Sermon for the First Sunday in Lent, preached on Sunday, February 21, 2021, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich.
time we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we say, “Lead us not into temptation.” It’s an odd thing for us to pray because we
know God tempts no one (Jas 1:13).
Recently, the Pope approved changing the wording of this petition to “Do
not let us fall into temptation,” so that it apparently will make more
sense. It’s true that God doesn’t tempt
us, but we still need to pray this petition, a petition Christ Himself gave us
to pray. We need to pray it every
day. We need to pray it multiple times a
day, because temptation will come our way.
is inevitable. Talking about temptation,
St. James said “when it comes,” not “if it comes.” The devil is alive and he’s out there,
prowling around like a lion, looking for someone to devour (1 Pt 5:8-9). He wants to tempt you away from God, and too
often, we don’t even notice it.
we think about Satan and his temptations, we often think about those “big” sins. We think he’s out there trying to create
complete and utter chaos, anarchy that’s lived out in theft, abuse,
fornication, and murder. We picture
devil worshipers cloaked in black gathered in secret underground temples with
stone altars for ceremonial sacrifices, at least, that’s how it’s portrayed in
the movies. But that’s not how the devil
isn’t looking for active worshipers. He
couldn’t care less whether or not you bow your knee to him. What he wants is for you not to bow your knee
to the Lord. And if that means you get
to live a peaceable life, never aware of his temptations and sin, never knowing
how much you need the forgiveness and life of Christ, well then, so be it.
devil tempts with small things. He
tempts with things that look good and innocent.
He tempts through the world and culture around us. He tempts by questioning God’s Word, twisting
it just enough, convincing us that God wants us to be happy, that He wants our
desires and wishes to come true. Just look
at how he tempted our first parents. He
didn’t try to convince them to murder each other. He simply asked a question and spoke a
God really say…? You won’t die. You’ll be like God.” That’s his M.O. That’s what makes resisting temptation so
difficult, it doesn’t look like temptation.
James wrote, “Each person is tempted
when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.
Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is
fully grown brings forth death” (Jas 1:14-15). It’s our wants and desires that Satan tempts
with. And we all know how easy it is to
convince us of something that we want.
Satan doesn’t have to twist our arms.
We willingly give in. We can’t
say, “The devil made me do it.” No, we did it; we do it. We give into temptation. We trade the truth of God’s Word for the lies
of Satan. But not Christ. He endured Satan’s temptation and tricks and
He overcame them. He had to, because we
easy to miss it, but did you catch what the Spirit of the Lord did immediately
after Christ was baptized? Listen again,
“The Spirit immediately drove him out
into the wilderness. And [Jesus] was in
the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan” (Mk 1:12-13). The Spirit drove Jesus into the
wilderness where He’d be tempted.
Christ’s temptation was part of God’s plan of salvation. Jesus had to be tempted. He had to stand where the first Adam
fell. God tempts no one because He
allowed Himself to be tempted, so that He could defeat the tempter for you.
endured temptation for you. He stood
against Satan in the wilderness for you.
He overcame the devil’s twisted lies for you. He did this so that He could take your sin
upon Himself, so that He could sacrifice His righteous life for your sinful
one, so that He could shed His innocent blood to redeem you from sin and death,
so that He could rescue you from the devil’s claim, so that He could claim you
as His own through the waters of Baptism.
By Christ’s victory on the cross, with the help of the Spirit, with the
forgiveness of sins, with the gift of faith, with the truth of God’s Word, you
can confidently endure against Satan’s temptation; knowing you belong to the
this doesn’t mean life will be easy. This
doesn’t mean trials won’t come your way.
St. James encourages us by saying, “Blessed
is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he
will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him”
will be various trials that we face as Christians. Nowhere in Scripture does God promise us an
easy life. We’ll endure difficulties,
maybe even more so than unbelievers. Not
only do we endure temptations, but we also endure testing, and these aren’t the
same things. Temptation comes from the
devil, the world, and our sinful nature.
Satan attacks us hard, trying to lead us away from God, that’s the
purpose of temptation. But testing comes
from God, and the purpose of it is to lead to God.
aren’t easy, otherwise they wouldn’t be tests.
It’s difficult to endure, but these are good and for our benefit. They’re for the strengthening of our faith,
like the testing of Abraham.
have a difficult time understanding this test from God. Why would God tell Abraham to sacrifice his
son, his miracle son of promise conceived and born in Abraham’s and Sarah’s old
age? This doesn’t make sense, and I
think it’s safe to say that at the time, it probably didn’t make sense to
Abraham either. And yet, this test
revealed something. It revealed how the
Lord saves us. God stopped Abraham from
sacrificing his son, but He did spare His.
God the Father gave up His Son so that He could have us.
faith, Abraham trusted in the Lord. He
didn’t have to understand it. He didn’t
have to know what God was thinking. What
he knew was that God was faithful, and somehow He’d do what He promised to do
through Isaac. And that’s how it is for
we go through the trials of testing, we don’t always understand it. It’s hard and we ask why: Why did I lose my
job? Why did I get that diagnosis? Why did that young child suffer in that
way? Why are all these natural disasters
happening? We don’t know these answers,
but we know that the Lord is faithful.
We know that He gave up His Son for us.
And because of that, by faith we know He’ll give us that crown of life
that He promised through His Son.
endure trails: temptation and testing.
Temptation comes from Satan, the world, and our sinful nature, but
testing is from the Lord. Both are
difficult, but we're not alone in them.
The Lord is with you, giving you the strength to endure, strength
through His Word, strength through His Sacraments, strength through your
brothers and sisters in Christ. Filled
with the Holy Spirit, you are enabled to remain steadfast, holding fast to your
Savior. In Jesus’ name...Amen.