First Sunday in Lent February 26, 2023
285, 144, 149, 257
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Sermon Audio: https://anchor.fm/ministrybymail
Prayer of the Day: Almighty and everlasting God, through Your Son You have promised us forgiveness of sins and everlasting life. Govern our hearts by Your Holy Spirit that in our daily need, and especially in all time of temptation, we may seek Your help and, by a true and lively faith in Your Word, obtain all that You have promised; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry. And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’” Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.” And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’” Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time. (NKJV)
In Christ Jesus, our Savior and our Champion, dear fellow redeemed:
A Chinese general, who lived at the same time as our Old Testament Daniel, wrote a book entitled “The Art of War.” In it he advised his soldiers: “Know your enemy.” It was only by knowing their enemies, that they might be assured of victory. That is good advice also for us as God’s children living in our world today. We are members of the church militant. We too are well advised to know our enemies—the chief of whom is the devil. Paul reminds us of that when he writes: “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11) However, it is even more important that we know our greatest and truest Friend—Jesus Christ, through whom we are assured victory in this battle for life!
In our Old Testament reading and sermon text today we have two historical accounts—the narrative of the fall into sin and that of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. Let us review these accounts, in order better to understand how the devil strives to undermine our faith and relationship with God, and why we ought always grow in our appreciation of Jesus Christ, who has indeed given us the victory! Let us, therefore consider this thought—FROM ADAM TO CHRIST—TRAGEDY TURNED INTO TRIUMPH! We will see that we face the same tempter, must counteract the same tactics, but we enjoy a very different conclusion!
The events of our text—the temptation of Christ by the devil—took place shortly after Jesus’ baptism. Luke informs us: “Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil.” Later in our text Jesus addresses the devil by the name Satan: “Get behind me, Satan!”
We ought to be aware that Satan, the devil, is a real spiritual being. He is not simply a myth—a type of religious boogeyman created by Christian parents to scare their children into being good, as unbelievers suggest. He is not merely the personification of evil, as many within the external Christian Church now suggest. Nor is he a god, the brother of Jesus, as the Mormon Church suggests. No, Satan was created at the beginning of time by God as a powerful angel, perhaps even an archangel. It appears that his original name was Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12), which is often translated “Morning Star” and means literally the “light-bearer.” He apparently, however, was not satisfied with the power and position that God had given him. He led a rebellion among God’s angelic hosts shortly after creation and succeeded in leading many of them to oppose God. He and his followers were then cast out of heaven and became the determined opponents of God here on this earth, although their ultimate judgment has already been determined (Isaiah 14:12-15). Satan’s goal (and that of his demonic hosts) is to separate you and me and as many other human beings as possible from God and so to assure our destruction!
We must understand that the tempter who confronted Christ in the wilderness, is the same tempter who misled our first parents, Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden, and he is the same tempter who seeks to mislead us today. This is not a matter to be dismissed lightly, as if the devil is nothing other than a mascot for a sports team. Satan is described in Scripture as our “enemy” (Matthew 13:39); “the wicked one” (Matthew 13:19); our “adversary” (1 Peter 5:8); the deceiver (Revelation 12:9); “a great dragon” (Revelation 12:3); the father of lies (John 8:44); and “a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). His intent is to do us harm, as was his intent with Jesus, and as was his success with Adam and Eve. Satan, who masked himself in the form of a serpent in Eden and who apparently revealed himself personally to Christ in the wilderness, is fully capable of approaching us in any form of his choosing—even “transforming himself (as Paul warns) into an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14) Therefore, we must constantly be on our guard, lest we too become victims of his temptations!
Having identified who the devil is, let us turn to his tactics. We find that the tactics Satan used in the Garden of Eden are the same tactics he used in his attempt to seduce Jesus, which in turn are the same tactics he uses to try to seduce us! What are those tactics? In the Garden of Eden Satan used a question, a lie, and a lure in order successfully to tempt Adam and Eve into their rebellion against God. “Has God indeed said?” Satan asked Eve in his attempt to cause her to doubt God’s goodness and so to drive a wedge between them. (Genesis 3:1) “You will not surely die,” Satan said, which was a bald-faced lie. (3:4) “In the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil,” Satan suggested, holding before them an irresistible lure. (3:5) As you examine Satan’s temptations of Christ in the wilderness, he uses the same tactics!
Satan began his temptation of Christ with an implied question, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” Satan, of course, knew exactly who Jesus was. There was no question about whether Jesus was the Son of God or not. Rather, because Jesus’ human nature was in weakened form due to fasting for forty days and nights, Satan hoped to create doubt in Jesus’ mind regarding the love and reliability of His heavenly Father. Satan hoped to use the physical weakness of Jesus to suggest to Him that He could not trust His Father but must take the situation into His own hands and utilize His power to rescue Himself from His present circumstances.
Satan wants to create such doubt in our minds—doubts concerning God’s love for us and His ability and willingness to provide for us. Consequently, he will suggest, “If you are a child of God, why would God allow this or that terrible thing to happen to you?” “Why does God not seem to hear your prayers or answer them in a timely fashion?” “Should you not take the situation into your own hands, for obviously you cannot trust in the One who claims to be your heavenly Father!” Be aware of Satan’s questions! They are intended to destroy your trust in God and drive a wedge between you and your Savoir. Rather cling to your Savior God who will always prove faithful!
Satan continued his temptation of Christ utilizing two lies. He first claimed that all the kingdoms and glory of this earth had “been delivered” to him and that he had the “authority” to give it to whomever he wished. That is a lie! Satan has great power in this world by virtue of the powers granted him by God at the time of his creation—powers he has misused since the time of his rebellion, but the physical universe in all of its glory belongs to God. God is the Source of every blessing, and the One who entrusts all people with the blessings they receive—whether believer or unbeliever, whether recognized or unrecognized. Satan’s second lie is somewhat more subtle. In this temptation Satan quotes Scripture to confuse and certainly to convince Christ to do as he asks. Satan, however, misquotes Scripture, leaving out an important phrase which alters the intended meaning of Scripture and so, in effect, becomes a lie. Be aware of Satan’s lies, for he promises that which he has no intention of delivering and which, in fact, he often cannot deliver. He will even twist Scripture attempting to lead us away from God!
Satan’s lure in the wilderness was unprecedented. He showed Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time” and promised to give Jesus everything, if only He would worship Him. Who can give the entire world away, especially when it is not his to give! My dear friends, Satan will promise us anything, if only we will turn away from God and worship him. Every time that we fear, love, or trust anyone or anything more than God we are indeed committing idolatry and, in effect, bowing down to Satan! Be aware of the lures of the devil, for he is seeking to destroy you using the same tactics he has always used!
FROM ADAM TO CHRIST—TRAGEDY TURNED INTO TRIUMPH! We face the same tempter. We must counteract the same tactics! But we do enjoy a very different conclusion! When Adam and Eve succumbed to the temptations of Satan, they lost their perfect image, they doomed what had been a perfect world, and they experienced the ultimate consequence of sin—death! Jesus, however, did not succumb to Satan’s temptations. Amidst His great physical weakness in each case Jesus turned to the Scriptures. To counteract Satan’s question, Jesus stated unequivocally: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’” In response to Satan’s lies, He stated once again, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’” To overcome Satan’s lures, Jesus reprimanded the devil and said, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”
As a result of Jesus’ use of the powerful Word of God, we are told that the devil gave up! Luke informs us: “he departed from Him until an opportune time.” Jesus prevailed and in so doing demonstrates how you and I can also prevail when confronted by the temptations of Satan. We are to resist him, using the Word, and we are promised: “He will flee from you.” (James 4:7) Not that we will always succeed. As we have already confessed earlier in this service, we are sinful in thought, word, and deed. Satan’s temptations all too often succeed with us, but they never did with Jesus! Consequently, as we heard in our New Testament lesson: “Through one Man’s righteous act (that Man being Jesus) the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life” (Romans 5:18). Adam’s disobedience led to death, but Jesus’ obedience leads to life. What a difference! What a change! What a joy we find in Jesus! FROM ADAM TO CHRIST—TRAGEDY TURNED INTO TRIUMPH! That is the message we contemplate this Lenten Season. That is the message which by faith brings us the victory! Amen.
To God Alone be the Glory!
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
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.