Home » Spiritual Direction » Sermon for the First Sunday in Lent

Sermon for the First Sunday in Lent

Luke 4:1-13 Two Spirits, Two Choices

I once used an electric bread machine to bake bread beneath the pulpit during a sermon on Jesus being the bread of life. I will never do that again. A preacher’s words cannot compete with the smell of fresh bread around 11:30 on a Sunday morning. It is rumored that a local restaurant sold out of hot rolls for lunch that day. We live and hopefully, we learn.

Now, in your imagination, imagine what the smell of fresh bread would be like after going forty days without eating? Would you be tempted to eat some fresh bread if you had the ability to get your hands on some? I would not be tempted; I would give in and eat. Jesus, who could have turned the stones into bread, (after all he turned water into wine) did not give in. Do you think Satan thought he would? Absolutely, yes. Remember, the Devil thought he could overthrow God.

What motivated Jesus to say no? Jesus’s motivation was the will of his Father. The will of God. Some might say, “Jesus was God.” Yes, Jesus was God but he was also human and suspectable to all we are suspectable to. The writer of the Book of Hebrews under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit tells us, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are– yet he did not sin.” (Heb. 4:15 NIV)

I have a question for you, do you think Satan or Satan’s servants seek to find your weakness so that you will give into temptation? The Bible seems to indicate this to be true.  The Apostle Paul writes to the Christians in Thessalonica, “I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain.” (1 Thess. 3:5 NIV)

Now, temptation is not always from supernatural forces. Our own rebellious nature can also lead us to go against the will of God, but we must not take demonic influence lightly. I made that mistake and have paid dearly for it. I fully agree with Paul’s words, “But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” (Gal. 6:1 NIV)

What we learn from this encounter in the wilderness is, “Because he (that is Jesus) himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Heb. 2:18-3:1 NIV) Jesus’s actions are always in our best interest.

We have been given a promise, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humankind. And God is faithful; God will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, God will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Cor. 10:13)

Notice how Satan approaches Jesus. He tries to appeal to Jesus’s ego, tempting Jesus just as he did the first human beings. He tries to make it sound like he trying to make it easier on Jesus. He tries to question Jesus’s faith,. He asks Jesus if it is really true the angels will lift you? Why go through all this misery. The power has been given to me to influence this entire world. I will bestow it on you if you just recognize my mercy and bow before me. Would this not be easier?

This is how the evil one works. Evil uses tools of deception, illusion, manipulation, to twist the truth just enough to make what is offered sound OK or at least easier. Do not be deceived. Satan never looks out for our good. We are merely items of derision and contempt for who evil wants to inflict pain, suffering, and death. There may seem to be a bit of pleasure, goodness, or desire but it is only to set us up for destruction.

Note, however, that Jesus has a counter. Jesus is full of the Holy Spirit. It is the same Spirit that the Lord has sent to all believers as an advocate, a comforter, the one who brings God’s gift of consolation to us.

This is how the enemy works. When the demonic think we are weak, the enemy will propose to us apparent pleasures, making them imagine sensual delights and pleasures in order to hold them more and make them grow in their vices and sins. Yet, because of God’s love, the Holy Spirit uses the opposite method, troubling our minds and hearts and working on our conscience through the process of reason.

When we are seeking to be in the will and service of our God our Lord, it is the way of the evil spirit to trouble, sadden and put obstacles, disquieting with false reasons in order to create doubt and discouragement. When this happens, the Holy Spirit seeks to give us courage and strength, consolations, tears of trust, inspirations, and quiet, easing our worries, and helping us stand and overcome all obstacles, so that we can sustain our service in the will of God.

Would it not be wonderful to be able to always listen to the Holy Spirit? Yet, when we engage in the human tendency to be willful rather than willing, our own nature can make us deaf to the Spirit’s work in our lives. If we become complacent in our spiritual practices, if we allow ourselves to be dominated by our own self-interests, or if we have made it a habit of not being alert and continuously giving in to temptation, then we make it easy on Satan.

God has given us a tool, a guide, a source of strength to help us. It is God’s own word. The Psalmist states, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Ps. 119:11 NIV) This is what Jesus turns to counter the lies and manipulation of Satan.

Another tool we have is prayer. Jesus instructed his disciples and us to pray, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. (Matt. 6:13 NIV) God hears this prayer. God answers this prayer if our prayer is sincere. The Lord’s Prayer, the model prayer, has helped me more than anything else in my spiritual walk. When we take this prayer seriously and pray it faithfully, we do grow in our faith. Scripture and prayer are our basic tools against temptation. If we neglect them trouble is soon to come.

Note what happens at the end, “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.” This battle is not over. Satan and the forces against humanity do not give up in this world. They did not give up against Jesus and they will not give up against us. We need to believe and understand this struggle is constant, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph. 6:12 NIV)

Evil is always looking for an opportune time to get at us. Evil will do whatever it takes to bring about our downfall if it can. It hates God so it hates what God loves, us.

So, we are warned, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. (1 Pet. 5:8-9 NIV)

This is a battle we can win. How many times have you experienced pain, sadness, suffering, or grief because you gave in to temptation? How many times have you wished, “if only.” We cannot push a reset button, but we can change our willfulness to willingness by accepting the ultimate gift from God, Jesus as our Lord. This is how we can win. I am so thankful for the promise of God, “for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (1 Jn. 5:4-5 NIV) God will help us. Through Jesus Christ, we can, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and God will come near to you. (Jas. 4:7-8 NIV) The choice is yours.

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