Thursday, March 9, 2017

Sermon Mar. 4- 5, 2017 Lent 1

Title: Temptation is defeated by the word of God … Jesus!
Text: Matt. 4: 1-11

4 But he answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

An old Indian legend says: Many years ago, Indian youths would go away in solitude to prepare for manhood. One such youth hiked into a beautiful valley, green with trees, bright with flowers. There he fasted. But on the third day, as he looked up at the surrounding mountains, he noticed one tall rugged peak, capped with dazzling snow. I will test myself against that mountain, he thought. He put on his buffalo-hide shirt, threw his blanket over his shoulders and set off to climb the peak. When he reached the top he stood on the rim of the world. He could see forever, and his heart swelled with pride. Then he heard a rustle at his feet, and looking down, he saw a snake. Before he could move, the snake spoke. 

"I am about to die," said the snake. "It is too cold for me up here and I am freezing. There is no food and I am starving. Put me under your shirt and take me down to the valley." 

"No," said the youth. "I am forewarned. I know your kind. You are a rattlesnake. If I pick you up, you will bite, and your bite will kill me." 

"Not so," said the snake. "I will treat you differently. If you do this for me, you will be special. I will not harm you." 

The youth resisted awhile, but this was a very persuasive snake with beautiful markings. At last the youth tucked it under his shirt and carried it down to the valley. There he laid it gently on the grass, when suddenly the snake coiled, rattled, and leapt, biting him on the leg. 

"But you promised..." cried the youth.

"You knew what I was when you picked me up." said the snake as it slithered away."
Bits and Pieces, June, 1990, p. 5-7.

The fall into sin as was recounted in our Ash Wednesday Service spoke of the results of sin … separation and death. Temptation leads to sin and so we understand that sin brings death. Yet … we fall victim time and again.

You knew what I was … or you know what it is … all seem to fall on deaf ears as we give in to temptation again and again. Jesus too felt temptation.

4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.

Things like time, temptation and hunger … are all things we can all relate to … but going without food for 40 days is probably not one of them. 

When we speak of Jesus we need to speak of His humanity in real terms. We need to speak of things that are part of His human nature. His Godly attributes were still there but were veiled. Here his humanness is seen in a real way and so was the realness of his hunger … the type of hunger that I’ve never known.
Shoot, I have difficulty getting from one meal to another … and it took real will power for me to change my own eating habits so that I might be able to lose some weight and live a bit healthier. Yes, there was temptation there too over the 100 or so days that it took me to lose 40 pounds but nothing like what Jesus faced.

3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

Here the devil temps with real understanding:

First, he knows of Christ’s humanity and that his hunger is real.

Second, he know that Christ is God in the flesh and can do what his temptation calls for of turning stones into bread.

Third, he knows God’s word and he uses it not for blessing, but he twists it in such a way so that the sinful needs are met as opposed to God’s will and desire.

Finally, when temptation gives way to sin the devil knows that death and separation from God results and that is his desire. To give what appears good … but what really brings death.
In this real temptation the devil knows one truth, that many in this world fight in disbelief, and that is that Jesus is the Son of God … and Satan is doing everything in his power to see that God’s plan and our rescue fails.

Satan continues to do this as we all fall victim to sin and his tempting. 

Like the Indian boy on the mountain you might think “It will be different this time.” But once you give in … you know … “I’ve been bit!”

The truth is that sin is not just thought, word and deed. It is not just trying hard not to sin. It is who we are. Sin is what we are born in. Now, this is not to excuse it but to understand our human nature. You will fail and you will sin. At times it is blatant and at times you are unaware. Sin permeates our very being and that is why Satan so hounds you and me. 

The devil knows that when presented with a little sin it will lead to a bigger sin and the bigger the sin the guiltier you will feel. You will feel shame, and at times guilt for your actions, even an unkind word or a word misplaced can cause hurt. 

I visit a number of shut in or home bound members of our church but also a few that are not associated with Peace. On one occasion I visited a 95 year old elderly woman who lives in a nursing and assisted care facility. It has taken me a little time to get to know her but she was raised Lutheran in a little church up north of Bay City. 

On a recent visit as I came in and said our hello’s she looked at me and said, “I’m mean.” I kind of smiled thinking she was joking. “I say things at the table to the others that are mean and I don’t mean to. She continues, “I just can’t help myself. I’m mean!” After being a bit caught off guard I said, “Well, we all say things that we wish we hadn’t some time and we need to say we’re sorry and ask for forgiveness.”

She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “Pastor, I was confirmed at 11 years old at my little church and I can remember it like it was yesterday. The Pastor sat against his desk and told us to think of a feather pillow and how if a hole develops a feather can come out. He said as time goes on the feathers keep coming out and another hole might even appear in the pillow. He told us to think of the feathers that come out as things we’ve said that we wish we could take back but can’t because once the feathers come out you can’t put them back in.” 

I told her that I understood what she was saying and she looked at me and said “Oh, I’m just mean. I remember my grandmother asking me to do something and I turned to her quickly and gave her a smart, sassy answer.” The tears began to flow again. “Oh Pastor, how I wish I could go to her grave and put those feathers back in the pillow!” 

We sat there for a few minutes as she cried her tears of sorrow. I said, “Lucy, we can’t put the feathers back in the pillow but there is one who can and did and that is Jesus. He took everything we wish we never said, and all the sins we’d take back if we could and he took them to the cross, for you and for me. He buried our sins in the grave so that we can have the comfort and assurance of knowing that if we confess our sins that he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleans us from all unrighteousness. 

Do you believe this?” She thought for a moment and said, “Yes Pastor I do.” “Then as a called and ordained servant of Christ and by his authority I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son + and or of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Are you ready to receive the Lord’s Supper?” I asked. “Yes I am.” She replied. “Thank you.”

Though you like Lucy are forgiven you must die and rise daily. When you fall you must remember that Jesus stood the test of the Devil’s temptation and though tempted in every way He was without sin. 

Perfection is not who we are but it is who He is … and we can all have joy because:

Temptation is defeated … by the word of God … Jesus!

4 [Who] answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

It was God’s provision of Mana that humbled the Israelites … and they quickly found that they could not provide for themselves. Instead, they had to trust in God for their daily bread. Pg 291 Study Note 

Just as we ask of the Lord in the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread.” which includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body … because Jesus wants us to realize that our entire life and that of everyone else depends of God. 

Question/ Answer 219 Luther’s Small Catechism

The temptations continued for Jesus and temptations will continue for you and me as well. Unlike Christ after a few temptations the devil left him. As God’s son the devil knew that he would have to find another opportunity to attach Jesus but not so for you and me. We will fail and fall into sin … he knows that. It is the devil’s hope that we fall so hard and so far that the way back will seem not only difficult but impossible.

God knows it too and that is why the word of god can be such a comfort and place of rescue which says:

13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 

The common sins ... cause us to fall … and we do … but:

… God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear [or endure]. But when you are tempted, [God himself] will also provide a way out so that you can endure it – [and get through it].

Christ is the one who conquered sin, death and Devil for you. It is he who took all the Devil had to offer or could give and though tempted he remained without sin. This brings real peace and comfort to you and me as we think about his sinless life and atoning death, which give real life and forgiveness to you and me. 

Temptation will come but one also has come who stood the test of temptation for you and has made a way that through him, through Jesus you have a way to the Father by his blood. Joy in that blessed good news and comfort now and forever!

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

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