February 18, 2018: 1st Sunday in Lent

Let us pray:  Dear Savior, like us, You know what it is to feel temptation; but unlike us, You always walked away from it.  Today give us Your strength in both venues. When temptation comes to us, let us remember that we’re not alone in it while also remembering that You overcame it by saying: No, and walking away.  Then, instead of dwelling on our past downfalls we can focus on a better future and a better life. Amen


TEXT:  Romans 8: 31-39

Dearly Beloved in Christ:  

Temptation.  Much of the Ad industry is based upon it.  How many items are sold with greed, beauty, conspicuous consumption, and sex as an underlying theme?  Steven King has made millions writing about evil and the temptations that accompany it. All mysteries ultimately center around various temptations.  “National Enquirer” banners salacious headlines to tempt the bored grocery aisle shopper to buy it. Have you ever seen an ad for chocolate that doesn’t “tempt” us via indulgence?  Temptation and all that goes with it are an integral part of growing up human. Being “Bad” sells.—As long as it’s not too bad….

The base concept behind temptation is that bad stuff or evil stuff is actually good for us, or that it will make us feel good for a little while.  That was Satan’s hook to get Eve to eat of that fruit and walk away from God. Temptation tells us that God is bad, or boring, or limiting to our lives.  So, “give in to temptation and then you’ll be able to really live it up!”

I recall playing in the dirt when I was a very young boy.  But, to my knowledge, I never ate dirt. Some of my playmates did.  And every single one of them spit it out and uttered a loud “YUCK”. They knew it would taste nasty.  But they ate it anyway because the unknown intrigued them. That’s temptation in a nutshell. As God’s children, we know in advance that many things are outlawed by God because they are hurtful, but we don’t trust His judgment and must find out for ourselves.  And then, of course, you have to live with the gross and nasty consequences.


The consequences of sin and temptation are never pleasant.  They are always disruptive to a good night’s sleep and a conscience at peace.  Let’s take sex outside of marriage. Today the majority of people seem to “hook-up” with others for momentary pleasure.  But then come the emotional hurts, the sexually transmitted diseases, babies who are unwanted by one or both parents, and growing children who have emotional problems because dad was never around and mom was always off with someone new.  If their parents couldn’t be faithful to each other, why should the kids listen to them or be faithful to whatever they tell them? My friend, Steve, the 1st grade teacher has a whole host of stories about such stunted students.  It’s one reason he retired early.

Greed is another huge temptation.  Why are people greedy? Why do they desire what others have, or desire to acquire more through means other than hard work or being given a gift or an inheritance?  Isn’t it because they are unsatisfied with their status quo? But with greed comes second-guessing over being branded a cheat or a thief. With greed comes the arrogance of feeling superior because you got away with one.  With greed comes more reckless behavior. But eventually those chickens come home to roost.

Lately I’ve been reading a ponderous book about the machinations of medieval nobility and their endless lust for power.  I can only read a few pages at a time. Literally everyone took advantage of others. Most ended up, eventually, meeting some sort of grisly death.  Folks, our relatives were not nice people. And their thirst for power ended all of them up in the exact same place: a grave. The Bible is replete with this repetition of history.  It’s replete with evil and temptation destroying souls and creating unhappy lives. It all makes me ask: Why didn’t God just wipe us off the face of the earth to begin with?


But, as a Christian, you know why.  You know that God’s love for fallen sinners was so great that He devised a plan of salvation to save us from ourselves.  His plan wasn’t motivated by lust or greed or to prove His power over us—after all, God is not threatened by us in the least.  No, His plan was motivated by the opposite of evil and temptation. His plan was motivated by pure love. All this to show us what life should be like.  And the cornerstone of it all was forgiveness for our sins in Jesus Christ.

Lent is all about seeing that forgiveness in action, taking it to heart, and striving to live its fullness each day.  Lent is about seeing the nasty consequences of our inner evil played out in the death of our Savior, and then beholding the joy and gladness of being freed from it everlastingly.  This is the truth of Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection from the grave.

By God’s grace, just like you St. Paul struggled with sin and temptation.  Just like you, he longed for something better than living out that struggle and then being confined to a grave.  And just like you, by God’s grace, Paul was given a triumphant answer a solution to all this inner agony through God’s grace.  That is why he now writes: “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

All of human temptations are ultimately about Satan offering us dirt to eat and telling us it’s filet mignon.  But Christ is about eating our dirt and giving us a heavenly banquet instead. So, what will it be for you? In the words of Joshua: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  Amen