Dangerous Shortcuts

Dangerous Shortcuts

March 06, 2022*

By Pastor John Partridge

Deuteronomy 26:1-11                         Luke 4:1-13                 Romans 10:8b-13

In a scene from his 2006 movie “RV,” Robin Williams takes a disastrous shortcut over a mountain in his gigantic recreational vehicle, and beaches it at the peak with all four wheels off the ground.  Of course, it all plays as a comedic situation and ends well after much laughter.  But the lesson is one that almost all of us have experienced in many situations regardless of whether they include driving, and that lesson is, shortcuts are not always safe.  Sometimes, shortcuts just get us from point “A” to point “B” faster, but other times the shortcut takes longer, and costs more, than taking the normally recommended route.  Sometimes, shortcuts take us down the wrong road in our automobiles, but other shortcuts take us down the wrong road ethically, morally, and spiritually.  We begin this morning by reading the words of Deuteronomy 26:1-11, in which God instructs the people of Israel to remember where they came from whenever they bring their first harvest offerings to God.

26:1 When you have entered the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it, take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the Lord your God is giving you and put them in a basket. Then go to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name and say to the priest in office at the time, “I declare today to the Lord your God that I have come to the land the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us.” The priest shall take the basket from your hands and set it down in front of the altar of the Lord your God. Then you shall declare before the Lord your God: “My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous. But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, subjecting us to harsh labor. Then we cried out to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our misery, toil, and oppression. So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; 10 and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, Lord, have given me.” Place the basket before the Lord your God and bow down before him. 11 Then you and the Levites and the foreigners residing among you shall rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household.

Deuteronomy says that when God’s people bring their first gifts of the harvest as an offering to God, they should declare the story of where they from.  They should remember that they were outcasts, nomads, and wandered in the desert, that they were captives who suffered in Egypt for hundreds of years, rescued by God, and finally brought to a land that gave them bountiful gifts.  More important than asking his people to bring gifts, God asks his people to always remember who they are, where they came from, and that everything they have, has been given to them by God.

And in Luke 4:1-13, we hear the story of Satan’s temptation of Jesus, but as we read, we notice that each of Satan’s offers are a shortcut that would shortchange God, shortchange Jesus, and shortchange every one of us.

4:1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was temptedby 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 shall 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; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 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. 10 For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you carefully;
11 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

Jesus is hungry after forty days of fasting and prayer and so, in this moment of weakness. Satan tempts him to take a shortcut and turn stones into bread instead of being faithful to his promise to complete the forty-day ritual.  God had promised that Jesus would sit on the throne of heaven and rule over all of creation, but Satan offers a shortcut.  Instead of obediently following God and waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promise, Satan offers only the kingdoms of the earth in the present moment.  The prophecies of God proclaim that one day every knee will bow at the feet of Jesus for eternity, but Satan offers momentary and temporary earthly fame and fortune instead. 

In each case Jesus resists, but Satan’s shortcuts would have robbed Jesus of his real inheritance.  Jesus was, and is, going to have far more than the things that Satan was offering if only Jesus had the patience to wait for it.  Much like the prodigal son would have inherited far more than he did if he had only had the patience to wait for the proper time.

But Satan, for all of history, has offered shortcuts to the people of God.  Much like the fabled stories of people making “a deal with the devil,” we are all offered shortcuts that are a poor substitute for God’s blessing and rob us of the treasure that God has already set aside for us.  In Romans 10:8b-13, Paul says,

But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Paul quotes Deuteronomy 30 when he says, “The word is near you,” but he also echoes the words that we hear in the gospel of John that say, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  Jesus is the word.  And he is always as near to us as our next breath.  He is in your mouth, and in your heart.  And, as soon as we chose to follow, and put our faith in him, we were already saved and had inherited the kingdom of God as the adopted brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.

We have been given the blessings of God; we are promised an incalculable inheritance that will last for all eternity, but we will often be offered shortcuts by the enemy of our souls.

We shouldn’t take the shortcut of giving offerings to God without remembering who we are, what God has given to us, and giving thanks for everything that we have.

We shouldn’t take the shortcut of selling our eternal inheritance for earthly wealth, power, or fame that will be gone in ten or twenty years.

And we shouldn’t take the shortcut of trading our guaranteed eternity for a few years of comfort.

Because, in every case, what we are offered as a shortcut, is a distant, and disappointing pittance compared to the gifts, blessings, and glory that we have been promised.  Rather than trading our inheritance for a bowl of soup, let us instead share the good news of Jesus Christ with everyone that we can, and take as many people as possible with us into eternity.

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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601.  These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org.  If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook (search for Pastor John Online).  These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com .  All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

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