Summary: A sermon on making choices.
“What to do About the Devil”
By: Kenneth Emerson Sauer
Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church,
Newport News, VA
Right before Jesus goes into the desert Jesus was baptized and “heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Jesus is the Son of God, but what does it mean to be the Son of God?
Well, in our Gospel lesson for this morning, we get a glimpse of what it means.
We see what Jesus rejected and what He accepted for His vocation as the Son of God.
Because during His time in the wilderness, Jesus struggled with several personal and political options for His mission.
There are right choices in this life and there are bad ones, but oftentimes the bad choices are so cloaked in what seems to be right…in what makes so much sense to our human nature…that what is truly bad and what is truly good get all mixed up.
It’s so easy to rationalize our behavior, and make it conform to what the world accepts as good…
…in all reality…
…it is truly bad.
I remember when I had my born again experience.
I wrote something down on a piece of paper and taped it to my wall:
“What used to seem cool doesn’t seem so cool anymore—now that good has become evil and evil has become good.”
In his book: The Screwtape Letters, Author C.S. Lewis gives us a good glimpse at how easy it is for us humans to fall prey to the craftiness of the Devil…
…because a lot of the ideas and temptations that the Devil throws at us…
…to our untrained, unspiritual ears…
…they can make pretty good sense.
And if we are living without the Holy Spirit of God, if we are unsaved, we are slaves to the Devil, slaves to sin.
We have no other choice but to give in to his ideas and his craftiness…
…because without God’s Spirit we mere humans have absolutely no power over Satan, who, as the Prophet Isaiah tells us in chapter 14 …has fallen from heaven… has been cast down to earth … and will be … brought down to hell, to the depths of the pit.
Let’s look at verse one of our Gospel Lesson for this morning.
Luke tells us that Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit” as He left the Jordan and entered the desert, “where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.”
Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit as He was being tempted by the Devil, and nowhere does the Scripture tells us that the Spirit ever left Him.
When we are tempted, do we rely on the Holy Spirit Who lives inside of those of us who believe, or do we, instead, try to do battle on our own?
The Devil comes to Jesus as a tempter.
And, to tell you the truth, he offers Jesus three things that look pretty good.
There doesn’t appear to be anything horribly wrong with the things that he offers Jesus.
Bread, wealth, and power.
It’s the American way, come to think of it.
In other words, the Devil isn’t offering Jesus things that look really bad, things we normally associate with the dark side and point to as horrible social ills.
Instead, the Devil is offering Jesus things that look, well, quite good.
In the Bible and in life, the Devil is rarely obvious.
That would be too easy.
Avoid everything that looks patently evil and we’re home free.
But the Devil doesn’t work that way in this passage.
The Devil offers Jesus things that look quite appealing, not things that look obviously bad.
“And no wonder,” declares Paul in 2 Corinthians Chapter 11:14, “for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.”
In our Gospel Lesson for this morning Jesus sends the Devil packing. But How?
Let’s look at the temptations and how Jesus answers in order to get a few hints.
First, Jesus encounters the Devil in the strength of forty days of fasting.
And why do I use the word “strength”?
“I have always thought,” writes Mark Buchanan, “that the devil was coming to Jesus at His weakest moment: Jesus gaunt, raw-boned, wild-eyed, ready to scavenge any moldy crust of bread or scrape any meat shreds off a lamb’s bone…But I’m not so sure anymore.
The more I learn from fasting the more I see that Jesus actually stood at His strongest when His belly was empty.
Jesus is in peak condition, a fighter Who has been training hard.
When he steps into the ring, His opponent doesn’t stand a chance.”