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.
It’s no surprise that a battle with Satan is the first thing Jesus does after beginning His public ministry at His baptism. He’s the Second Adam, the One who has come to mend what sin has marred. The first thing encountered by the First Adam was Satan. Adam and Eve are maybe a day and a half old and Satan is already trying to kill them. He does his work and wins. Adam is a lousy man and an even worse husband. He was given one job: have dominion over creation. That dominion wasn’t an arrogant lordship, but a loving conservation of what God had given. After the Sabbath rest, on the first day of earth’s second week, Adam stepped into his role as caretaker of creation and his wife, and he plunged everything into death. He didn’t tell Satan to leave. He didn’t confront Satan for his lies. He didn’t keep the fast God had ordered him to take. He lived in perfection, he had everything he needed, he didn’t know hunger or want or stress or sadness or anger. And he caved. He had one job and didn’t even try.
From that point on all his children were made in his sinful, dying image and likeness. Now, all that Adam and Eve, and we, their descendants, know are thorns and sweat and pain. But that’s not all. We’re all fallen Adam’s children learning lessons fallen parents taught. Like father like son; like mother like daughter. We don’t strive against the devil as we ought. More often than not, just like mom and dad, we don’t even try. We buy the lies—God is holding out on you, this is so unfair, God is asking too much of you given the circumstances, one little bit won’t hurt you. We learned from Adam and Eve that you don’t drop dead immediately, so it must be okay. But now Satan tries out another lie on us. Jesus forgives you every time you sin, right? So go ahead and do it! If He wipes out sin, it must not be that big a deal.
But there’s a reason Jesus tells us to flee from sin. Every temptation and sin is an attempt by the devil to destroy your faith. How does that work? You give into the temptation to the sin that’s the most appealing. The more attracted you are to that sin, the less you want to confess it and actually give it up. Eventually, after yielding to that temptation every time it crosses your mind, it has become so important or so seductive that you’re willing to intentionally go against what God says, to risk telling the Holy Spirit that you’re not interested in His intervention right now. You’re willing to walk away from God just to have that sin. Eventually you get to a place where you have convinced yourself that, despite what God’s Word or anyone else may say about your favorite sin, it doesn’t matter because it’s a necessity to you. And if that sounds at all like addiction language, you’re right. We’re all addicted to sin. We need the fix. We are willing to risk everything, even our eternal life, just to have that one thing.
So that’s why the very first thing Jesus does in His public ministry is defeat the devil’s temptations. He is not willing that any of us should perish because of the devil’s temptation and lies. So, Jesus not only destroys each temptation, but He does so under the worst of circumstances. Starving, thirsty, and exhausted, He meets Satan blow for blow with Scripture. He is obedient to God where Adam and Eve were not, where you and I are not. He is obedient and victorious so He can give His obedience and His victory to you. He does it so when Satan, the accuser, tries to stand before you and before the Lord and throw your sins at you, you can say with all boldness and confidence: Jesus has defeated you. He has forgiven my sin. Your accusation is empty.
That is to say, the devil is defeated forever. He lost permanently when Jesus was crucified. Even though it may seem like Satan won because he wanted Jesus dead, Jesus died of His own will as the sinless, perfect sacrifice, yet the one who bore every one of the world’s sins, even your own. Jesus took upon Himself every time you gave into Satan’s temptation, every time you fed your addiction to sin. He died your death so that you don’t have to. At the battle of the cross, Christ was declared the winner, and His victory was shown when He was raised from the dead three days later. He stands victorious over Satan, his lies and temptations, and his death, and that victory is not only given to you, but it is counted as if you did it yourself.
Unfortunately that doesn’t mean the devil will stop attacking you. He knows his time is short, so he is all the more eager to devour you. But because you are Baptized into Christ you do not have to fear this evil. Just as Christ fought for you in the wilderness, His Holy Spirit is with you today to fight with you and for you. He works through Word and Sacrament to strengthen your faith, to give you the resolve necessary to stand up to the devil. He reminds you of the Word of God, especially the one that angers the devil the most: It is finished. The Holy Spirit gives you the Words to say that make the devil flee. The name of Jesus sends him running in terror, knowing the One who fights on your behalf.
Until your Last Day when you are forever relieved of the devil’s attacks, you have Christ as your mighty Fortress who defends you and protects you. Because He has defeated Satan for you, you are free. He can try to overcome you, but his fate is sealed, and so is yours, by the Blood of Christ, shed for you.
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.