In The Cross of Christ, I Glory #2
Lenten Devotion #2
An Invitation to a Holy Lent
The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s Passion and Resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful; they were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.
We are invited, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s Holy Word. To make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, we kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.
Lent, then, consists of 40 days, in commemoration of the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert, as recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, before beginning his public ministry. While fasting in the desert during these 40 days, Jesus endured temptation by Satan yet, did not sin.
We begin then, by recalling to mind man’s initial fall into sin:
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
15 And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? 2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: 3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. 4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. 6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. 7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
Satan used doubt and deceit. Deceit is a powerful tool in the hands of the politician, the marketeer, and especially in the quiver of Satan. Deceit seeks to conceal or misrepresent the truth. Therein lies its strength; it embraces the truth but, only part of it, which then can fool those who will not pause to discern the truth from fiction.
But even Jesus was tempted like we are. Moreover, Satan came with his temptations when Jesus had been fasting in the wilderness—when he was most vulnerable and not unlike what Satan does to us.
Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. 2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered. 3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. 4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. 5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, 6 And saith
unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. 7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. 8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; 9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. 10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. 11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
Make no mistake; Jesus was “Tempted of the devil,” just as we are. But Jesus also knew no sin. Satan can, and will, present temptations to all of us but, he cannot make us sin. The distinction between temptation and sin must be made here. Satan can, with temptation, try to ‘provoke’ us to sin. But he can only tempt. The act of sin itself can only occur by our own consent—by our own conscious or subconscious choice.
Temptation will always be present with us while on this earth, and so will sin. Nonetheless, inviting in the Presence of God through Word and prayer can bring about an awareness of Satan’s, and especially our own, motives. It can help raise within us that awareness of the relentless cycle of our propensity to sin and our seeming powerlessness against it.
There also exists, within us who know Christ, the desire to draw closer to Him. However, it is ‘clouded’ by sin and temptation, both known and unknown. What can help to raise this awareness? The study of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. Christ endured three types of temptation in the wilderness. As the Scripture says, “13 There hath no temptation taken you [Christ] but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
Christ endured three categories of temptation that we often face:
1. Lust of the flesh.
2. Lust of the eyes.
3. Pride of life.
In the first temptation, Christ had already been in the wilderness for forty days and fasting; the human ‘component’ of Him was utterly famished. Satan begins his working with doubt: “If thou be the Son of God.” Jesus already knew he was the Son of God but, back in town that was, and remains to this day, a contentious issue. If he could just prove it, somehow, by turning stones to bread. Herein lies Satan’s deception: If Jesus could turn the stones to bread, all would know and believe that Jesus is the Son of God. No simple miracle, which Jesus could easily do, would convince all mankind that Jesus is the Son of God. There is no doubt that bread would, indeed, quench Jesus’ extreme hunger in the moment. But, as Christ says, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
In the second temptation, Satan again prefaces the temptation with the same tool of doubt: “If thou be the Son of God.” Jesus is the Son of God, but this time Satan uses ‘a tool of God,’ the Scripture to tempt Him.
11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee,
To keep thee in all thy ways.
12 They shall bear thee up in their hands,
Lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.
It is interesting to note that in the recounting of Christ’s temptation, Satan leaves out part of his supposed quotation of the Scripture above: “To keep thee in all thy ways.” This is an excellent time to point out that we are neither to add to or take from God’s Word (Revelation 22:18). God loves us and is there to protect us, according to His Will. However, this in no way means that we can manufacture situations in order to tempt God’s faithfulness to His Word—in order to force Him to act. God’s Will is His Plan for His world. We dare not deliberately put ourselves in danger to force Him to ‘show His Hand,’ we may very well lose that wager and not live to tell about it.
In Satan’s third temptation, he offers to give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in return for worship. It is important to note that all that Satan can offer is only things temporal. Ironically, Jesus would receive the glory from kingdoms all around the world after his death and resurrection; but here the devil tries to seduce him with instant power, authority, and wealth apart from the way of the cross.
Satan regularly tempts us in the same way—with the success syndrome, empire building, or alleged guarantees of health and wealth. But, again, what Satan can offer is only temporal; we cannot take what he offers with us beyond the threshold of death. Moreover, the devil’s price is damning—having the potential to consume a soul which could otherwise possess those things which endure eternally. He requires nothing short of selling one’s soul in worshiping him. Thus, we must ask ourselves whether what Satan offers in this world, which we cannot take with us, is worth the value of our soul—a soul which could experience things far greater in Heaven than the temporal baubles of this earth. Whatever joy and power Satan can offer vanishes with death. What God offers through His Son may appear as only peace and comfort until death but, at death, unfolds into a glory yet unseen and enduring through all eternity.
The final point to note is that, with each temptation, Jesus used the Word of God to resist the temptation to sin. The Holy Scripture is a source of increasing strength to the Christian who will read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest God’s Word given to us.
Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Hymnal 1982 - #150 (Recite or sing)
1. Forty days and forty nights
thou wast fasting in the wild;
forty days and forty nights
tempted, and yet undefiled.
2. Should not we thy sorrow share
and from worldly joys abstain,
fasting with unceasing prayer,
strong with thee to suffer pain?
3. Then if Satan on us press,
Jesus, Savior, hear our call!
Victor in the wilderness,
grant we may not faint or fall!
4. So shall we have peace divine:
holier gladness ours shall be;
round us, too, shall angels shine,
such as ministered to thee.
5. Keep, O keep us, Savior dear,
ever constant by thy side;
that with thee we may appear
at the eternal Eastertide.
Blomberg, C. (1992). Matthew (Vol. 22, p. 85). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
 The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Ge 2:15–17). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.  The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Ge 3:1–7). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.  The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Mt 4:1–11). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.  The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., 1 Co 10:13). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.  The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Ps 91:11–12). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.