Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sermon -- 1st Sunday in Lent (February 17, 2013)

LUKE 4:1-13
FOR US FIGHTS THE VALIANT ONE.

In the name + of Jesus.

     [The devil] is a liar, and the father of lies. (John 8:44)  From the Garden of Eden right up until today, the devil lies and deceives and murders.  He does not care about you.  He seeks to devour you.  Do not underestimate him.  He is relentless.  He will tempt you and taunt you and torment you without end.  He is a formidable enemy; some might say an “old, evil Foe.”
     He has been described in the Bible in many ways.  He is a roaring lion.  He is a deadly serpent.  He even masquerades as an angel of light.  But no matter what form the devil would take, his goal is the same—to see you damned.  And he will do whatever it takes to get you damned.  [The devil] is a liar, and the father of lies (John 8:44), and he is good at it.  His temptations may not be new or inventive, but they don’t need to be.  They are still effective.  You know it is true, as you find yourself being ensnared by the same sins, again and again.  You are plagued, frustrated, even disgusted with yourself because you have never overcome them.  You know it is wrong.  You know you are wrong.  But you still fall into temptation too easily and too often. 
     Satan knows the weak spots and the sore spots.  He does not play fair.  He keeps on poking the sore spots.  He keeps on attacking the weak spots.  He does not cease with the temptations.  And when you fall, he strikes again by afflicting you with guilt and shame.  He kicks you when you are down.  He does not let you up for air.  He doesn’t care.  He wants you to perish.
     But for us fights the Valiant One whom God himself elected.  Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist to be united with us in our cause.  Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit to take up his place as our substitute—not just in death, but in his life, too.  Remember, man is supposed to obey the Commandments.  Though the first holy man had succumbed to the devil’s temptations, the second holy man would not.  Jesus had come to rectify all that Adam got wrong in the Garden of Eden.
     That first holy man was put in a lush garden, surrounded by all he could possibly need to thrive.  He was also given a command by which he could demonstrate his love and obedience to the Father in heaven.  But Satan came and got Adam to challenge God’s love and God’s word.  “Did God actually say…?” (Genesis 3:1) Satan tempted the woman.  With Adam standing right by her side, Satan hissed, “God knows when you eat of (the fruit) your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God….” (Genesis 3:5)  The temptation was attractive.  Satan promised a knowledge and a glory which was greater than God had given.  They bought the lie.  They rejected God’s word.  They ate the forbidden fruit.  Only then did they recognize the emptiness of Satan’s promises.  Instead of being cloaked in glory, they tried to cover their shame with fig leaves.  Instead of joy, they were heaped in guilt and fear.  Instead of life, they were sentenced to death.  Far from being like God, the image of God in which they were created was killed.
     Now, if a holy man and woman could be overcome by the old, evil Foe, what makes you think that you can stand against him?  Satan still lies and deceives.  He attacks the same way—challenging God’s word, questioning God’s love, and appealing to your love of yourself.  And you play right into the devil’s hands.  He knows that you love yourself more than God and that you prefer your cravings to God’s will.  He has you living as if God is an idiot and a killjoy, and as if the serpent is the source of life.  You fall for the temptations.  You buy the lie.  And you pay the price.  Satan’s lies never produce the joy, the satisfaction, and the life that you want.  He entices you with whatever it is you crave, but it does not satisfy you.  He promises you glory, but it results only in shame.  He guarantees the good life, but always ends up in death.  And yes, God actually said it would.  God is not the one who has lied to you.  Repent.
     Therefore, for us fights the Valiant One.  In the genealogy St. Luke produces, he traces Jesus’ line all the way back to Adam and even calls Adam the son of God. (Luke 3:38)  At Jesus’ baptism, God the Father says of Jesus, “You are my beloved Son.” (Luke 3:22)  Just as Satan attacked that first “son of God,” so he attacked the second.  As soon as he was baptized, Satan assaulted the second Adam, the true Son of God.  “The Son of God,” hmmm?  Did God actually say that?  Well, then, if you really are, turn the stone to bread.  This isn’t the Garden, Jesus.  This is the wilderness.  There is nothing lush here.  If you are the Son of God, turning the rocks into loaves is easy.  You’ve done the bread-in-the-wilderness thing before.  Do it again.  I mean, if you are the Son of God,” (Luke 4:3) anyways.  The Valiant One did not buy the lie. 
     And so it continued.  “The Christ,” you say?  That means you have come to suffer and die.  Really?  Does it really have to come to that?  If you want glory, Jesus, I’ve got glory for you.  After all, I am the prince of this world.  I own them all.  You want ‘em, Jesus?  You can have ‘em!  Just give me a nod, a kneel, one quick genuflection, and just like that, no cross, no pain, no shame!  The Valiant One did not flinch.  “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only you shall serve.” (Luke 4:8) 
     For us fights the Valiant One.  Jesus Christ overcame all temptation.  He did not choose what was easiest.  He chose fasting over feasting.  He chose suffering over ease.  He chose shame over glory.  He chose pain over peace.  He chose bitter rejection over popularity.  And he chose the cross over the crown.  That is because he chose to save you.  Jesus came to rectify the sins of Adam and Eve and all their sons and daughters.  He chose you.  And so he fought the battle that you have not won.  Could not win.  He came to fight your battle, to fulfill your obedience, and to overcome your enemy for you.  For us fights the Valiant One.  Jesus came to bear your shame, to suffer your fate, to feel your curse, and to die your death. 
     This is your hope in every temptation.  You have been baptized and declared by God to be his beloved child.  That means that the devil has declared you to be his foe.  He came after Jesus as soon as he was baptized.  Likewise, he will come after you.  But you still fall into temptation.  You may ramp up your efforts in Lent to practice better discipline, to pray more, and to live more godly lives.  These are good and noble aims.  But you will also find that such efforts only prove your weaknesses.  You still find yourself failing to worship the Lord and to serve him only.  You still sin the same sins.  You still lose the same battles.
     Dear Christians, do not fear and do not despair!  For us fights the Valiant One.  He did not leave your enemy wounded or lame.  Jesus has destroyed the devil’s work.  The serpent’s fangs have been broken.  The serpent’s head was crushed by a cross at the Place of the Skull.  Even there, which Satan viewed as a more opportune time to destroy Jesus, Jesus overcame.  At the cross, Satan spoke through the scribes and priests at the cross, challenging him, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” (Matthew 27:40)  Jesus did not flinch.  He remained obedient.  He was fully committed.  He fought the battle to the end, and he overcame.  By his death, Jesus paid the price for your sins.  He poured out the blood to atone for you.  By his death, Jesus removed Satan’s claims upon you.  By his resurrection, Jesus put an end to sin and its curse.  By your baptism, the Father marked you as his own beloved and redeemed sons and daughters.
     For us fights the Valiant One, Jesus Christ.  He has overcome the devil.  He has crushed the serpent’s head.  He has won the victory.  That is your hope at all times.  Even when you come to the Lord in your sins again, the Valiant One speaks the final word.  It is finished.  You are forgiven.  The victory is yours.  The Son of God says so.  And that is the everlasting truth.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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