Monday, March 05, 2007

Lent 1 Preaching

Pastor Rick Sawyer
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church

Brandon, MS

Romans 10:8-13/Luke 4:1-13/Lent1.07

Dear Christian, it's Lent, so let's just cut to the chase! Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, is not like us at all. For Jesus, Baptized with the Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, takes that as His daily living - even more than stuffing food into His face. Jesus, drenched with His Father's blessing from on high, "This is My Son, Whom I love; with Him I am well pleased" . . . Jesus, with heaven open over Him like that, and the Spirit descended and the preaching of the prophet pointing His way, saying: "Behold, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world," Jesus actually TRUSTS that makes a difference. How much different Jesus is than we are. And that's for our salvation!

It's Lent, dear Christian. Time to fight fire with fire! It's time to say, on a day like this, when even GOD lives from what no man seems to get around to, when Jesus looks to His Baptism as if it could save Him . . . It's time to say: "Undermine the Gospel by denying that Baptism saves. . . Contradict the proclamation that salvation rests entirely upon the doing and the speaking of the Son of God made Man. . . Equate the Spirit with some feeling in your heart instead of the revealed, inspired, inerrant Word of God. . . Reject the baptism of an infant because it cannot DO what sinners HAVE to do in order to be saved. . . Or claim that men cannot forgive your sins, though Jesus sends them out to . . . Disbelieve that the God Who gave His flesh and blood upon a cross now gives the SAME to you in bread and wine for your salvation - Well, it's simply time to say to all of that: 'Get thee behind me, Satan!'"

The tactic of the devil that we see this morning is a simple one: Deny, deny, and then, deny. That's the way he did it in the Garden. "Did God REALLY say?" "Surely, you won't die." "God only said that because He doesn't want you being just like He is."

That's how it went for Jesus, the Son of Man, the Son of God, our Second Adam, baptized for us and full of the Spirit and the speaking of His Father (though He was empty of bread) out in the wilderness. Forty days, and the devil came and told Him, tempted Him, "IF you are the Son of God . . ." "IF you will worship me. . ." "IF you are the Son of God . . ." And the devil even threw in THIS: "It is written . . ."

Understand now, once and always, just how different Jesus is than you and me. He actually BELIEVES what He has heard! Trusts what God has said. He HOLDS to everything He has been given.

That, dear Christian, is the Faith that saves us, because Jesus - full of the Holy Spirit and wet with the Baptism meant for sinners - is driven out into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit, to defeat the devil, by living from His Baptism and the speaking of His Father.

Now you know exactly what to do with all those preachers who make hay with a text like Romans chapter 10 this morning. Don't they just LUV it! "IF you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Pay attention how they LUV the same word Satan loves to throw around at Jesus. IF.

Don't get me wrong. "If" is a perfectly fine little word. All words, nearly, are perfectly fine. Your dictionary gets along just fine without the few most people find offensive. "If" is not among them. Even Lutherans don't have any trouble with how God uses "if."

But, God using "if" and the devil using "if" are entirely different things. Jesus confesses what God had said and so confronts the devil's tempting in the wilderness. Jesus speaks in keeping with all the Father gave to Him and said to Him in Holy Baptism. The devil also quotes the Word of God, saying, "It is written." Only, the devil speaks the perfectly fine word of God and by it hopes to undermine the Gospel, unseat our Lord, deny the speaking and the giving of the Father through Word and Water. He aims at our salvation! Pay attention.

When the Holy Apostle uses "if" this morning, he's saying what we all confess and hold as true. Salvation rests entirely on Jesus. Salvation isn't a matter of what we do. It's a matter of what God gives. So, salvation's all wrapped up in this: Jesus is the Lord Who saves us. "Lord" means that He gets His way, gets to call the shots. "Lord" means, if Jesus says you're saved, you're saved; and no little peon, plebe or poverty-stricken beggar's gonna have a thing to do or say about it.

We don't have kings and such in our country, so stretch your mind a bit. If the king walks up and says you're free, you're free. If he doesn't, then you're still in the state that you were in. If the king says you're a member of his household now, you don't have to finish that some way or mull it over and then get back to him, as if it rests on you. You are what he has said you are. That's the power of a king.

St. Paul uses the little word "if" today because there really is a difference between those whose faith is entirely in Jesus, and those whose confidence is in themselves. "If" means folks can say a lot about the God Who made us and redeemed us, and go on all day about the Holy Spirit, but if they're telling you that Jesus and His speaking do not settle where you go for all eternity - if they say YOU have to settle that by some decision, some change of life, some devotion of the heart, some adjustment in yourself - they're not saying Jesus Christ is Lord at all. Because no king, no lord needs peons to complete what he has spoken.

So, learn the lesson Eve forgot, and pay attention to the Word of God. Run back to your Bibles in the next few hours and read again how God had said, already, in the chapter just before the devil spoke to Eve, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth'."

And along came Satan, saying there was still some question, whether all of that was really true, whether it was enough that God should SAY that Eve and Adam were like God already. The devil, the oldest preacher of that false religion that resides in each of us, said that Eve still needed to do SOMETHING, if she was to be like God.

Folks, you're baptized into Jesus. You are in the image of God because of that, although you still are sinners. Christ and His perfect life, His innocent suffering and death, His resurrection and eternal life beside the Father were laid over you in Word and Water. Baptism saves you.

By that, rule over the earth and subdue it, especially that creeping thing that moves along the ground, forever eating dust, and always, only, wanting you to join him. He will use the Word of God against the Word of God, and so, against the likes of you and me, whose only hope is that the Word of God says Jesus died in place of us, and now, laid over us through Word and Water, heaven smiles on us, the Spirit rests on us, and the Father speaks of sinners just the way He did to Jesus: "This is My Son, Whom I love; With you I am well pleased."

And whatever word the devil borrows from the Lord, be sure he aims to undermine your confidence! So when he uses that fine little word that St. Paul uses, "If" - he doesn't mean to make you sure that Jesus Christ is Lord and therefore, what HE says about forgiveness, life and salvation's all you'll ever need. No! The devil uses that fine little word, "If" - to try and turn the whole thing upside down, as if - not the lordly speaking of Jesus - but the confessing and believing of us SINNERS makes the difference between heaven and hell. "IF you confess and believe in your heart! If YOU confess and believe in your heart." The devil always preaches like that that, and if you believe it, that heaven depends on whether you have done what is required of you and really meant it, you'll not only then be really, you'll be most sincerely dead!

Dear Baptized, it's time to fight fire with fire; time to put that dust-munching, carpet crawler in his place. It's time to spell it out: If Jesus had believed the tempting of the devil and let go the Word of God, let go of His Baptism, tried to add something to it, as if He needed to do ANYTHING to prove or show or make Himself the Son of God, not one of us would now be saved. So, don't believe that YOU can fall for the devil's preaching, adding to the word of God, and not lose heaven!

You are the Baptized, image-bearing, Christ-born, children of the Father. It's time to rule over the creatures who can only harm you. The devil is the first of them, dear sons and daughters of the Second Adam, Jesus! There are more, but Satan is the father of them all. Resist them, and they'll flee. Hold fast to your Baptism. It settles everything for you in Jesus. Trust the Forgiveness of sins, which Jesus speaks to you through sinful men. It makes heaven yours. Believe in the Body and the Blood once given and shed for you and yours to eat and drink in bread and wine. The devil cannot overcome what has already crushed his head.

Jesus, holding to His Baptism and His Father's Word, defeated Satan for you in the wilderness. Jesus, still holding to His Baptism, all the way to Calvary, passed through death for you and was raised up again for your salvation. That's what raises YOU up, Christian. It's what saves you. Confess it and believe it, and don't let anybody rip it from you. They only want to steal you from the King's domain and return you to the gutter. You weren't meant for shame like that. So, resist them.

What saves you isn't high up, for you to bring down out of heaven. It isn't low, that you must reach into your heart and raise it. The Word is near you. It is watered on your head and planted in your ears. The Word made flesh and blood for you is even in your mouths this morning. So confess it, dear Christian - against the preaching of the devil and the tempting of your flesh - against your sin, your grave and anything that speaks against you being sons of God in Jesus. Against all that, believe THIS in your heart and confess it with your lips. Say, "I am baptized into Christ." And by it, crush the devil.

The devil's in a dry place, dear Christian, dry and dusty and very, very bitter. But you are wet with Jesus. You have the Spirit and the Father's favor, and are lords, like Eve and Adam in the Garden, subject to none - certainly not to the creeping, crawling, dust-munching devil and the desires that only want you rolling with him in the gutter. God has delivered you from all of that. He has brought you into a land that flows with more than milk and honey. He has brought you into Jesus, the First Fruits of those God made from dust and who, though we return to dust awhile, are watered now, and on account of that, forever eat and drink in the Paradise of God. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

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