1st Sunday in Lent
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, how many lies do you tell a day? I’m going to guess that most of us would like to actually lie about the answer to that question. There’s all kinds of statistics that have been created to understand lying. Just a quick look on the internet about lying can reveal all kinds of different studies and statistics about lying. On average children begin to lie between the ages of 2 and 3 (isn’t that about the time that children start to talk?) When meeting someone new a person will lie 2-3 times in the first 10 minutes. On average everyone lies at least 4 times per day. We lie to make ourselves look good, we lie to get out of trouble, we lie to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. Not only do we lie, but we’re also lied to. Apparently on average a person is lied to their face 10 times a day. A person is indirectly lied to – through advertisements or media – 200 times a day. Now, you can take those statistics however you’d like because I’m not sure how accurate a study you could make of this. But it does show that we lie a lot and we’re lied to a lot.
Why? Finally, all lies began with one lie. Jesus tells us that the devil is a liar and has been telling us lies from the beginning, “When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). It all started with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. There in the midst of tons of food, the devil came to them and said, “You will not surely die! For God knows that when you eat of it- when you eat the fruit from the tree that God told you not to eat from – you will really see, you’ll be like God!” God longs for us to be in communion and fellowship with Him, He alone wants to be the center of our lives, the one around whom we orbit our lives and our very existence. But what happened? Adam and Eve replaced God with something else, God – His love and His Word – were no longer the center of their existence, instead of God, they placed themselves there, they wanted wisdom, they wanted power, they wanted to be god of their lives. But they soon found out the sad truth. It was all a lie. What the devil promised was a lie. They fell, they believed the lie and we’ve been feeling the effects ever since.
Now before we start pointing fingers at Adam and Eve, we need to understand that we’re just as much guilty as they were. In more numerous times than we can count, we’ve bought Satan’s lies. But finally, the reason we lie and the reason we sin is because of what’s deep within us, what’s at the center of our existence, what’s at the center of our lives. Apparently the two most popular places to lie are on resumes and on dating websites. Why? God is truth, He wants us to tell the truth. In fact, He wants our “yes” to be “yes” and our “no” to be “no”; in other words, that we’re just so used to always telling the truth that no one would disbelieve our words. Why would someone lie on a resume? Because they want the job. So, the desire for the money, or the status, or the pleasure of a certain job has replaced God at the center of their life, getting that job is more important than God. Why would someone lie on a dating website? Because they want someone. They want a relationship so bad that they’re willing to cover up those things that might not be appealing about them. Having a relationship has become more important than God, the center of their lives is romance or a relationship, but not God.
There are lies all around us every day. But worse than all those lies, are the lies the devil tells. Here we get a sampling of the temptations that the devil lodged against Jesus. Notice that Jesus was “led by the Spirit in the desert.” This wasn’t an accident, this wasn’t a situation where Jesus backed himself into a corner, he didn’t put Himself in the way of temptation- God led Him there! Half the time we’re faced with temptation is because we foolishly put ourselves in temptations way. We treat Satan not like the roaring lion that he is looking for someone to devour, but like the nice little pet kitty! But that’s not here. Here Jesus was led into the desert and for 40 days he was tempted by Satan and for 40 days he had nothing to eat and so at the end of them he was hungry. Remember, Jesus is fully human so He knows exactly what hunger feels like. And that’s when the devil lodges this temptation. Now, Adam and Eve, were in a totally opposite situation- they were surrounded by food and they fell. Here Jesus is physically empty, but, full of the Spirit. How often aren’t we physically full, but running on empty spiritually?
The devil’s temptation? “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” It’s a physical temptation. But notice what Satan insinuates. Are you really sure about God’s love for you? I mean, if you really are the beloved Son of God, well, the Son of God shouldn’t be hungry! Remember, God the Holy Spirit had led Him to where He is, God wanted Him to be where He was, suffering as He was. Satan wants him to take the easy track to get rid of the pangs of hunger. But Jesus came to do the will of God, to suffer, not to avoid it. What Satan was really trying to get Jesus to do was to place Himself and His own interests at the center and cast out God and the Spirit from the center of His life. “Think about yourself for a change!” Have you bought that lie of Satan? Think of all the physical gratification that he lures in front of you and me. “Go ahead, indulge yourself, think about yourself for a bit, you deserve a break, have another drink even though you know you shouldn’t, feast your eyes on something provocative even though you know it’s a sin to lust, spend that extra money on yourself, don’t think of someone else.” How easy it is for us to fall into such lies of the devil.
But notice how Jesus answered: “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’” In other words, “Devil, you lie!” Man doesn’t live on bread alone. You see, bread would have no sustaining power, no power to satisfy hunger, if it wasn’t for God’s will and power behind that bread to do that, so God and His will are more important than bread. God will sustain His life.
Then the devil comes again. “So, you want to live by your Father’s Word? Will you also die by it? Doesn’t this God point you to suffering and a cross, to unimaginable agony for an ungrateful world of whom most will ignore you? Where’s the love in that? Here, see all this power and authority and glory of the world? It’s mine, but it can all be yours, and I don’t demand a painful cross for it, just bow down your weary bones for a moment and all will be yours!” He does the similar thing to you and me, right? “Have an easy life! Just lie here, cheat there, make a little compromise to your faith, it’ll all be worth it, to get ahead in life, so much easier than the hard way!”
But how did Jesus respond? “Devil, you lie!” “It is written: Worship the Lord your God and serve him alone.”
But Satan wasn’t out of lies yet, he took Jesus to the highest point of the temple and hissed, “So, you’re going to trust and worship this Father, but if he’s truly worthy of such trust and worship, then there shouldn’t be anything wrong with putting him to a little test. He promises to protect you- see the Bible even says so – time to see that, don’t you think? Throw yourself down and let’s see him and his angels get to work for you rather than allow you to suffer!”
Resting in God’s Word, Jesus says, “Devil, you lie!” It is also written: Do not put the Lord your God to the test.
Is that your response to Satan’s temptations? “Devil, you lie!” Sadly, it isn’t, is it? We’ve given in, we’ve failed. But why? Why do we even go through temptations? Why does God allow us to face them? Isn’t God more powerful than Satan? Yes, He is. But think about it. God already knows everything about you, he knows you through and through, He knows you even better than you know yourself. But our God is so amazing that He uses temptations to reveal to us the thoughts and intents of our hearts. That’s what trials do, that’s what temptations do – they reveal where our heart really is, they show where our true devotion lies, to whom our real dedication is. But you’ve listened to his lies, you’ve given in to temptation. Oh, wouldn’t it be nice to have a clean record, a clean slate, one not so muddied by giving in to Satan’s lies? The truth is, you have it. But not because of you, but because of Jesus.
Why didn’t Jesus fall into temptation? As true God He couldn’t sin because God can’t go against His nature- if He did then God couldn’t be God. But as true man Jesus felt every temptation to its fullest. But what does Jesus’ reaction to each temptation reveal to us? God was at the center of Jesus’ life. That means that every action was based on love for God. He didn’t sin, He couldn’t sin because He had a perfect love for God all the time. Jesus’ temptations would culminate in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus would pray, “If it be possible may this cup be taken from me, but not as I will but as you will.” Even at the height of all temptation, love for God never moved from the center of His being. Because this is what’s at the very heart of Jesus and at the very heart of God Himself – a love that wouldn’t stop at anything in order to win you back to Him. So Jesus came to this earth fought Satan’s temptations perfectly so He could offer His perfect life on a cross in your place paying the punishment for your life and mine that’s so full of centering it on something other than God. He died for that. So that, His record, His life of perfect centering on God could be given to you. You have it!
The only way we can fight temptation is not by our strength, but by God’s. How did Jesus withstand? God was at the center of everything for Him. How did Jesus know the Scripture that He did? You saw that right? Every time Jesus defeated the devil with God’s Word. He was immersed in Scripture. The truths of Scripture wasn’t just a head thing or a feeling thing, it was at his very core. How do we fight temptation? It’s having God and His Word at the very core of our life. The reason we lie, the reason we sin, the reason we give in to Satan’s temptation is because something other than God has become our core, something else is more important to us than Him. But the opposite is also true. God is truth. And if we plant that truth deep in us, not only does that mean that we know that God is truth and everything He says is true, it means emotionally we love it, we find God’s truth to be beautiful and wonderful, and it affects our very will. We wouldn’t want to do anything that was against God’s truth.
You kids sometimes wonder why you have to memorize so much in school. This is why. It is the sword of the Spirit, breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation. Be immersed in Scripture. It’s knowing Scripture that plants our God and His grace to the very deepest core of our existence, Scripture enlightens our eyes to the truth, enables us to clearly see temptation coming and be able to say to Satan, “Devil, you lie!” It’s Scripture that when Satan says, “God couldn’t possibly love, you couldn’t possibly be forgiven” to say to him, “Devil, you lie!”