Dear believers in Christ, God is here to tell us that the devil is real. He’s not some fictional character in a red suit with a pitch fork, standing on people’s shoulders, as fictional stories have portrayed. He is as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. And his ultimte goal is your eternal ruin. In order to accomplish that goal, he does attack. Those attacks come in the form of lies. And they are powerful. “Deep guile and great might are his dread arms in fight, on earth is not his equal.”
I hope we didn’t think that today’s lesson is all about how we can be strong enough, like Christ, to overcome the devil and his lies. As if all we have to do is repeat the catchy slogan, “WWJD - what would Jesus do,” and then find the strength to copy Him, and everything will be ok. Peter had that same idea in his heart when he said, “Lord I will never deny you”, (basically, “Lord I will be strong like you, and I will resist temptation just like you do”) yet, that same night, he denied Christ 3 times. “Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.”
We don’t defeat the devil – Christ does. We are not strong enough to defeat the devil. “On earth is not his equal.” Besides which, I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, or come to Him…but, the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel. Therein lies our strength: the Gospel, God’s Word, and His Spirit. They bring to us everything Jesus did to save us. They bring to us His victory over the devil.
We are totally and completely at the mercy of God. Without Him, we don’t stand a chance. Jesus says, “Without Me, ye can do nothing.” Thankfully, our Father in heaven is not without compassion. He sent His Son to do for us what we could not do. His Son fights for us. “For us fights the Valiant One, Whom God Himself elected.”
Now let us take a closer look at some of the devil’s lies. With the power of God’s Word, and His Spirit in our heart, by His strength, we can and we do overcome those lies. “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”
Right from the beginning the Devil has the audacity to call into question whether Jesus is really the Son of God. We might miss it if we don’t look close, but actually twice, he says, “ If Thou be, if you are the Son of God…” He calls into question the Divinity of Christ. Yet, earlier that same day, at His Baptism, The Father clearly stated, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The devil attacks Jesus, by attacking God’s Word. “Did God really say that?”
That is his strategy against you too, believer in Christ. He calls into question whether you are actually God’s child. “Well, look at all your sins, your grumpiness, your selfishness, your laziness, your failures, and the list goes on and on.” Martin Luther in his meditations would tell the devil he forgot a few sins, and would add some more to the list.
Yet, God’s Word has the answer. Christ came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. And His call to us, is not in vain. He raises us to new life, by His Word, by His Spirit, by the power of Baptism – and He has given us true repentance and faith. Scripture says clearly, “Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” Again it says, you have been baptized into the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death?We are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.”
That means that Christ’s victory is yours. It belongs to you. It is your possession. Through God-given faith, through your Baptism, you have been given every single thing you need to be saved. It’s not a matter of “if”. There’s no question about it. We can surely rely on God’s promise, “There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”
The devil continues to attack God’s Word. Jesus had been in the wilderness for 40 days without eating. At his weakest physical moment, that is when the devil tempts Him, saying, “If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” The devil is saying, “Can God and His Word really be trusted? If You are really God’s beloved Son, then why does He make You suffer like this? If He really loved You, why doesn’t He feed You? If you are really God’s Son, why does is it seem like He has forgotten you? He must not care about you. He’s willing to let you die of hunger, not even letting You have one piece of bread.”
The temptation here was not simply to turn rocks into food, but to turn from the trustworthy words of His Father, to the inconsistent, changeable, irregular, feelings of the human heart. The devil tried to make Jesus become so wrapped up in his earthly sufferings, that He no longer focused on God’s promise to provide.
It is the same temptation for us. The devil attacks God’s Word, claiming that we really don’t have enough. Yet, God’s Word says, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” I shall not lack anything. With Christ, we have everything we could possibly need and more. “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.’”
Regardless of our situation, the Lord will always provide. He always has, and He always will. Even the difficulties we experience are His way of providing what is best for us at that moment.
The devil went on to attack God’s Word a couple more times. Jesus simply quoted God’s Word.
What the devil doesn’t want people to know is that Jesus already overcame all temptation and already won the victory for us by using God’s Word. Christ is not only our example for resisting temptation. He is our victory. He was tempted in every way we are, yet without sin. Since we are baptized into His death and resurrection, His successful resistance to all temptation belongs to us. It is our possession. His victory is our victory. He came to fulfill all righteousness for us. In our place, He accomplished everything needful for our salvation. Whoever believes in Him will be saved. He promises to help us in every temptation, and will always provide us a way to escape it.
So as the devil walks about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, let us never forget that we have direct access to the one who overcame. Jesus’ victory is our victory. He only asks that we come to Him with all our troubles, and lay them on His shoulders. The devil is strong. His lies are powerful. He has lead many to fall into sin. But our comfort is that the Son of God is much stronger than he is.
Jesus is a very present help in all trouble, He understands our every temptation, having gone through it all for us. And He is always with us, and on our side, always ready to lend a listening ear, and always ready to give us everything we could possibly need to resist all temptations.
God grant that we continue to trust Him and His Word- the Word that declares that we are His beloved children - the Word that promises all of our sins are forgiven - the Word that is the living bread that feeds and nourishes our souls - the Word that defeats the devil and saves our souls.
Jesus did overcome all sin and temptation for us, and “whosoever liveth and believeth in Him, shall never die.” Amen.