Lent 1, 2017
"Tempted with lies"
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
A mother, on leaving home to go shopping, told her son, "Johnny, while I'm gone, don't get into the jam." "No, Mother, I won't," he promised.
When she returned, the mother noticed jam between Johnny's fingers and in the corners of his mouth. "Didn't I tell you not to get into the jam, Johnny?" "Yes, Mother, you did." "Johnny, didn't I tell you that when Satan tempts you, you should tell him to get behind you?" "Yes...but when he got there, he pushed me right on in."
Whether Satan is in front of you, behind you, or next to you...know this: He has been tempting humankind from the very beginning. "He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1b-5)
Christ is explicit when He describes Satan: "He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies." (John 8:44)
Misery loves company. Satan wants all of us to be miserable. Satan has already been defeated. In his hatred for God Satan tempts God's beloved children. In his hatred for God Satan tries to lead people astray. Since Satan can't win...he tempts us to reject God. Satan is doing the only thing he can think of to get back at God...to grieve God by causing God's children to fall away from faith in Him. He does so by lying...for he is the father of lies.
Saint Basil the Great said, "Hell can't be made attractive, so the devil makes attractive the road that leads there." So Satan lies. He tells us what we want to hear. He makes everything sound grand...or noble...or exciting and fun. He tells us... Go on and do it...it won't hurt anyone. But sin does hurt. It hurts us and those around us. Sin leads to damnation. For those of us that have friends and family that don't believe in God...we know exactly how much sin hurts... not only the individual but those the sinner loves. Satan tempts us to believe that nobody will ever know what we did. But God knows. We know. And often our mistakes haunt us. Satan tempts us to believe that something can't be wrong if it feels good or makes us happy. But many things only "feel good" for a short period of time. Eating too much, drinking too much, abusing drugs, may all feel good for a moment...but in the end they only hurt us. They might help us escape from reality...for a moment...but reality comes back quickly. And once Satan has you where He wants you...he tempts you to believe that there is no way out...that God could never love you or forgive you.
We are sinners. Satan beats us down constantly. We are tempted all the time...each and every day. Satan tempts us when we are weak. Satan tempts us wherever we are weakest...and we fail...we fail more times than we can count. And Satan remembers this...and tempts us again and again and again. And Satan brings these charges against us... trying to convince us to give up because God doesn't love you or forgive you.
Satan is a liar. Yes, it is true that all sins damn. Yes, it is true that the wages of sin is death. Yes, it is true that Jesus took the wrath of our sin upon himself and died on the cross. We are the reason Jesus died. But Satan lies.
Scripture reminds us that "we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15)
Jesus was tempted just like us but did not sin. "And after fasting forty days and forty nights, [Jesus] was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him." (Matthew 4:2-11)
When Jesus was weakest...Satan attacked. When Jesus was hungriest Satan tempted him to eat...nothing fancy or extravagant...just eat...something insignificant... bread... one little morsel won't hurt. One little sin won't hurt. And Satan tempted Jesus to let the angels do for Him what they were created to do... prove who you are Jesus! And Satan ended by offering Jesus everything...the whole world. You want to save them Jesus... here... I'll give you everything... and you won't have to die or anything like that... You could save everyone and yourself... all you have to do is worship me. After each temptation Jesus responded with Scripture. After each temptation Jesus pointed to His Father and the promises of God. Satan tempted Jesus by twisting God's Word...by attacking where Jesus was weakest...and promising things that are not his.
Jesus did not sin. Satan would not win. Jesus did this for you! Jesus did this out of love for you! God loves you and that will not change. Jesus died for sinners; He died to save you! "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners [enemies of God], Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." (John 3:16-17)
If you ever doubt your worth; if you ever wonder if God cares about you or loves you...if you ever think that God could never forgive you... remember God's Word which does not change: "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39) In Christ you are more than conquerors! Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.