Grace and peace
Our text this morning is Luke 4:1-13
Today is the First Sunday in Lent. Lent is a time of reflection. We reflect on our sins during Lent to prepare our hearts and minds to receive Jesus and His cross. The cross is where God removed the veil, that is to say, took the covers off His forgiveness and salvation for all the world to see.
Unfortunately, far too many people take sin far too lightly. They don’t see themselves as “poor, miserable sinners in desperate need of a Savior.” Rather, they see the church as a social club or a charitable organization – a place for nice people who like to get together and do nice, fun things. The idea here is that we’re all fine and good and squared-away. It’s those ‘other people’ who need help and forgiveness. And just like that, just that quick, the church is transformed from facilitating the relationship between God and the people, to facilitating the relationship between people and more people. Just that fast, the church changes from a spiritual focus to a social focus. When he first took control of the Vatican, Pope Benedict declared that the primary purpose of the Catholic church world-wide, the greatest challenge the church faced was not sin, or immorality, but rather poverty. According to Pope Benedict, the church’s highest priority is social – eliminating poverty and putting more money in people’s pockets
If we ever lose sight of the fact that we are sinners’ in need of God forgiveness and mercy, we will have lost our way, and lost the reason for which the church exists in the first place.
If we ever lose sight of the fact that we need deliverance from our sins, and that our friends need deliverance from their sins, and that our parents, children, and grand-children need deliverance from their sins, then the church will have lost its purpose. God put this church, this congregation in this place at this time to do one thing – to save us from our sins. That’s why we are here – plain and simple.
So, as your pastor, my job is to speak God’s truth, whether its what we want to hear, or not. I have to stand here, in front of all of you good people, and, like a doctor, sometimes deliver some really bad news. To tell you that satan has infected you with a terrible and deadly disease – sin. Sin has infected you, and is at this very moment, is festering in the deepest, darkest recesses of you body and soul. Sin causes us to decay and rot, from the inside. Sin affects everything we think, everything we say, and everything we do. Sin can turn a perfectly good and healthy life into a barren wasteland faster than you would believe. One evening, a couple of friendly drinks and pleasant conversation turns into an affair, an indiscretion that wrecks a marriage and destroys an entire family. The devil always makes sure you’re having fun while he’s ruining your life.
But you can always do what so many other people do in the face of all of the evil in this world – ignore it! Just pretend that everything will turn-out OK, no matter what. That’s what the devil wants you to believe. He doesn’t want you to discoverthat he’s the one causing all of the problems.
A lot of people are confused about this, but God is not the problem; God does not send sin or evil into your life, the devil does. God doesn’t break things, pollute or corrupt things, or bring chaos into your life, the devil does. If chaos, anxiety, suspicion, or guilt have come into your life, then recognize them for what they are –the fingerprints of the devil. Please understand, the devil doesn’t come to steal your money or your jewelry or even your identity. He comes to steal your hope and joy, your happiness and love, your contentment, and your sense of well-being.
The devil has made so many lives a micro-cosom of the world, an evil wasteland of lies, deception, immorality, greed, narcissism and hate. You and I, we may be surrounded on all sides by this evil, but it is not in us, and it does not shape, define, or direct us, our words, or our deeds.
“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness.” Jesus couldn’t stay in heaven’s peace and glory while we were here suffering these evils all alone. If you must suffer, Jesus will suffer with you. And since we must all die, Jesus chose to die for us. Jesus loves you far too much to leave you to face evil all alone in this sinful world. “This world’s prince may still scowl fierce as he will, He (Jesus) is by our side, with His good gifts and Spirit.” (#656, A Mighty Fortress is our God).
When Jesus is around, good things begin to happen. Through Jesus the eyes of the blind were opened, the ears of the deaf unstopped; the hungry were fed, and the poor heard the good news. Life, new life sprang-up all around Him. The Garden of Eden is long-gone, as is the Tree of Life. Yet Jesus has come to us as “The Bread of Life” and the spring that flows forth “Life-giving water.”
Jesus came into this sin-filled world to save us; to stand in defiance of the devil and everything he has infected and corrupted. Jesus sent His Holy Spirit to you, and His Spirit has filled you with the things of God: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. God is the only One to turn to, the only One Who can save you. At that single greatest moment of your life, your pastor said, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!
And here, at this very altar, you hear these words: “Take and eat, this is My body given for you; Take and drink, this is My blood shed for you.” Here God has delivered you from ‘the devil, from all of his works, and from all of his ways.’
That’s why this Church, is here, right here, in this place and at this time. This life, this cleansing, this deliverance, forgiveness, and salvation, these are all God’s gifts to you! Here is healing and cleansing, hope and love, for you. In Jesus, Amen