Satan has it out for us. He’s working to make evil sound good, and good sound evil. Both Adam and Jesus are told by God to fast. Adam’s was a minor fast—you cannot eat from this one tree, but everything else is fair game. Jesus’ fast was a much greater fast—forty days with absolutely nothing to eat or drink. This fast, which God knew was good for both, was made out by the devil as something evil. To Adam Satan said God is holding out on you. This is the epitome of unfairness! You won’t die from one bite. To Jesus Satan said God is holding out on you. This is the epitome of unfairness—You have the power to create and yet you’re being told you can’t do it as your body wastes away in starvation and dehydration. You won’t die from one bite. So, do not be surprised that the devil says all the same things to you today. They may not be the same words, but the concept is the same. Satan tris to convince you that sin is okay, that it’s not a big deal, that you can mess around with it and come out just fine. Do not be deceived. In this season where we focus on spiritual warfare, remember that the one trying to convince you that sin is okay is the Father of Lies.
Tonight we begin the season of Lent with a word God’s people have heard for nearly 2,800 years: Return. Since the Prophet Joel wrote those words from the Lord, “Return to Me with all your heart,” God’s people have heard them and responded in various ways. Some, in faith, have done what God asked and repented of their sin and found forgiveness. Others, like Pharaoh, have hardened their hearts and ignored the call. Tonight God calls out to us all: Return.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.