Lent 1, (February 14, 2016)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Luke chapter four.
Temptation is one of those words that we really don't know what to do with today. In a world and a time when there is no right or wrong, and where ideas such as the devil or angels are quaint superstitions, the idea of temptation is hard to find a place.
Yet here is Jesus, still wet from the waters of the Jordan in His baptism, being led by the Holy Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, while He is tempted by the devil. Now I want you to notice something important here. He isn't tempted by the Holy Spirit. He is led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness where He is tempted by the devil.
But why? Why would God put Jesus into such harms way? And, for that matter, why does our Heavenly Father put YOU into harms way, time after time, in temptation?
That is the question.
Every day the Holy Spirit leads you into the wilderness, where you are tempted by the devil, the world, and your old flesh. Will you love your neighbor as yourself? Will you love the Lord, your God, with your heart, soul and mind? Like our Lord, you, too, are hungry. The day's resources may make you weak. You may not have everything that you need, or at least it may feel like you don't have everything that you need. But our Heavenly Father knows you, and what's more, He knows your neighbor needs you. He knows that every day you have opportunity to love, to show mercy to the loveless and the unloved. You have opportunity time and time again to rejoice in the good the Lord your God has given you. And how do you do this? You do this by showing mercy to those around you, be they friend or foe, neighbor or enemy. You have opportunity to rejoice and give mercy, because Your God has shown mercy to you.
But the problem is that God sends you out to love Him by loving those around you, and you respond with a cold heart. Rather than give your bread to those in need, you feed your own face, not trusting that your Father will provide for you. Rather than working where God has placed you, you long to escape your own wilderness for a place where the grass is greener, and where the cries of those in need are, well, a little better manicured, a little better behaved. Rather than trusting that God will provide and care for you, you hoard and cling and test God by sinning and making Him pick up the pieces of your own mess.
When we hear about Jesus' temptation, what makes it so hard is that we fail to resist the temptation that is put before us over and over again. This is why we pray so often about temptation. Hear again. Luther''s explanation.
Lead us not into temptation.
What does this mean? God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.
The devil, the world, and your own sinful nature all want to deceive you and mislead you. But notice what the goal of these three is. False belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Finally, temptation is about faith, isn't it? Do you trust that God will do what He promises, or not? Do you believe the lies and act on them, or do you believe the truth and act on it?
You, of course, know the answer. Left to yourself, you would fall into these pits. Truth be told, you wouldn’t fall into them, you would dive into them headfirst! But you, beloved, are not left to yourself. Jesus Christ is the one who is the Victor over sin, death and the devil. He is the victor by remaining faithful to and trusting in the Word of God. And He is the victor by taking these failures of yours and mine into Himself. We spoke last week in the Transfiguration about how Jesus is the One who leads us on the path through the Valley of the Shadow of death. Here we see what that path will be like. And without His aid, without His continual presence and word for you and with you, without all of that, you would be lost, left in the clutches of the Evil One. But thanks be to God, that Jesus Christ is the victor over Satan and His foul temptations.
So what are you to do when you are faced with temptation? What are you to do when you are staring evil in the fact, and know that the next move on your part could be very good, or very, very bad?
- First, remember and rejoice that the reason you are tempted is because you are in Christ. Satan would not tempt you if you are already His.
- Second, pray that God would give you guidance, wisdom, and strength to resist the Temptation and to love those around you as He loves you.
- Third, cling to His forgiveness. Jesus knows your every weakness, for He bears them in His own body. God forgives you for the sake of Jesus Christ, the righteous one. Cling to His forgiveness, for Jesus delivers Himself to you this Day, so that He is the way of escape from temptation to evil.
No matter what may come, no matter how many times you fail, no matter if the world crashes around you and hell itself seems to come knocking at your door, you have a mighty Savior who bears you in weakness. That is who you are, and that’s a pretty good place to be.
In Jesus' name. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.