Sermon: Seasons of Temptation

Midweek Service for Lent 5
“Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Introduction

Imagine the scene: There’s a man’s dead body on the floor. Yellow tape quarantines off the doorway. Inside, the room is buzzing with forensic specialists and police officers. Over in the corner, the new widow is crying. The lead detectives ask her questions. This is a scene we’re familiar with. We’ve encountered variations of it in movies, on television and in fiction. What’s one of the questions that the detectives often asked the next of kin? “Did he have any enemies?” And it’s obvious why this question is asked. Enemies have motive to kill.

If someone asked that question of you, how would you respond? Do you have enemies? What would you do if you had enemies who you knew were out to kill you? You would certainly call to the police and get their protection and help. Luther’s response in the Small Catechism seems to indicate that you do have enemies. Your enemies are the Devil, the World, and your own sinful nature. And I hate to break it to you, but they all have motive to kill you. That is why in the Lord’s Prayer we pray “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” So, to know exactly what it is we’re praying for, let’s look at those three enemies.

I. Our Many Enemies

First, we have our own sinful nature. Even though we’re forgiven, and we’re accepted into God’s good graces, yet sin still clings to us. We all still have that deep desire for sin which wars against the new life created by the Holy Spirit in Baptism. We call this sometimes the old Adam. This old Adam encourages us daily to give a lingering and lustful look to that pretty girl or that handsome guy. Our Adam whispers to us: just one more episode, just one more drink, just one more helping. Our sinful nature encourages all kinds of evil desires, even in the best of us. This is why it’s so necessary to pray diligently to God for his help. With such a weakness, only God can deliver us in temptation and help us to not give ourselves over to our sinful desires.

Second, we have the world. The phrase, “the world” means our society and culture which are hostile to God and his kingdom. The world places before us competing ideas and philosophies. The world entices us with promises of wealth and it creates the love of stuff – A nice house, a nice car, the latest smart phone, having a great retirement package, making sure you have all the toys and tools that everyone else has. But the world also lures us with the promises of power, success, or fame. Sometimes, it simply offers us happiness and fun times. The world is constantly giving sin more fuel, putting another log on to the fire of your own sin. We are constantly being bombarded through social media to embrace the world and its’ values and beliefs. Instead of loving the world and the things in the world, we love God. Only God and his Word can help us to resist the world. Only God sent his Son into the world to save it!

Chief of all our enemies is the Devil. Satan was an angel who rebelled against God and deceived our first parents. He uses our two enemies, the world and our own sin, as his henchmen, doing his bidding. He especially wants us to exchange the worship of God for the worship of himself. He would be happy if he could get us to despise and disregard God and Christianity. In place of faith, hope, and love, he’ll make sure you have despair, unbelief, and hatred. The Devil tricks some into thinking we can earn everlasting life by being good and by keeping all the rules. He deceives others by making them think that they can connect directly with God and so can receive what they think are divine revelations or special experiences. He also makes some think that human knowledge and reason are the ultimate judge of all things. All our enemies are constantly chasing us and hunting us down. Every hour of life we are attacked on all sides and under constant warfare. What else can we do but cry out to God and look to him for grace and help to not grow faint and weary in the fight.

II. Jesus Was Not Delivered From Evil!

There’s also a link between the Lord’s Pray and his Passion. In this petition we’ve asked God to rescue us from temptation and evil, and both of those ideas – temptation and evil – are in the story of our Lord’s Passion.

After his baptism, Jesus was tempted in the desert. The text says that the devil “departed from him until an opportune time.” (Lk. 4:13) Well, that opportune time had come in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus prayed earnestly to be delivered from the evil about to befall him. Yet, he knew that he must suffer those things, so he prays “Thy will be done”. When the Roman soldiers showed up, or Judas came forward with the kiss, Satan used this as a chance to tempt Jesus. The devil was right alongside Jesus, whispering his temptations in his ear, “Do something, Jesus. Do something – something to protect yourself, something to show these Gentiles who’s boss, who’s in control. Call down your twelve legions of angels and defeat these Roman legions! Crowds will bow before you and worship you as king, for you will have done what they long hopped for – delivered them from Rome. Encourage others to follow Peter: let them draw their swords. Let them go after Judas with vengeance and make him sorry for that kiss. Do something, Jesus, and you won’t have to face this cross!” What a temptation that would have been to fight evil with evil! And the temptation to do something didn’t end there. When Jesus was nailed to the cross, “those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying… ‘If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.'” (Mt. 27:39-40). Tempting him. “Do something, Jesus, if you can, do something.”

Not only was Jesus tempted, but the evil he endured was astonishing. The crown of thorns, cruel laughter, mockery, hate-mongers, self-righteous hypocrisy, bloodlettings, spittle in the face, murder – it’s all in there in the story and it’s all evil. Betrayal and denial by two men who had called Jesus “Master” and “Friend” – that’s evil. False accusations, trumped up charges, lies, cowardice, manipulation – it’s all evil to the core. Two of our enemies, the Devil and the World were against him, and Jesus endures it all!

Jesus was led into temptation. Jesus was not delivered from evil. Jesus was not rescued from all those evils of body and soul, possessions and reputation. Satan threw everything he had at Jesus and the devil was powerless before Christ. Christ stood up to all our enemies – to every evil and all temptations – and he has taken the blow for us. And then, after taking the best punch the devil, the world, and our own sin could give, on the third day, our Lord just shrugged it off, like it was nothing.

Conclusion

And so, your enemies, those who seek to deceive, mislead, and kill you, have been defeated. But Christ’s victory becomes our victory. We need not fear any evil which may befall us because Christ has already defeated all our enemies! He cares for us and has promised to keep us faithful to him, to free us from this present evil age, and to take us to himself when we die. Since, we have been adopted into God’s family, we can pray with boldness that our Father would keep us strong in his Word, since our faith is under constant threat. when we are tempted and face evils in this world, we can cry out for help to our heavenly Father. We can pray that God would rescue us from the evil one, both now, and forever.

And may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.