When It’s OK to Remember

Lent 1C, February 17, 2013
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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Here are two words that don’t seem to go together: “Happy Lent!”  Sounds a little strange don’t you think?  The reason it  sounds strange is because when most people think of the Lenten season, they think of repentance, and so we should.    And when we think of repentance, we might think of sack cloth and ashes, contrition and angst, struggle and sacrifice.    Now, while all of that is there in the season of Lent, there is also a very big element of Lent that should make us happy,  or at least give us a feeling of security and peace.  And do you know what that portion of Lent is?  It is Jesus Christ, and  all that He has done for us.

During the season of Lent, we remember; we remember our sins yes, but we also remember what Christ did to take those  sins away.  During this Lenten season we started off with Ash Wednesday and we heard those familiar words, “From  dust you came and to dust you shall return.”  We need to hear those words and we need to receive that ashen cross to  remind us that our salvation is not about what we have or haven’t done, but instead it rests solely on what Christ has  done for us!

The season of Lent is 40 days long, because Jesus journey of temptation in the wilderness was also 40 days.  So during  this Lenten season, we are walking with Jesus; suffering with Jesus, and at the end of that season during holy week, we  will dine with Jesus and die with Jesus.  But throughout it all, we will remember that IN THE FACE OF TEMPTATION,  CHRIST KEPT GOD’S LAW PERFECTLY FOR OUR SALVATION.

“Jesus . . . was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil” (vv 1–2).  In our Gospel reading this morning (Luke 4:1–13), we are only allowed to see the last three temptations of Jesus, but scripture tells us that He was attacked by the devil the entire 40 days.  And throughout it all, He remained strong and resolute; resolved to complete the mission that His Father had set before Him.

In the first temptation that we are shown, Jesus was invited to use his divine power for his own comfort.  It was the end of a 40 day fast, and He was tired and very hungry.  Now, isn’t it true that if we miss even one meal, we can become not just hungry, but irritable and weak?  Now, imagine missing food for a whole day, and then keep on imagining going without food for a week.  Now, multiply that by 6 and you will begin to understand why Jesus was more vulnerable to temptation on that last day than any other day, and He did not falter.

Now if you have ever tried to fast, you know that even without the devils attacks, your own flesh fights against you.  But not just during fasts, how about just going on a diet or giving up a habit or addiction?  I think that if you are honest with yourself, you have a lot more defeats to your credit than victories.  So many times, instead of fighting the good fight to gain a victory over sin, we just give in!

But not Jesus; Jesus trampled the devil’s temptation, and how did He do it?  With Scripture!  He spoke a Word of truth to the devil and the devil relented.  “Man should not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God!”  But Jesus was the mouth of God, so what harm would there have been if He would have turned just one of those stones into a loaf of bread and ended His fast there?  I will tell you what harm it would have caused; it would have disqualified Him from dying as a true man; a man that knew heartache and pain; hunger and fatigue.  If He could not face the agony of hunger, how would He have been qualified to face the agony of His passion and death upon the cross?  So Jesus did not give in because He could not; you see, your salvation hung in the balance!

Jesus was also tempted by the lure of worldly power and accepting a lie out of convenience so that good might come.  When the devil showed Jesus all of the kingdoms of the earth that ever were and ever would be in a moment, he then made a statement and a promise: “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”  Now, while it was true that Satan was the ruler of all of these earthly kingdoms, it was a lie that they were given to him.  All things belong to our Creator God, even you and your own enemies and tempters.  Satan was not given a thing, but rather he usurped this world through the very first sin of Adam and Eve, when we are told all of creation fell in bondage to that sin!

And yet, Jesus came as our Savior; to take away from Satan that which belongs to God and then give them back to His stewards, man and woman, you and me.  So if Jesus would simply accept the small lie of the devil that they are His, the devil would have given them to Him, with no fuss or muss.  No suffering and death upon the cross.  Then in the devils estimate, all would have been well; mission accomplished right?!  Wrong!  Jesus silenced the devil’s lie one more time with the living Word of God: “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’ ”

Oh that we could be more like Jesus.  How many times has the lying serpent tempted us to sin by asking us to go along with a small diversion from God’s Word?  Peer pressure, worldly wisdom, and personal comfort have led so many to go along to get along.  “It isn’t really a person until it is born, so abortion isn’t all that bad.  And I know that God’s Word says that marriage is between a man and a woman, but if they’re happy, what’s the problem?  And yes, I know that scripture says that Jesus is the only way to heaven, but what gives us the right to believe and state that all other religions are wrong, and we alone are right?”  Oh how often we give in!

And finally, Jesus was tempted to impose his will against his Father’s will by a distortion of Scripture.  He could have immediately sent the devil away, and proved to the world that He really was the Son of God, if He would have jumped off of that pinnacle and simply hovered there a while.  What a sight that would have been.  Again, the devil wanted Jesus to see that this would have been an easier way to draw all men unto Himself, without the cross; without His passion.

But Jesus knew the devil; He knew the nature of His lies.  They were based on deception and not truth.  Sure He looks like a roaring lion, especially in the way He tempts us to sin, but Jesus knew that the devils’ time was very limited.  He knew that the Father’s mission through the cross would rip not just the teeth out of that evil lion’s mouth but every single claw!  In essence, the devil’s roar was much worse than His bite.  And how did Jesus trample the lion?  By revealing his distortion of scripture, with the truth of scripture.

The devil quoted this Word of scripture to Jesus, “He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you, in all your ways.” [Matthew 4:6] Well, what is wrong with that; isn’t that scripture?  Yes, but it is scripture out of context.  Perhaps the best way to see the devil’s lie is to put ourselves in Jesus position and think through the devils temptation.  We might reply like this: “If the angels will guard Me in all My ways, why don’t you show Me one of these ways, like the times men will try to stone me or bear false witness against me; then we can see how they will guard Me? But you show Me a place of your choosing that my Father hasn’t chosen; a place where there is no way out for Me. So, since it is written that they will guard Me in all My ways, you are quoting this passage in an evil way in order to make God agree with your sin. So, from this passage you have no grounds to claim God’s angels will guard me, because your way is sin and evil, the very things God can not look upon.  So the promise of God stands in regards to following His will and ways, but never in order to follow your ways.  Since you like to quote the Word of God so much, hear this Word: “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.””

During this season of Lent there is one lesson we must always remember and never forget: Even though we may fail in our own temptations, Jesus, by keeping God’s Law, has overcome every temptation on our behalf.  When we are weak He and His work upon the cross are forever strong and effective.

When we become frustrated because we seem to fall into temptation over and over again; when we begin to become lost in a feeling of defeat because of our sin, we must not give into the lie of the devil and think that God has abandoned us.  When we find ourselves not doing the good we want but the evil we do not want instead, we must not think that we have sinned beyond God’s ability to save.  We must remember who it is that saves us from this body of death… it is Jesus alone, who defeated not just Satan and all of the devils, but even our own sin and the penalty of that sin… death!

Jesus alone has gone in our place under God’s Law and fought real temptation for us; on our behalf.  He is our substitute, not just in his suffering and dying, but also in his perfect obedience to the will of His and our Heavenly Father.  We are saved in no other way but by the blood of Jesus, who is and always shall be innocent of all sin.  Because of Jesus obedience to His Father’s will, and because of His victory over sin upon the cross, God forgives us of all of our sins and He gladly credits Christ’s righteousness towards us.

So, when we are attacked and accused by the devil, the world, and our own conscience, we are called to simply turn to the Father’s forgiving heart, which is ours through Christ alone, who saved us by His perfect obedience, suffering, and death.  And when the devil tempts us to sin, we simply call out to God, trust in Christ and his Word of truth and fight the good fight of faith.  When the Law accuses us of sin, we trust in Christ and his perfect obedience, which alone perfectly fulfills the demands of that Law.  And finally, when death demands our life, we simply trust in Christ and proceed into our Father’s Kingdom with peace and assurance that “He who began the good work in us will complete it in the day of Jesus Christ,” the day when Christ shall restore our fallen creation and make all things new and good.

There is a time to remember.  It is ok to remember your sins if it leads you to sorrow and the desire to fight the next set of temptations the devil and your own sinful flesh will throw at you.  But it is even more important to remember that our Savior also knows what it is to be tempted. We must always remember that He willingly faced temptation by our enemy, the prowling lion, and he did it for our salvation. He won the battle, and his victory belongs to all who trust in him, even to you.  I pray that you will remember this truth, and I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

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