I have a confession to make. I do not own a smart phone. Although I know some day I will have one, I am resisting that purchase for as long as I can, because the idea of paying an extra $30 a month for such a phone – or $60 a month because you know if I get one – Nancy will want one too – is just something that really annoys me. Or is it just me being cheap – I mean – frugal?
Last week when I talked about face time being better than Facebook – some people at first thought I was talking about an app for the Apple line of products called Facetime. Yeah – I had no idea there was an app named Facetime. I was using the phrase face time as the better way of communicating in person with someone instead of using a computer or phone.
So I’m not at all up to date with app technology. And if you’re sitting there scratching your head – wondering “What in the world is app technology?” – it’s short cut talk for application. There are applications or apps that you can buy or download for free – I think I would definitely prefer those that are free – for your smart phone or ipad or any other mobile devices that you can download an app to.
Some estimates say that there are more than 500,000 apps available for your smart phones or whatever kind of mobile device you may have. The purpose of these apps is to make our lives easier. Well, okay. And I understand that there is an app for just about everything you can think of.
Anybody here have a smart phone with them? How many apps on your phone? Got a favorite? (Ask this of several people).
For instance you can point your smart phone up into the night sky, and it will tell you which constellation you’re looking at. Want to read the Buffalo News on your phone? There’s an app for that. For the narcissitic – there’s a mirror app – you know – pull out your phone and you can look at yourself. There’s an app – parents of teenagers listen up – there’s an app that will alert you if your teenaged son or daughter is texting while driving. Now that’s a smart phone! Runners can take keep track of their running – and the route they’ve run – and how far, how fast, at any point along the run. There’s an app that allows you to attack your enemies through a digital voodoo doll called iVoodoo. Yeah, well – there’s an app it seems for just about everything.
And I got to wondering – is there an app to help people overcome bad habits? Perhaps even start good habits. I think you will agree with me that there is a connection between the habits we develop and our quality of life.
I thought about that since our text for today is about the temptations – the three temptations that Jesus faced in the wilderness – and they are not at all unlike the temptations that you and I face. When we talk about temptations, we often think of temptations as something that would lead us – or tempt us – to sin. Or more likely – lead us to develop bad habits.
In other words, is there an app that will help us to resist temptation?
Let’s take a look. Let’s look and see if Jesus can give us a clue. When tempted, Jesus made certain choices – choices that we most certainly can learn from. Choices that can change our lives for the better.
Now – as far as I know – Jesus has not written any apps for our smart phones. But when we turn to the Word – when we read about how Jesus handled the temptations that were thrown at him by Satan – what do we find?
Well, the first thing we find is the “Trust God, not self app.” Trust God, not self. After being in the desert for 40 days we find that Jesus is hungry. Well – he’s not just hungry – he’s famished! Try going 40 days without food. Try going 4 days without food. You’re hungry!
So when the devil says, “If you are the Son of God,” – notice Satan knows who Jesus is – “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” Satan knows how to attack us when we are at our weakest. He knows our weak points.
But Jesus says no. Yes, he could have turned stones into bread, but because he is in the habit of trusting God, he says no. And so he responds to the devil by quoting a line from the book of Deuteronomy, "One does not live by bread alone”. Having food for the belly is not enough. Instead, we are to live by trusting what God says and trusting in what God can do.
“That, of course, is the genius of Alcoholics Anonymous. Members of AA are there for each other in times of temptation. Many times in the middle of the night a member of this group will be called to sit with a buddy and help him fight the cravings that would destroy him. Members of AA also know what it is to rely on God. They know that the key to turning their lives around is admitting their weakness, admitting that they were, are, and always will be powerless over alcohol. But they believe that a Power greater than themselves can restore them to sanity, and so they make a decision – they make a choice – they form a habit – to turn their will and their lives over to the care of God. It’s the “Trust God, Not Self” app.
What we learn from our friends in AA is that when you are tempted – no matter what the temptation is or how difficult the struggle – find a friend that you can call on – and learn what it means to surrender your situation – surrender your entire life – to the love and mercy of God. When we do that – we learn that temptations can be resisted.
So the first app that Jesus shows us is the “Trust God, Not Self” app. And of course the best way to put this app to work is to learn what it means to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
Then there’s another app the “Serve Only God” app. In the second temptation, the devil shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. The devil says, "To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”
Well, yeah, okay. All the kingdoms of the world. How great would that be! But first Jesus must bow down to Satan. Become a servant of Satan. Join the dark side, if you will. But for Jesus, that’s a price too high to pay. Again, Jesus quotes the book of Deuteronomy, and says, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”
Now I suggest that the “Serve Only God” app might be a hard one for us. Because, the world teaches us to look out for number one. How much can I get? What do I need to do to get ahead? Now, ambition is not necessarily a bad thing. But – what this app asks us to do is to put God first. To serve God ahead of ourselves. Jesus chose to focus on serving God, and not bowing down to the devil.
And finally, there’s this app, the “Do Not Put God to the Test” app. In his last temptation – according to Luke – the devil takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem and invites him to throw himself down, trusting the promise found in Psalm 91: “He will command His angels ... and they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone”. You see, even Satan can quote Scripture. But once again Jesus throws Scripture right back at him again, and says, “It is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
You know, if we're honest with ourselves, we know that we’ve all put God to the test. If you’ve ever tried bargaining with God – or made a promise in exchange for a certain kind of help – those are examples of what it means to put God to the test.
“Lord, I know I didn’t study for this test, but if you just let me get an A – or, okay maybe even a B+, I promise I’ll go to church for a whole month.” Seems to me if we can avoid this temptation – the temptation to put God to the test – what we’ll find is a sense of peace, knowing that while God asks us to do what He has gifted us to do – at the same time – we can stand back and watch what it is that only God can do. But to bargain with God, in order to get what you want – probably is not the best thing to do. No, I would say avoid that temptation, if you can. Avoid all of them if you can.
Well – looking at the entire temptation story, we see that all of Jesus' choices enable him to remain close to God. And that’s what you and I want too, am I right? I can tell you it’s what God wants for us.
So just remember, that when it comes to our own temptations to sin, there are apps for that. What are they? The “Trust God” app, the “Serve God” app, and the “Don’t put God to the test” app. These are the apps that Jesus used when he was tempted. May I suggest to you that they can become habits that we can use when we are tempted. If we change our habits, from bad habits to good habits – we can change our lives, do you agree with me?
Too bad there isn’t an app for the smart phone that can help us to live like a Christian. And like so much of the technology that’s out there that I’m not familiar with, if there is such an app, well, I certainly don’t know about it.
Well, now wait. Maybe there is one. It’s called the Bible. The only thing that can help you and me live the way God calls us to live – and to be the kind of people He wants us to be – is found in the Bible.
Now I believe that there is an app for that! Amen