“Who Will You Listen To?”

Mar 5, 2023

The Scripture

Matthew 4: 1-11

4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 

But he answered, “It is written,  ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “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.’ ”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory, and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’ ”

11 Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

The Sermon

During this Lenten Season we are following a general theme titled: Seeking, Seeking honest questions for deeper faith. This worship resource is created by the group Sanctified Arts. We will be looking at scripture through the eyes of people who are seeking something. Each scripture passage will contain a story that will reveal a unique kind of seeking, really a pursuit for understanding, maybe a new way to see God and who God is in one’s life, or maybe who we are as believers of the living God. So each week we will ponder what the biblical characters are seeking. It is the hope that this will lead to each of us asking what am I seeking? It is a new beginning. Do I need to be healed from past wounds? Do I need to experience the fullness of God’s love and acceptance?  For each it will be different. This morning we turn to the gospel of Matthew to the testing of Jesus. Even though this Sunday is the second Sunday in Lent, we are using the passage from last week because it speaks so powerfully to us right here and now in our own church. So bear with me if some things will sound familiar from last week’s service.  Our focus this morning is “Seeking: Who will you listen to?” We will observe Jesus and see how he lives out this question.

Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist and the Spirit of God descended upon him like a dove, God’s very voice expressed acceptance and love. And immediately the Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness…alone and away from the noises and distractions of everyday life. Surely, here the voice of God would be clear. But oh no, the voice of the tempter is ever so present at just the right moments; at the moments when Jesus was thirsty and hungry, when he was figuring out who he was in this relationship with God, when he was offered great power and stature. His body, mind and spirit were all tested here. Who’s voice will he listen to? One voice seems loud, and one voice seems silence or perhaps present in a different way. I’ve been reading this book titled: Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship…..by Dallas Willard. It seems an appropriate book for this morning, doesn’t it?  Listening to God or listening to someone else is at the root of the choices Jesus make here in this passage. Willard says this in his book, “I fear that many people seek to hear God solely as a device for obtaining their own safety, comfort and sense of being righteous.” This seems to match what Jesus is facing; his own safety, his own comfort, and the sense of being righteous. Jesus knew that his relationship with God was at the core. It was not about his safety, comfort or being right. Jesus’ relationship with God was this on-going intimate conversation of learning the will of God and living out this will. Jesus had the very Spirit of God within him to begin this journey in the wilderness; the wilderness where he was tempted to follow the will of his own self. I’m hungry why not turn the stones into bread?  Why not prove how important I am to God if I jump off the cliff? God will save me. Or maybe I should bow down to Satan? Look what power I will have! The tempter just brought forth what the will of the self was.

The question before us this morning is how do we learn to listen to God and live out God’s will in our own life? This seems hard, doesn’t it? I think that just maybe we get in the way of really listening. Willard writes, “God is not trying to play hide and seek with us. God is not a mumbling trickster, making it as hard as possible for us to know what God’s up to. But the fact remains that we shouldn’t expect to hear anything from God if we have already decided that we’re not going to do what God tells us. Receiving guidance is not about deciding whether God’s advice is good advice.” And on the other hand, how often to do seek the advice of a close friend? Seeking advice knowing that they already believe what we believe, or they will say what we want to hear? That is not the kind of listening that will lead to knowing and following the will of God. Willard challenges us when he talks about the need for a conversational relationship with God. He says, “Our failure to hear God has its deepest roots in a failure to understand, accept and grow into a conversational relationship with God, the sort of relationship suited to friends who are mature personalities in a shared enterprise, no matter how different they may be in other respects.” I like that idea of a shared enterprise between God and each of us, an enterprise of learning to follow the will of God! Jesus teaches us it’s not about what we want, or what serves our own self-interest, rather it is about what best serves God.

Who will we listen to? We are to listen to God and through the many ways that God speaks to us. Sometimes it is in the quiet of the night when answers come, or maybe through a trusted friend who will speak the truth and not just what you want to hear or maybe through scripture when you read just the right verse that captures the words that tell you God is in this.

God speaks to us in many ways! I want to end with something Willard said that says it all, “It is very important to remember and to always keep before your mind this fact: You are an unceasing spiritual being, created for an intimate and transforming friendship with the creative Community that is the Trinity. Learning to hear God is much more about becoming comfortable in a continuing conversation and learning to constantly lean on the goodness and love of God.” Amen