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Yield not to temptation

March 11, 2014

Jesus' temptation- PaineBlessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created”.

James 1:12-18  (First Sunday in Lent- Invocavit-)

In German there is a saying that goes “Alles Gute kommt von oben.” (All good things come from above.) Of course, this expression refers to God. In the text for today it is said that God is a God who seeks all good, that He doesn’t seek to bring evil to His children and that he doesn’t wish them to suffer. This is a key text for understanding that evil is not sent by God, as many without gospel based evidence claim when they say that God is punishing them, is sending them suffering, or is sending them trials.

There are many people, even Christians, who have concepts about life and about God that has nothing to do with the word of God and especially the Gospels of Jesus Christ. They talk and repeat sayings that they have learnt from who knows where and come to believe and to live out those values that don’t have anything to do with the Gospel. This happens because they do not read the Bible. Protestants have historically been characterized, unlike other confessions, by great Bible readers. But today there are few people who are opening their Bibles daily even having more than one copy of the Bible at home in many cases, and looking for God’s help and to know His will. Why is this happening? There may be several reasons:

-A lack of information – we don’t know how to go to the Bible

-Unintelligible versions of the Bible that are not written in today’s language

-The intellectual level of the person

-The lack of a Christian education emphasizing the need to read the Bible

And there is a final and most subtle reason; it follows the theme for today: -We are tempted to not read the Bible. There is that feeling that says to you: “-It does not matter if I do not read the Bible.” This stems from the belief that the Bible is just another book from the cultural heritage of human beings; it’s just ‘another book in my library’. After all: this is “the temptation to not believe in the Bible as the word of God.”

Firstly, I want to refer to temptation in the most general sense. Temptation arises, as we said, not from God but from Satan. A dictionary definition of temptation says firstly, referring to the religious concept, “the fact or state of being tempted, especially to evil”, the second, more general definition is: “a strong urge or desire to have or do something.”

For us here we want to understand that temptation is to feel the impulse from Satan that we often feel, luring us to do things that don’t correspond with the will of God and therefore are not pleasing Him. As a result these things will harm us and will separate us from fellowship with God.

On this day I’d like each of us to return to our homes with a practical guidance to distinguish at what times we are being tempted and to thereby be able to resist temptation.

The first step, as the apostle says, is to not say that temptation is arising from God. No, God doesn’t lead us to do bad things that are against His terms or His will. Each of us has, implanted in our consciousness, the seed of understanding that is popularly known as the discernment between good and evil. Since this is not a guarantee of correct action, we also have the word of God that we believe is expressed in the Bible. We know that the Bible must be interpreted correctly; but we also know that, like Martin Luther said, any person who “is in true communion with God” can use their own conscience to decide vital issues. And he also said it’s not good to go against one’s conscience.

In any case, the best guidance as to whether or not we are being tempted is the content of the word of God, where God’s will is contained.

The second step is to know that if we are being attracted to things that are not of God, we must apply our personal will power when we can still do it, when we are still able to handle the temptation with our will. We must cut it off. For as the Apostle says: “Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

When we are tempted to do what God doesn’t like, we have sinned. The word sin can seem, especially to non-believers, to be an old fashioned or even retrograde word. But we believers are not scared of it. It still has a valid meaning. Sin is simply to be away, by choice or by the temptation, from communion with God.

I’ve heard people tell me that they cannot run away from the temptation that leads to sin. Again and again they are enticed, tempted and then they commit sin. They feel that they cannot leave and bring upon themselves the same sins, over and over again. We cannot speak about this from a pulpit in a general way. Each person is a particular situation that must be treated with love and respect and we have to try to find the way out with help from other Christians. But what we can say is that, generally, when there has been the same kind of sin more than once, two things can be happening:

1. That the person is not taking the warnings of the apostle: “Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed” The person doesn’t use the willpower that they have at the corresponding time when they can so as to avoid a greater evil;

2. That the person no longer has control over them self and is in need of serious intercession prayers from other church members.

Martin Luther said that the best way to resist evil and the evil one is through prayer and reading the Bible. Reading the Bible is not simply informative; it is not like reading any other book. Rather, reading the Bible is a form of worship that’s going to feed us spiritually with God’s word. This is part of what we call ‘having fellowship with God.’ For fellowship, it is also important to not neglect to go to church and to also share our worship and communion with other Christians. When we leave this state of communion with God, is likely for temptation to start growing and that our strength to deal with them may lower each time we encounter them.

Some people today, even many Christians that are tempted, do not see the devil as a tempter. They laugh at the devil figure. They believe it’s a myth, an invention or something childish. And so they are being enticed to no longer believe much of what the Bible talks about God. As such, they have fallen into temptation and begin to live a life as non believers of God. And sin is part of everyday’s life, until they finally leave the church and no longer believe anything. Satan won the battle over them!

All temptations come from the devil who wants to tear us, the children of God, away from God. Many are naively unaware of his “angelic” spiritual nature and underestimate the devil’s great power. Satan was an angel. Then he fell (Is 14:12-15; Eze 28:12-19). There are many people today who believe in the existence of angels and their aid. It is written in the Bible that God often sends angels to help us to not fall into temptation. But many refuse the existence of the devil as a fallen angel.

Satan is a fallen angel and he is tremendously powerful.
The things that he has in mind cause damage to the body and soul: false doctrines, despair, and lust.

The Christian life is characterized by a constant struggle between good and evil, the holy angels and the devil. This is expressed in a prayer for morning and evening by Luther: “Let your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me.” The word of God and prayer are the best weapons. Everyone who makes use of them will have the angels on their side. The bitter and sometimes difficult things in life help us to grow closer to God and appreciate His help. In these difficult situations let God’s angels speak like the many hymns from our hymnals. Paul Gerhardt poetized during the Thirty Years War:

“Lord Jesus, since you love me, Now spread your wings above me

And shield me from alarm, Though Satan would devour me,

Let angel guards sing o’er me: This child of God shall meet no harm”.

In the angels we see the actions of a sometimes distant and inaccessible God, but also a close God that is present in everyday life. It is not false for parents to talk to their kids about some of the guardian angels (Mt 18:10) the majesty of God is no less this way. Thus children may have a better idea that the world is not a giant, cruel and unfeeling machine. God loves life; he wants to take care of creation. The forces of good that can be called upon by the word of God are actually much more numerous than we think.

Don’t be afraid about the tempter and temptation. Rather, let us keep in fellowship with God by coming to church to worship God, partaking of the sacrament, by praying at home and by reading the Bible. Those are the best weapons to deal with temptation.

Let us pray with Luther’s words:

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.

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