Archive for the ‘Luke 4:1-13’ Category

When It’s OK to Remember

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

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!

Temptation!

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
First Sunday in Lent, February 21, 2010
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And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil.” (Luke 4:1-2a) 

In a Hollywood depiction of the events during Joseph’s stay in Egypt, Potiphar’s wife tried her best to seduce him.  No matter what temptations she threw at him, he resisted.  Suddenly, out of frustration she ripped off her skirt and threw it over the statue of a pagan god.  “Now the gods will not see,” she said, thinking that her control over Joseph was complete.  And to this, Joseph replies, “But MY God sees!” 

Facing life with Jesus as your Lord means walking down the same path He walked; it means facing the same temptations that He conquered all before a God who is all seeing!  For those of us who have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, temptation often causes us a lot of distress, or as it is described in the book of Deuteronomy, we experience afflictions and even oppressions. [Deut. 26:7]  This morning, God’s Word assures us that He hears our cries for help and that He is near us… but He also assures us that in the end, because of Christ’s work upon the cross for us, we will not be put to shame! [Rom. 10:11b] 

Have you ever felt like all of the forces of evil seemed to be pressing in against you?  Well, imagine how Jesus must have felt… 40 days of tempting and testing.  No company… not even a stranger to speak to, and oh yes… no food!  He was tired, alone, and hungry, and on top of all of that, Satan himself appeared and was doing everything He could to get Jesus to sin!  But Jesus, being both man and the Son of God was familiar with the ways of Satan.  He was there when Satan attacked Adam and Eve and led both of them and all of humanity into the captivity of sin.  He instructed Cain, before He killed His brother Able to fight the temptation of self pity with these words, “Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”  Temptation seeks to test our resolve, our faith in God’s love, and even our motives for loving and worshiping Him. 

Isn’t it strange that temptation seems to always be the strongest just when we feel the strongest?  What I mean is, just when we feel like our walk of faith is finally developing… BAMB we are tested!  Many times temptation will attack us right after we leave church… or maybe even in church!  Where does this temptation come from? 

Well there are three different sources of temptation that we need to be on the alert for if we are to become its master.  They are: the devil, our own desires and the ways of the world.  

The first and second temptation comes directly from the devil and from within ourselves.  The devils are masters in the art of manipulation.  They will attack us where we are most vulnerable and susceptible.  Listen to how Eve, the mother of us all was deceived and you can see what I mean: “(The devil in the form of a serpent) said to (Eve), “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate… ” [Gen 3:1-6b]     

Did you notice how the devil attacked?  He used three weaknesses that Eve had in order to tempt her into sin.  They were her ignorance of God’s Word, her desire to possess things of beauty that were not hers, and her hunger to  know the mysteries of God.  First, God never said that Adam and Eve couldn’t touch the fruit, but instead He said that they couldn’t eat it.  Listen to God’s actual Words: “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”  If Eve had been more familiar… more intimate with God’s Word she would not have given the devil an opportunity to twist the meaning of God’s Word!  The second and third weakness of Eve is presented in these words: “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.”  Oh dear Eve, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” [James 4:7b-8]  It is easy to find ourselves wondering what kind of tempting thoughts were going through Eve’s mind.  She must have thought, “God is love huh?  Well according to this serpent, He doesn’t love me enough to let me enjoy this pleasing fruit!  I wonder what else He’s holding back?  I’ll just take a bite and find out!”  And before we begin to be hyper-critical of Eve, let’s remember what God Word says about temptation, and how it attacks each of us: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” [1 Cor. 10:13] 

Does this mean that Eve could have defeated the temptations of the devil and prevented the entire human race from falling into sin?  Absolutely!  Remember that both her and Adam were created perfect!  What we need to learn from this is that our biggest temptations always come from the devils and from within our own hearts. 

 But there is a third source of temptation, and it comes to us from within this sinful world, specifically it comes by way of our desire for money, fame, and fortune!  Listen to how St. Paul sums up this truth in his letter to Timothy: “Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.  But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.  But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. [Timothy 6:6-10] 

So what are we to do?  How can we find rescue and relief from this oppressive temptation?  We turn to God and His Holy Word!  We turn to our God who sees all of our afflictions, toil, and the oppressions of the devil, and we let His Holy Word save us, teach us, and guide us.  We turn to our Savior, Jesus Christ who faced all of these same temptations and defeated them in our place, for us!  In fact, let’s do that right now… let’s let Jesus, the living Word of God demonstrate these truths for us in our gospel lesson. 

Satan, seeing Jesus tired, alone, and hungry pounces upon Him like a roaring lion seeking to devour Him, and he says, “Prove you are a Son of God.  You’re hungry right?  Well serve yourself up some hot nourishing bread!  Just turn one of the stones into bread; you can do it easily … remember who you are Son of God!”  But Jesus answers back and says, “No Satan.  God’s Word has a better answer for me.  Let me take you to Deut. 8:3, where we are taught that the Father has something a lot more substantial in mind for us than simple bread.  He promises that He will supply all of our needs.  He knows what I really need right now and He is supplying me with something a lot more satisfying than bread.  I need power from Him to enter into my ministry of proclaiming the gospel.  He is giving me what He knows I need, not what you would like to trick me into thinking I need.  I will listen to the Father and serve Him… not my own appetite!” 

Having failed at the first test, Satan now begins the second one: “Ok, Son of God, you and I both know that in order  to take this kingdom from me and transfer all of these pathetic people from my kingdom of sin into your kingdom of  grace you are going to have to suffer greatly for them.  But let me save you all of the pain, anguish, and humiliation… let me just give it to you.  See, come up here and look down below.  What do you see?  You see everything don’t you?  Every kingdom and every power and authority right?  Well it’s all mine, and I can give it to anyone I want, so I choose to give it to you!  Oh, but there’s just one little thing you need to do for me… it’s nothing really… just quickly bow your knee to me and I’ll give it all to you.  Once you do that, you can go back to being the obedient Son of God to your beloved Heavenly Father.”  

What a tempting trade off!  If it was one of us, perhaps we would say that the end justifies the means.  What’s wrong with just a moment of false worship for full time, eternal authority over the world?  But, this kind of thinking reveals something much deeper than convenience… it shows our devotion to our own self-interest and a hunger for personal power.  It shows our willingness to abandon God and to follow Satan’s path, a path that never leads to God. 

But how does Jesus answer?  He responds, “The Bible has a better answer.  Deut. 6:13 says that we are to worship God and no one else.  That means that every moment of our time is to be devoted to the worship and service of God the Father.  Sorry Satan, but that means there is no time left for you!  I’m going to do things God’s way, even if it leads to the cross, my suffering, and my death!  I will listen to God’s Word not you! 

So now comes the third and final test.  Satan says to our Lord: “Hey Son of God!  Why don’t you show the world who you really are?  Prove to them once and for all that you are Your Father’s Son!  Let the Father serve you for once, after all you are Co-equal and Co-eternal to Him and the Spirit!  Come on, let’s go to the temple and I’ll show you how to get what’s coming to you.  Look down there below on the holy city.  See all of those tiny—insignificant people down there?  They’ll come running to you quicker than you can blink an eye if they see you throw yourself off the wall and survive.  The Father’s Word says you can do it!  Listen to Psalm 91: “For He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.  On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” [vs. 11-12]  I am certain the Father will save you.  I’ll bet you won’t even stub a toe!  Why I’ll bet He’ll rescue you in midair.  Everyone will see it and fall at your feet and your mission will be accomplished!” 

And to this Jesus answers:  “Satan, you sure know how to take God’s Word out of context and twist its meaning to suit your purpose!  Go back to the book of Deut. Chapter 6 and read this Word: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test!”  You are a tempter, the one who puts God and His children to the test!  And what did it get you?  You were thrown out of heaven and stripped of your heavenly glory and your name!  God is not a tempter and He is never to be tempted!  I will trust the Father and do things His way!  Your way is slick and easy.  It might make great marketing sense but there is just one problem… it is not God’s way!  No thanks!  I will serve the Father and never ask Him to serve me.  Worshiping God isn’t a negotiation… give me this and I’ll give you that.  No, worshiping God is total devotion, no matter the cost!  I’ll follow Him even to the cross… to my death so that these “little” people that you harass and torture will have comfort and hope!  I’ll be obedient unto death, so that they will know that they have a champion… one who fights with them and beside them!  And, then I will ensure that these Words of mine are preserved for eternity so that when they hear them they will have faith… faith in my Father’s compassion and faith in my passion for them!  This is how I will save them! 

Dear friends, Jesus is your champion!  He has walked among and conquered the temptations of the devil and this world!  But more importantly, He has walked the way of the cross, the way of suffering and death for you!  He did this so that you would not lose hope in the middle of your own temptations.  He followed the way of the cross so that you would have the strength to overcome the many temptations of life.  But if you fall to temptation, He wants you to remember that He chose the way of the cross so that you would know that you are forgiven!  In your baptism, Jesus spoke these Words to Satan regarding you: “Be gone Satan!  This one is loved by my Father and saved by my grace!”  But He also speaks to you… He speaks the word of the gospel, God’s forgiveness and love.  He speaks all of these things so that you may be assured of eternal life and so that you can resist the devil and order Him to flee!  Listen again to the words of our hymn and use them to silence not just the temptations of this world, but every devil who attacks you: “Satan, hear this proclamation: I am baptized into Christ!  Drop your ugly accusation, I am not so soon enticed.  Now that to the font I’ve traveled, all your might has come unraveled.  And, against your tyranny, God, my Lord unites with me!” [LSB 594 vs. 3]  I pray that the Living Word of God, Jesus Christ will bless you and keep you in His baptismal grace.  In Jesus name…. AMEN!