Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes for Sunday Message; Face2Faith with the Devil; 11-August-2013

Reading:  Romans 12:9-21 ; Matthew 4:1-11 ; Luke 4:1-13

You can read these Scriptures here: NIV2010  //  CEB

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I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black;

It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back;

They buried my body and they thought I’d gone,

But I am the dance and I still go on.

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I do not know of any culture on Earth that does not have a concept or understanding of evil. Once we start digging deeper, however, we discover that those beliefs vary greatly from culture to culture.

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Our Jewish sisters and brothers have very different understanding of the Devil than our Christian sisters and brothers. Those differences stem from the Scriptures themselves. The reality is that there is not much about the Devil in the Hebrew Bible.

In the story of the Fall of Man found in Genesis 3, the animal that had the ability to talk convinced Adam and Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge. As punishment, God took its legs away and made it “crawl” / slither on the ground.

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Genesis 3:14-15 NIV2010

14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.

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In the Book of Job, the Aramaic word used to describe the Devil is “Ha Satan,” which came to the English language as “The Devil” (“THE” is important) and the connotation is “the accuser,” someone who tests us to see whether we are righteous or not.

{Illustration from my personal practice of ministry }

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During the 400 hundred years between testaments, a religion known as Zoroastrism rose to the East and North of the Holy Land. Zoroastrians were concerned with abstract, philosophical and existential concepts of life like what is evil, how the world is made and why we are here. They were also avid star gazers. Among other things, they did a lot of thinking about what is good and what is evil. That is why I think that the Wise Men that showed up to worship the young Messiah (Matthew 2:1-12) were Zoroastrian Priests from modern day Persia and Azerbaijan. They were intensely interested in all things existential, in all things philosophical and all things abstract. (BTW: The Persian word for Satan is “Shaitan”.)

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It was the Zoroastrians who flushed out and crystalized the concept of evil and the Devil. By the times that the Early Christian Writings were written, the word “Diabolos” was used for the Devil and the Devil was a poster boy for everything that was evil in the world.

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Many people, when they hear and read about the Devil tempting Jesus in the wilderness, they imagine a physical creature wearing red lycra tights, a red t-shirt, lots of rouge, and that has horns like a cow.

A Devil like that is easy to resist. When a devil like that suggests that I do something, a bell goes off in my head, “this dude who looks like ‘DIABOLOS,’ whatever he suggests is not a good idea… Walk away….”

When Jesus was tempted by the Devil, I think that he was tormented by the knowledge of what His mission was and what he had to do. I think that Jesus was tempted by thoughts like, “maybe I can accomplish my mission differently, maybe I do not have to die for Asher…”

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And that is how the Devil tempts you and I. Nobody that I know wakes up in the morning and says with joyful glee on their face, “Today I will do something terrible that will cause pain and suffering to my friends and neighbors…” Nobody in their right mind would do that. Yet it happens all the time… There is road rage, there are murders, and bitter words are exchanged every day. Our jails are filled above capacity.

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The reality is that all of us are capable of doing good and doing evil. That is the reality and the duality of our lives because we live in a fallen world. Evil is all around us and it is entangled in the fabric of our existence. That is why Jesus had to die on the Cross. That is why we are waiting for and placing our hope on that glorious day when Jesus comes back and makes things right again.

{Click Here to read the sermon about the Fallen World and Original Sin}

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Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn (11 December 1918 – 3 August 2008), a Russian novelist said it best when he wrote:

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“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

That sums it up very well, and helps to explain why evil actions and terrible crimes happen every day. It is not easy, nor is it comfortable, to welcome God into our hearts, allowing God to chip at pieces of our psyche and consciousness to expose our own shortcomings.

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Because of that, Jesus established the Sacrament of Baptism. The Sacrament of Baptism was given to you and me so that we could acknowledge the duality of our human nature; so that we can acknowledge that we are capable of creating atrocities and terror as well as creating beauty and harmony. In the Sacrament of Baptism we make a promise that we will strive to expose our own shortcomings. In the Sacrament of Baptism we make a promise that the community of faith that we are a part of will nurture the person being baptized. In the Sacrament of Baptism we promise God that we will welcome God’s guidance and accept a covenant with God. The Sacrament of Baptism brings hope to you and me because it acknowledges that we can choose God.

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Romans 12:9: “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”

Romans 12: “17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

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It is much easier than many of us would like for the Devil to tempt us. The Devil often tempts you and me by coming to us in a form that we like and enjoy. He always does his homework well. The Devil looks attractive, smells good, talks well and the Devil’s logic is almost impeccable. The Devil is fun; this fall there is a class in WC-ALL titled, “The Devil is a Hell of a Guy!” That is why it is easy for us to succumb to the Devils ploys and that is why all of us need the blood of Jesus and the grace of God.

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That is why Paul wrote in Romans 3:10-18,

10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalms 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Eccles. 7:20).

13 “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit” (Psalm 5:9). “The poison of vipers is on their lips” (Psalm 140:3).

14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness” (Psalm 10:7).

15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 ruin and misery mark their ways, 17 and the way of peace they do not know” (Isaiah 59:7,8).

18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Psalm 36:1).

Here is a link to the Scripture references that Paul used in Romans 3 – CLICK HERE.

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Because of all this, Jesus established the Sacrament of the Holy Communion. The Sacrament of the Holy Communion reminds us that we live in a fallen world and that God is faithful. The Sacrament of the Holy Communion reminds us that we make mistakes and that God loves us in spite of our mistakes. The Sacrament of the Holy Communion brings us hope because it reminds us that we cannot change our past but we can build a better tomorrow and that tomorrow depends on what we do today.

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Romans 12: “10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

{If you want to read a sermon about the Sacraments, CLICK HERE}

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There is a story of an old Cherokee man telling his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, there is a fight going inside all of us. It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One wolf is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other wolf is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. That fight never stops.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

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2 responses to “Approximate Notes for Sunday Message; Face2Faith with the Devil; 11-August-2013

  1. Pingback: Approximate Notes for Sunday Message; 22-September-2013 | Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

  2. Pingback: Approximate Notes for Sunday Message; 22-September-2013 | Christ United Methodist Church in Chestertown, MD

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