Dear Baptized and Redeemed,
From the very moment that we are baptized, and come to faith in Christ, we have a target plastered right on our forehead. The devil already has the unbelieving world. It’s God children, it’s you and me, that he desires. Scripture is clear on this when Jesus tells Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.”
The devil is not playing games when he tempts us. His ultimate goal is to destroy us. And he has proven himself to be a worthy adversary. He has proven himself to be successful at what he does. He’s proven himself to be a good liar, mixing truth with error. And if we think we are strong enough to resist him on our own – let us consider that even a completely sinless human being is not strong enough to resist him. In the beginning, Adam and Eve were completely sinless human beings, and yet they still gave in to his temptation.
But the good news is that we have a sure and certain defense against him. It sounds so simple, yet it’s God’s tried and true method. Jesus Himself used this method. He simply quoted God’s Word. That is our strength. That is our salvation. Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. For every single temptation possible to mankind, there is an answer in God’s Word. There is always a way to escape that temptation, using God’s Word.
We see that the devil first tempts Christ with food. But it wasn’t just food, he combined the need for food with another temptation. “ If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” The devil has the audacity to question whether Jesus is actually God. And we can learn from this that the devil is not stupid. He is actually quite brilliant. Only 3 words in, “If thou be”, and he immediately takes control of the conversation. He immediately seeks to take power away from God. “Jesus, you’re going to have to prove to me that you are God.”
But he tempts us in the exact same way. “If you are a child of God, why do you suffer so?” Why do things so often not go the way we think they should? Does God even care? Often we don’t receive what we think we should. Is God even providing? Often we don’t get the answer we want, to our prayer. Is God even listening? To these things we respond: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
We may not have much of this world’s wealth, and even what we do have can easily be taken away from us. Things often do not go the way we think they should.
Yet, we still have the one thing needful. We have God’s Word. And that is all that we need. We have overflowing strength in His promise, simply that He causes all things to work together for good to them who love Him.
God’s love, His forgiving grace, the birth, life, death, and resurrection of God’s Son, we have it all - in God’s Word.
And in God’s Word we learn that afflictions and tribulations are not signs that God is against us, but that He is actually for us. They are an invitation to rest in God’s grace, to turn to Him in prayer, and to remember that most of all, our most pressing need was to have our sins forgiven. And He has met that need in His Son, crucified and risen for us.
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” I shall not lack even one single thing. Even if I were to lose everything, like Job, I still have my Savior, and there is nothing more important than that.
Jesus quotes Scripture, and so the devil, in his cleverness, also quotes Scripture. He took Jesus up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “ If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down: for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.”
It seems like such a good, holy idea. God says His angels will protect you. So let’s test this out, by jumping, Jesus. Again, the devil tempts us in the exact same way.
He puts forth the idea that God is there just to do our bidding. We should be able to manipulate God to get what we want. We should be able to demand miracles to prove He is there for us. But “It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”
In the final temptation the devil reveals his true colors. “The devil taketh Him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto Him, All these things will I give thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me.”
Again, it’s the same with us. What he offers seems so good. He’s an expert at making sin seem so right at the time, because it seems like we have so much to gain by giving in.
Look at the good times we could have, if we had another persons’ spouse. Look at how far ahead we could be, if we just cheated on a test, or lied on our job application, or didn’t report all our income on our taxes. He glamorizes sin, and makes it seem so good and fun.
But when we go for it, then the devil immediately becomes our accuser (which is what his name “devil” means). He lies, saying, “Heaven cannot possibly be meant for you. Look at what you’ve done.”
That’s one of his most effective lies: “there’s no hope. There’s no redemption. You’ve gone too far. There’s no salvation for you.”
But God says otherwise. “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” God has more forgiveness than the whole world has sin, because of His Son. He already took upon Himself the full punishment for the sin of the whole world. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My Word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”
When the adultereous woman was caught in the very act, Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin no more.” When the thief on the cross asked for mercy, Jesus responded, Today you will be with Me in Paradise. So there is always hope, and forgiveness in Christ.
Even the most faithful Christians have fallen into temptation. The point is not that we are strong enough to resist. It’s that we have someone who is much stronger than Satan. We have a Savior who carries us through. Jesus did not subject Himself to the devil’s temptations in the wilderness for His own amuzement, or just so He could see what the outcome would be. He did it all for us. As true God and man in one person, He stepped into our shoes. He resisted all temptation for us. And His victory becomes our own. He says, simply believe, and thou shalt be saved.
With the help of Christ, we too can resist, and the devil does flee from us. “I can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth me.” It’s not easy to resist temptation. We don’t will never have a perfect record of resisting, like Christ had. Yet, He’s given us His perfect life. Knowing that He is our perfect substitute makes all the difference. His strength carries us through. He enables us to serve God and resist temptation daily.
Yet, not without God’s Word. Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. For Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
That is our sure and certain defense against all the attacks of Satan, all his lies, all his superior intelligence –all his powers, come tumbling down, when we simply hold to God’s Word. He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved. In Jesus’ name. Amen
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