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Jesus’ Temptation & Our Own

[12] The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.   [13] And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.

Mark 1:12-13 (ESV)

 Even Jesus wasn’t free from temptation, temptation being that which would lead to sin against God and away from God if given into.  Immediately following His baptism by St. John the Baptist, as according to Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness for forty days where He was tempted by Satan himself.  No figure of speech here is meant by that name Satan.  The Satan here means none other than the devil himself, the same devil who was thrown out of heaven because he wanted to be like God (Revelation 12:7-9).  This is the same devil who as a serpent in the Garden of Eden tempted Eve, the woman formed from the rib of the first man Adam, to eat of the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:21-23; 3:1-6).  This is that same Satan who attacked Job in the Old Testament book with the same name, that same Job who suffered greatly and suffered much at the hands of the accuser, but who would not give-in to curse God and die (Job 2:9-10).

Satan is a real being, contrary to the results of many a poll in our day that say otherwise.  When it comes to matters of truth, numbers and the majority don’t run the show.  God’s Word does.  Though we do not see Satan, he tries to not only hurt, harm, and tempt to sin, but ultimately he tries to lead us to doubt and to disbelieve God’s promises, that we not trust Jesus for help and hope and find in Him rest for our weary souls, but rather that we despair and find no comfort whatsoever, or that we find comfort in that which is not the true and everlasting comfort of God’s Word (Matthew 11:28-29).

This is where Satan would lead us, not to belief and trust in God’s Son our Savior, but belief and trust in another that is not the true God.  Thus would Satan lead us to hell, not to heaven.  For this reason, Satan has his eyes not only on us, but during those 40 days that Jesus was in the wilderness, Satan had his eyes fixed on Jesus, not in belief, but for the purpose of bringing about Christ’s downfall.  Had he succeeded, no Savior would we have and certainly lost eternally would we be.

That Jesus suffered temptation and yet was without sin (Hebrews 4:15) is a sure testament that temptation, in and of itself, cannot harm us.  Here, Dr. Luther’s Words of the Reformation are helpful, for they rightly distinguish between ‘being tempted’ and ‘giving in’ to temptation.  There is a distinction, as is recorded in Luther’s Large Catechism,

107 To feel temptation, therefore, is quite a different thing from consenting and yielding to it. We must all feel it, though not all to the same degree; some have more frequent and severe temptations than others. Youths, for example, are tempted chiefly by the flesh; older people are tempted by the world. Others, who are concerned with spiritual matters (that is, strong Christians) are tempted by the devil. 108 But we cannot be harmed by the mere feeling of temptation as long as it is contrary to our will and we would prefer to be rid of it. If we did not feel it, it could not be called a temptation. But to consent to it is to give it free rein and neither resist it nor pray for help against it. (Tappert, T. G. (2000, c1959). The book of concord : The confessions of the evangelical Lutheran church (The Large Catechism: 3, 107-108). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.)

These words hold more than a little comfort for all who are troubled by temptation.  It is a sure sign that one is on the right path if one wants to be rid of temptations all together and sees them for what they are.  But resisting them by our own strength we cannot do, as even by experience we know.  As soon as we believe ourselves strong enough to overcome, we find that we fall.  By our own strength, we cannot resist. To the Lord we must cling.  It is He who gives His strength that we keep at it, not losing heart, but trust in the Lord for grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

Here, our Lord does not forsake, for No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it (1 Corinthians 10:13). The Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one (2 Thessalonians 3:3).

It is not the faithlessness of God that leads into temptation, but Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed (James 1:14).  Therefore do we certainly struggle with our own desires which are contrary to God’s Word and will.  But here we are not left to ourselves, nor are we old Adam only.  In Christ we are new creations.  The Old has passed and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Your sinful flesh has been drowned in the water of Holy Baptism.  No longer are we your own.  You belong to another, even to the Lord who has redeemed you from your sin and saves you from eternal death.  Belonging to Him, we wish not to remain as we once were according to the flesh.  We wish to change, living Godly and upright lives according to God’s Word unto Him who calls us to Himself.

And to you does God give strength and preserve you in the faith that you continue in Him.  According to His Holy Word does He call you from despair and doubt, and from self-righteousness and pride.  He offers you His forgiveness and His body and blood that you believe and eat and drink and so be confident of His grace and mercy, for we know ourselves to still be sinners.  He gives you of His Spirit that you live unto Him who is your Head, deny yourselves, and follow Him.  And these you do, though feebly on your part on account of your sin that still clings to you.  But God in Christ shows you your Savior and Lord, even your Salvation, your anchor and your sure foundation.

Therefore, to Christ flee for refuge.  Temptations surely do and will come, even as our Lord says, Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall (1 Corinthians 10:12).  Of yourselves and by yourselves, we will fall.  But pray to the Lord for help, even as you pray in the Lord’s prayer, “Lead us not into temptation” and “Deliver us from the evil one.”  And so our Lord does, through He who did overcome when He Himself was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days and through He who delivers you from sin, death, and the power of the devil through His own death on Good Friday.  Amen.

Prayer:  Lord, in Your mercy, do not forsake me.  Help me to resist temptation and always firmly to believe in You.  Amen.

 

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What shall we say to these things?

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?  Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.  Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Romans 8:31-34

 

What confidence is here in these words of St. Paul, “If God is for us, who can be against us”!  How much comfort and consolation is right here for the sinner trapped in his sin, the doubter who worries about God’s help, the sufferer bearing the weight of his heavy cross!

These words are the very Word of God, reminding us of WHO it is that is for us, WHO it is that delivered His own Son, WHO it is who will give us all things, WHO it is who justifies (declares us to be not guilty before God because of our sin).

Because God does not condemn you, you are not condemned.  Because God justifies you on account of His Son, you are justified.  Because God delivered Jesus to death on the cross for you, He will indeed give you all things.  You thus have no need to worry about any lack.  Only continue to trust in the Lord, for His Word will indeed come to pass.

Because God is for you (see Romans 5:1ff), no one and no thing can be against you (Romans 8:35ff).  Not even Satan is able to accuse you before your Heavenly Father.

So then, why is it that we doubt these tremendous blessings of God, lay blame upon others, grumble, complain, point the finger, and say, “woe are we”?  Are God’s Word and His promises not ‘good enough’?  Do they not apply to our situation?  Of course they do!

The Psalmist confidently writes, “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling (Psalm 46:1-3).

Such words may sound inapplicable.  What of local, national, and international catastrophes and turmoil?  Do you, as a baptized child of God, have any reason to fear any of these things or anything else, whether it be with regard to yourself, others, or God’s church?  Not at all, for in Christ, you have peace with God.  In Christ, you have everlasting life and salvation.  In Christ, you have nothing but certainty and confidence of God’s will toward you.

So “Sing praise to the LORD, You saints of His, And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name” (Psalm 30:4).

Listen to the mercies of the Lord and trust in Him.  Cast away all doubt and fear and turn to the Lord Christ.  Believe in Him, for He alone is your hope and you stay, tomorrow and today.

Luther

“When the devil accuses us and says: “You are a sinner; therefore you are damned,” then we can answer him and say: “Because you say that I am a sinner, therefore I shall be righteous and be saved.” “No,” says the devil, “you will be damned.” “No,” I say, “for I take refuge in Christ, who has given Himself for my sins. Therefore, Satan, you will not prevail against me as you try to frighten me by showing me the magnitude of my sins and to plunge me into anguish, loss of faith, despair, hatred, contempt of God, and blasphemy. In fact, when you say that I am a sinner, you provide me with armor and weapons against yourself, so that I may slit your throat with your own sword and trample you underfoot. You yourself are preaching the glory of God to me; for you are reminding me, a miserable and condemned sinner, of the fatherly love of God, who ‘so loved the world that He gave His only Son, etc.’ (John 3:16). You are reminding me of the blessing of Christ my Redeemer. On His shoulders, not on mine, lie all my sins. For ‘the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all,’ and ‘for the transgressions of His people He was stricken’ (Is. 53:6, 8). Therefore when you say that I am a sinner, you do not frighten me; but you bring me immense consolation.”  (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p36-37).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, keep me from doubting Your mighty Word. Help me to trust, not what I see, but what you say.  Give me confidence, not in my doings, but in Yours alone, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

Feelings…Nothing but feelings…Hope in the other

The following is from: Memorial Moment, smurray@mlchouston.org

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Romans 5:1-8

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (ESV)

Hope in the Other

Wednesday of Pentecost 16

15 September 2010

We are a people obsessed with our feelings. One of the standard greetings we use is: “How are you feeling?” This is a sign of the self-centeredness of humans after the fall. We spend a lot of time considering how we feel. Despite all our efforts to feel good, we always fail to reach the nirvana of feeling really good. In fact, some of our efforts to improve how we feel fall into painful pitfalls. Witness the number of people who have fallen into drug or alcohol addiction, sexual license, or vocationally unproductive lives. We’re told by the cultural elites: “If it feels good, do it.” The modern offense industry is indicative of this preoccupation with feelings. If anyone is in the least bit offended or made to feel bad by us, even by an unintentional and inadvertent word or action, we have committed the ultimate sin. If you make me feel bad for any reason, you are a satanic being.

Satan can use this feeling focus to get us set off the track of our true hope in Christ. It is easy to feel our sin. Our sin first and primarily is sin against God Himself and then also against our brother and community. When we do something that is an offense against God, we feel the crushing load of His wrath. That is a real thing. We truly ought to feel this way when we are faced with the holiness of God in comparison to our filthy sin. The work of Christ calls us beyond feeling, as real as it might seem. How freeing it is to know that we can be taken beyond our often roiled emotions. We feel our sin. We feel the wrath of God. We presume then that if we feel these trials in our hearts, we should also feel in our hearts the salvation that God has promised us in Christ. The problem with this view is that we are solving the feeling problem with another feeling. This is a solution that is simply a bigger problem.
We certainly have a growing hope in what is promised by God, but it is a hope in something entirely outside of us. The work of Christ, done in time, is that in which we have hope. Our righteousness is not dependent on a feeling, but dependent on something so much more certain and unchangeable: the person and work of Christ. We should not substitute one feeling for another, but substitute Christ who is not visible to us nor experienced outwardly by us for our faulty feelings. We need to have our pastor or Christian brother or sister take us aside and point us what is certain: the cross of Christ, what is greater than our hearts: “Whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything” (1Jn 3:20). The substance of what is hoped is far superior to the hope itself. Our hope is in a righteousness that cannot yet be called our condition. And so it is not the mirror image or analog of our sin. It is something entirely other, because it comes from the Other and it consists in the Other: Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Martin Luther

“As long as we live, sin still clings to our flesh; the law remains in our flesh and members battling with the law of our mind and making us captive to sinful compliance (Rm 7:23). While these passions of the flesh are raging and we, by the Spirit, are struggling against them, the location of hope remains elsewhere. We have indeed begun to be justified by faith, by which we have also received the first fruits of the Spirit; and the mortification of our flesh has begun. But we are not yet perfectly righteous. It remains for us yet to be perfectly justified and this is what we hope for. Thus our righteousness is not in our condition, but it is as yet in hope (Gal 5:5).
“This is the greatest and sweetest comfort by which to bring wonderful encouragement to minds afflicted and disturbed with a sense of sin and afraid of absolutely every flaming dart of the devil (Eph 6:16). For as we who teach know from our own experience, in such a struggle of conscience the sense of sin, of the wrath of God, of death, of hell, and of every terror holds powerful sway. One must say to the one who is suffering a trial: ‘Brother, you want to have a righteousness that you experience; that is, you want to feel your righteousness in the same way you feel your sin. This will not happen. But your righteousness must transcend your feeling of sin and you must hope that you are righteous in the presence of God. That is, your righteousness is not visible, and it is not experienced; but it is hoped for as something to be revealed in due time. Therefore you must not judge on the basis of your experience of sin, which terrifies and troubles you, but according the promise and doctrine of faith, by which Christ is promised to you, who is your perfect and eternal righteousness.’ Thus in the midst of fears and of the experience of sin my hope-that is, my feeling of hope-is aroused and strengthened by faith, so that it hopes that I am righteous. Consequently, hope that is, the thing hoped for-hopes that what it does not yet see will be made perfect and will be revealed in due time.”

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, loc. cit.


Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, my hope is weak and imperfect. It is plagued by fear of my weakness and Your wrath. Through Your divine speech turn me out of myself to You alone, that when I look beyond my feelings I might see only You. Keep the substance of what I hope for Your righteousness. Grant the church pastors and teachers who will direct those struggling with their weakness to Your cross alone. Amen.

For the Council of Presidents of the LCMS, that they might be signs of the divine righteousness in the world

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