Sunday 24th May

In His Steps – Self Controlled

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21

Today we are carrying on with our series “In his steps”. This week we are looking at self control.

The first song we’ve got it ‘These are the days of Elijah’, which goes through talking about Elijah, then it talks about Moses, then David, and Ezekiel – characters in the Bible and how the represent elements of Jesus, and that’s what we’re looking at – ‘In His steps’, trying to think about what Jesus would do.

Today we’re looking at self control, and when Jesus was tempted he quoted scripture. Obviously that knowledge of God and of how God works through those stories in scripture were really relevant, and that comes out in this song.

Song: These are the days of Elijah

Prayer

Lord we want to thank you that we can gather together in your name and though there’s an awful lot going on in this world that has challenged us in many many ways, in many different aspects of our lives, Lord we pray that we can join together and look to you and recognise that you are the God of time and eternity, and we look at the old testament and see people like Elijah who stood declaring the name of the Lord in amongst the prophets of Baal and stood for you, and Moses as he worked out the righteousness and serving you, and David rebuilt that temple of praise. We want to be a people who can reflect on what you’ve done in the past, and also who can live that through in our lives as well by the power of Jesus in our lives, by the power of the Holy Spirit. So Lord help us as we join together, and help us to be more like Jesus n all that we do and say. Amen.

When we take communion, we use physical emblems (bread and wine) to remember Jesus, as he isn’t physically with us. He isn’t a body that we can touch or speak to face to face, He is with His Father in heaven, but there will be a time when we will see him. That has echoes of what we’re doing now – we can’t be together as a body of God’s people, but there will be a time when we can again, which will be great. There is coming a day when we will see Jesus and we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is.

Song: There is a day

Bible reading: Matthew 4:1-11

Self Control

This week in our series “In his steps” we come to self control, or we could put it another way, resisting temptation. The Oxford learners dictionary describes temptation as “the desire to do or have something that you know is bad or wrong.”

Different things are bad or wrong for different people. Eating a cupcake could be bad if you are trying to lose weight, but if you hadn’t eaten all day, could be good.

So, in our passage today, we find Jesus alone in the wilderness. He has just been baptised and we have heard the voice from heaven saying “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” So Jesus has come from this “high” to spending 40 days on his own fasting and he is hungry. He is now vulnerable to Satan’s tempting.

The first thing Satan hits him with is his need for food. Just turn the stones into bread, then you can eat and solve a basic need, what could be wrong with that? Later on he was to turn water into wine, so altering nature in this way wasn’t wrong.

Jesus’ answer is a quote from Deuteronomy 8:3 “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” This at first doesn’t seem to answer the question, bread has been an important part of the human diet for many thousand years, but not the only part. Jesus is saying here although turning stones into bread hasn’t been forbidden by God it hasn’t been authorised either. The bible doesn’t give us instructions for every part of life which is why we are doing this study into the character of Jesus so that we would know “What would Jesus do”.

So this is where Satan starts trying to use Jesus’ tactics, quoting scripture. He realises it is no good twisting words to cause confusion, as he did with Eve in Genesis 3:1 “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Jesus knew his scripture so Satan quotes Psalm 91:11-12 directly – “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone“. Jesus again uses scripture to answer this time with a command ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’ (Deuteronomy 6:16).

By this time Satan is obviously getting desperate, just bow down and worship me and I will give you all the kingdoms of the world. Imagine, Jesus the son of God, the creator of the world, being offered what is already his. “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only” is Jesus’ reply, again a quote from scripture this time Deuteronomy 6:13.

So what can we learn from this:

One thing we can be sure of is that if we are shown, by Jesus, in the bible how to deal with temptation, then we are going to be tempted. Some people say they have self control and are able to resist temptation. In a 2011 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology it was found that the people who were the best at self-control — the ones who most readily agreed to survey questions like “I am good at resisting temptations” — reported fewer temptations throughout the study period. To put it more simply: The people who said they excel at self-control were hardly using it at all.

Then we have all the self help books, training programmes and life coaches with tips on how to improve our self control. Studies have found that trying to teach people to resist temptation either only has short-term gains or can be an outright failure. “We don’t seem to be all that good at [self-control],” Brian Galla, a psychologist at the University of Pittsburgh, says. “People who are good at self-control … seem to be structuring their lives in a way to avoid having to make a self-control decision in the first place”.

Somebody who sticks to a diet isn’t necessarily very self controlled. They may not have to resist the temptation of eating the cupcake, they may not have to resist the temptation of buying the cupcake. They probably planned to not go past the bakers in the first place.

Self control is a very useful characteristic, as displayed by Jesus, but it would appear to be the case that having to exercise this as little as possible is the best thing. Try to avoid getting into temptation.

We are going to be tempted at times so how can we prepare for this?

  • Know your bible – spend time getting to know the word of God to help us know what is right and what is wrong. Then we can respond in a more Christ like way.
  • Talk to God – tell him about the things you find difficult to resist ask him to help deal with them.

A few things to consider

  • Why do you think Jesus spent 40 days on his own fasting?
  • If it is best to avoid temptation, why did Jesus deliberately open himself up to Satan?
  • What kind of temptations do we face?
  • Are they important – does it matter to myself as an individual, or to a wider group, if I give in to these temptations?
  • How do you feel if you give in to temptation?
  • What do you do about it?

Closing thoughts

Song: Turn your eyes

Prayer

Lord thank you for this time we’ve been able to spend just looking at another characteristic of Jesus, and we just pray that you’ll help us to understand more about Jesus and how He worked and lived His life so that we can be more like Him and follow in His steps. Help us that even though we’re apart, to stay as a group of people and keep in contact with each other and to support, encourage, and help each other through periods where we’re tempted. Amen

This weeks key verse is Mark 1:13.
Next week we will be looking at Patience.