The First Sunday in Lent February 22, 2015
428, 144, 371, 381(1-2)
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”
The Apostle Peter writes, “…your adversary the Devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). The Apostle John speaks similarly: “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the Devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time” (Revelation 12:12).
The Devil is real. He is not a mythological figure or a character who was invented and imagined by men in order to explain why bad things happen. He is a creature made by God in the beginning, an angel—but an angel who turned against his Creator and who, along with many others, was cast away from Him.
Ask Adam and Eve if the Devil is real. It was the Devil, in the form of a serpent, who came to them in the Garden of Eden—an encounter that has had consequences to this very day. Ask Jesus if the Devil is real. He will direct your attention to the wilderness where for 40 days He faced off against him.
It is also not difficult to discover what the Devil is trying to do. He already knows that he is facing an eternity of separation from God in the “everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). The Devil wants to take you with him. The Devil hates God and opposes His will. He wants you to be condemned and punished for eternity for your sin because that is exactly what God does not want.
How does the Devil go about taking you with him? Well, he is no stranger to what the Bible says, so he knows what John chapter three says, “…whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Therefore, he tries to accomplish his goal of your eternal destruction by ruining your faith in Jesus. He knows that if your confidence is in Jesus you will be saved, but if he can just get you to give up on Jesus and put your confidence somewhere else or in someone else, he will have accomplished what he hoped to do.
From the beginning the Devil’s method has been to try to destroy people’s trust in the LORD God by getting them to put their confidence in themselves instead. Think of how he approached Adam and Eve: “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’? …you will not surely die” (Genesis 3:1,4 NIV). He caused them to question whether or not they could trust what God had said. He wanted them to trust instead in what they wished God had said.
Think of Jesus facing Satan in the wilderness. It was the same thing. “Tell this stone to become bread,” the Devil said (Luke 4:3 NIV). “Don’t trust in your Heavenly Father. You’ve got to look out for yourself. You’ve got to take care of yourself. You’ve got to trust yourself instead of God to escape eternal torment.”
You have to trust yourself instead of God is the great lie of the Devil. You have to trust that you can do anything and you don’t need anyone to do anything for you. You have to be master of your own life. Satan aims to convince you that you have to put your confidence in yourself instead of in Jesus. This is the danger the Apostle Paul was addressing in chapter ten of his letter to the Romans for there were those who had fallen prey to this deception.
Especially among the Israelite people, who had been acquainted with the laws of God for centuries, the idea had arisen that by keeping the Law well enough they could make themselves righteous in the sight of God. The idea was that those who kept the commandments better would be rewarded more and that it was on account of their own efforts and good deeds that they would be able to escape eternal punishment for their sins. So instead of putting their confidence in a Savior who would cleanse them of their guilt, they had really ended up putting their confidence in themselves instead; and with that the Devil had successfully set their souls on the path toward everlasting punishment—just what he wanted.
One of Jesus’ very own disciples was devoured by the Devil this way too. Judas Iscariot, after he had betrayed the Lord and turned Him over to the His enemies for 30 pieces of silver, felt bad that he had betrayed innocent blood. But he did not put his confidence in Jesus for the forgiveness of his sins. He did not trust Jesus for salvation. Instead, he looked to himself and finding that he could not by himself do enough to make up for what he had done wrong, he despaired and killed himself. He trusted in himself and it failed.
When we fall into sin, Satan wants us to think like Judas did. He wants us to think that the only way of escape is to come up with some good within ourselves—that the way to satisfy God and avoid the just punishment for things we have done wrong is to show Him how good we are. We do this sometimes, don’t we? When we are disobedient to Him we might turn around and try to show Him how good we are compared to someone else, or at least how good we are that it took someone else to make us do evil, or how good we are that we were only a little wicked instead of a lot.
The Devil is good at what he does. How then can we frustrate him? How can we make his plans unravel when he tries to lure us away from trusting Jesus to forgive our sins?
First, the Apostle Paul writes “confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord.’” [v.9] That is, show your enemy Satan that your faith and confidence is in Jesus. Show him that Christ is your master by what you say.
We confess that Jesus is Lord when we come to church and stand up together and say, “I believe…” We open our mouths and confess Him when we sing together and pray together. We confess our faith in Jesus when we tell others about the hope that is in us, about the way He has died for us and that He has accepted the punishment for our sins on the cross. When we open our mouths and say “Jesus is my Savior. He is the one who reconciles me to God,” it stops the Devil in his tracks. Show him that your confidence is in Jesus, for this truly “upsets his apple cart.”
The next weapon to wield against the Devil is this important truth: It is with your heart that you believe and are justified. Remember that the Devil would try to have you put your confidence in yourself and in your own good deeds. He wants you to think that you can make yourself acceptable to God without Christ. But it frustrates his efforts when you hold onto what the Bible says here: “…with the heart one believes unto righteousness…” [v.10] It is not by your actions that God declares you to be “not guilty” of sin. Rather with your heart you believe and are justified. It is by trusting in what Christ has already done that you are counted innocent.
With your heart you believe that the death of Jesus was a sufficient payment to the Heavenly Father to cover all your sin. With your heart you believe that God raised Jesus from the dead to prove to you that the payment for your wrongs has been accepted and that He who once carried your sins on His own soul was finished carrying them.
You are counted righteous through faith in Jesus and not by being confident in your own good works. This precious word is near to you. The Spirit of God strengthens your heart by it, and this magnificent truth frustrates the Devil. It derails his efforts because it is the opposite of what he is trying to lead you to believe.
Satan does not want you to think that simply putting your faith in Jesus will lead to a good end. He wants you to think that trusting in Jesus to raise you from the dead and give you everlasting life is the surest way not to gain it. But the Bible says just the opposite. Scripture assures you that “Anyone who trusts in [Jesus] will never be put to shame.” [v. 11 NIV] Your faith in Jesus will not disappoint you in the end. The One in whom you trust will not let you down. Nobody who is holding onto the Lord Christ will fail to be victorious.
It does not matter if you are young or old, male or female. It does not matter if your grandparents or great-grandparents were English or Italian or German. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved; and the Devil cannot stand this. It cripples him. It drives him to desperation that he tries so hard to take you down with him, and yet with just a few little words you can topple him over. Those words are: “I am trusting Thee, Lord Jesus.” For you see, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
The Devil will try to break you each and every day, but you know how to answer him. You know how to frustrate his efforts: Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord. Believe in your heart that you are justified by Jesus’ life given for you on the cross. Rest peacefully knowing that “the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him.” [v.12] Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.