If you’re trying to beat the devil on your own, you’re fighting a losing battle. And if you give in to him, you’ve already lost. He’s crafty and enticing, savvy and subtle, deceptive and dangerous. He’s got the sinful world on his side and a hoard of demons; and your own heart and mind are perverted by your native sin and unbelief. The odds are stacked against you altogether.
The good news is that Jesus has defeated the devil on your behalf — and He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. The Lord Jesus Christ, the beloved and well-pleasing Son of God, has been tempted in all the ways that you are, but He has not sinned.
What He has done, though, is to bear your sins in His own body, and those of the whole world, along with all their deadly and damnable consequences, even to His Crucifixion. Thus, all of your sins have been dealt with and done away with. The innocence and righteousness of Christ covers you entirely, and Satan has nothing left with which he may legitimately accuse you.
That’s why the devil was so desperate to tempt Jesus away from the Cross — and why he is so frantic, now, in his efforts to seduce you away from Christ Jesus and His Cross.
When you hide yourself in Christ (by faith in His Gospel), when you find your rest in Him, then you dwell in the shelter of the Most High and abide in safety under the shadow of the Almighty; while that old serpent, the devil, lies trampled under your feet, along with sin and death.
In this New Adam, Jesus Christ, God has provided every good thing for you, and all that you need for faith and life forever with Him.
Only do not reach for the forbidden fruit, for that which God has not given but has warned you against. Do not listen to the voice of the devil, who lies through his teeth with his forked tongue, and who calls into question the sure and certain Word of the Lord.
You live (really live) by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God, and by the Bread of Life from heaven, which is the Word-made-Flesh, the Word of Christ. He is your Lord, your Savior and your God, and He is your true Meat and Drink indeed. But know that He feeds you from the Cross, by the ways and means of the Cross, often now with adversity and sorrow.
In contrast to and competition with this Food of the Cross, the devil presents you with pretty fruit that is delightful and desirable, which appears to be good and wise and advantageous.
So, what are you hungry for? And what do you choose to eat? Do you reach for the Tree of the Cross, or for the knowledge of good and evil?
How often do you make excuses for yourself, rationalizations, and conspire to make or take bread for yourself that God has not provided? You suppose that you know better — or that you can handle it (take the heat and manage on your own) — or that you are the exception to the rules. So you take and eat what God has forbidden, which brings death and the devil with it.
Repent of your misplaced appetite and gluttonous idolatry. Hunger instead for God the Lord, for Christ and His Word. Seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness, and all that you need for life everlasting will be yours (in Him), though it is given you in, with and under the Cross.
Hunger for God. But receive Him by His grace, through faith in Christ, according to His Word of the Gospel, and not by any efforts of your own to scale the heights of heaven.
Works righteousness and self-righteousness within the church are no better — but perhaps even more perverse — than the false belief of pagan idolatry.
The way in which you are to go is not one of your own design or choosing. Walk within your God-given vocations in life, whether glamorous or mundane, tedious or exciting. As a disciple of Christ Jesus, take up the Cross in faith and bear it in love for those whom God has positioned in relation to you. Honor your father and mother. Love and cherish your own husband or wife, and be faithful in all things. Serve and support your neighbor’s body and life, his household, home and family. Do your job. Fulfill your office. Be satisfied with whatever you are given.
Your life is sanctified by Christ, by His Word and Spirit, by faith and prayer; not by impressing the world with grand achievements. It is not what you accomplish, but what you receive from Christ, that avails before God your Father in heaven. It is the righteousness and faithfulness of Christ Jesus that sustains you, unto the life everlasting.
Don’t trade that for anything; neither for a bowl of porridge, nor for all the kingdoms and power and glory of the world.
You should know better. You should know that the wicked devil, the sinful world, and your own covetous flesh are lying to you. Why do you fall for it? Why do you buy into that scam?
Still you keep on reaching for that which God has told you not to touch. You bend your knee before the ruler of this world, while refusing to humble yourself under the mighty hand of God. You bow down and worship the toys and entertainment, the frivolity and self-gratification of man, and sell your soul to the devil for treasures on earth that will decay and waste away, along with yourself, if they are not lost or stolen or destroyed even sooner!
Why? Because your heart burns with desire for that which God has not given (for that which is not God). Because you want to be in charge and call the shots and make a life for yourself.
You want to be God.
So you make of the one true God your enemy (although He is in truth your Savior). And you harden your heart against your neighbor, as well, because you make of everyone your opponent and competitor. Your stomach twists and turns with envy and jealousy. You resent what God has given your neighbor (even your brother or sister in Christ), and, what is worse, you crave that which your neighbor has acquired by his sins. You love such things more than you love God.
With such a sinful heart, you are no match for Satan. It really is a losing battle, and you’ve lost already before you’ve begun. The serpent so easily beguiles you to sin, and then he stands the first in line to accuse you and press charges. You are left naked and afraid, guilty and ashamed.
You try to run, but you can’t escape. You try to hide, but there’s nowhere for you to go.
Thank God. Thank God that He searches you out and finds you, that He exposes you to His light and speaks His Word to you. You would be lost and gone forever if He did not. You are not better off without Him. Though His Law judges and condemns you and punishes your sin, His Law is not His last or final Word concerning you. He crushes the devil’s head, not yours. And this He does, He beats the devil for you, by taking all your guilt and punishment upon Himself!
He has taken your nakedness and shame upon Himself. He has suffered your death and damnation in your stead. All of this upon the tree of the Cross. Even though He alone is without sin; He has not given in to any temptation. He suffers and dies in perfect righteousness, innocence and blessedness; in steadfast faith toward God, and in absolute love for God and man (for you!). He goes to the Cross voluntarily, in humble obedience to His Father for your sake, to save you.
It is from the Cross that He washes you with tender care, so that you are clean within and without, in body and soul. It is from the Cross that He clothes you with Himself, so that you are adorned all-glorious like a beautiful bride, like the most handsome Prince (the fairest of them all).
It is from the Cross, the Tree of Life, that He feeds you with His Body and His Blood. Here is the fruit that God has not forbidden, but gives to you freely for the forgiveness of all your sins and the strengthening of your faith, that you may live forever.
He knows that you are frail, weak and helpless. He knows that you are weary and worn, burdened and beleaguered. He is a great High Priest who sympathizes with you, because He has been in your shoes, in your wilderness, in your long hot 40 days, your dark and dreary 40 nights.
He has been there for you, and He is still here with you. Not simply to help you (though He does) but to save you. He stands beside you on the plain with His good gifts and Spirit. It is no angel, but He Himself ministers to you. He forgives your every sin, every fall into temptation.
He returns you to the waters of your Baptism, to the Word and promises of God: You are a beloved son of God, for Jesus’ sake. His Father is your Father, and He is well-pleased with you.
Don’t look at your sin and failings; for He does not. Don’t listen to the devil, but hear the Word of Christ. He will never leave you nor forsake you; He will not lie to you nor fail you.
You shall not die, but live.
See here, He feeds you. Take and eat. Drink from His Cup of Salvation. It may not look like much, but here is true wisdom. It is the best of foods, the finest of wines. It is given and poured out for you. As great as your trespasses have been, this gift and grace of God in Christ is greater. Here the Lord is your refuge, the Most High your habitation. Welcome home!
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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