Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sermon for 3/11/12--Lent III (LSB 1-year)

No audio this week because of a recording snafu. My apologies.

With Me or Against Me?

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Jesus is headed to Jerusalem for one reason: to save sinners. Where Jesus and His Word appear, the devil is driven away. The devil thinks he's got this world right where he wants it. Satan is no pushover. His army of evil demons and men will do everything it can to stop our salvation from happening. He went after Jesus in the wilderness, but Jesus didn't budge. Jesus is the stronger man in our text who comes and wrestles Satan into submission and takes what is His: and what belongs to Him is you and me!

You have had the devil thrown out of you. It was the day of your baptism. At that moment when you were born from above by water and the word, the devil was cast out of you. At the instant of your being washed with water and the name of the Triune God, the finger of God cast out Satan and the kingdom of God came upon you. Baptism is the Lord Himself at work doing what He did for this man--casting out the devil. Baptism is the Lord Himself shoving the Evil One aside and claiming you as His own. Your old evil foe is kicked out and replaced by the Lord who made you and provides for you, who saves you and who makes you holy for eternal life.

The devil could not stop the coming of God's kingdom when Christ appeared. He could not stop the Lord from snatching you away from him at your baptism. So now he will try everything he can to steal you back. As Jesus says, when an evil spirit is cast out, he wanders around and them comes back with seven more to try to take back the one he possessed. The devil is prowling like a roaring lion seeking to devour you. He has no end of tricks up his sleeve to use to drag you away from Christ. He sneaks his agents into the Church, preaching what is false. He seeks for you to believe that baptism is not a rescue from the devil but a good work you do to show your faith. He sends preachers to tell you that the Christian faith is about prosperity and happiness instead of Jesus and the forgiveness of sins. The devil works hard to keep you away from hearing God's Word, from remembering what your Catechism teaches, from growing in your knowledge of the Scriptures. But his goal is not simply false preaching. He will use anything in your life to drag you away from the Word. He'll try to ruin your marriage. He'll stir up anger and hatred and hurt feelings that will keep people away from God's house. He'll try any trick to get your attention back onto yourself and away from the Word of God. He'll use your secret sins and lusts and fears and work them all into a big mess that wears you down and wears you out and causes you to give up on the Lord.

But one thing will drive all this away. One thing can destroy these temptations and these powers. One thing can remove the accusations of the devil and the weight of your sins. That one thing is the forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus. When your sins are forgiven, then the Devil's got nothing on you! So often, your sins cause you to avoid the Lord and His Church. But that’s precisely when you should march up to your pastor with your sins and say, “Pastor, get rid of these for me!” The words of absolution do this. The body and blood of Christ do this. The preaching of Jesus crucified for your sins does this. Whatever sins you have, whatever accuses you before God, Jesus has washed it away. The devil's got nothing on you. He has no leverage. He has no chains around you. He wants to you believe he does, but he doesn't! He's been defeated. You've had the devil cast out before. Make the sign of the cross to remind you of your baptism, and Satan will have no choice but to flee. When the devil brings your sins back to haunt you and trouble you and make you question whether you really are a child of God, then come and receive absolution. When the devil tries to wear you down in your body by throwing diseases and the prospect of death at you, then come and eat Jesus' body and drink His blood. If you have Jesus in you, then there's no way the devil can have you. If Satan wants you, he's got to go through the Christ within you. With these gifts the devil can't touch you.

As long as you are in Christ Jesus, you are safe from the devil. In Christ, your sins can't accuse you. In Christ, death itself cannot harm you. The Pharisees mocked that Jesus cast out demons by the prince of demons. Let them say what they want. He casts out demons by the finger of God. That same finger has touched you and cast out the devil. The kingdom of God has come upon you, and you are safe now in Christ Jesus. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

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