Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sermon -- 1st Sunday in Lent (February 22, 2015)

LUKE 4:1-13

In the name + of Jesus.

     Temptations are always attractive.  Even though temptations are directly opposed to the word of God, you still believe the reasons you give for giving into them.  Even though Satan lures you into death and hell by the sins you commit, you are still seduced by them.  Even though you know that Satan lies to you, you find his arguments persuasive.  Even though you know that God has only your best interests at heart and the devil not only would just assume you go to hell but actually strives to get you there, when the devil tempts you, you still find his temptations attractive.
     Now, on the one hand, you are not different from anyone else in these matters.  Though some specific temptations are more appealing to you than others, you and I are easily seduced.  It has nothing to do with ignorance, either.  You know that your sins are wicked.  You know that you should be devoted only to that which is good and that you should fight against and flee from everything that is wicked.  And yet, you still had good reason to confess your sins this morning.  Temptations are always attractive.  We are all still attracted by them.  And we all have earned God’s divine wrath for turning from him and for giving into them.  So, on the one hand, your situation is common with all mankind.  On the other hand, that does not excuse you.  All have sinned.  All deserve wrath.  All are lost.
     Satan is called the prince of this world, and it is because he has claim on all people in this world.  He laid that claim when he seduced Adam and Eve to forsake the word of God for his lies.  It has been this way ever since.  All mankind fell in Adam’s fall.  One common sin infects us all.  But Christ, the second Adam came, (All Mankind Fell in Adam’s Fall, CW 378:1,4) who for us men and for our salvation became man. (Nicene Creed)  Jesus has come to do what no man has done.  He has come to render to God the obedience he demands, to do the good God wants and to turn from the evil that God forbids.  Man must keep the Law, and Jesus has become man to do just that.
     Just as Satan did not leave the first Adam alone, so he did not leave Jesus alone.  Nor was Jesus looking to avoid the battle.  Immediately after Jesus was baptized, the Spirit took him into the wilderness for the purpose of being tempted.  For forty days, Jesus fasted and prayed.  Satan came to Jesus when he was weak and hungry.  Satan does not play nice, not even with Jesus.
     When the Israelites were in the wilderness, the Lord had provided them with bread, miraculously producing manna every day.  Satan would have reasoned: “If the Father calls you his Son, why wouldn’t God provide bread for you as he did for Israel?  What kind of Father drives his Son out into the wilderness to starve him?  Does he not really love you?  Or, if you truly are the Son of God, why not miraculously provide your own bread?”  Jesus was not seduced by Satan’s arguments.  The word of the Lord stands.  He is the Son of God, and he clings to the word of the Lord.  Life does not come from bread, but from the Father.  Jesus overcame temptation and conquered the Old Evil Foe.
     Jesus was not merely doing battle with Satan just to overcome him.  He was doing battle over you.  He came to win you, snatching you from sin, from death, and from the devil so that you would be forgiven for your sins, raised from the grave, and have eternal life.  To redeem you, Jesus not only had to overcome temptation and render perfect obedience, he also had to suffer and die for your disobedience.  Yes, he would crush the serpent’s head, but he would be struck in the heel as well.  He would suffer and die.  He would absorb all the divine wrath.  Jesus knew how difficult this would be.  He knew the sufferings and anguish that were waiting for him.  The devil knew it too.  Therefore, the prince of this world offered Jesus a way out.  He offered him the world that he so loved and had come to save.
     You and I also prefer the easy way out.  Rather than feel the weight of the cross, rather than suffer for the sake of doing good, rather than face ridicule or lose friends for refusing to give in to sins, we find it easier to give in.  How easy it is to give in to our friends, to give in to what is popular, and to accept what our society has decided is okay.  It is easy because, when we give in, our friends and this world will applaud.  How easy it is to give our sinful nature whatever it desires.  We even reason that if we give in to our sinful desires, our flesh will be content and we can do better next time.  It sounds easy, but it is wrong.  The flesh will not be content.  It will demand more.  The easy way out is no way out at all.  The gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction. (Matthew 7:13)  Repent.
     Satan offered Jesus the way out.  “All you have to do to have this world, to claim these people, and to avoid suffering for them is to bow down and worship me.  Understand, Jesus, if you do not fall to your knees in a rather painless gesture now, you will be on your knees later in pain and sorrow and anguish.  You will be begging not to drink the cup of God’s wrath.  Your Father’s word means that you go to your knees in torment.  My word offers you to fall to your knees quick and easy.  Don’t be a fool Jesus.  Take the easy road.”  But Jesus conquered the Old Evil Foe.  Jesus did not buy the lie.  He held true to the true word: “It is written: ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only you shall serve.’” (Luke 4:8)  Jesus conquered the Old Evil Foe.
   Finally, Satan attacked Jesus with his own weapon—the word of God.  Satan knows the Scriptures better than you do, and he will twist them to deceive you.  The Lord Jesus, however, was not deceived.  Jesus was not swayed by the devil’s misapplication of Scripture.  Jesus conquered the Old Evil Foe. 
     Now certainly one of the lessons we learn from this is to take our stand against our own temptations by fleeing to the word of God.  Adam and Eve gave into their temptation because they did not honor the word of the Lord.  If they had stood firm on God’s word, they would not have fallen into sin.  Likewise, God’s word is the weapon that we use to fight off temptation.  This word shows us what God has deemed good or evil, and this word encourages us to remain strong in faithful and godly living so that we are not ensnared by our sins again.
     Yet, for all of our good intentions, we still find ourselves needing to confess our sins.  We are frustrated, and even ashamed, that we have fallen into temptation again.  They are still attractive, and Satan still does not play nice.
     Your victory does not come from trying harder.  Victory comes from the Valiant One whom God himself elected.  Jesus Christ has conquered the Old Evil Foe.  Jesus has supplied the holy and godly obedience that God demands of you.  And Jesus has supplied to you that righteousness through your baptism.  Daily, you flee back to your baptism by repenting of your sins.  You put your sin to death, and God raises you up as a new creation.  He works in you to love and to do what is good and to despise what is evil so that you do not return to it.
     While temptations may seem attractive, you know that they lead to death and damnation.  Your Savior, Jesus Christ, however, has conquered the Old Evil Foe.  His word promises a greater blessing and an everlasting life.  Just as any person would flee into a safe place when disaster is striking his city, so you also flee to Jesus when temptations come.  He is your refuge from sin, death, and the devil.  For, he supplies victory over sin by his work for you, victory over temptations by his work in you, and victory forever by the resurrection to eternal life.  He has conquered the Old Evil Foe, and he gives his victory to you.

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