Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Lead us not into temptation. . .

Sermon for Lent 1C, preached on Sunday, March 10, 2019, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich

“And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil.” (Lk 4:1)
    We pray it every Sunday, “lead us not into temptation.”  With this petition we ask God to grant us divine protection and to guard us against the devil and all his schemes to get us to sin.  But why do we need to pray this way?  Hasn’t God defeated Satan?  Hasn’t He already given us salvation in Christ?  Yes He has, but Satan isn’t one to give up easily.  He’s still on the prowl looking to devour us (1 Pt 5:8). 
    The temptation of Christ is always the Gospel reading for this first Sunday in Lent, so we’re familiar with it.  Jesus was in the wilderness, fasting for 40 days.  And the devil comes to Him, tempting Him to turn stones into bread.  But Jesus resisted, quoting Scripture: “Man shall not live by bread alone” (Lk 4:4; Dt 8:3).  The devil’s second temptation promised Jesus all the glories and all the authority of all the earthly kingdoms if He would just bow down to Satan.  Again, Jesus resisted, quoting Scripture: “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve” (Lk 4:8; Dt 6:13).  Finally, Satan took Christ to the top of the temple, telling Him to jump because God promises in His Word that no harm will come to His people.  But again, Jesus resisted, quoting Scripture: “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (Lk 4:12; Dt 6:16). 
    We know this story.  We know all the temptations that Satan threw Jesus’ way.  But do we really think of these as temptations, temptations like the ones we face?  After all, it’s Jesus, the Son of God; of course He would resist Satan.  Of course He wouldn’t give in.  He saw the tempter right there in front of Him.  If we too could see Satan, then we’d also be able to easily resist him...right?  Wrong. 
    Satan’s crafty.  He hides himself in his temptations.  He covers up his true intentions, his desire to take you away from God.  Satan is the great deceiver, the father of lies (Jn 8:44); and he dresses up his temptations to make them look good. 
First, he appealed to Jesus’ hunger.  Christ was without food for 40 days.  Just imagine how hungry you are after 1 day of not eating.  The temptation to satisfy this hunger was real.  The temptation for Christ to use His divine power to satisfy His hunger was real.  But when you look at this temptation, it doesn’t really look like temptation.  Food isn’t bad.  Eating isn’t bad.  It’s how God made us.  And Satan telling Jesus to eat is a normal thing.  It looks like a good thing; and that’s the first way that he dresses up temptation; he makes it look good. 
He did this in the Garden with Adam and Eve.  He convinced them that eating the fruit which the Lord had forbidden was actually a good thing.  Satan does this with us.  The lust of our heart he makes look good by convincing us that we’re being true to our heart.  The hurtful words we say he makes look good by convincing us we need to share our feelings.  The neglect of helping those around us, like our family and friends, he makes look good by convincing us we need to take time for ourselves. 
The second way Satan dresses up his temptations is that he appeal to our wants and desires.  Again, he did this with Christ.  He promised Jesus all the glory and all the authority of the all the kingdoms on earth.  Who wouldn’t want that?  He did this with Adam and Eve, appealing to a desire to be like God.  And he does this with us.  We’ll do just about anything if it will give us what we want, even if it only promises to give us what we want.  The temptation to join in on gossip promises us friends.  The temptation to withhold our offerings from the Lord promises us more money in our pockets. 
Finally, the devil dresses up his temptations with God’s Word.  He twists it.  This happens when Scripture is taken out of context.  The devil loves this because it keeps us from knowing the truth.  “Judge not” (Mt 7:1-3) turns into “Don’t talk about sin.”  “Work out your own salvation” (Phil 2:12) turns into “If you try hard to be a good person, that’s good enough.”  “Worshipers must worship in the Spirit” (Jn 4:21-24) turns into “I don’t need to go to church to be a Christian.”  All of these lies are disguised as God’s Word, and the devil loves it because it leads us away from God and the truth of His Word. 
These are hard temptations to resist.  Every day we encounter them.  Every day the devil comes at us.  Every day he tries to pull us into sin and death.  Therefore we must be vigilant.  We need to be aware of Satan’s temptations, and we must continually pray for the Lord to deliver us from these temptations, because on our own, we’d give in to them every time. 
    When Christ was tempted by Satan, He faced real temptations, but the outcome was never in question.  Christ was going to overcome them, because that’s what had to happen.  It’s interesting that in all the accounts of Jesus’ temptations, the evangelists say that it was the Spirit that led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted.  It was according to God’s plan of salvation that Christ be tempted, not to give you an example of how to overcome the devils entrapments on your own, but to overcome them for you. 
    Jesus endured these temptations for you.  He overcome them for you, so that He could rescue you from the death of your sin; so you could be forgiven when you give into temptations.  Adam in the Garden listened to the devil’s lie, plunging the whole world into death.  Jesus, the second Adam, did what our first parents couldn’t, He did what we can’t.  Jesus resisted all the devil’s temptations so that He might be sinless, so that He could be the perfect sacrifice, and through His sacrifice give you life. 
    Christ has overcome.  The devil’s been defeated, and Jesus gives you the spoils of that victory.  Our sin plunges us into death, but Christ brings you to life.  He undoes everything that Satan did.  He redeems you and gives you the everlasting life that was always God’s plan for you. 
    Christ has defeated Satan and promises you salvation.  This salvation is freedom from sin and death, but not freedom from temptation.  Satan still comes after us, and he comes hard.  Therefore, we must stand firm, with the Word of the Lord in our hearts and on our lips.  We must prayer for Christ’s protection, “lead us not into temptation.”  Jesus endured Satan’s temptation.  He overcame them for you, so that you might be saved from.  So when you feel the crafty pulling’s of the devil, say with confidence, “Be gone devil, for I am a redeemed child of God, and in Jesus I have salvation.”  In His name...Amen. 

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