Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sunday, March 1, 2009 Lent 1 Matthew 4:1-11

Then Jesus was led up into the desert by the Spirit to be tried by the devil. And having fasted forty days and forty nights afterward He was hungry. And having come, the tempter said to Him, "If You are Son of God, speak in order that these stoned become bread." But He, answering said, "It has been written, `Not on bread alone will man live, but on every saying coming forth through God's mouth.'" Then the devil takes Him along into the holy city and stands Him on the highest point of the temple and says to Him, "If You are Son of God, throw Yourself down, for it is written that, "to His angels He will give orders concerning You", and "Upon hands they will bear You up, that You not strike against as stone Your foot." Jesus said to him, "Again it has been written, `You will not test the Lord, your God.'" Again, the devil takes Him along into a very high mountain and shows Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he says to Him, "These all I will give to You, if, falling down, You will worship me." Then Jesus says to Him, "Begone, Satan! for it has been written, `The Lord your God you will worship, and to Him only will you serve.'" Then the devil leaves Him, and look, angels came forward and ministered to Him.

Back in college, even before the What Would Jesus Do fad, I had a pre-sem classmate who wanted to be just like Jesus. Since Jesus went to the desert to be tempted, this young man began to pray publicly that God would lead him into temptation too! How foolish, since Jesus teaches His disciples to pray that God would lead us away from temptations. WWJD is often a foolish enterprise, especially when we try to do what is only given to Jesus to accomplish. We can't defeat temptation. Jesus could, and He did!

Like Jesus, we are tempted to doubt God's providence. Will He provide for us in these trying economic times? Will God let me lose my job and join the unemployment ranks? Will the Lord let our mortgage lapse into foreclosure? We could end up like Jesus, homeless and hungry, living out in the wilderness with nothing to eat or drink for forty long days. Will God come through for us to supply a means to get by?

Though we may think God won't always provide for us, Jesus had no such doubts. Although he was very hungry and thirsty too in the desert wilderness, He did not let the devil's temptations to doubt His heavenly Father have the victory. Jesus defeated Satan's temptations to doubt the Lord's providence, subsisting on God's Word alone, and on its promises. For Jesus knew this would not be the final battle with the devil, but that He had been baptized to the cross, where He would bury and raise us sinners to new life!

Like Jesus, we are tempted to lose our trust in the Lord. Should we test God by giving up on that relationship He has given us, to pursue one that seems better? Is it worth taking foolish risks, hoping that God may just bail you out in the end? We test His patience, time and again, placing ourselves in precarious positions just like Jesus teetering atop the pinnacle of the Temple, ready to fall.

Though we often fall in our efforts, Jesus did not test God's mercy by falling at the devil's command. He saw Satan's faulty interpretation of scripture as the devil tried to manipulate God's word for his own ends. Jesus would not tempt His heavenly Father to see if this was a word of prophecy or not. Instead, He stopped Satan in his tracks, rebuking him for even suggestion that He put God to the test. He knew the angels would minister to Him afterward, so that Jesus could continue on His journey to the cross.

Like Jesus, we are tempted with respect to our loyalty to God. We foolishly think that we can be part-time Christians, worshiping on Sunday, but our conduct is much like unbelievers at other times. We cheapen the grace of God by confessing that we are God's Own, yet acting like we belong only to ourselves. We seem to worship mammon, the stuff of wealth and riches Satan showed to Jesus from the mountain top.

Though our worship and prayers falter all the time, Jesus feared only His heavenly Father. Our Savior knew that the true worship of God is never in what we get to do or acquire, but in what God alone does for our salvation. True worship seeks Jesus as the only Savior, by faith. It is worship in Spirit and Truth, as the Holy Spirit leads us by faith to the Truth–Christ Jesus. Your Savior doesn't disappoint, but delivers your salvation, not cheaply, but at the price of His body and blood, given and shed for you for your forgiveness.

They say you can put lipstick on a pig, but that doesn't make it kissable. Likewise, the black devil may appear as an angel of light, or even as the majestic prince of this word as He tempts you. But don't be deceived. And those times when you do give-in to temptation, look no further for your redemption than He Who defeated that snake-in-the-grass-deceiver, not once, not twice, but thrice. For Jesus was not only victorious over Satan on this day, but ultimately triumphed for you by crushing his head at the cross.

Hymns for today from LSB:
#608 Lord to You I Make Confession
#656 A Mighty Fortress is Our God
#418 O Lord Throughout These Forty Days

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