Invocavit Sunday (Lent 1)
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
February 22, 2015
Central Passage
Matthew 4:1-11

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

Resist the devil and he will flee from you. That is what Jesus did. He resisted the devil and the devil left Him. How did He resist the devil? By the word of God. He did not resist the devil by denying His desires but by placing Himself squarely in the will of His heavenly Father.

Now that may sound odd to you, that He did not resist the devil by denying His desires. But consider that Jesus was hungry. Hungry people desire food. Consider that He was the Son of God, and sons are protected by their fathers. Consider that He was very God of very God, and God desires to rule the nations; not with an iron fist but in mercy and truth. Jesus’ desires were not evil or wicked. He desired food because He was hungry. He desired protection and all the kingdoms of the world because these things had been promised to Him by His heavenly Father. So Jesus didn’t overcome temptation by denying His desires but by bringing His desires under the rule, the will of His Father.

Desire is always how the devil tempts us. It was how he tempted Eve in the Garden, with the desire to be like God. It was a good desire for she was made in the image of God. But the devil used her desire to get her to deny the Father’s will that she be obedient and she became a transgressor. So with Adam. But the Lord Jesus was tempted also by His desires but is without sin. He never usurped or did away with the will of His Father. He resisted the devil and the devil fled from Him.

You, too, are tempted. You are tempted by the devil through your desires. You desire money so you are tempted to cut corners, steal, and lie to your spouse about money. You desire love so you don’t wait for marriage to consummate love. You desire a good reputation, so you challenge anyone who calls you a sinner or points out your sins. Your desires are good. It is good to want money in the sense that our heavenly Father uses money to give us daily bread. It is good to want love for we were created to love. It is good to want a good reputation because we were created in the image of God.

But it is wrong to get these things outside of the will of our Father who art in heaven. And that’s where the devil tempts us. But not just the devil outside of us but the devil within us. It might be the case that because there was no devil in him at the beginning, the devil had to come in the form of a serpent to tempt the first man. And because there was no devil in Him that the devil had to come to Jesus to tempt Him in the wilderness. But there is a devil in us. Call it the old Adam or the sinful self or the sinner, whatever you call it, its desire goes unchecked by the will of God and sins.

Desire unchecked by the will of God is called lust. And lust is always evil. It would be good to define lust as desire without concern of the will of God. And it is this that the devil uses to tempt us even as He used Jesus’ desire to tempt Him.

But Jesus resisted the devil and he fled from Him. How did He resist Him? By the word of God.

But what is this word of God that is our weapon? No doubt it is the Bible, full of God’s words to His children bringing them comfort and assurance, even confidence. But we so often do not use this weapon. We lay it aside like our forefather, Adam, and like him, fall into temptation and sin, being separated from the will of our heavenly Father.

But let’s take this apart a bit.

You see, it’s not just the Bible that is the word of God and our weapon. But the context of Jesus temptation in the wilderness shows us that the word of God is also Holy Baptism. For it was from the His baptism, which was the declaration of God that this Man is the Son of God, that Jesus was cast into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. Baptism is the context of the temptation. And it is the word of God that defends us against temptation.

For what good does it do us to know the Bible, even verse by verse and chapter by chapter, if we do not have the promise of God that we belong to Him and are His children? The Bible is full of stories of people who thought they knew the will of God and quoted the Bible – even Satan quoted it against Jesus – but yet did not have the wisdom that comes down from above that they were the children of God by His choosing, by His grace.

Knowledge of the Bible is not enough. But it’s not the foundation, either. The foundation of your faith is that you have been declared righteous because you are baptized into Christ. And upon His coming out of the water Jesus was declared righteous by the Father who claimed Him as His own Son in whom He is well pleased. We are mistaken if we do not think that Jesus clung to this word of His Father. The gospel of St. John especially is full of Jesus’ words about His Father, how He loves Him and is of one will and purpose with Him; even that the Father is greater than the Son which shows the Son’s dependence upon His Father. Not that Jesus was not God, He is very God of very God, but He is also the Son of God which makes Him submissive to the Father; not by force but by a common will.

We have a difficult time with this because our will is not in common with our Father’s will but is so often working against it. That is why it is so important for us to rest on the promises of our heavenly Father who has brought us to Jesus to be baptized into Him and declares us innocent and righteous in His sight. And this is our weapon against all temptation.

Temptation is, as has been said, at its core an attempt to separate us from our heavenly Father. This is easy if we think that we must cling to Him by our own strength and piety and works. It is easy to fall into temptation if we trust in our faith, in our Christianity, in our piety. There isn’t one here among us that doesn’t know at least five people who no longer gather here at the Lord’s gathering because they fell into the temptation of trusting in their own faith, their own reason, their own religion. They say such things as, “I don’t need church to be a Christian.” Or, “I don’t need religion to know God.” That would have been the same as Jesus saying to Himself, “I don’t need my heavenly Father to provide for me, I can make stones into bread!”

But the Lord Jesus didn’t do that, did He? No. Instead He entrusted Himself to His heavenly Father, leaning upon His word and promises that He was well pleased with Jesus and would not leave Him or forsake Him. It was not that Jesus quoted the Bible back to Satan, for we soon see that Satan has mastered that trick of quoting the Bible. But it was that Jesus set Himself squarely in the will of the Father. And in so doing, He did not sin. The devil used His desires – His desire for food, for He was hungry, His desire to trust His Father for He is the Son of God, and even His desire to rule the nations, for He wants to rule them in peace and righteousness. The devil used Jesus’ desires to tempt Him to abandon His Father’s will. So does He do with you.

You face temptation. But it is not merely the temptation to commit sins but rather the temptation to stop trusting your heavenly Father. The stones in your life may not be rocks, but they are no less there. Whatever the physical element in temptation is – and there is always a physical element, even if it is all the kingdoms of the world – you can be sure that the real temptation is not in it but in having it without the will of your Father in heaven.

To rest in Christ means to receive all things from your heavenly Father who knows what you need and knows what He has promised you. Trust in His promise that you are His beloved child, baptized into Christ, and that you will inherit the inheritance of the Son of God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you; both the devil within and the devil without. Resist him by the promises of your heavenly Father given to you in Christ Jesus and you will be found to be doing the will of God.

+ In Nomine Iesu +