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Lead us not into temptation

February 20, 2016

Sunday Invocavit-First Sunday of LentTentacion

 

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (NIV)

Heb 4:14-16

 

 

On this day, the traditional preaching topic in Lutheran churches is ‘temptation’. What is the temptation? It is simply anything that tries to get us away from living life on God’s terms. Temptation is often attributed to the devil figure. For many centuries the figure of the devil has been imagined, drawn and even caricatured. And when many people think on the word ‘devil’, they probably imagine some monstrous or nice and reddish caricatured figure with horns and a fork. They think of it that way. And that’s wrong.

It is the same way with God; we think of God as an old man in oriental robes, with a large white beard, sitting on a celestial throne surrounded by clouds. It is even so with Jesus; the first image that comes to us is surely one of the first painted portraits of Jesus that we saw in our childhood. Although Jesus was a human being on earth, we don’t know his actual appearance, because no photos or videos were taken. We only have remote descriptions of his appearance reflected only in drawings, but nowhere is it written about his physical appearance.

Similarly it happens with the tempting devil; as Christians we believe that he exists only in a spiritual dimension, which is also the case for God the Father, but with power to manifest also in the material world.

In Africa, men who trap animals for zoos say that one of the hardest animals to catch is the ring-tailed monkey. For the Zulus of that continent, however, it’s simple. They’ve been catching this agile little animal with ease for years. The method the Zulus use is based on knowledge of the animal. Their trap is nothing more than a melon growing on a vine. The seeds of this melon are a favorite food of the monkey. Knowing this, the Zulus simply cut a hole in the melon, just large enough for the monkey to insert his hand to reach the seeds inside. The monkey will stick his hand in, grab as many seeds as he can, and then start to withdraw it. But he cannot do this. His fist is now larger than the hole. The monkey will pull and tug, screech and fight the melon for hours. But he can’t get free of the trap unless he gives up the seeds, which he refuses to do. Meanwhile, the Zulus sneak up and nab him.

 

When we live out just our own desires and understanding, without seeing was God is asking of us, through HIS Word, we are tempted by the devil and things always go wrong. When we begin to do what God asks of us and we put him first, all things start to go well.

 

Many people these days think that the science of man can overcome this whole history, and so put into question the existence of the devil, and in the same way, the Bible and even God.

Nothing is more wrong. Can you be modern, intelligent, a good scientist and at the same time a Christian? For sure, there’s no contradiction. It’s only that faith cannot be proven within the parameters of human science. God has always existed, exists and will continue to exist beyond all human civilization. The Bible as God’s word tells about this. It is our decision to accept it, and to do so we call faith. If you decide to believe in God and the entire content of His word, you’re doing it by faith, not by human scientific parameters. And that’s because not everyone can believe. To be able to believe is a miracle. Not everyone believes. Not everyone can believe. If you can believe then you are blessed by God. If you still don’t believe today you also have the opportunity to tell God, “I want to believe in you, I want to believe everything you say in your word and surrender to you.” You can say: “I love you and I want to obey you God.”

 

Does the devil exist? Of course he does; but not as a caricature and an imaginary childlike figure. He exists in the same way that God exists. The devil is anything that keeps us from doing the things that God asks of us. The devil takes us away from faith and leads us to fear. The devil takes us away from the church and leads us to atheism. The devil keeps us from reading the word of God and whispers in our ears that it’s all a cleverly devised story. The devil takes us away from prayer, telling us we can live life with our effort, will and work and that we don’t need God. The devil takes us away from obedience to God, telling us that the words contained in the Bible are arguable by human science. In short, the devil exists, but in an increasingly subtle and refined way today, no longer in the childish form found in medieval paintings. The devil even seeps through the empty, modern language of the term ‘love’, and all of the current trends of not discriminating against anyone, to make room for everything, saying that everything is good and permissible, even shredding and destroying the word of God. The devil intrudes even in Christian churches, making ministers preach a diluted message that has nothing to do with the Bible but rather to satisfy human whims and sin. The devil gets to use Christian churches to preach and even these can grow so that more and more people are lost from the true teachings of the Bible. I myself experienced seeing pastors who didn’t read the Bible during a service, but rather paraphrased it. It was almost like they were ashamed of what the Bible had to say to the community. Or I have seen pastors being ashamed of being seen on a train or a bus reading the Bible in front of other passengers— but we are not ashamed to read any form of crap literature.

 

The devil, as Martin Luther said, panics when a church reads the Bible and prays. When a church praises and wants to be more faithful to the Bible through praise, and to seek to make younger, renew and refresh the church, like it says in psalm 96: Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Here it the word “new” is used, not old; so it is speaking of renewal. A church must be renewed to reach everyone, every time and to be better, with a more direct and clear language, so that everyone understands the Bible exactly and undoubtedly. And renewal is important throughout our life, especially in the spiritual aspect, to renew our prayer and our praise, to renew our relationship with God and to renew our church. In our homes there is always something we want to renew or renovate and change because we want to live better, happier and more comfortable. And maybe there are already things that don’t work well for our current life. The same renewal must happen in the church so that the people who come can feel better and may have better access to God.

The devil is terrified when people begin to obey the word of God in the church, is terrified when people want to make reforms to the church, as it was in times of Martin Luther, who was accused for wanting to renew, to reform the church. The devil is terrified when the church wants to grow and the word of God is expanded. And He will immediately send people to put a spoke in the wheel so that God’s work will not succeed, so that the churches do not grow and instead die.

 

Do you believe that the devil does not exist? Surely you have seen suffering, diseases, lack of blessing from God, wars, torture, starvation, people who do not even have a piece of bread to eat, homelessness, people in unheated retirement homes, people who commit suicide for not being able to feed their family and people whose children are sold as sexual slaves just to make money. There is so much horror in the world and all that is not from God. The devil is very real and the devil also wants to get into churches and into the lives of the members. How do we make sure that this does not happen? By keeping steadfast in personal prayer and Bible reading and by attending church and meeting in community. By looking for every possible way to maintain and grow the church, ‘the communion of the saints,’ as we repeat every service. The church that God has given us is our responsibility to maintain and grow. A church that grows and renews itself is a church that is led by the Holy Spirit of God; a church that does not pray, does not read the Bible, does not gather, that does not want to grow and innovate is not following God’s path.

 

However, if we go through these problems or situations, God is good and faithful and rewards all those who put Him first and obey Him. God the Father sent Christ to the world, and he passed through weaknesses and knows what we are suffering and wants to empathize with our weaknesses and wants to free us from temptation and the devil. Let us approach him anew and he will have mercy on us and will give us all the things we dream of for our church and, therefore, for each of our families. He is the only priest, that is, the only mediator, who can intercede between God the Father and us to give us the things we need.

 

Amen.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. margkahl permalink
    February 20, 2016 2:30 pm

    Thank you! Margaret

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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