Using God’s Word to Resist Temptation
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
Luke 4:1-13
March 10, 2019

Dear friends in Christ, grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Immediately following His baptism, in which God the Father proclaimed Jesus as His Son, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. He did not eat for 40 days. When these days were completed. He was hungry.

As Scripture places the temptation of Jesus before us, we are mindful of what the Apostle Peter exhorts us:

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith . . .” (1 Pt. 5:8 ESV).

Through the Apostle, our Lord calls us to also resist temptation. He does this because it is right to do so. He also does this for our well-being. The Devil only means to bring harm, ruin, and heartbreak into our lives through temptation. God calls us to resist by an appeal to our faith, faith rooted in God’s Word.

There are many things that are important in this account of the temptation of Jesus. I will focus on two of them: (1) how Jesus uses the word of God to fight temptation and (2) redemption.

In response to each temptation, Jesus uses God’s Word as a weapon against the Devil. It is the sword of the Spirit, as Paul says in Ephesians 6.

Which word of God are we talking about here in the fight against temptation: The Law or the Gospel?

It could be either, depending on the nature of the temptation. There are some temptations the Devil presses to cause us to lose faith in God’s love in Christ. These temptations are aimed at the Gospel. The Devil can torment us by causing us to doubt that God really forgives us; that God really calls us His own in Baptism; that we are really forgiven and justified by God in Christ by grace.

These temptations are aimed at producing despair, loss of confidence in God’s grace, and getting us to think that we must beat ourselves up and do some other kind of penance to earn God’s love back.

The Gospel’s teaching about Jesus and justification by faith, forgiveness, and the Sacraments are the weapon of choice to counter these temptations.

But there can also be other temptations that are directed at the commandments. Here we should use the commandments in faith as a weapon to fight the Devil’s temptations. Faith in Christ can take up the teaching of the law to speak back to the Devil like this: “Get away from me you enemy of all that is good and right and wholesome. God commands such and such. Go away and leave me alone.”

I often thought of this during my commute to work in downtown Denver when I was practicing law. In legal practice, one often hears about attorneys who dipped into their trust account where client monies were held. Such attorneys got into serious trouble. Many lawyers have gone to ruin as a result of this temptation.

So, imagine that the devil starts going to work on a person. “Go ahead. You’ll pay it back. God knows that you could use a little extra cash to pay the bills. It will be alright. No one will ever know. You are just borrowing it anyway.”

Here a Christian in faith can take up the seventh commandment as the sword of the Spirit to fight this temptation. A Christian can also use all the training in the law and ethics pertaining to vocation that flows from this commandment. 

We could also think of other temptation-situations that would come into play under the other commandments. Jesus used a first commandment word of God to fight the Devil’s temptation to “give” Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and their glory in exchange for Jesus worshipping the Devil. Jesus responded, “You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.”

Jesus teaches us to continue to train ourselves in the commandments, as well as in the Gospel. Let the Word of God as you learned it in the Catechism, and as you learn it at church and in your devotion, be your weapons against the Devil. As you take up God’s Word in faith, it will be a great blessing to you.

Now we turn to the redemption.

There was a day back at the beginning when Adam and Eve were assaulted by the Devil. It did not go so well for them. They gave in. They plunged humanity into sin and slavery to death and the Devil. They made us prone to succumb to temptation. Our own wayward desires and corrupt nature are now sources of temptation through the corruption of sin that dwells within our nature. We now so easily betray ourselves in the fight against the Devil.

Now we see Jesus, the Son of God in our flesh. The Devil assaults him. Jesus stands. He does not give in. He remains obedient to the Father in faith. This is His active righteousness. He fulfills God’s law, actually, completely, for us. He sets us free from sin and the Devil’s tyranny.

Why does Jesus subject Himself to the Devil’s assaults? He did this so He could stand were Adam and Eve stood and failed; so He could stand were you and I stand and often fail; so He by His active obedience could defeat the Devil, and, through His victory give, us the victory.

The victory over the Devil He gives is forgiveness and the Father’s love and pleasure. When we fail, when we are sorry and disturbed by our failure, the Father says to us, “Jesus has not failed. I sent Him not to fail for you. I see you in my Son’s righteousness. You are mine. Stand in Him to fight anew. He is your strength and gives you the Spirit. Don’t be afraid. Be at peace.”

The Devil wants us to fail so that the law of God that we should have used to fight him, he can now turn against us. The Devil wants to use God’s law against us to cause us to despair. But Jesus withstood for us, fulfilling the law and keeping faith. In God’s grace, Jesus defeats the Devil’s use of God’s law against us.

In Jesus you have fulfilled the law (Rom. 10:4 ESV). Jesus defends you as you take refuge in Him. He Himself becomes your shield, your fortress, your Champion. In Him you are forgiven and prevail over the Devil’s assault on your faith in the love of God. And you stand to fight anew. And because Jesus defeated the Devil, the final victory is yours.

Thanks be to God.


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