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3/10/19 First Sunday in Lent - Deacon Tony

Deacon Tony Conti

First Sunday of Lent
Lectionary: 24

 

  • Temptations, both great and small are a part of every life…
  • But we’re not talking today about the small temptations of life… like eating an extra piece of chocolate cake… We’re talking about the big temptations that can dramatically impact our lives…
  • There’s a valuable lesson to be learned from Jesus’ experience in the desert…
  • And the lesson is this:
    • We cannot overcome the temptations of evil with willpower alone... we can only overcome them with the conviction of firmly held values and beliefs...
  • Jesus resisted the devil’s temptations in today’s gospel because He knew Who He was
  • Jesus knew what He believed and what He held dear in life
  • Jesus held certain values as non-negotiable
  • His values couldn’t be swayed and couldn’t be bought
  • And these values superseded His personal needs and wants
  • It’s a person’s personal conviction to specific values that form their moral compass
  • Values such as honesty, compassion, mercy, temperance, charity, understanding, forgiveness, non-violence, justice, tolerance, and fairness to name just a few...
  • We’ve all become painfully aware of just how many have apparently lost their moral compass in today’s hectic world…
  • Lent is a perfect time to re-assess our own moral compass… And to do this we need to ask ourselves some hard questions
    • Do we really know ourselves?
    • What do we stand for in our lives?
    • What are the things that we value above the temptations of the world?
    • And ultimately like Jesus - What are we willing to give our lives for?
  • These are deep questions that we’re not going to answer here… But they’re questions we need to ponder if we’re to withstand the temptations that life will inevitably deal us…
  • Strengthening our willpower is not enough
  • As long as we allow the winds of the world to blow us to and fro… We’ll remain victims of the world…
  • As long as we continue to compromise what we know to be right or bend the rules a little to suit our needs… We make ourselves vulnerable to whatever the world decides to hand us…
  • As long as we continue to just go with the flow to obtain what we want from the world… The world owns us; lock, stock, and barrel…
  • The world never owned Jesus… He remained free of the world’s allurements and temptations by holding firm to what He knew to be true
  • Jesus teaches us that we don’t need to live our lives as victims of the temptations that the world hands us, if we work to build a strong moral compass in our lives
  • A strong moral compass is built in living a life of character and integrity that dictates that there are certain values and convictions that we live our lives by
  • Values and convictions that cannot be violated or bought or compromised; regardless of the consequences or personal cost
  • There’s a key phrase in today’s Gospel that we need to pay attention to: “...All this will be yours, if you worship me...”
  • Isn’t that a basic characteristic of all temptation and sin?
  • That for some perceived benefit - We agree to give away our freedom, our character, and our integrity, for a price?
  • Money, Greed, and Power, (in all their varied forms), are often the roots of much of the evil and sin in the world...
  • There can be no better advice than that of Shakespeare from Hamlet: “This above all: to thine own self be true...” 
  • When we negate who we are and what we believe for money, greed, or power we lose everything... and we gain nothing of real value...
  • Until we truly know who we are and what we believe... we’ll often find it difficult to be true to ourselves and to our values...
  • Life isn’t about winning or losing… it’s about doing what’s right
  • Life isn’t about being right… It’s about doing right
  • If we can come to grips with that, everything else in life will take care of itself...
  • Personal morality can’t be forced or imposed by others...
  • There are many Christians in the world who hold strong moral values, but lack love
  • Our moral compass is best calibrated with love and compassion and mercy and forgiveness...
  • The message of the Gospel must never be wielded like a club to beat people into submission...
  • Rather; it should be used as a soothing balm of love: To heal and to help others to experience the mercy, forgiveness and love of its Author... 
  • Only love is capable of changing hearts and minds...
  • Nothing worthwhile in this life can ever be accomplished without it... as Jesus made abundantly clear in the Gospel of John (15:5) when He said: “Whoever remains in Me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without Me you can do nothing.”
  • Someone once observed that: “It’s not our abilities that show who we are… it’s our choices…”
  • How we choose to live our lives speaks volumes about our values and in turn, shows the world who we truly are
  • So as we begin our Lenten journey… where is our moral compass pointing us…?
  • Are we moving closer to the freedom that Christ came to bring us… or are we moving further away through our attachments to the allurements of the world?
  • That’s a question that can only be answered through quiet prayer and reflection… and the answer to that question can literally change our lives

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