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4501 Waller Rd E
Tacoma, Washington
INI
Invocavit, The First Sunday in Lent
February 14, 2016
Ascension Lutheran Church, Tacoma WA
Paul Naumann, Pastor

THE ROARING LION MEETS HIS MATCH
Luke 4:1-13

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen. This morning's text is found in the fourth chapter of Luke's Gospel, beginning with the first verse, as follows:

Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry. 3 And the devil said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread." 4 But Jesus answered him, saying, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.' " 5 Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, "All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 "Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours." 8 And Jesus answered and said to him, "Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.' " 9 Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. 10 "For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you,' 11 "and, 'In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.' " 12 And Jesus answered and said to him, "It has been said, 'You shall not tempt the LORD your God.' " 13 Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time. So far the Holy Word.

In the Name of Jesus, Who is our Champion and Defender, Dear Fellow Redeemed,

Recently I re-read a favorite book of mine - "The Jim Corbett Omnibus," a collection of stories by a forest ranger who hunted and killed a number of man-eating tigers and leopards in northern India in the early 1900's. History corroborates the stories he tells, otherwise they'd be completely unbelievable. Corbett tells, e.g., of the Rudaprayag leopard, which terrorized an entire region for eight years and killed over four hundred people. It would circle the villagers' houses after dark, clawing at doors and shuttered windows, trying find a weak spot where it could get in. Imagine if you were in those houses! Imagine if there was a dangerous animal just a few feet away, clawing and trying to find a way in so he could kill you!

What's really terrifying is that there is! In our Epistle lesson we heard the Apostle Peter warn us, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." -- 1 Pet 5:8. With his temptations, Satan is constantly circling you, probing for a weakness. He wants to maul you with sin. Ideally, he'd like to devour your faith completely, and drag you back to hell with him. If you're like me, you probably realize that the devil has already broken through your defenses many times. You've given in to his temptations so often that you may at times find yourself feeling defeated, lost, and helpless.

Well, today I've got good news for you: victory can still be yours. Jesus came to take on the devil for you, and in your place He won the victory. That's why our theme on this first Sunday in Lent is:

THE ROARING LION MEETS HIS MATCH
As your Champion, Jesus beat the Devil's temptation

I. ...To distrust the Father's will.
II. ...To take the easy way out.
III. ...To put the Father to the test.

Today is the first Sunday in Lent. The account of Jesus' temptation in the wilderness is a traditional Gospel text for this Sunday. Can you guess why? During the Lenten season, we focus on our Savior's Passion: the titanic struggle between good and evil, the conflict between light and darkness, the war between Christ and Satan for the possession of the souls of men. And now it begins. On this First Sunday in Lent, we're seeing the opening battle in that war. The roaring lion has arrived at Jesus' doorstep, and he's looking for a way in. The devil knows that if he can penetrate the defenses of Christ, the Champion of mankind, then the soul of every sinner will belong to him!

However, Satan also knows that it won't be easy. Our text takes place at the start of Jesus' public ministry, immediately following His baptism by John in the Jordan river. At this time our Lord is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. He won't be taken by surprise, either; our text reveals that it is the Holy Spirit Himself who has led Jesus to this wilderness to be tempted by Satan. So the devil must use all his cunning. And the first temptation is cunningly simple: "If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread."

As always, the devil begins by raising a cloud of doubt. "Are You really the Son of God? If so, then prove it!" And after all, it would have been so easy. Jesus was certainly hungry. He'd gone without food in the wilderness for 40 days. And He certainly had the power to turn a stone into bread - not long after this episode Jesus would use a miracle to produce food for five thousand people! But producing food now wouldn't have anything to do with His mission to redeem mankind. It would simply be to satisfy Himself. It would mean obeying Satan rather than God. Worse, it would show a mistrust of His heavenly Father, who had given Him His mission, and promised to sustain Him in it.

Satan hoped this temptation would work on Jesus - he knows it works on us sinners! Oh yes, it does: how easily the devil can get us to concentrate on that monthly paycheck, and forget about the providence of God. "Every good gift," the Bible says, "and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of Lights." He opens His hand and satisfies our every need. We should be trusting in Him to provide - but we'd much rather trust in that paycheck, or that bank account, or that insurance policy. We'd much rather trust in our own abilities to provide for ourselves. Yes, Satan's very good at this temptation. When we should be seeking first the kingdom of God, the devil has us fretting and fussing, wringing our hands, saying, "What shall we eat? What shall we drink? Wherewithal shall we be clothed?" With this particular temptation, the lion has breached our defenses many times.

But in Christ, the roaring lion met his match! Tempted to distrust His Father, Jesus instead shows supreme trust in His Father. He says, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. The Bible is the best weapon available to man to combat temptation, and Christ uses it. "It has been written, and thus it stands - I will not trust in My own abilities, but I will trust in the Word of My Heavenly Father." This is the answer we have so often failed to give to Satan. So Jesus - our Champion - gives it for us! And remember, my Christian friends, your faith connects you to Jesus. So His good answer is your good answer. By faith in Jesus, His victory over Satan becomes your victory.

And let's take just a moment here to discuss this concept of substitution, because it is so vitally important. In fact, it is the central truth of the Christian faith. You remember David and Goliath? Well, when David defeated the giant warrior Goliath that day in the Valley of Elah, it was the whole Israelite army that was victorious. Why? Because he was fighting as their champion, on their behalf! The same is true about you. The Good News of Lent is that Jesus is your Champion. When He battled the devil there in the wilderness, He was fighting on your behalf. That means that, through Christ, you won the victory. If you claim Jesus as your Savior, then as far as God's concerned you have a perfect record, you have overcome every temptation, you have successfully overcome every attack of the roaring lion - because when Jesus did all these things, He was acting as your Substitute!

But back to the wilderness. Satan isn't through with Jesus - not by a long chalk. He continues to prowl, probing for a weakness. In some way or other, He transports Jesus to a mountain top, and makes all the power and riches of the world's kingdoms flash before His eyes in an instant. And then comes a temptation that must have been truly agonizing for Jesus. And the devil said to Him, "All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 "Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours."

The Bible tells us flat out that "The devil is a liar, and the father of it." But one thing that makes the devil's temptations so effective is that he sometimes mixes just a little truth in with his lies. Of course, he was lying when he told Jesus that he had the power to give Him the world. The world doesn't belong to Satan. Scripture says, "The earth is the Lord's, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein." -- Psa 24:1. But the part about Jesus receiving power and dominion over the whole world - that part was true, wasn't it. Remember that famous passage in Psalm 2, where we hear the Heavenly Father promise Jesus: "You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession." -- Psa 2:7-8.

- And therein lay the temptation. Satan was offering Jesus an easy way out. You're going to be Lord of heaven and earth one day anyway - said the devil - why go through all that pain to get there? Why endure the mocking and the shame, why put up with the whip and the crown of thorns, why go through with the suffering and the cross? Just bow down to me. You can avoid all that and have your dominion, too!

Sadly, this is another temptation that works all too well on sinners like us. When the Lord lays trials and tribulations across our path, we're all too eager to listen when the devil offers us an easy way out. Maybe you find yourself a little strapped around April 15th - along comes the devil with a sure-fire way to save you some money, if you're just willing to bend the tax laws a little. Perhaps you're a young person who's been chafing under God's requirement that sexual relations must wait until marriage - the devil's got a great little shortcut for you, too, if you're willing to overlook the Sixth Commandment. Maybe it's Sunday morning, an hour left till church is supposed to start - how much easier it seems just to stay in bed, stay at home, avoid getting dressed up, avoid the hassle! What it all comes down to is obeying Satan instead of God. And the devil can make that "easy way out" seem very, very tempting!

But our Lord stood firm in the face of temptation. Jesus answered and said to him, "Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.' " How many times should you and I have told the devil to "get behind us" and failed to do it? -More than I can count, and more than you can count either. Well, for all those times we failed, Jesus succeeded. For our sakes, He refused to take the easy way out. He refused to take a shortcut to glory. His road would lead to glory, yes, but it was a road that would take Him first to the cross. Jesus knew that sacrificing His life on that cross was the only way to redeem us from our sins. In His love for us, Jesus was determined to drink the bitter cup of punishment right to the very bottom, so that you and I should never have to taste a single drop of it! Thank the Lord that Jesus fulfilled the prophesy of Isaiah, "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed." --Is 53:5.

Twice beaten back, the lion roared, circled, and closed in for the third time. Then he brought Jesus to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. 10 "For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you,' 11 "and, 'In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.' " This time, Satan was tempting Jesus to put His Father to the test.

If Satan fails with one temptation, you can be sure he'll keep trying to find your weakness. He couldn't shake Jesus' trust in His Father, so he comes at it from a little different angle: "If you've got such a great trust in Him, then prove it! Throw yourself down!" The devil even quotes a Bible verse, of all things - "Doesn't the Bible say that God's angels will protect you?"

And of course, the Bible does say that. The quote comes directly from the 91st Psalm. God has promised that His angels will protect us in all our ways, and that nothing can happen to us apart from His will for our lives. But there's a difference between trusting in God's protection and intentionally testing God's protection. My grandmother got to be a hundred years old before she died, and she was pretty smart. She put it this way: "When you drive over the speed limit, the angels are no longer riding on your fenders." In other words, don't tempt God; don't test God's protection.

Jesus quoted Scripture right back to the devil, only He used it correctly. And Jesus answered and said to him, "It has been said, 'You shall not tempt the LORD your God.' " Once again, Jesus resisted the temptation. Once again, He took our place and gave Satan the right answer, where we have so often given the wrong one. The lion was repulsed. There in the wilderness, our Champion stood up to the devil and won a great victory over him. And he did it for us - His victory is our victory. We who have so often given in to temptation and hung our heads in defeat, may today claim that victory as our very own and rejoice in it. It was not the final victory; only a foreshadowing of it. But on Calvary's cross, His work as our substitute would be finished, and with it our record of failure and sin would be blotted out forever.

The lion is still prowling, and he is still hungry. With His temptations, the devil has defeated us many times. But please, my fellow Christians, bear this important fact in mind: he has not defeated our Champion. We may look to Jesus for righteousness, for forgiveness, and for help in resisting temptation. The Book of Hebrews says, "Therefore, in all things He had to be made like 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." -- Heb 2:17-18.

One Christian writer put it this way: when tempted, we must learn the lesson of the dog. Anyone who has trained a dog to obey knows this scene. A bit of meat is placed on the floor near the dog and the master says, "No!" which the dog knows means that he must not touch it. The dog will usually take his eyes off the food, because the temptation to disobey would be too great, and instead will fix his eyes on his master's face. God grant that we may all learn the lesson of the dog, and learn to turn our eyes away from the temptations of this world, and look into the loving and gracious face of our Master, Jesus Christ. For there we will ever find pardon, and peace, and everlasting life! AMEN.