Coney Hill Baptist Church

Demonstrating Gods Love Together

Challenges to Discipleship - Individualism

Gen. 3:1-13

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"

 2 The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' "

 4 "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. 5 "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

 6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

 8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?"

 10 He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid."

 11 And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?"

 12 The man said, "The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it."

 13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?"
      The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."

Matt. 4:1-11

1Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."

 4Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God."

 5Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6"If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written:
   " 'He will command his angels concerning you,
      and they will lift you up in their hands,
   so that you will not strike your foot against a stone."

 7Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test."

 8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. 9"All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."

 10Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only."

 11Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.


For the next few weeks we are going to move from simply trying to understand discipleship to looking at a couple of the key barriers that we will come up against as we try to live as followers of Jesus. 

I’ve chosen 2 huge, and related, issues that are everywhere around us, and provide a real challenge today to if we try to walk in Jesus’ footsteps.  In many ways they are the god’s of our age, yet often we don’t even notice because, like fish in water, we are so immersed in our own environment, we don’t really realise its there.

The first is literally staring us in the face, every morning as we get up to confront each day – ourselves.  We are all the centre of our own worlds, we are encouraged to set ourselves at the very centre of the universe and to asses every decision on what it means for me.  I’m not just talking about obvious selfishness, though that’s pretty commonplace, but a way of looking at the world through ‘I’ shaped glasses.

Where did all this come from?  The more philosophically minded might look to the enlightenment when chaps like Rene Descartes radically reframed the world with the thinking man at the heart of it, rather than as a member of the cast of God’s own production. If you want to locate it more recently you mught think of Frank Sinatra (‘My Way’) or even Gloria Gaynor (‘I Will Survive’).  The truth though takes us back even further.  

The Tragedy of the Garden – From ‘We’ to “I”.

That extraordinary story of the temptation at the heart of the Garden of Eden, whatever you make of it, reveals a fundamental shift that was always possible once God had decided, in love, to create, in His own image, man and woman, with freedom.

That initial state of perfection, beauty, harmony, complementarity and co-operation was ripped apart and it became every man, and woman for themselves.

‘The Fall’, as it is called, doesn’t mark the entrance of sin into the world just because Adam and Eve did a bad thing. It was because they did their own thing, without thought or reference either to God, or each other. 

That’s what sin is and what it remains, not so much wrongs things that we ought to strive not to do, but an attitude of living that takes as its starting point our own pre-eminence. That says I am my own master.  As a consequence it fractures relationships, breaks up community, destroys fellowship – leaves us alone in the world.

According to that definition, our age is particularly beset by sin, not because we are less moral than before or because we’ve thought up loads of new ways to do wrong, but because we’ve increasingly chosen to celebrate what is the opposite of God’s ideal – our independence, our ability to go it alone, our capacity to thrive over and against others. No wonder, in the west, we are richer, yet more unhappy than ever before. 

Jesus is the antidote to this malaise.  Jesus came to defeat sin on the cross, and in his life, not least by modelling a way of living that was self-assured, self confident and yet not self-seeking or self-serving. And it began at the very beginning…  

The Triumph of the Wilderness – Pulling “I” off the Pedestal.

As Adam had been left alone, expelled from the perfection of the garden to an isolation outside, Jesus, almost before he did anything else, went out to that place and brought him back.

The temptations of Jesus were all about the devil suggesting he ought to assert himself, revel in his own ability to be himself, to do what he could, regardless.  In response, Jesus, every time, affirmed instead his dependence on God  and the priority he placed on that relationship.

As such he set out his agenda at the outset. If sin is to be defeated it means dethroning myself, as the central concern of all our lives.


What is the greatest barrier to any of us following Jesus?  It could be a whole number of things, doubts and intellectual questions, guilt and a sense of our own weakness, frustration and an awareness of past failure. 

Most of all though, I reckon, it’s the struggle we all have in giving over the reins of our lives that completely; to make the wellspring of our lives – ‘To worship the Lord and Serve Him only’.

It’s no accident that the central worship act of Christian faith is a shared meal.  It speaks, in reminding us of the sacrifice of Jesus, of this being no isolated act of a separated life but a commitment made in the midst of fellowship.  There is no greater love than that which lays down his life for his friends.