OVERCOMES THE TEMPTER.
In the name + of Jesus.
Our Lord Jesus Christ taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” What does this mean? Martin Luther explained it this way: “God surely tempts no one to sin, but we pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us, so that the devil, the world, and our flesh may not deceive us or lead us into false belief, despair, and other great and shameful sins; and though we are tempted by them, we pray that we may overcome and win the victory.” (6th Petition of the Lord's Prayer; Luther's Small Catechism)
Temptations are going to come, and you can't stop them. Adam and Eve dwelt in a paradise garden in Eden, and temptations came. If Satan would not leave Adam and Eve alone in their holy state, he will certainly not leave you alone. And the world we live in now is far from holy. It is perverse, greedy, self-centered, and self-important. Our culture decides what matters and what is acceptable. If you speak or act against it, the world will goad you into obeying its ways by asking, “Why are you so full of hate?”
Temptations are going to come, and you can't escape them. Satan knows his time is short, and so he works relentlessly to deceive you. Satan presents sinful attitudes and actions as beneficial. He tries to convince you that doing things which lead to hell is really living it up. He tells you that slavery to sin is true freedom. And your own sinful flesh is excited to hear it. We all have greed and lust and selfishness in our guts. We can't escape that. Nor can we escape Satan. And as far as escaping the world? That is not an option. If we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, we have to live with our neighbor to love and serve him.
So, temptations are going to come. You can't stop them. You can't escape them. You can, however, pray against them. The Lord who taught you to pray, “Lead us not into temptation,” is eager to hear and answer your prayer. He taught you that prayer so that he could guard you, strengthen you, and deliver you from temptations. If we learn to heed our Lord's invitation to pray more than Satan's invitation to sin, we will spare ourselves many griefs. For, Jesus Christ overcomes the Tempter.
If you struggle against temptations, there is nothing wrong with you. It is not a sin to be tempted. It just means that you are Satan's mark. Temptations are going to come. The Lord is not unsympathetic to your struggle. The devil did not leave him alone either. After Jesus was baptized, the Spirit…drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. (Mark 1:12) Immediately after Jesus was anointed as the Christ, Satan challenged Jesus' identity as the Son of God. He urged Jesus to use his miraculous powers for his own benefit. And Satan did not play nice. Jesus was cast into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. This was not a lush garden paradise where all his needs would be met. This was a desolate, uncivilized place. This was a temptation which Jesus had to face by himself without the encouragement or support of faithful friends.
Satan still plays dirty. He attacks you when you are weak. He attacks where you are weak. He likes to find you when you are alone and when you are down. He makes your frustrations more painful and your worries more common. He wants you to be withdrawn from your fellow believers so that you do not have anyone to admonish you against your sins or to encourage you to remain faithful to God's word. Satan wants you to stew in your shame all by yourself, too. He convinces you that you are the only one who has done what you have done. He tells you that your pain and your shame are unique, and that the worst thing that can happen to you is that someone discovers your sin. So, just as Adam and Eve lied to hide their sins from the Lord, so Satan convinces you to live in silent shame rather than confess to be absolved of your sins and relieved from your guilt.
Your Lord Jesus Christ provides you with a victory over sin and guilt, over death and the devil. You and I have to keep on praying, “Lead us not into temptation,” because we are weak and we fail. However, our prayer is to the Valiant One whom God himself elected and who holds the field over Satan forever. Jesus Christ overcomes the Tempter.
Adam and Eve fell into sin in the midst of a lush garden, but Jesus overcame the Tempter in the barren and hostile wilderness. Adam and Eve had been given to each other for support and encouragement; yet they still fell into sin. Jesus was forced to endure the Tempter alone, and he overcame. Even later when Jesus was suffering great temptation in the Garden of Gethsemane, his disciples left him to pray and suffer alone while they slept. Still, Jesus Christ overcame the Tempter. He continued in holy obedience, firmly trusting in his heavenly Father even when there was a cost to do it—even when the cost was crucifixion and consuming the cup of God's wrath for sinners. But Jesus did it; and he did it for you.
Jesus Christ overcomes the Tempter. Jesus' battle against Satan was not just an academic exercise. This was a battle for the souls of men. Jesus fought to win sinners by his holy and obedient life. Jesus gave his life as a ransom for you—the innocent man given in exchange for guilty. The Son of God labored to gain the children of men. Jesus Christ has overcome the Tempter, and you are the spoils of war. Jesus has snatched you from the clutches of the devil. He rescued you from the icy grave and from the flames of hell. He even has set you free from the times when you gave into temptation—whether you were deceived by Satan's lies or you were compelled by your sinful cravings. Jesus' innocent life has been given in exchange for all of these so that you are now forgiven of your sins and so that you are now ransomed from the devil. You do not belong to sin, death, or the devil. You are Christ's; for he has conquered your foes and rescued you.
Jesus Christ overcomes the Tempter. He is risen and lives and continues to intercede for you to keep you as his own. That is why he urges you to call on him in prayer when temptations come. That is why he continues to serve you with his word and sacrament to strengthen and preserve you unto life everlasting. And that is why he has gathered you together in the Church so that you can watch over and care for one another.
When Adam and Eve had sinned against God, the Lord drove them out of the Garden of Eden. He posted angel sentries to guard the way so that they could not go back and eat from the Tree of Life. Since that day, mankind has been terrified at the sight of God's angels. Corrupt men cower in the presence of holy angels. However, Jesus has changed even this. (Jesus) was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him. (Mark 1:12-13) The angels were there to serve the Holy One and to strengthen him against the Tempter. And this is what Jesus sends the angels to do for you now. You are now God's holy ones. You are his saints. And therefore, Jesus answers our morning prayer: “Let your holy angel be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me.” (Luther's Morning Prayer) He sends his holy angels to serve his holy ones and to support us so that the Tempter cannot take us back.
And finally, when our last hour comes, the Lord Jesus will send his holy angels to bring us out of this world of temptation and sin, and they will carry us to our Father in heaven where we will never again be tempted or taunted or enticed to wickedness again. With Jesus, we will forever be safe. For now, we continue to flee to Jesus who is our refuge, our mighty fortress, so that we will continue to be kept safe. He holds the victory, for Jesus Christ has overcome the Tempter. In him, we are safe. By him, we are saved.
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.