The 1st Sunday in Lent March 10, 2019
Deuteronomy 26:1-11, Romans 8b-13, Luke 4:1-13
Title: “One Little Word Can Fell Him”. Commandments 1-3
Text: Luke 4:1-13
On Sundays in the season of Lent, we’re going to be tackling parts of the Small Catechism. The Catechism contains the six Chief Parts of Christian Doctrine—the 10 Commandments, the Apostle’s Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, The Sacrament of Holy Baptism, Confession and Absolution, and the Sacrament of the Altar.
It is good that we do this once in a while. Mind you, the Small Catechism is no mere child’s play, yet Luther makes clear that should be taught in every Christian Household by the Head of the Family. Adults and Children alike should have the Small Catechism committed to memory, and we should read and study it often, even daily. Don’t think that since you have been taught it once in Confirmation class, or you’re now of an age and maturity that you don’t need to bother with the Catechism. As we hear today in our Gospel reading, this is what the devil desires of us—to disregard anything of God’s Word. Christians need to be learning and exercising in God’s Word daily. The more we read it, study it, and pray it, the deeper our understanding, knowledge, and faith grows. The sinful world, our sinful flesh, and Satan often tempt us to sin, despair, and separate us from God, His word, and His ways. As Satan often commences his strongest attacks when we are physically or spiritually weak, we must be prepared with the word and help of God.
After fasting 40 days in the wilderness, Jesus was hungry. Now that’s an understatement. Have you ever fasted? Though it can be a good thing, it’s not always a good feeling. Being hungry leads to being tired and a bit fuzzy in the brain… and putting a couple thoughts together into one sentence proves to be a bit of a challenge. Jesus was probably feeling a bit like that after His 40-day fast.
As Jesus was hungry, weak, and weary, the devil saw an opportunity to tempt Him, hoping to ultimately thwart God’s plan for your salvation. Satan has always intended to separate us from God, just like He tried to do with Jesus in the wilderness. That Jesus is tempted shows that He is both God and man. He is tempted as we are in every way except without sin. Though, we confess, we are faithless, He is faithful.
For the devil’s first temptation in the wilderness, he goes right for Jesus’ gut. “Jesus, you’re hungry. If you are the Son of God (prove it). Turn this stone into bread (and may your belly be full!)”
“What’s wrong with that?” we think, while living in our fluffy comforts of instant gratification, one click purchasing, fast food and free range impulses. “Let the man eat! Why is God holding back something good from him?” Ah, but God’s not holding anything good back from Him. This is Satan’s idea that Jesus’s hungry desires of the flesh be satisfied. But woe to those who allow their belly to make decisions for them. “The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite, but the belly of the wicked suffers want.” (Prov.13:25). Those who walk as enemies of Christ—their god is their belly… they serve the appetites of their sinful human nature (Phil 3:19). How often have we served the appetites of our sinful flesh…
Jesus, instead of trying to come-up with His own reasons and words while in His hunger-haze, answered the devil by regurgitating God’s own word “Man shall not live by bread alone. (in another Gospel, He continues “but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”) You see, these words had become a part of Him. He studied the Scriptures, learning them as a child and throughout His life. He was well familiar with them, and committed God’s Word to memory! What we are well familiar with in our hearts and minds comes out of our mouths for all to hear, both good…and evil. For us, then, Jesus speaks the Word and slays Satan’s temptations before they blossom into sin. This lethal sword, the Word of God, Jesus gives to you! It seems almost too simple, doesn’t it, to turn Satan away. But it’s true: “One Little word can fell him.”
Are you so prepared to overcome every temptation of the devil? Here’s where the third Commandment becomes help for us: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” What does this mean? “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His word but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.” It is vitally important to read, mark, learn, take to heart, and memorize Holy Scripture, because nothing else turns away the devil’s temptations, and nothing else gives eternal life. When filling our bellies, our sinful cravings, becomes more important than filling our heart with God’s Word, we have a problem.
While we no longer have a Sabbath Day as they did in the OT, Jesus is our Sabbath rest. Though Sunday is set aside for the Church to meet in the presence of God around the Means of God’s Grace, the 3rd Commandment is about time for rest with God, which makes each day holy. And where is God for you every day? In the Holy Word of Jesus!
To keep the day holy is to be occupied with holy words, works, and life. God’s Word, which we hear, read, study, and learn, we must carry in our hearts and on our lips. Don’t think this is optional for you or of no great importance. Think that it is God’s commandment, who will require an account from you about how you have heard, learned, and honored his word. You are daily in the devil’s kingdom and he never ceases day and night to sneak up on you and to kindle in your heart unbelief and wicked thoughts against God’s commandments. How many times, when you’re put on the spot and caught unprepared, do you bumble and fumble in your words? Therefore you must always have God’s Word in your heart, upon your lips, and in your ears. God’s Words are not lazy or dead, but are creative, living words, words that not only turn the devil away, but send him running in fear! You are made holy only through God’s word and work! The Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of those who believe!
Temptation number two: “Jesus, bow down and worship me and I’ll give you everything.” Here, the devil is tempting Jesus that He can escape suffering and death. He’s saying to Jesus, “Why go through so much pain and agony for all these sinful people who bend to my temptations so easily and hate your Word? I’ll leave them all alone forever if you bow down and make me your lord and god? No suffering. No pain. Only glory and riches and worldly honor! That could all be yours! You deserve good things. Why suffer?”
Those temptations sound all too familiar—TV preachers, sermons & teachings in watered-down churches, even the cravings of our sinful flesh… but their promises are empty. In this sinful world, suffering is part of the Christian life. It was for Jesus, it is for us. Though the devil and the world promise prosperity and an easy life if you bow to them, in the end everything will be burned, and they will suffer with nothing forever in hell.
Because our sinful flesh desires to avoid all things that might bring us suffering of any kind, for you Jesus stood firm against the devil’s false promises knowing full well he would suffer worse. Once again, he spoke God’s Word “You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.”
The first commandment “You shall have no other gods.” What does this mean? We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.”
Who or what is your god? That’s the question. To have a god is nothing other than trusting and believing in something with the heart. Thus, Idolatry happens in the heart, for the heart, by nature, doesn’t care for God, but gapes at something else, desiring it apart from God. The heart seeks help, consolation, and release from suffering from creatures, saints, or devils. It also does not believe that what good it experiences comes from God, but from him or herself. If your faith and trust is right, then your God is also true. The first commandment requires your entire heart and all your confidence be placed in God and His authority alone. God wishes to turn you away from everything else that exists outside of Him and draw us to Himself, for he is the one eternal good.
So if you lack of any good things, don’t expect them from the world or from the devil, but expect it from God alone! Even when suffering misfortune and distress, crawl and cling to God alone! He gives you body, life, food, drink, nourishment, health, protection, peace, preservation from misfortune and rescue from evil, and all necessities of both temporal and eternal things. Trust in God alone and look to Him and expect from Him nothing but good. He will give you enough and help you out of every need. These are His promises to you when He sets Himself up to be your only God!
God didn’t even spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all! The Cross had to come. Jesus had to suffer and die for sin to bring you forgiveness and salvation. When He was raised from the dead, He declared “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” and sends His disciples out to make disciples by Baptism and teaching. Though all the gods, idols, and riches of this world are only temporary, the Word of the Lord remains forever. So will you whose heart is turned by the Holy Spirit to God alone, by His word and work!
Temptation number three (surely the third times a charm, right?): This time the devil gets really tricky. He recognizes that Jesus has silenced him twice with God’s Word. Now he quotes God’s Word to Jesus! While standing on a high place, he says to Jesus, “Throw yourself don from here, for it is written, “’He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ 11 and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus, likely a bit holy hangry by this time, adamantly responds with more Scripture “This is exactly what God says, you shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” If He is your Lord and God, you would trust him always, even when the devil chides “Did God really say?”
Here, now, is the second Commandment of our holy God, “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord Your God.” What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble. Pray, praise, and give thanks.”
There’s a second part to the commandment that is often overlooked, “the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” This is a very serious thing. Misusing God’s name is treacherous, gives others the impression that we don’t care who God is or what he teaches, and also leads people to hell.
You SEE how the devil uses God’s Word—he twists it, misuses it, takes it out of context, and misapplies it. This has been happening since Adam and Eve, and has become more common and in-your-face in our day. A couple of weeks ago, after the United Methodist Church convention voted to adhere to God’s Word in regards to homosexuality, a pastor on the liberal side typed a lengthy letter crying foul. He has quotes from God’s Word throughout this letter, but at almost every point had it misinterpreted and misused. This letter was shared on social media, and many clicked their “like” of it. Here is the devil, front and center, tearing down God’s Word and teaching other to do that same, and people are “liking” it! To lie and deceive in itself is a great sin, but such a sin gets even worse when we try to justify our lie and seek to confirm it by calling upon God’s name and using His name as a cloak for shame. Scripture is so misused to justify all sorts of false doctrines and sinful lifestyles… and false preachers disgrace God’s Word. As we have learned the hard way from Adam and Eve, twisting and misusing God’s Word leads to death.
But God gives us His name to use properly for our good! YHWH, the Lord, Jesus, and more titles. Call upon him in every trouble, pray praise and give thanks. Guard against misusing His name by using it rightly. We are commanded to use His name for TRUTH and for all good! So right teaching and calling on His name in trouble or praising him and thanking him in all circumstances keeps this command, and His name is hallowed among us. And where Christ’s name is, even marked upon your forehead and upon your heart, the devil cannot remain.
In the first three commandments, God teaches that He has given you His Word, His Name, and even Himself. As He is your God, and you are His people, in all the days of suffering and temptation and in the days of good, He stands for you. JESUS, who IS the Word of God made flesh, slays Satan, takes away his power over you, and LIVES by the Word of God. And so do you live! You have Christ, His life and righteousness poured out for you! In the Word read and preached, the Holy Absolution, and in the Holy Sacraments—Communion and Baptism—which are the Word made visible for you. Jesus, God, gives Himself to you. So you overcome the devil & his temptations, the world, and the sinful flesh, even death and the grave by Christ, the Word for YOU. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus until the Day of Everlasting Life. Amen.