Sunday, March 3, 2013

Lent 3

For I don’t wish you to be unknowing, brothers, that all our fathers were below the cloud and all went through the sea, and all into Moses were baptized in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same Spiritual food, and all the same Spiritual drink they drank; for they drank out of a Spiritual Rock following, and the Rock was the Christ. But not in many of them was God pleased, for they were killed in the desert. And these types happened for us, into us not being passionate for evils, just as those ones were passionate. You, are not to be idolaters, just as some of them became, as it is written, “The people sat to eat and to drink, and stood to play.” And may we not fornicate, just as some of them fornicated, and fell one day 23,000. Nor may we test the Christ, just as some of them tested, and by the serpents they were destroyed. Nor do you complain, just as some of them complained, and were being destroyed by the destroying angel. And these types came upon them, and were written to warn us, into whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore, the one thinking he stands, see that he not fall. Temptation has not overtaken you, if not humanity; but God is faithful, Who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but will make, with the temptation, also the way out, for you to be able to endure.

When trying times come, there are some people who endure it, and others who cannot. When temptations come, some people resist, while others fall prey to the sin. This, of course, is because there are some with strong faith, others with weak faith, and still others who lack faith altogether. But our God cares for all people, regardless of their faith status. He proclaims both Law and Gospel for the benefit of all, just as He baptized the folks into Moses’ Law, then quenched their thirst with Christ.

Now, while God makes no distinctions between persons, we, sadly all-too-often do. You grow very impatient with particular sinners, especially those who don’t commit your favorite sins. “Don’t they see that they are headed to destruction?” you want to shout. You have a great desire to admonish them of the dangers of the path you see them on, and grow frustrated when they don’t heed your warning. You are tempted to write them off as a “lost cause” for repenting, and give up on them completely.

Praise God that He doesn’t have your impatience. God is patient with you, warning you again and again with His Law. He does this even though you often try to ignore His conviction of your own sins. But He persists, so that you will realize in the end that you have no power of your own to resist temptation but must rely on God to help. He does, with His Gospel, which forgives all your sinful thoughts, words feelings and actions, removing them from you by His grace, depositing them all on Jesus at the cross.

When you look inwardly at yourself, you fall prey to the temptation to think that you are a “strong Christian” and that you are able to overcome your own inclinations toward sinning. But the truth is, you can’t! That’s why Paul warns you not to think that you can stand on your own against the devil, the world, and your own sinful desires. If one of these doesn’t get you, the other two will, and you fall.

As you remember from last week, you stand, not on your own, but only on Christ Jesus. It is God who causes you to stand firm. For you are much like the fig tree in Jesus’ parable. The fig tree didn’t create itself. It doesn’t produce figs by it’s own efforts, just what God made it to be, a fig-producing tree. Likewise for you. You are given to bear your own fruits for God. You can’t do this yourself. God does it through you. He fertilizes you with His gospel Word and sacraments so you become fruitful.

When you find yourself in a predicament, falling prey to a particular sin, you often think that it is your responsibility to get yourself out. You couldn’t be more wrong. Yet you foolishly think that if you strive, struggle, and strain enough to overcome your sin, then God will be pleased with you. Nothing could be further from the truth. God knows you can’t resist all sins or overcome them by yourself.

So it is God Himself Who both provides your ability to resist temptation, and to find a way of escape when you fall into a sin. You are not your own life-guard. It is God Who rescues you from the unholy trinity. This rescue He first gave you at your baptism, where you were delivered from death and the devil and saved from sin by the washing of water with His Word. In addition, Jesus feeds you with Himself, just as He fed the Israelites in Moses day, with His body and blood for your forgiveness.

So whether you have strong or weak faith, your God remains faithful, ever-patient with you, having made you a new creation in Christ to stand firm and endure, always there for YOU to provide your escape.  


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