Sermon on Luke 4:1-13
First Sunday in Lent
Be Prepared for Battle
1. Know your enemy
2. Know your weapon
3. Know your victory
Text: Luke 4:1-13
Incensed by the state of the economy, infuriated by the constant fear of terrorists, and irate over the lack of progress in the Middle East, a Wall Street worker from New York City bought a one-way ticket to Baghdad. Was he the only one that remembered 9/11? Was he the only one that recognized nothing was happening? Maybe, maybe not. But that wasn’t going to stop him from making a difference. His plan? He was going to battle. He figured that if trained professionals can’t find Osama bin Laden, then he had just as good a chance as any. The untrained, unskilled, and uniformed businessman was planning to show those terrorists what the word terror was all about.
How foolish! How could someone go into battle unprepared like that? The man knew nothing about the people there. He had no idea about the kinds of places they like to hide. He didn’t know how to distinguish hostiles from friendlies. He never had any weapons training—he would probably fall over backwards the first time he shot an automatic weapon. He also had no idea what was really going on. He didn’t really know the battles that had already been won by the military. He had no clue about the current negotiations of the government. All he knew was that it seemed like the bad guys were winning.
We may laugh at that story (which I made up by the way) because it would be so foolish. Why would one even think about going into battle unprepared? Yet this sort of thing happens every day. Every single day Satan wages war on God’s children. Every single day Satan attacks. Every single day Satan plays for keeps eternally. We need to be ready! We need to be armed! We need to fight! We need to be prepared! Thankfully, studying the gospel for today from Luke 4 will help us do just that: Be Prepared for Battle!
Military and government intelligence agencies these days have reached levels that we cannot even fathom. They have gone way past the old James Bond movies where Bond places a spy bug under the coffee table that is as big as a grapefruit. Now they have nano-bugs. Now they have satellites and infrared and night vision. Now they can track any person around the globe hacking into phones and computers and public cameras. Why all this technology? Information is critical! In order to be prepared for battle, you must know your enemy!
As we prepare ourselves for battle every day against Satan, it is critical that we gather intelligence so that we know our enemy. Note first who Satan attacks. How many stories are there in the Bible of Satan attacking unbelievers? How many times does the Bible tell us about Satan trying to bring down the heathen king of Babylon, or the unbelieving Jewish Pharisees? ZERO. Rather, we hear about the devil going after Job, the strong believer. Peter, one of the great apostles, writes about the devil prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Today, Satan goes right for the top as he attacks Jesus. Satan is not going to attack unbelievers! He already has them! Satan is going to attack you. Satan is going to strike in churches and among Christian families. If he can reek havoc in a church, then he will really cause damage. If he can bring you down, then he has really accomplished something. Be Prepared for Battle! Satan is coming for you!
Next, note when Satan attacks. Jesus had just come from his baptism when God the Father spoke from heaven and when the Holy Spirit descended on him as a dove. That’s why the first verse says Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit.” But the devil didn’t attack then. He waited for just the right time. He waited 40 days because Jesus was fasting and praying the wilderness. Satan didn’t attack when Jesus was full strength. He waited until he was tired, worn out, dripping with sweat, hungry, dehydrated.
Satan does the same. Rarely does he come with his full onslaught of temptations while you are sitting here in worship. No, he waits. He waits till you’ve had a loooong day at work. You come home and your spouse says something that doesn’t sit well and he prods you to erupt in anger and biting comments. He waits until you’re all alone for him to play tricks on your mind and to plant bits of doubt about God. He waits till you are relaxing and watching TV or a movie because when you are off guard like that he can flash all kinds of images in front of your eyes and words into your ears. When you’re at church you want to be at church and you want to hear the Word of God. So Satan waits until you are worn out and tired early Sunday morning to tempt you to stay on the pillow. Or he waits until the end of your tiring day to tempt you to skip praying or reading God’s Word. Be Prepared for Battle! Be ready for those times when Satan will attack.
Then today we see how Satan attacks. First he tempted Jesus saying, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” It’s not that using his divine power was wrong. Jesus did that all the time. But Satan was tempting Jesus to be selfish, to use his divine power on earth for something he himself wanted and needed. Of course, Satan tempted like this right after Jesus was fasting! Satan attacks you this way, too. The economy is rough for everyone right now. Money is tight for everyone right now. So Satan will tempt you that whenever you have money, you better use it. You better spend it on something nice while you have it. Don’t give back to God. Spend it on yourself! Maybe Satan tempts you to spend your free time on yourself. “Don’t serve the church, others will do that.” “Don’t volunteer to help others, you need to relax.” “Don’t spend 15 minutes in prayer on in God’s Word. You need to catch up on your American Idol episodes.” Just when you least expect, Satan will attack with selfish temptations.
Next he tempts Jesus up on a high place showing him all the kingdoms of the world. “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus is God. He already had all that. But as true man, this would certainly be tempting. How many times haven’t you thought, “If only I won the lottery! If only I lived in a mansion! If only I drove a car like that!” Satan constantly attacks us with discontent and a desire for more. Power is also appealing. Maybe Satan can’t tempt you with power to be controlling and dominant as if you were a king or a big time CEO. But he can tempt you to slander. He can tempt you to gossip. He can tempt you to put others down so that you build yourself up. That’s hunger for power. Further, this was a temptation for Jesus to abandon his Father’s will. This was an attempt to get Jesus to pause and think, “You know, it would be nice to have all this power and wealth instead of suffering and dying.” Satan will attack with temptations for worldly power, wealth, and glory.
Finally, Satan takes Jesus atop the temple in Jerusalem and says, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” This is scary! Satan shows a knowledge of the Bible, and even uses it in his temptation! He almost admits the power of God and says, “Fine. God is powerful. God protects. But don’t you want to be sure? Don’t you want to know if God will really keep his promises? Let’s find out how loving God is!” This is such a powerful and overwhelming temptation. What Christian really expects temptation within the Word of God? But it happens! God promises that all things work out for our good. “Well this doesn’t seem like good, God. Are you sure you know what you are doing?” God freely offers his mercy and forgiveness. “It doesn’t really matter if I do a few bad things here and there. After all, I can always be forgiven.” Or maybe Satan simply causes you to doubt God’s protection, care, and control. Satan will attack your trust of God!
You’ve seen the enemy in action today. You’ve seen who he will attack—Christians (that means you!). You’ve seen when he will attack, when you are weak, tired, or least expecting it. You’ve seen how he will attack, with temptations of selfishness, pride, power, greedy, glory, doubts, mistrust. Be Prepared for Battle. Know your enemy.
There’s a reason that boot camp lasts so long. There is a reason that soldiers train so long. There’s a reason why soldiers learn techniques in combat. There’s a reason why they spend so much time at the firing range. There’s a reason why soldiers clean their weapons and learn to take them apart and put them back together. They would be pretty useless soldiers in war if they didn’t have an intimate knowledge of and skill with their weapons. As we prepare for battle, it is essential that we also know our weapon.
Jesus’ replies to Satan’s temptations are overtly obvious and to the point. He doesn’t pause to think about it. He doesn’t weigh his options. He doesn’t waffle back and forth. Simply and immediately Jesus responds each time with the words, “It is written . . . It is written . . . It says.” The high-powered heavy-loaded artillery that Jesus uses to blast his enemy Satan is the Word of God. Jesus knew exactly what Satan was trying to get at with each temptation and he pointedly responded each time with the perfect quotation from Scripture.
Hebrews 4:12 says, “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any double edged sword.” There is no weapon more powerful that the Word of God which cuts to the very heart of the matter. What if you responded to Satan’s temptation to lust each time in the words of Joseph to Potiphar’s wife, “How can I do such a thing and sin against God?’ What if you responded to troubles and struggles in this world and the temptation to doubt each time with the words of Paul, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him?” What if you responded to a guilty conscience and a burdened heart with the words of Jesus himself on the cross: “It is finished.”
The pastor Martin Luther trusted so strongly in the power of the Word of God that he wrote about it in the hymn we just sang. The third stanza says: This world’s prince may still scowl fierce as he will, He can harm us none. He’s judged; the deed is done! One little word can fell him. There is debate about what that one word is. Maybe Jesus? Maybe Christ? Perhaps more likely the word Jesus spoke from the cross: “Tetelestai—It is finished.”
Because Jesus crushed Satan’s head on the cross and defeated him forever, because “the deed is done,” Jesus’ Word (the Bible) is the most powerful weapon we could ever have. So be around your weapon. Become familiar with your weapon. Train with your weapon. Get to know your weapon inside and out. Use your weapon. Be Prepared for Battle. Know your weapon.
Imagine if tomorrow a group of soldiers tried to storm the beaches of Normandy in order to defeat the Germans. How foolish! They need to stay armed and ready for battle, but the Nazis were defeated 65 years ago! Imagine if Drew Brees was still trying to throw touchdown passes to Reggie Bush. How foolish! They need to stay trained and in shape and focused for future games, but they won the Super two weeks ago! Similarly, it is important for us to stay ready and on guard yet also know our victory.
The last verse today is an interesting one. It says, “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.” It’s as if Satan was saying, “You won this round, but I’m not done with you yet Jesus.” Indeed, Satan left his greatest temptations till the end. As Jesus thought about the suffering to come, he sweat drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. Surely Satan tempted him to just get up and walk away. When Jesus was being beaten and tortured, surely Satan tempted him to wave his finger and blast his enemies with fire from heaven. When Jesus hung on the cross, surely it was Satan’s temptation coming out in the words of those who dared Jesus to come down. Yet Jesus resisted. He allowed himself to be arrested. He quietly endured the beatings. He stayed on the cross.
When all those temptations were not defeated and proven too weak, Satan had one more chance—a one-on-one faceoff with the Son of God, a divine battle of eternal proportions. There Jesus hung, carrying the sins of the world. There he was, suffering the punishment we deserve. There he was, abandoned by the Father and enduring the pains of hell—Satan’s own domain. The battle raged fierce, the fight was deadly. The Son of God himself died.
What happened? Did it work? Did he win? Easter morning proves he did! The tomb could not hold him. He is now alive. Thus, Paul writes, “‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ . . . Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” And we just sang in stanza four: And do what they will—hate, steal, hurt, or kill; though all may be gone, our victory is won; the kingdom’s ours forever!
You need not fear Satan! He has been defeated! Death has been destroyed! Forgiveness and life eternal are yours! Because Jesus lives, you also will live! Be Prepared for Battle. Know your victory!
Though the victory is won the battle is not over. Until we reach the gates of heaven which Jesus himself opened, Satan will attack you every day with an onslaught of temptations and sins as he tries to pull you away from Christ. Be prepared. Be prepared for battle every day. Know your enemy and how he operates. Know your weapon, the Word of God. Grow with skill and knowledge in your weapon. Know your victory. Christ has already won, and he’s fighting on your side. So
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching off to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.
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