We have a lot of phrases in our culture to express that we've made a mistake, don't we? People say things like, "I fell off the wagon" or "I lost sight of what was important" or "I just messed up." We have the best of intentions, as they say, but we have the best of temptations too. We are frail. We're imperfect. We are poor, miserable sinners just as the confession in our hymnal says. Mistakes, sins and transgressions are just a part of life.
But at the same time, that doesn't mean we should minimize the importance of resisting them. See, there's another phrase that's sometimes quoted. This phrase encourages us not to give up or to be enticed by excuses. It encourages us towards spiritual fortitude instead of spiritual laxity. Now, we don't find this phrase in the Bible, though I think it's abundantly apparent in Jesus' encounter today with Satan. And that phrase is, "Remember who you are."
In Matthew 4:1-11, Jesus is brought out into the desert in order to be tempted. Before all of this, the stage is set. He fasts for 40 days and 40 nights and he is pushed to the extreme points of human limitation. And at just the point when He would be at His weakest, the devil appears and entices Jesus with a series of three temptations – turn this stone into bread, throw yourself off the Temple and worship me to inherit all the kingdoms of the world.
These are the temptations we also face when we're at our weakest – food that satisfies bodily or fleshly cravings, difficult life circumstances that demand proof of God's love and a desire for wealth and comfort at the expense of faith. These are the temptations that we run into during the most challenging times of our life – when you are tired of living in your individual groundhog day, when your relationship with your spouse is less than ideal, when everything that can go wrong all happens at once.
Just like with Jesus, Satan waits for his opportune time with you. He waits for your spiritual fast to run its course. He hangs back until you have spiritually starved yourself to the point that you'll shove anything in your mouth that will take away the frustration or the loneliness or the monotony.
Now Jesus refutes the Devil today with the Word of God and that's important because when He does this, He is remembering who He is. He is the Son of God sent into the world to resist temptation. His mission is to live the perfect life and die for your sins. His mission is to overcome the old evil foe, die and then conquer death on the third day.
And you might say, sure, but He's the Son of God, that's all easy for Him. He has divine powers. He has a divine nature. He can last 40 days in the desert with no food and resist temptation. What's the big deal? Well, the big deal is that He is not going to use His divine powers to make His difficult life easier. He's not going to stay His hunger pains with some sort of divine anesthesia. He's not going to draw on His identity as the Second member of the Trinity to resist sin.
Today, in the desert, it's all about one thing. It's all about the human nature. The Divine Nature is tied behind His back. He won't use it. We actually have a Word for that. It's called Christ's humiliation; that Jesus did not always or fully use His divine powers when He walked this earth.
Humanly speaking, today, Jesus is resisting Satan drawing only upon His human nature. And to do that, He is remembering who He is and drawing on that for strength.
When we fail and we sin, it's often times because we have forgotten who we are. We have forgotten our Baptismal identity. We have forgotten that we were purchased with a price; that no one in this life loves us more than God; that we have died to sin and risen to new life. When we are baptized, we are washed and cleansed and reclaimed by God as His children. And when that happens, we leave behind an old identity. We leave behind a way of looking at things that is not consistent with our new birth in the water and Spirit. This baptismal identity grans us the power to resist temptation and even the power, through faith in Christ, to overcome Satan Himself.
So, remember who you are during your time in the wilderness. Remember who you are when you're with your friends or when you think no one is watching or when you think no one will find out. Remember who you are when you are at your weakest and the easy solution comes.
Because when we stand firm, we are remembering God's covenant with us. Sin is about forgetting that covenant. Deuteronomy 4:23 says, "Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the LORD your God has forbidden you."
Forgetting God is always the temptation. It's always the struggle. As sinners, we have the power to make and shape our lives the way we want them to be. We have the power to put ourselves first, to take the devil's bread and turn away from God and chase the pleasures and pursuits of the kingdoms of this world. All we have to do is forget who we are.
It's not so hard. Just stop coming here on Sundays, read something other than your Bible, ignore your Christian friends on Facebook, open yourself up to the world. And when it happens and you fall of the wagon or you lose sight of what's important, you won't even realize it. Subtlety is Satan's best secret when it comes to giving up your faith.
Now, there is something else to be noticed about our Lord's temptation today. It's no accident. Jesus doesn't just happen to run into Satan at the wrong time like "Wow, didn't expect to see you here." No, verse 1 says Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. This is part of His testing. He must overcome the temptation to use His divine nature to serve Himself. He can use it to heal other people, to restore sight to the blind and to make the lame to walk. He can use it to serve others, but He cannot use it to serve Himself. He cannot use it to make His life easier or better or more pleasurable. He cannot use it to avoid suffering or else He's not really living life as a human being. And if He doesn't do that, then He cannot save you and His death on the cross will count for nothing.
And so He remembers His identity in the flesh. He remembers who He is and the purpose for why He comes, which is to live perfectly and be condemned unjustly for your sake. In the desert today, Jesus refuses to be the Son of God that Satan wants Him to be. He draws upon His identity and resists temptation. And so the question is, can you refuse to be the kind of Christian Satan wants you to be? The Spirit also leads you out into the wilderness to be tempted. Once you are baptized, your testing in this life begins-the devil's bread, the devil's questions about God and the kingdoms and the riches with which he entices you.
In Matthew, when Jesus was hanging on the cross, there was a person who called out, "He trusted in God, let God now deliver Him because He said He was the Son of God." But see, it's precisely because He is the Son of God that God will not save Him. His journey through the wilderness must come to an end at the cross, so that our journey through Lent may come to an end at Easter. When His journey in this life ends, He suffers and dies. But for us, Lent finishes up with the resurrection and the promise that we have conquered death through Him.
So that is who we are. We are those to whom He has given the victory over death. We might still be poor, miserable sinners, but now we are joyous and redeemed saints at the same time. While we often fail to resist temptation, Christ has kept God's Law perfectly and won for us a seat at His eternal banquet. We remember who we are when we Remember who He is and what He has done for us. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Pastor Chris Bramich