Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Invocabit Sunday (Lent 1)
Genesis 3:1–21, St. Matthew 4:1–11
TITLE: “Jesus’ Temptation in the Wilderness”*1
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for this morning is the Gospel just read from St. Matthew chapter four.
Temptation is inescapable. We all face it every day of our lives. These temptations do not come from God, for as we pray in the Catechism, “God tempts no one.” But ever since the Fall into sin, it has been impossible to avoid temptation. It is a part of our daily lives. Jesus Himself said, “For it is necessary that temptations come…” (Matthew 18:7).
These temptations, much like what our Lord Himself experienced, come party from outside of us. The Tempter, Satan, is very real and is hard at work in our lives. His goal quite simply is to get us to doubt God, to second-guess God’s intentions for us. The devil wants us to believe that if we were the master of our own fate, then things would be better. Then we would get everything together and life would be good.
That was his temptation with Adam and Eve at the beginning, and that was his tactic with our Lord in our text today. Satan tried to lure or cajole or entice Jesus away from His great purpose in saving us from our sins. He wanted Jesus to use His powers for His own good, and not for the good of others. Use your creative power and turn these stones to bread, rather than create for the good of others. Use God’s angels as a way of forcing God to do your bidding. Take everything in the world for yourself, if you will only worship me. That was Satan’s plan. It was a good one, as far as plans go.
How are you tempted when it comes to Satan and the things of this world? Are you tempted by money and power? By stuff? Are you tempted by time, by family or by work? Satan is the master tempter. He can use absolutely anything to tempt us and draw us away from Christ and His work of forgiveness. I would urge you in examining yourself, to look at the things around you, everything, and ask yourself the question: How can Satan use this to draw me away from Church?
Now when it comes to our own temptations, we get kind of a double whammy. We are tempted by Satan and by the allurements of the world. James writes, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (James 1:14 ESV). It’s kind of sick, frankly, that we are lured by ourselves to do what is harmful to us. Like an addiction you cannot shake, sin is always lurking at the door, waiting to worm and weasel its way into your life.
So what are we to do? How are we to resist these allurements and temptations? The first weapon against the devil’s temptation is the Word of God. Satan’s goal is to get you to listen to your own voice rather than God’s voice. Satan wants nothing more than for you to be wrapped up in your own mind, stressing and fretting and worrying and listening to all the wrong voices. But Satan’s curse can be overturned with the simple words, “It is written.”
These were the words Jesus used to overcome the evil one. The Bible calls the Word of God the sword of the Spirit. This is one weapon as a Christian that you must have in your arsenal. You can only withstand in the evil day if your faith is grounded in God’s Word. Just last week we heard how those who rely on emotion and feeling will “in temptation fall away.” That is a promise from God. Without God’s Word, your faith will fail. Make no mistake about it.
Jesus says that in order to overcome temptation we must watch and pray. What He means by this is 1) Look, examine and recognize what it is that is temptation. This means examining your life and conduct according to the Ten Commandments. It will not take you long to figure out where your temptations lie. Recognize them as temptations and do not be afraid. And 2) Pray that God would give you what it takes to resist temptation. Don’t give the devil the opportunity to drive a wedge between you and your savior by refusing to pray. This prayer may be as simple as, “Lord, I am under attack, help me.” It may mean naming your temptation. It may mean praying the Our Father, lead us not into temptation. It may mean praying together with someone else. It may mean confessing your sins and praying that God would forgive them. God answers prayer. He will forgive your sins.
Now before we move on, it is also important to remember that being tempted is not a sin. Giving in to temptation is the sin. Our Lord was tempted. There will always be temptations and trials as a Christian. This is not an excuse to a pity party, but rather means that we recognize temptation as a regular part of our lives here on earth. Remember, God provides a way of escape for every temptation, and that way of escape is the forgiveness of sins.
God is merciful to you. God knows you are tempted. He knows your struggles and trials. He knows how weak you are. He knows what it is that temps you. And God, who is rich in love and mercy, gives you that way of escape. The way of forgiveness is the way of escape. Christ was tempted as we are, yet without sin. Draw near, therefore, to the throne of grace. Hold fast to Christ. Receive the gift of His Word, which will heal your soul and give you what you need to endure to the end.
Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
1 This sermon relies heavily on Bo Giertz’ wonderful book, “Preaching from the Whole Bible”.