Thursday, February 21, 2013

Sermon for 17 February 2013, First Sunday in Lent C

Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
St. Luke 4:1-13
Lead Us Not Into Temptation
First Sunday in Lent, 17 February 2013
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

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

About the Cover: Temptation—the devil is its author. Its aim is to destroy your trust in the heavenly Father and bind you in the shackles of sin, leaving you in despair. But for you, the Lord Jesus is led by the Spirit to the wilderness to know temptation and then to conquer it by the Word of God. He is your champion, your shield, your advocate, your Savior. His Word is your mighty weapon too.

            Jesus was fasting. He ate nothing for forty days and forty nights. This was no ordinary fast—this was the kind of Spiritual fast that one can survive only by divine intervention. Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit, poured out upon Him in bodily form at Jesus’ Baptism.
            Luke also states the obvious. Jesus was hungry. Jesus’ hunger was likely the greatest at this point of his desert fast. His resistance was likely the lowest as well. The Devil comes to tempt Him, taking advantage of the situation.

Jesus was hungry. Jesus was weak at this point. The Devil tried to get Jesus to doubt Himself, doubt His identity as the very Son of God, the Beloved Son, with Whom God is well pleased. Satan attempted to use Jesus’ weakness against Him.
Satan uses our weaknesses against us. He uses anything he can to try to get us away from God. Jesus was hungry after forty days and forty nights, so the devil used hunger to get at Jesus. How is he going after you? What is your weakness? Do you want to be popular? Do you want to be loved, respected, admired? Do you want to get ahead at work? Do you want to hang out with the cool kids? Do you just want to take life easy and not worry about your spiritual life? Would you just rather golf, hunt, fish, sleep in, or watch TV on Sunday morning? Does brunch sound more appealing than Bible Class or Sunday School? What weakness is the Devil using to drive a wedge between you and God? Men, is the bulletin cover all too true for you? What weakness is the Devil using to cause you to doubt God and His promises for you?
            Jesus resists temptation by speaking the Word, specifically Deuteronomy 8:3. This verse came from a time when the children of Israel, after the Exodus from Egypt, were unfaithful to God. They spent forty years in the wilderness. Jesus, a faithful descendant of Israel, Judah, and David, resists temptation and is faithful during His forty days in the wilderness. He is able to resist and be faithful where Israel gave in and was unfaithful. Jesus is the faithful Israel.
Man does not live on bread alone. We may have desires for food, fun, companionship, or possessions. Even if we acquire all of these things, it will be for naught if we lose our right relationship with God. We need God. We need His Word. We cannot resist temptation with the Word if we do not know what the Word has to say. We need to be in the Bible daily. We need to take the time for group Bible Study and Sunday School. We also need to have the Word at home. Nurturing your faith at worship is wonderful, but that cannot be whole extent of your life as a Christian! Live your faith outside of these walls.
            By His obedience and faithfulness, Our Lord accomplished what we could not. He willingly gives us the benefits of His faithfulness when He forgives our sins. He takes our rap sheet, our unfaithfulness, and exchanges it with His unblemished record. He can forgive us for our neglect of His Word. He calls to us, I have good Gifts for you! Let us not neglect them.

            Did the Devil really possess the authority and splendor of all the kingdoms of the world? No. Of course not. God is the Lord of the nations, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The Devil was promising something he couldn’t deliver. We shouldn’t be surprised. He has been a liar and deceiver from the beginning.
The Devil can also tempt us by promising something he can’t deliver.
What are you deceived into believing the Devil can give you? Does abusing drugs or alcohol really make your problems go away? Do inappropriate images really fill a void or just make you feel more empty and guilty inside? Does hanging out with the right people at work or school or going to the best parties really make you a better person?
            There are those who would love to destroy our relationship with God as well. Other religions may look good on the outside and may promise many things. Any religious group that openly teaches things contrary to the Bible and invents new teachings is not Christian. We know Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It’s not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. (2 Corinthians 11:14-15.) It doesn’t matter what they have in the name of their church or on their buildings if they don’t believe in the Jesus of the Bible and the teachings Jesus gives us in the Bible.
Satan didn’t possess the authority and splendor of all of the kingdoms of the world. So there’s no way he could give it to Jesus. Adam and Eve were deceived into thinking they could become like God. We rejoice that God became like us in Jesus Christ. He promises us salvation as a gift, not something earned. He calls us to live in the forgiveness of sins, bringing vitality to our lives individually, and corporately as a family and as a congregation. He heals our brokenness and fills all our needs to support this body and life, physically, and spiritually. He cares for your whole person—body and soul!

The most insidious temptation Satan targets our way is misuse of God’s Word. Jesus responded to the first temptation with the Word. Jesus responded to the second temptation with the Word. Now, Satan thinks he’s getting smart. He uses the Word, but in an evil way. He takes this passage from (Psalm 91:11-12) out of context and twists its meaning. He misuses the Word.
            Many groups twist the meaning of God’s Word today. The Mormons are only one example. The Jehovah’s Witnesses turn Jesus into a god. Some groups that call themselves Christian doubt the Virgin Birth of Jesus and even His Resurrection! Some also say that truth doesn’t matter! A very popular error among conservative Christians has to do with the end of the world. Their false teaching is also contained in a series of fiction books. They complicate what the Bible says about the last things with an idea derived from a fifteen year old Scottish girl who was a member of a cult group from less than 200 years ago.
            God’s Word gives us the forgiveness of sins and it also gives us what we need to stand up under temptation and under fire from the flaming arrows of the evil one. Our Lord cares for us so much that He provides for us what we need to stand firm.
13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left [Jesus] until an opportune time.
That’s what Satan looks for—opportune times. He looks for when we’re the weakest. He watches for when we’ve been neglecting the Word, worship, and fellowship and encouragement from other Christians. Then he strikes. He uses our weaknesses as sinful human beings against us. He promises us things he can’t deliver—just to get us to sin and lead us away from God. And most dangerous of all, He intentionally skews Scripture to lead us astray—away from Christ and His forgiveness and protection.
In The Sixth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer we pray, And 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 works overtime to tempt and lead astray Christians. He has time to spend on us because he already has the rest of the world deceived. The World thinks we’re weird. We live in a culture where peer pressure tries to force us off Christ’s narrow path. With all of these unholy pressures already attempting to force us away from God, why should we let ourselves, our family members, our friends, be led into temptation?
            Let me speak first to those of you still in school. Remain faithful. Don’t give into the temptations of the evil one or his servants. Many may pretend to be servants of righteousness, but there is often nothing but spiritual death and eternal separation from God as the end result.
2 Corinthians 6:14–15 is relevant to you. Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?
            When we have contact with unbelievers, non-Christians, we are to witness to them, not give in to them and become like them! We have the truth. We have life. We have salvation. We have the blessings of the Gospel—all because of Christ. Do not be deceived by a false Christianity, or a false Jesus.

            Dear parents, grandparents, and friends of our young people: Encourage the kids and young adults that you know to study their Bible. Put them in mind of their Baptism. Encourage them when you know they’re down, discouraged, or tempted to leave the Christian church. Pray for them. Pray with them. Be there for them. It may take being firm. What does a Christian need with a non Christian group’s activities?  They can be spiritually deadly. Parents, please protect your children. Don’t encourage their neglect of the Bible, devotions, or Sunday School and church. You are their example in the faith.

            The most important thing to remember from this text, the temptation of Jesus, is that Jesus resisted temptation. Granted, that is an excellent example to follow. We are taught to resist with God’s Word. In the past, we know that we have given in. We have neglected the Word. Know this: Jesus resisted temptation for you, in your place. Just as He was the faithful Israel, His faithfulness in your place gives you the forgiveness of sins. Repent. Believe the Gospel. And rejoice that your sins are forgiven. Amen.

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