The View From 1776
Sunday, March 02, 2008
The Miracle of Restraint
God, Who can impose whatever He wants upon the cosmos, chooses to give us free will.
Sunday’s sermon at Black Rock-Long Ridge Congregational Church (North Stamford, Connecticut) was preached by Pastor Larry Fullerton, who confessed that sometimes he wishes God were different.
How satisfying it would be if God employed His awesome power to smash Satan and his emissaries of evil. How gratifying if God alleviated all the suffering in the world. How uplifting for the whole world if God simply changed everyone’s spiritual life instantly, making all mankind believers in Jesus Christ.
Clearly Jesus’s ministry on earth satisfied none of these desires. The Jews expected a military messiah who would overthrow the Romans and re-establish David’s earthly kingdom. Even Jesus’s disciples, after living with him every day for four years, expected some sort of earthly kingdom, failing to grasp fully Christ’s Divinity and the nature of His mission until after the crucifixion and resurrection.
What emerges from scripture is the reverse of what people expected of the Messiah. Jesus used, not the powerful rulers or the established religious leaders, but the poor and lowly to demonstrate His power and to convey His message. Even when challenged directly by Satan, Jesus was remarkably restrained.
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’”
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written:
? ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’
Jesus answered, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”