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Sermon for Lent 1

February 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Sermon for Lent 1

13 Sermon for Lent 1 – MP3 audio

Luke 4:1-13

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Jesus went out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  It’s a familiar passage of Scripture.  I want to make 3 points about it this morning: first, that Jesus actively went out into the wilderness to be tempted; second, that by being faithful when tempted, he shows us his perfect faithfulness to God, and third, that He confirmed this is the way of the church described in the book of revelation, and because of all the material here I’m really just going to focus on the second temptation.

So, first things first, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted.  Jesus actively and purposely went into the wilderness seeking to engage the devil and his wiles and ways.  Just prior to this event, Jesus is baptized in the Jordan, into a ministry of carrying the sins of the world to cross.  Jesus was not just out wandering around one day and found himself stumbling about in the wilderness for 40 days, in the wrong place at the wrong time.  No, the Holy Spirit who had just descended on him in the form of a dove began to lead him through the wilderness during this 40-day battle with the devil.  Jesus was in the right place and the right time, out in the wilderness actively fulfilling the Law of God.  The Israelites were tempted in the wilderness and gave in, rebelling against God and his Law and his provision for them in the wilderness.  Every place Israel failed, Jesus did not, being the perfect Son of the covenant of the Lord.

But there is one more layer of meaning here.  Jesus isn’t just the new Israel, he doesn’t just correct Israel’s sins in the wilderness; he goes all the way back to Adam and is the new faithful Adam.  Where Adam was unfaithful and rebellious to God in the garden and was cast into the wilderness, Jesus, the new Adam, goes into the wilderness and was faithful and true to God’s Word.  If there is any doubt about this, it’s not a coincidence that immediately before our reading this morning is the genealogy of Jesus all the way back to, Adam–the Son of God.”  What is the devil’s taunt to Jesus?  “If you are the Son of God… ?”  By the way, sometimes people ask, why are all those boring genealogies in the Bible?  Well, that’s why this one’s here.  Jesus is the new Adam.  Where Adam gave into temptation and ate, Jesus was faithful to God’s Word and did not.  And understand this, Jesus is not some superman version of a human being.  He needs bread to eat just like you and me.  He is in every way a human being, and like Adam, a Son of God, but by not eating, he remains “Son of God.”  So this temptation is not just for Jesus to eat but to remain faithful to God to provide.

So the second temptation is all about authority.  The devil promises Jesus that all authority and glory will be his if Jesus will worship him.  Now, on the face of it, this must really ring hollow in Jesus’ ears shouldn’t it?  All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him.  He is the very “Glory of the Lord.”  How can the great Liar tempt Jesus this way?  Did the Devil think there was some ambition in the Second person of the Trinity to outshine the First?  That’s how he got Adam and Eve.  “Eat this and you’ll be like God.”  No.  The Liar is tempting Jesus to gain the world for himself by a way other than the way of obedience and suffering.  This is where Paul in Philippians 2 helps.

Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus reverses Israel’s sin of worshipping the golden calf and more importantly Adam’s sin, by refusing the devil’s offer of power by remaining radically faithful to God alone.  Jesus authority and glory come through his obedient suffering and death, his ultimate service to the world.  We even call the service in German, Gottesdienst, because everything we do is centered on Jesus’ service to us.  As a quick aside here, I want to point out that all the Scripture Jesus quotes is from Deuteronomy, the book of Israel’s true worship of God.  True worship of God is based on God’s grace.  God redeems Israel from slavery in Egypt; that’s why they should worship Him, out of a loving response to His rescue and love for them.  Israel then goes forth into the land of the Canaanites and periodically falls away from the Lord worshipping the false gods of the Canaanites and when she does her God-given authority and glory are lost.  Where Israel and Adam proved faithless, Jesus proves faithful.

I think this is a lesson for us too.  We are besieged all around us by those who worship the gods of the Canaanites.  No, they don’t call themselves that but they are the same things.  According to Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Canaanite fertility cults emphasized the fertility rather than the cult, if you catch my meaning.  Their gods were lewd and immoral.  El was the hero of sordid escapades and crimes.  He dethroned his own father and murdered his favorite son.  Baal, the son of El, was the god of thunder and rain.  The three goddesses were Anath, Astarte and Ashera who were, all three, patron gods of sex and war and were the sacred prostitutes of the pantheon.  The Canaanites also give us Molech, the god of fire, to whom even Israelites were tricked into offering their children as sacrifices.  A culture steeped in a religion of sex and war and child sacrifice.  No, that doesn’t sound anything like today at all.  And so this is the temptation for us.  Hear God’s Word and acknowledge His authority, realize that God has a say today or give into temptation like the Israelites, like Adam and Eve.  No the temptation isn’t the loud pronouncement, “You will be like God!”  But the once whispered and now widely accepted, “Sex is a natural.”  “You don’t want to tie yourself down too early in life.”  Even, “Sow your wild oats.”  “Find out who you are before you get married.” “I’m just not ready to have the responsibility of a child.” “It just wouldn’t be right to bring a child into the world you can’t care for.”  “It just wouldn’t be right to bring a child into the world who wouldn’t be loved.”  And these things sound almost right to our ears.  The ancient fertility cults and the cult of Molech are alive and well, and even among us in the Church relying on the same old temptation.  God is not the authority–you are.

And John tells us in the Book of Revelation that the Devil is going to continue assaulting the Church with “proud words and blasphemies” (13:5) and that he will deceive people into worshipping what is false (13:14).  John tells us that this calls for wisdom, the ability to discern truth from what is false.  In the midst of such temptation it is good that we remember what Jesus said to Satan, “The Lord your God you will worship and him alone you will serve.”  Don’t serve the modern Canaanite gods, the religion of the self and selfishness.  Talk to young people today and affirm them, yes, male and female, who God created us to be, all those physical functions we have are good and God pleasing but we are to use our bodies in ways that honor God.  God has a say in this!  All those reasons to abort a baby are true up to a point, but then they fall flat when we realize we are doing nothing different than casting another baby on the fire heap for Molech when we leave our child to be burned up in an incinerator as medical waste.

This is the world that Jesus came to rescue—all of us who would participate in these modern forms of Canaanite religions and all of us who stand idly by while those we know and love would do it.  Jesus has rescued us from it.  He has rescued us to his perfect obedience.  Right now, no matter what we have done or believed or agreed with in the past, right now, we know that in Christ’s perfect obedience, we are perfect in the Father’s eyes.  That is how we continue to live in this wilderness culture, as the saints of God, redeemed in our perfect Christ, and called to live in his perfect obedience as his people.  We have stumbled and sinned.  We may yet stumble and sin, but Jesus is perfect and obedient and prays for us to our Father and carries us forward that day when the devil will tempt us no more.  This is why he came into the world.  This is why he was tempted and did not sin—for us and for our salvation.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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