Invocavit (Lent 1), 2014
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
March 9, 2014
Central Passage
Matthew 4:1-11

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

There is really only one temptation. It is the temptation to doubt the promises of your heavenly Father. Or, to put it another way: the only temptation is to have a false God. And false gods promise false promises. That is what we have on the tongue of Satan, false promises. He promised false promises to Eve, to Jesus, and he promises false promises to you. And what are those false promises? Well, just as there is really only one temptation, so there is really only one false promise: to find God other than where God promises to be.

The answer to the question, “To what are you tempted?” that is, “what tempts you?” is to ask such a broad question that it is nigh impossible to answer. Everything tempts us. If the adversary can make stones and bread a temptation to the Lord Jesus, then what are we safe from, for we have far more than stones and bread. If the ancient enemy can make forbidden fruit look good to the eye and for gaining wisdom, tempting Eve in the infancy of humanity when we were at our best, then what can’t he make look good to our eye? – we who have continued in the sin of Adam and in our own.

There’s a danger in trying to discover what tempts us; in making a laundry list of temptations. When we make a laundry list of temptations we tend to stick with only big ticket items: pornography, the bottle, drugs, maybe theft or lying. We focus ourselves on these things, thinking that if we have stood against them then we have overcome temptation, not realizing that these things are to us what the forbidden fruit was to Eve: not the point. The point was idolatry. Eve wasn’t merely tempted to eat forbidden fruit, she was tempted to doubt God’s word. She was tempted to seek the wisdom of God where God had not promised it. The fruit was only the conduit of the temptation, only the pathway. She sinned when she believed the lie, not simply when she ate the fruit.

When we make a laundry list of temptations, we’re not really battling temptations, we’re only treating symptoms. Fever, chills, vomiting: these are symptoms of the flu. We treat the symptoms because they present themselves, but we’re really battling the flu. So with temptation and sin. The sins you do, they are the symptoms of the greater disease that you are sinful – full of sin. Your sins are treated by changing habits. If you sin is the sin of the tongue (and whose isn’t) – lying, gossip, slander, even “friendly gossip” around the watering hole at work – then make a habit of being silent around others. If you sin is lust, make a habit of not having access to pornography – whether full on or only suggestive. If your sin is laziness, make a habit of asking others what they need done, and then do it. If your sin is anger and hatred, then make a habit of loving others by prayer and fasting. These are good and will help you grow in your self-discipline. But they are really only treating the symptoms.

If you think that you have overcome sin by avoiding the occasion for sin, then you are sorely mistaken and are ripe for the devil’s lies. With every sin there is a behind-the-scenes reality that we are being promised false promises by a false god. That is truly the only temptation.

And just as there is only one temptation – the temptation to doubt your heavenly Father’s promises; to believe a lie – so there is really only one false promise, there is really only one lie. It is the lie that you will find God somewhere other than where He has promised you will find Him. That’s the lie Satan told Eve, and it’s the lie he repeated to Jesus in the wilderness, and it’s the lie he whispers in your ears. And it’s a lie that is so easily believed because the fruit it comes wrapped in is so often pleasing to the eye and comfortable to the ear.6/

Take the fruit, he said, you will be like God. You will find God in yourself; His wisdom and His life will be in you if you eat this fruit. A lie. God’s wisdom was already given to Adam and Eve when He said to them, “Do not eat of the fruit.” That was God’s wisdom, given through His word. To the Lord Jesus Satan said, “Change the stone into bread, if you are the Son of God.” That is, “Your heavenly Father has left you out here in the wilderness to die: prove you are God and save yourself.” But Jesus saw the lie. He was the Son of the Father because of the word of the Father: Today you are my Son, today I have begotten you. (Ps. 2:7; cf. Heb 1:5)

Satan repeated this temptation all throughout Jesus’ life, using the lips of men to tempt the Christ as He hung upon the cross: “He saved others, but He can’t save Himself! Come down, if you are the Son of God!” It was the same temptation: your God has abandoned you, you need to save yourself. You need to get wisdom for yourself. You need to supply yourself with godliness and holiness. It’s a lie. It’s all a lie.

Do not resist the grace given you. The grace given you is the truth. And the truth is that you find God in His word, which is the Gospel promise that you are reconciled to God by the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus our Lord. The wisdom of God is not found in you, but in the word of the Lord which is preached to you from on high. The holiness of God is not found in you but in the word of the Lord which is proclaimed to you from the mouth of the Lord.

Your defense against temptation, Christian, is the same defense that Jesus had and the same that Adam and Eve had, should they have employed it. Your defense against the temptations of the adversary is the word of the Lord which is proclaimed to you: you belong to God, baptized into Christ. You are forgiven your sins, washed in the blood of Jesus. You are made holy, sanctified by the Spirit of Christ. You are God’s chosen people, confirmed and sealed by the word of the Lord. And you are His guests for whom He changes wine into His blood and bread into His flesh to give you true life, true wisdom, and true godliness.

+ In Nomine Iesu +