to surrender its broken ways to God’s intended wholeness for our lives.

This is the goal – this wholeness isn’t just accepted by one nation, or one small group; it’s not just accepted by people who look a certain way, follow a certain religion or vote for a particular party; it’s a wholeness accepted by everyone.

This is the goal – every tribe and language and people and nation joining together in unity before Jesus and saying, “YES! This love that you want to offer us really does set us free to be all we were made to be! Thank you for doing all that needed done so that we could taste and see what freedom looks like, so that our brokenness could be replaced with wholeness and our shame and self-loathing and loneliness replaced with love! This is what we’ve always known we were missing! You are who we were always waiting for! Let your power to change and transform and remake our brokenness run free to change and transform and remake all of us!”

But Jesus knows it won’t work if he cheats the system. He knows that the only way to his goal is through blood, sweat, tears, and – spoiler alert – death. He knows that the cheater option the devil is offering him is laced with the very brokenness that he came to offer escape from, and that however inviting it might seem, if he goes down this path he will live to regret it.

So instead of easy, Jesus chooses hard and right.

Instead of now, Jesus chooses “at the right time”.

Instead of snapping his fingers, Jesus chooses to put one foot in front of the other and do the “next right thing” on the long journey that will take him to his goal.Journal Questions:

  1. Have you ever been tempted to cheat? Maybe something small, maybe something big. A “little white lie” to get you where you want to be? Or heard yourself say, “but it’s for a good cause”?
  2. Sometimes the goals we set are hard work – like running a race or completing a degree. Sometimes the goals we set are really long term – like raising kids or changing the way homeless in your city are treated. What are some of your hard or long term goals?
  3. Jesus is tempted in part because he is weak from hunger and alone. An athlete may be tempted to cheat when coming off an injury, or struggling to maintain their personal best time. What circumstances lead you to feel most tempted?
  4. Take some time to write down one or two of your hardest goals. What does “winning” at this goal look like? What are some of the “short cuts” someone might be tempted to take? What circumstances do you need to guard against to help you get through those temptations?

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