Sunday, February 18, 2018

Invocabit - The First Sunday In Lent

Matthew 4:1-11; 2 Corinthians 6:1-10; Genesis 3:1-21

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus was not tempted in the wilderness by the devil so that He might provide you an example of how you can resist temptation. On the contrary, Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by the devil for you, in the place of Adam, in your place, for Adam’s failure to resist temptation in the Garden, and for your failure to resist temptation every day since. Thus, Jesus is not your sensei, but He is your substitute. He is not your mentor, but He is your mediator. Jesus is not demonstrating for you how to wield the Word of God as a weapon, but He is the Word of God become flesh demonstrating that He has won the victory for you. Therefore, do not take away from today’s Propers encouragement and confidence that you have the weapons and the skill to fight the devil with the Word of God. You fool! Satan knows the Scriptures exceedingly well, exceedingly better than you ever will, and he uses them against you in such a way that you don’t know which end is up! Rather, take away from today’s Propers this comforting and encouraging fact: Jesus has won the battle that Adam lost, the battle that you lose daily still. He has won this battle for you who trust in Him and are baptized into Him. And so, His victory is your victory. You are victorious over sin, death, Satan, and hell, already, now, not because you can wield the Word of God like a weapon and defend yourself, but because the Word of God made flesh, Jesus Christ, has defeated the devil in the wilderness in obedience to God the Father for you and for all humanity. Jesus’ victory over Satan in the wilderness demonstrated His trust and obedience to the LORD for you so that His victory on the cross would be payment for the debt you owe because of your sin, your failure to trust and obey God the Father, His Word, and His commandments.
Jesus was lead into this temptation, this confrontation, and this battle with the devil by the Holy Spirit immediately following His baptism by John in the Jordan. St. Mark, in his Gospel, states that the Spirit literally threw Jesus out into the wilderness like a lamb breakfast for a hungry lion. This was the LORD’s will for His Son Jesus, that He face temptation by Satan, in hunger and in thirst, stripped of all physical, mental, and emotional strength, relying upon nothing but the Word of the LORD alone for you. In this way, Jesus became the Second Adam and was victorious where the First Adam failed. In fact, the scene and situation were completely the opposite: The First Adam had plenty to eat and to drink, was in a lush and perfect paradise garden, was physically, mentally, and emotionally strong, and had never suffered in any way nor faced any temptation of any kind. And yet, at the first word he heard that was not from God, he rebelled, he sinned, and he fell. In contrast, Jesus, the Second Adam, had fasted for forty days and He was hungry and tired and weak when He faced temptation by Satan. Yet, Jesus overcame Satan because He refused to trust the word of the devil over the Word of His Father and LORD. Further, Jesus’ victory over Satan was not in His fighting him offensively, wielding the Word of the LORD like a weapon, but Jesus’ victory was in the fact that He took refuge and defense in the mighty fortress that is the Word of the LORD.
Jesus did not choose this battle any more than He chose His cross, but the Holy Spirit chose this battle for Him as well as the cross He would bear for you. Likewise, you do not choose the temptations and the spiritual battles you face, nor the crosses you bear, but the LORD, by His Spirit, chooses them for you. The Christian’s life from baptism to the grave is nothing other than a daily duel and battle with the devil, the world, and the flesh. Immediately after Baptism, you were placed by the Holy Spirit into the wild, wanton world and subjected to all manner of temptation, trial, and tribulation. Again, Jesus was tempted, not that He might provide you an example of how to resist temptation and overcome, but Jesus was tempted for you, in your place, and was victorious that you might bear temptation more easily.
The LORD tempts no one, but He does permit temptation to befall you with the promise that, with the temptation, He will always provide a way of escape that you will be able to endure it. Sometimes the way of escape is easy, a simple choice that you make. Other times, as with the martyrs, the way of escape may be your death. But, always, always, the way of escape is faith and trust in Jesus, the Word of God made flesh, who has suffered Satan’s greatest temptations as a man and persevered through them, even through death, and emerged victorious. He did not do this as an example for you that you should go and do likewise, but He did this for you, in your place, as your scapegoat and Passover Lamb, as your champion, your victor, your Redeemer, and your Lord. You can endure all things through faith in Him who is your strength.
Temptation, affliction, trial, tribulation – This is a painful reality that is all too near for the life of Christian saints in this fallen world. The Germans have a great word for it – anfechtung, which means spiritual attack. Thus, St. Peter exhorts you saying, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” In your temptation, affliction, trial, and tribulation – in your anfechtung and spiritual attack – you “share Christ’s sufferings.” Moreover, Christ shares and shoulders your sufferings with you. You can endure all things through faith in Him who is your strength. And, do not forget that, as the Holy Spirit threw Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, so is your baptized life lived in the spiritual wilderness of this fallen, sin-infected, broken, and cursed world. The LORD knows the anfectung you suffer and He permits it, He wills it to befall you. However, “He who knows all your woes knows how best to end them.” He uses all your trials and tribulations for a good you cannot know, a good that He promises you in His Word and has sealed you in through your baptism into Christ and faith.
St. Peter also warns you that, “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” But, why does he roar? No lion roars as he stalks his prey; they would hear and be alerted and run from the danger. Ah, but the lion, the devil, roars because he is mortally wounded. Jesus our champion and victor has already defeated him in the wilderness and on the cross! Now Satan roars and rages in furious, blinding rage and hatred attempting to take down any, and all, that he can. But he can only do this by means of lies and deceptions. For the truth is that he is already defeated, he is a toothless and clawless lion. Do not fear him, but fear God, trust in His Word, cling to Christ and your baptism into him and do not let go. The worst the devil can do to you is kill you, but even then the victory belongs to Christ who has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who trust in Him.
Truly, the chief temptation you face at the hands of the devil is the same temptation our First Parent’s faced in the Garden: Will you listen to God, or will you listen to Satan? Will you trust in God’s Word and do His will, or will you trust in your reason and your will and be your own god? You know what Adam and Eve’s choice was. They wanted knowledge and wisdom, they wanted to be better than God created them, they wanted to be gods. But, they rejected the Word of Truth and they believed in a lie. The knowledge they gained, the knowledge of good and evil, was only the knowledge of a choice other than good, other than God. Freely they chose evil, and they did not become gods, but their god became Satan and they began to die. The temptation you face at the hands of the devil is the same: Will you listen to God, or will you listen to Satan? Will you trust in God’s Word and do His will, or will you trust in your reason and your will and be your own god? Don’t believe the lie, but hold fast the Truth. Jesus lives! The victory’s won! Believe it and own it and live.
And, to aid you in your pilgrimage through the barren wilderness of this fallen, broken, and cursed world, your heavenly Father provides you the cleansing water of Holy Baptism and His Word of Absolution, His faith-creating and sustaining Word of Life, and the life-giving body and blood of your champion, your victor, and your Redeemer Jesus Christ in bread and wine. Truly you have greater gifts and providence than did our First Parents in paradise! Moreover, you have the gift of the Holy Spirit of God who counsels and comforts you as you go. Remain in His gifts. Receive His gifts and keep your lamps full with the Spirit-given gift of faith and you will persevere and endure through the worst your adversary can visit upon you.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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