Apr03

Temptation

Categories // Sermons

5th Sunday in Lent

Temptation

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and His only Son Jesus Christ, Amen.

“I thank you, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.” [Luther’s Small Catechism]

        Our Old Testament reading and our Gospel reading for this Sunday have a common thread; a Lord over all things. Both Scripture readings deal with master of the land. In Isaiah, it is God speaking as creator and owner while we are merely caretakers.

        God created the cosmos, our world and everything in it, including us. Like the master of the vineyard, he prepared everything so as to produce good fruit. But the evil foe, Satan, tempted the first man and woman of creation into sin. Satan led them into temptation and they fell into sin.

        When we were God’s perfect creation, we were good and our actions were good; but no longer. Now, instead of justice, we produce bloodshed. And instead of righteousness, we produce grief. It is God’s right as master of the vineyard to cast us away to be trampled under the hooves of animals and to be burned in the fiery furnace.

        What are we to do? We cannot change what we are. We cannot turn the bitter to the sweet. By our own works, we cannot be justified and righteous in the presence of our creator. God knows this, and as creator of all, he has the power to re-create.

        He did this by sending His One and Only Son into the vineyard, surely we would listen to him. Instead, in our sin-filled bitterness, we sought to take the blessings of the Lord of hosts from His Son for ourselves and for our personal glorification. Instead of believing in Jesus Christ and believing in the one who sent him, our Father in heaven, we foolishly think that we can gain our inheritance by rejecting our only true salvation.

        Yes, when we reject Christ, we reject God and put ourselves over Him. Every day we sin and every day we kill the son of our Master. Every day we continue to produce stinking, rotting fruit, the fruit of our avarice and lust, the fruit of covetousness and hate. We lie to ourselves and to our neighbor. In fact; we lie about ourselves and our neighbors. When we desire that which does not belong to us; such as wealth, property, or even a good reputation; we kill our fellow member of God’s good creation. In our killing, we kill ourselves.

        God knows this. We kill with every sin and we die with every sin, but that is not the end of us. God does not want us to be cast away from his presence. God wants us to bear good fruit, the fruit of His spirit. God loves his creation. He loves us so much that he gave His Son to be killed on the cross; a cross, hewn and lifted up by our sin. Jesus Christ, the only innocent, died for all of our sins.

        From Christ’s resurrection from the grave, we too were lifted up; not on the cross of our sins but in the love and mercy of His sacrifice. We now walk in the newness of life. We now bear the fruit of the Spirit because we are in the vine that is Christ Jesus.

        We became his through our baptism. We are now inheritors of his kingdom. We have been re-created through the death and resurrection of Christ and our labors now produce good fruit. We are saved. But this is not the end for us. While we live on this earth, in His creation, we are to tend to the harvest.

        We are to baptize all nations in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We are to spread the Word, the Gospel of our Lord. We are to respect the property of the master of the vineyard, to care and nurture his creation.

        This does not solely pertain to the earth and its resources. Yes, it is true that to be good stewards of his gifts and blessings is righteous in his sight, but our fellow human beings are also our responsibility. We are charged with the care of our brothers and sisters. We are tenant farmers.

        How do we tend to his vineyard? We cultivate the land with the Word. Through reading, discernment and the teaching of the Scriptures, we enrich the soil for the hearing of Christ’s redemption. The Holy Spirit waters this soil through baptism. The Son of God, Jesus Christ, is the light of the world who gives us the means to grow in him.

        This is an on-going labor for us. This is why we pray for our Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, His Son, to lead us away from the temptation of the evil foe and to deliver us from evil.

“We wish for nothing more than to retain and persevere in all the gifts for which we pray; yet such is life that one stands today and falls tomorrow.” [1]

        The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther succinctly defines three kinds of temptation for which we succumb; temptation of the flesh, the world, and the devil.

  1. The temptations of the flesh are those of laziness, gluttony, greed, and acts of fraud and deception against our neighbor. These are “incited by the association and example of other people and by things we hear and see.”
  2. Next comes the world, which assails us by word and deed and drives us to anger and impatience. In short, there is in it nothing but hatred and envy, enmity, violence and injustice, [dishonesty], vengeance, cursing, reviling, slander, arrogance, and pride, along with fondness for luxury, honor, fame, and power. For no one is willing to be the least, but everyone wants to sit on top and be seen by all.
  3. Then comes the devil, who baits and badgers us on all sides, but especially exerts himself where the conscience and spiritual matters are concerned. His purpose is to make us scorn and despise both the Word and the works of God, to tear us away from faith, hope, and love, to draw us into unbelief, false security, and stubbornness, or, on the contrary, to drive us into despair, denial of God, blasphemy, and countless other abominable sins.[2]

        We all struggle in our faith every waking moment of the day. We learn of God’s grace and mercy when we are children. With God-fearing parents, we follow His word from baptism. Yet when we get older, we sometimes forget about our faith. Where we fall down in our service to our neighbor is when we shut our hearts and minds out of our own fear.

        It is true that we are not perfect. It is true that this world has many temptations and many obstacles over which to stumble. The world is changing in significant ways, such as remarkable access to the world and worldviews via technology, alienation from various institutions, and skepticism toward external sources of authority, including Christianity and the Bible.

        Like the stone of which Jesus spoke, we stumble through the world being battered about by its promises and vices. Our world has become a dangerous place. When we start moving faster and faster, we crash against our faith with the entire weight of our body, mind and soul. It hurts when we come face to face with the truth of the Lord of all creation. For some, they are broken to pieces.

        But those who know God, those who know who is the rightful owner of their minds, bodies and souls have the power of Christ through his body and blood at the table of the Lord. Their baptism gives them the faith of Christ; and the body and blood in, with and under the bread and wine gives them forgiveness.

        This forgiveness picks up the sinner who has fallen and sets them on their feet; once again to follow the path of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. We will fall again, maybe soon, maybe later, definitely often, because falling is inevitable.

“This, then, is what “leading us not into temptation” means: when God gives us power and strength to resist, even though the attack is not removed or ended. For no one can escape temptations and allurements as long as we live in the flesh and have the devil prowling around us. We cannot help but suffer attacks, and even be mired in them, but we pray here that we may not fall into them and be drowned by them.”[3]   

        Even with Jesus standing by to pick us up, we still fear. Living in this fear is terrible, but with the promise of Our Lord’s saving grace, we can overcome the fear and live in peace and hope. Yet for those who have not heard the Gospel, it is not the fall against the stone of truth that kills, but the crushing weight of the truth falling on them. Such people reject this cornerstone of truth and build their lives in a crooked and unstable house of lies.

        It is our responsibility to take this message to all people. As messengers of God’s Word and by His command, we have been sent into the world to proclaim the salvation of His Only Son, Jesus Christ.

        As the messengers in the parable of the vineyard, we may not be received with welcome arms. In fact, we may be ridiculed and beaten, as St. Paul tells us:

…[we] will suffer loss of all things in order that [we] gain Christ and be found in him. Not having a righteousness of [our] own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that [we] may know him and the power of his resurrection. [Philippians 8b-10a]

Through this faith, we gain everything. Through this faith, we give the love given to us in Christ.

        When we give the love of Christ to all we meet, we produce the good fruit of Christ’s salvation. We become the messenger and the farmer. And through it all, the Holy Spirit builds up the Church that is Christ Jesus.

        We have comfort in that our righteousness comes from faith in Christ, that we may know him and the power of his resurrection. Equipped with this faith, we can be sure to serve our Master in His vineyard, so that through the Holy Spirit, his harvest may be full. Amen

 


[1] Large Cat.: Prayer, art. vi

[2] Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 454.

[3] Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 454.