“Lead Us Not Into Temptation” / Invocavit 2017 / Matthew 4:1-11Pr. Christopher Gillespie
March 6, 2017
In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
Jesus’s temptation by the devil was for our benefit. First, the devil was forced to play all his cards by which we can see in how Jesus was tempted precisely how too we are and will be tempted. Defining the tempters also define the temptations. And second, Jesus begins his work of “fulfilling all righteousness” by rebuffing all the tempter’s attacks.
There are three sources of temptation: our sinful human flesh, the world around us, and the devil himself. And each tempter has its own means of temptation. Our sinful flesh tempts us with its desires. The world tempts us with its wickedness and charms. The devil tempts us to twist or ignore God’s Word to our preference.
Our sinful flesh is called by Scripture the “Old Adam” or the “old man.” It is utterly opposed to the “New Adam” or “new man” which was given us by Christ through Holy Baptism. We are both until the day we die, one-hundred-percent sinner by the flesh and one-hundred-percent saint by faith in the Son of God.
The old Adam is drowned and buried in Baptism. Yet, as Luther says, the old man is a “damn good swimmer.” As long as we remain flesh and blood, we struggle against temptation is daily. The tempter “goes to work [on our flesh] and lures us daily into unchastity, laziness, gluttony and drunkenness, greed and deceit, into acts of fraud and deception against our neighbor.” (Large Catechism, 102) In part, Lent is a time to be aware to the flesh and its desires and renewal a life of prayer and trust in Baptism, where God grants us His Spirit to guard and protect us from temptation.
The world around us is joined in this evil league of evil. The world itself was brought into corruption by Adam’s fall into sin. We not only struggle to make ends meet but we’ll do so in the worst possible way. Luther reminds us, “We are surrounded by temptations to hatred and envy, hostility, violence and injustice, unfaithfulness, vengeance, cursing, railing, slander, arrogance and pride, along with fondness for luxury, honor, fame, and power.” (LC, 103) The world’s temptation is to be important, to be influential, and most of all to be filthy rich. And along with this temptation, we’ll step on as many toes and trample as many neighbors underfoot as needed to get there.
And then, along comes the Dr. Evil himself, the devil, who baits and provokes us. He is a liar and a murder from the beginning. His chief aim is to lead you to forsake God’s word and work. He wants nothing more than to have us abandon faith and hope in Christ alone and to draw us inward onto ourselves. His aim is unbelief, hardness of heart, false security, despair, atheism, blasphemy, and and other great sin.
His temptations are even more subtle that our flesh or the world. His chief tactic is to twist and manipulate God’s Word. Did God really say? Maybe things would be happier without God? Maybe you won’t die but live? Isn’t God’s Word holding you back from all you want to be? Maybe the problem isn’t with you but its with God? Maybe all this organized religion is the issue and we should set ourselves free?
It is one thing to feel tempted and quite another to consent or yield to it to listen to it. We will all be tempted, uniquely. According to the Old Man, the youth are tempted by the desires of the flesh and perhaps the older are tempted by the world. But every Christian, the new man in Christ, is tempted by the devil to ignore God and His Word.
Thus, the tempter’s lies always have an ally with the world and our flesh. And thus, temptation is the war between our “body of death” and with the New Man given to you in Christ. As long as we have flesh and blood, we have temptations to sin. They do not come from God, “For God cannot be tempted with evil and He Himself tempts no one.” (James 1:13) It is the flesh that does not seek what God desires but hates Him and is utterly opposed to everything He has said. The world is the governed not by faith but by the lusts and passions of flesh-and-blood men. The devil prowls around this kingdom seeking someone of faith to devour.
Because the flesh clings to us until we die, there is always weakness and stumbling. Because we remain in this sinful flesh, we stand one day and fall the next. As long as we live in the flesh, in this world, and in the domain of the devil, temptations will come. We suffer under them and get caught up in them. Emotion and feeling won’t work. “In time of temptation [they] fall away.” (Luke 8:13)
Our prayer is that we not fall into them, that is to give ourselves over to them. Every Christian must be armed and prepared for these many attacks. When we pray “lead us not into temptation,” we are asking God to give us power and strength to resist by His Word and Sacraments, even though temptation is not taken away or removed. God has promised that, “With temptation he will also provide the way of escape.” (Hebrews 4:15) And this way of escape is Jesus!
Christ himself was tempted just as we are, yet without sinning. “Therefore, in all things [Jesus] had to be made like [us,] His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:17-18)
That’s why you’re here today, to confess your sin and be forgiven and renewed again in the blood of Christ, to receive His victory over sin and death! By faith in Jesus and our Baptism into Him we are entirely forgiven, washed clean, spotless, all through His shed blood. We now stand forgiven before God. Yet, we also must pray that he not allow us to fall again into shame and vice. Otherwise it would be impossible for us to overcome even the smallest temptation.
The life of the Christian, old man in Adam and new man in Christ, is not easy. It’d be far easier to be an ignorant, unwashed pagan. This warfare means hard labor and toil. The great peril of unbelief and temptations every Christian must bear. Sometimes they come one-by-one and other times it seems we are assaulted from all sides. We are daily attacked, chased and hunted. Apart from God, there is no hope for us. Thus, the Lord’s prayer is constantly on our lips. We constantly ask God to preserve us and our faith. You cannot help yourself but God will surely answer and deliver you.
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) You have been renewed in your Baptism by the Absolution. Now and eat and drink of your salvation from sin, death, and devil. Eat and drink, be forgiven, renewed, and strengthened against all temptation. Christ Jesus’s body and blood is your victory over sin and grave. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church