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Ben Fleming: How Jesus Saves the World, Matthew 4:1-11

September 12, 2022

Audio Recording

Jesus is tempted in the desert with safety, influence and political power; or, the most common desires of the world. Over the last generation or so, the evangelical church has been more adept at endorsing these dominant desires and is in need of recovering its true form and beauty.

Beauty Will Save The World
Ben Fleming: How Jesus Saves the World, Matthew 4:1-11

Sermon Transcript:

:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside church in bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us.

00:06 I'm Ben Fleming, one of the senior pastors here. Welcome to those of you are online. We're excited to all be together today. happy fall. I, I know it's not technically fall. I'm just gonna call it that. so I wore wool today on a 90 degree day. just makes all the sense in the world. It's, it's fun. It's fun. It's a fun time in the church life. We all kind of come back together, get into the rhythm. along with that, actually, if you wanna volunteer in kids, that would be awesome. Cause a lot of you guys have kids, you know what I'm saying? And fours and fives, west side, We'll see you there. Okay. but it's, it's an exciting time of year, right? Football's back for a lot of you, which by the way, checking your fantasy team is highly recommended during my sermon.

00:49 No judgment. you're welcome to do it. I need you to know that I'm cheering for specific players too though. So don't dance on my grave if I'm doing poorly, school's back in all that kind of stuff. My wife and I said, this is the greatest summer we've ever had. It also almost killed us. And we set the kids off, set sail at school and I was, weeping tears of joy. And my wife was weeping, a different kind of tears, cuz she's a better human than I am. And it's fun. It's summer is great. I don't love the heat, but I am reminded every single time during this year that the beauty that we exist in all the time in central Oregon, central Oregon is one of the most beautiful places in the entire world. And one of the reasons or one of the places that I particularly love that I guess isn't exactly central Oregon, but it's a place that I think we all have had experience with to some degree and that's crater lake.

01:45 Every time I go to crater lake, no matter how many times I've been there, seen it on TV, seen paintings of it, pictures, whatever the moment you stand on the edge of the crater and you look out, it is literally breathtaking every single time. It's a wonder. And I, I remember the first few times I went there just being curious about exactly how all this happened. And then one time I took a guy who wanted to go scuba diving on his birthday. I hugged, I, I took all of his gear down to the, the surface so that he could jump in. He could scuba dive a couple times and he was talking about the depths of the water and the things that he was discovering that he's never seen in any other kind of lake. And, there's a beauty in where we live and really outside of just the scenery, right?

02:30 There's a beauty to this life that sometimes can be forgotten. And we are in the middle of a sermon series right now. That's called beauty will save the world and which we're trying to challenge ourselves and ask each other here in community. What would it look like if we stopped and considered maybe not quite so much the arguments that we're having and exactly this right and wrong, those are worthy discussions. Absolutely. But what if even just for a couple weeks we asked ourselves what is beautiful because we believe that when we find beauty in this world, that it's a glimpse into the heart and the existence of God. I wonder if we can't be inspired and understand our faith better through the beauty that exists around us. Well, one of the reasons CRA a lake is so beautiful and wonderful is that there are part conservationists.

03:19 There there's people who dedicate their lives and they even live out there for certain periods of time to ensure what that, cradle lake gets developed properly. And they add the right sky rises and the right infrastructure. Now that's not it they're there to actually make sure as best they can. That crater lake looks the same now as it does 10 years from now, 50 years from now and hundreds of years before so that our kids and our grandkids and everybody that comes beyond us can have a similar experience to what we had when it comes to viewing crater lake. And it's not that different from actually art conservationists and what art art conservationists do. They take old works of art that have sometimes been hidden away in addicts or in possession of people that have mistreated them. And they try to restore the artwork, what to make it better and newer, no, to actually bring it back to its original form because that's where the most beauty and value is.

04:13 And I'll show you, what this picture that we're gonna put up on the board here. This is from the VC reporter. It says take the case of the lost princess featured in traces, revealing secrets in art and history on exhibit are two images, one of an unremarkable painting of a woman and the other of an extremely valuable portrait that was actually hiding beneath it. So what happened was people found this painting that was on the left and they were about to discard it saying, this is a copy. It's just weird. Something is not right about it. Doesn't fit all of the Victorian era art that is valuable and that we're looking for, but an art conservation has got ahold of it and began to slowly clean and peel back the layers of the original work. And they discovered not only was just the overall look of it different. They got the dust off of it, but there's images that exist in the real original painting that are completely different. The facial complexion is different. The hair is done slightly differently. She's holding and urn that she's not in this other one. It really all that that gave the conservation is a clue that this might be a real original painting was that the dress was spot on, but somebody along the way they discovered made the edits so that the woman in the painting would more truly reflect the idyllic woman in Victorian era.

05:33 So they made their own adjustments and the people that owned it after thought that this is what the painting looked like, but there was something more true and beautiful beneath it. Instead, I wonder if for many of us you've been handed of faith or you've participated in a faith or a way of looking at Jesus or the world around you that you don't even know has actually been edited and painted over to hide the true, valuable truth of the Christian faith beneath it. Cuz really what this is. We're not talking about, somebody just kind of making a few adjustments. If we look at it truly at its core, this is a kind of vandalism to paint over. The beautiful thing that it was meant to be beneath is to vandalize the author's true purpose. The artist's true purpose distortion happens in this case and actually something similar happens to Jesus or is attempted to happen to Jesus very early in his time of ministry.

06:37 So Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist and there's this moment that happens where the voice of God is spoke and says, this is my beloved son, listen to him. And it's this entire incredible thing revealing the identity of exactly who Jesus is to the world around, but also to Jesus. And I don't believe that it's any mistake that almost immediately after Jesus is led into the, by the spirit, into the wilderness. And there he is actually tempted by the devil. So it says in Matthew chapter four and verse one, it says then Jesus was led by the spirit, into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil for 40 days and 40 nights, he fasted and became very hungry. During that time, the devil came and said to him, if you are a son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread, but Jesus told him no, the scriptures say people do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

07:29 And then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem to the highest point of the temple and said, if you are the son of God, jump off for the scriptures, say he will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands. So you won't even hurt your foot against the stone. And Jesus responded. The scriptures also say, you must not test the Lord. Your God. Next. The devil took him to a peak of a very high mountain. Tries again, showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their glory said, I will give them to you. If you will kneel down and worship me, get out of your Satan. Jesus told him for the scriptures, say, you must worship the Lord, your God and serve only him and the devil went away and the angels came and took care of Jesus.

08:10 Jesus is tempted by the devil in a way that I believe that we are often tempted today. He's tempted with what I'm just gonna call practice PR pragmatism, really this practical, a plus B equals C in Jesus. If you just get into the right position at the right time and the entire world will go ahead and be taken care of and your desire to save the world will be accomplished without the sacrifice that you know is coming at the end of your life. And he begins with his practical and physical body. He begins to push against the limitations of Jesus' human form in order to tempt him to do something that is outside of the identity that God has just recently put on him at his baptism. But Jesus remembers his baptism remembers who he is as a child of God. And he pushes back against the temptation saying that my physical body cannot be distorted, manipulated edited in order to, for you to succeed in your desires.

09:14 The second thing he tempts him with is, is this idea of, well, you don't actually know if you're a son of God. So you might as well test this thing out, throw yourself off a building and then you'll be saved. And Jesus resists that one. He challenges his identity. I believe that one of the greatest ways that Satan comes and tries to challenge each and every single one of us is in the form of our identity. That we can even just hear who we are from the very voice of God. And we can be tempted the next day to forget who we are and be embrace a different way of living. I want you to understand and be comforted in the fact today that you are a child of God. And as the apostle Paul said that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. And if you found yourself on this rollercoaster of life, feeling like you fail and you succeed and you fail and you succeed. And at the same time congruently with your failures and successions, that God is looking at you in removing himself from you and drawing near to you. Again, God is not as fickle as the relationships that we participate with your on earth. God is not consumed with just your failure or your successes. Instead, he is consumed with you because you are his child.

10:33 Then the third thing that Satan does is he challenges him, offers him ultimate power, the most pragmatic of temptations. If you become the leader of all this, you can get around the sacrifice and you can accomplish the goal that you want. And Jesus refuses him. Now there's something tempting for all of us about power, right? Cuz power in kind of our primal minds means safety. If I possess more and I create more space around myself, then I will become safer and safer and safer. But the thing about power and a lust for power is that it usually just breeds more and more, more desire for power. My favorite Disney movie is a Ladin. yeah, I'm pretty complex and interesting. I, I really wanna sing, but there's just so many choices, you know, I love at the end, there's this perfect expression of this temptation that all of us have for power where, Jahar, who's the bad guy, by the way, spoilers.

11:41 It's been out for like 40 years. All right. So go watch it. If you haven't watched it yet, Jahar at the end, gets a hold of the genie and he becomes the master of the genie. So he can make three wishes and Jafar lusting with power wants to be Salton. And so he's made Salton of the area, the ruler of the area immediately around him and then things accelerate and he wishes to be a sor so that he can actually reign and rule over the earth that he exists on. And just at the last moment, Aladdin tricks Jafar into doing what becoming God essentially who created him. He says, well, the only thing more powerful than you, the sourcer must be the thing that created you yourself. Why don't you become a genie? And Jafar says in an all time villain gaff sounds like a great idea person who I'm trying to kill right now.

12:37 You must have great motivation and he says, yes, I want to be a genie wishes to be a genie. But for those of you who know the story, what happens when you become a genie, you inherit phenomenal cosmic power and in itty bitty living space, all of a sudden you're confined by the very thing that gives you power in the first place you're made prisoner of the lamp. In that case, Jesus is aware of all the power that is available to him in a human and earthly way. His followers over the course of his ministry would ask him, when are you gonna take your physical throne? When will you become king? When will we overthrow the Roman government? When will you become the soldier and the savior that we thought the Messiah would be. But Jesus understands that the beauty of his story and the beauty of the salvation of the human world is not reliant on a pragmatic strategy where we just need to put the right person in the right place.

13:38 If our politics would just get in the right way, if our government would just get in the right way, as humans have shown over and over and over and over again, there is no human leadership that can possibly save the world in the way that God is intended. And so he writes a more beautiful story, a less pragmatic story, a servant hearted and sacrificial story that doesn't end in a throne or in a lamp. But instead it ends with a cruciform on a torture tool called the cross in a way that would be embarrassment for all people of the time. Jesus chooses to step into that place and sacrifice himself creating the most beautiful story of all time. I would say today, church, if we want the world to come to hear the gospel, it will not start their conv. Their conviction will not start with your wonderful apologetics arguments, but it will start with the beauty of the cruciform. There's a sacrifice of God himself.

14:41 The only problem with this is that again, I don't know if you've ever read the gospel and you've just looked at Jesus. And you've said, this guy is not that practical. He doesn't save a lot of money. It doesn't seem like he has a whole lot of earthly ambition. He spent the time doing the most important thing of his life for three years. And then he died at the hands of people. He could easily annihilate if he is truly God. And it leads us to this quote that probably a lot of you know of. And I would agree with actually, and this is where we kind of, our fear can get to us that says all that is necessary for the, for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. Edmond. Burke said that I would agree with that statement. The thing is, is that humans whenever put in a fearful or a difficult place when we read, and we think about words like this, often we disagree with Jesus himself on what doing something actually means we have to do something.

15:41 We have to do something as Jesus' followers were saying to him. And so what Jesus did was he didn't go down the street and, and take his throne and overthrow the current government and city leaders instead doing something was preaching. The sermon on the Mount blessed are the poor in spirit. When someone asked for your shirt, give them your jacket as well. Jesus did these things. Jesus healed the sick. He spent time with the undesirable. He spoke with women of ill reputation. He lowered himself in order to elevate the people that everyone else had forgotten and mistreated doing something when it comes to the gospel is complex and it's difficult. It is not a passive faith where we ignore the difficulties of the world around us. Instead, the faith that Jesus is calling us into is one that reflects the cruciform itself, the cross, the servant hearted, sacrificial nature of it all.

16:45 And it's confounding, right? Even pilot, who Jesus was brought before to determine the sentence for Jesus. He was about to go to the cross and he's talking with Jesus and he's saying, look, I haven't found any evidence to, to crucify you, but this whole crowd, what do you have to say? What's going on? Why don't you fight back? And Jesus says in John chapter 18 verse 36 says, Jesus answered. Well, here's the deal? My kingdom isn't like yours. It's not an earthly kingdom. If it were check this out, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But again, my kingdom isn't of this world, it's different. It's not pragmatic. It's difficult. Pragmatism is the real temptation, but beauty is found in the sacrifice in the cruso form of Jesus. Brian za, the offer of the book. Beauty will save the world, which is what we're basing this entire series of. And this sermon, especially off of leaning hard on Brian's work. He says this, he says, in going to the cross, Jesus wasn't being practical. He was being faithful. Jesus, didn't take a pragmatic approach to the problem of evil. Jesus took the aesthetic approach to the problem of evil. Jesus chose to absorb the ugliness of evil and turn it into something beautiful, the beauty of forgiveness.

18:14 So how do we do this? It's really hard. First of all, to live a sacrificial life in our context and knowing what we know again, I don't know if you've ever felt this, but sometimes it feels like someone has painted over a beautiful, old, valuable portrait and handed it to us and said, this is your faith. And you look at it and go,

18:35 Yeah, I

18:37 Think so our contacts and our upbringing, and sometimes the way we've read scripture or the leaders that have led us, the experiences that we've had will create these edits over the top of our faith. And I think that there is a more raw, true, valuable faith that exists underneath many of those things. It takes time, prayer, and thoughtfulness to overcome them. But this is the best way that I can think of that as quickly as possible in a slow way as quickly in a slow way, gets us to the place where we embrace the beauty of the cruciform as the primary form of Jesus. We abandon outcomes to God. My brother once said, and I'm sorry if he stole this quote from somebody else. But I think it's my brother. He and I share a certain amount of cynicism. And so this quote really spoke to me. He said, you know what? Give living a good life means. And I was like what? He said, being kind and suffering the consequences and what he's. I think what my brother's trying to communicate in that moment is that there are only so many outcomes that we can actually have control over right now. I'm parenting a seven and a five year old and I've got outcomes for 'em baby.

19:59 Yeah. I got a great direction for you. Great path to get there. You just shut up and do what I tell you.


20:09 And then I know that there are some parents in here that have been parenting longer than I am. I wonder how many of those perfect outcomes that you set up when they were five and seven have actually come true, but I'm, I'm guessing again in a parenting context, but you can put this in context of your friends, your education or your future. I'm guessing what we learn and why we consider older people to be the far wiser than the younger people, is that after a while, while you discovered that the outcomes are just so rarely in our control, but you know what God has called us to that we can be faithful to

20:51 The process.

20:56 And I'm really convicted again, thinking about how I would treat or parent my children. I've got these outcomes. And would I be disappointed if this wasn't the end result of all the stuff? I have to believe that if I love them as best I could, that if I cared for them and I was faithful to them, I was honorable to my family. Whatever outcome happens in 20 25, 30 years, I have to believe that I am satisfied with whatever outcome comes from a life of deep, deep love with my family and what Jesus does when he goes to the cross. And he dies. He exhibits a certain amount of faithfulness that abandons this outcome to God that says, all right, now, I've done what I can do. I've lived the life that I could live. And now this death, and hopefully this resurrection is left up to

21:50 You

21:53 Church. If we become obsessed with getting, getting every outcome that we want with this pragmatic kind of a thing, we will fall into a very ugly, controlling faith. But if we embrace the faith of Jesus, that would go to be crucified, that would head to the cross and stand in faith to be resurrected again. So that the whole world could experience this salvation. If we find ourselves living this life of servitude and sacrifice, I have got to believe that whatever outcome God has created on the other end of this for you and for your family and for your friendships and for your jobs and for this city and for this church, whatever that outcome is, I make the decision to be satisfied with it today, understanding that he is God and I am not

22:38 Well.

22:38 So we don't care about the outcomes. We can care about the outcomes, but we have to understand that our faith is not exhibited in what outcome is presented at the end of a process. It is the process itself. The writer of Hebrew says that faith is what the substance

23:05 Of

23:05 Things hope for. Well, what's the thing on the other side, no, the faith, the process is what God is looking for

23:16 Within

23:17 Us. So I wanna ask you today, as we close, I wanna ask you to hunt for beauty in your life.

23:26 It

23:26 Can come from incredible views and hiking, south sister. It could come from crater lake. It can come from an incredible meal, oh, in Jesus name.

23:36 Oh my God.

23:39 It can come from laughter. It can come from tears. I was watching the movie inside, out with my kids the other day. And there's this moment. If you don't know the story spoilers again, the daughter runs away at the beginning of the movie. And at the end, she comes back with her parents. And there's this moment where she embraces her dad at the end, feeling a lot of shame and he pulls her close and she relaxes into his embrace. And I am like, I

24:09 Can't do this.

24:13 My kids are like inside, out's fine. I'm like, this is art. You guys don't, don't let the narrative fool you into believing that this world that we live in, all of the people in it, don't let them fool you into believing that they're not created in the image of God, just as you are. Don't let them fool you in believing that there is not beauty around every single corner of this world. And sometimes there's been distortions and there's been edits and other artists have come in and tried to communicate to us that this is what the world really looks like. But the task of the church is not to come in and feel like it's wrong and set it all on fire and fight against it. Instead it's to slowly do the work of the art conservationist peel back the layers to again, find the truth of the people and the faith that we live with. Amen. Let's pray, father God, we wanna live this. We wanna abandon outcomes to you. We wanna live sacrificially. We wanna live in beauty. Oh Jesus. That we would see it and we would smell it. And we would hear it all around us.

25:37 And that maybe the fight that you are asking us to take on today is this fight that would Rob us from seeing the beauty in the souls around us. We push against and we refuse to buy into this idea that everyone and everything is out to take advantage and get us Lord you were taken advantage of and beaten and bruised and bloodied and beauty came forth from that. Let it be. So for your church that we would sacrifice that we would live servant hearted existences, and your beauty would shine all the brighter in Jesus name. Amen.