Monday, February 18, 2013

Sermon on Luke 4:1-13, for the 1st Sunday in Lent, "Victor on the Battlefield"

Sermon Outline:
·         Age of “camera angles”. News, sports. Bird’s eye view of sports? Adjustment. Perspective. Scripture gives unfamiliar “camera angles” or perspectives on life, world. Spiritual perspective—bird’s eye view. Life is a spiritual battlefield with its temptations. “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9). Or: Eph. 6, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” Vantage point: we learn..? Used to our own two eyes. Trains us to see spiritual dimension. Temptations, sufferings, conflicts. Be strong in the Lord.
·         Gospel: Jesus, Champion, enters the spiritual battlefield. From our two eyes: unarmed. Weakened by 40 days of fasting. Exhaustion, hunger, vulnerability. Ripe for temptation? Concluding perspective: Divine Son of God—but doesn’t use His powers. Armed with the Word of God. Resisted and won over temptation. Same strong Lord who armors us with His Word, faith, and Spirit. His victory is ours.
·         What is the Word He quotes? Each quotation from Deuteronomy. Each compares Jesus’ temptation to temptations the Israelites faced, during the Exodus. Each one they failed—Jesus succeeded (Fitzmeyer, Luke vol. 1, 510-11). First: “Man shall not live by bread alone [but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord]” (Deut. 8:3). Recalls miracle of the manna. Didn’t want to be fed by God—longing for Egypt. We’re taught: soul is more important than stomach. Bread of Life (Jesus!) more important than your loaf of whole wheat. Spiritual goods and blessings superior to material. God supplies both. In time of want, don’t turn away from God for your needs. Devil sought a weak spot. Be sober and watchful—aware that the devil looks for our vulnerabilities. What weakness might he exploit? How should you be proactive in guarding against it? Avoiding compromising situations, choose good friends, influences. Feed on God’s Word. Jesus rejected the temptation, fed Himself instead on God’s Word.
·         Second quote: “You shall worship the Lord you god, and Him only shall you serve” (Deut. 6:13). Recalls the temptation of worshipping other gods—golden calf, etc. Wondering where Moses was, and what was God going to do for them—took matters into their own hands, made a new god. Found what “worked for them.” Impatience with God and Moses’ inaction or perceived delay. Their action brought disaster, and only by Moses’ interceding were they spared worse. Jesus resisted the temptation of power, an apparent short-cut to glory. Not fooled into thinking the devil had the authority to give, or that He would ever worship anyone but the true God.
·         Third quote: “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (Deut. 6:16). Another episode where Israel grumbled and tested God about water. Their charge against God was “Is the Lord among us or not?” Despite all miracles. Issue a challenge to God: I’ll trust or obey you…if… Require additional proofs of God’s faithfulness or love beyond what He’s already pleased to give. Jesus entertained no such test of His Father’s love and protection. He bore all His sufferings, temptations, and cross willingly. He did not test His Father’s love, but faithfully endured the test of His obedience, without sin.
·         When Jesus had repelled every temptation, the devil left for a more opportune time.
·         Facing temptation is not like making a “disaster preparedness manual” or “emergency evacuation plan.” You won’t face the same temptations as the three here—no single template for the temptations we’ll face. We can name many temptations you might face, but…unique to your own desires, lusts, pride, weaknesses, personality, age, maturity, etc. But certain things in common—sufferings and temptations shared by all—you’re not alone. Devil wants you to fall, disobey, doubt, despair, hurt, lie, deny, stumble, lose trust in God and lose your salvation. To ask where God is, or challenge if God is really with you in your time of darkest need. To demand proof when God has so abundantly shown His love.
·         Relief: not on the battlefield alone. Our Champion fights for us. “Be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might.” The victory over sin, death, and hell is not from our temporary battles over sin (important though they are)—but by Jesus climactic battle with sin, death, and the devil, when He conquered them through the cross and resurrection. He sends us onto the battlefield where the victory is already won, and we can be assured of that. But the work, the life, the wrestling and striving against temptation that we do is not insignificant—it is our daily struggle to put to death the sinful flesh, and be raised up in the new baptismal life we have in Christ. It’s the daily return of repentance to our baptism into Jesus’ death and resurrection. The daily rise to new life. This perspective, this spiritual camera angle on what our life means gives us the boldness to fight the schemes of the devil, to work faithfully for the Lord and our neighbor, and to pray with confidence to the God who holds our victory in His nail-pierced hands. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
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1.      Why might the Bible’s “coverage” of spiritual warfare be unexpected for us? What does this hidden “camera angle” reveal to us about life in general? 1 Peter 5:8-9; Ephesians 6:10ff. How does this prepare us to face life and temptation with a new perspective?

2.      To earthly eyes, Jesus appeared unarmed and weakened in His contest with the devil. But what powerful weapon did He wield against temptation? Can we use the same?

3.      Jesus success over each of the three temptations was matched by a similar failure of the Israelites to the same. Read Deuteronomy 8:3. How did this temptation echo the Israelites longing to be fed apart from the Lord? Exodus 16. Read Deuteronomy 6:13. How did the episode of the Golden Calf and other examples of idolatry show their wavering commitment to the Lord? Read Deuteronomy 6:16. How did they test the Lord at Massah? Exodus 17. In their rebellion and doubt, what accusation did they level? Ex. 17:7

4.      Greater than any step by step plan for us to defeat temptation, what does Jesus’ temptation in the desert give us? How does His victory become ours as well? Hebrews 4:14-16; 1 Corinthians 10:13; Ephesians 6:10. Why is His victory our final and only hope to deliver us from evil? How did His climactic battle against sin, death, and the devil go? Read the end of all four Gospels J

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