Let us pray: Dear Savior, thank You for not leaving us alone in this evil world! Thank You for surrounding us with the Spirit’s power and Your mighty shield of victory when sin comes calling to trip us up! Yes, in our moments of weakness and failure may we always look to and cling to Your strength. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR BLESSED BROTHER!
TEXT: Mark 1: 12-15
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
I remember. I remember the lady who had been raped by her brother over the years and how that inner “demon” controlled her life. I remember the woman who had lived with her “demon” since aborting her child 10 years earlier. I remember the young woman who lived with the “demon” of sexual promiscuity and justified it by saying: “God made me this way!” I remember the man haunted by the inner demon of wanton drug abuse and alcoholism. Yes, we all face inner demons. But where do they come from? Well, we possess sin-tainted flesh, while living in a evil-plagued world, which is corrupted by Satan and his hellish allies at every turn.—So, ultimately all our inner “demons” really come from Satan. And on this first Sunday of Lent, God’s message to you is:
YOU DON’T HAVE TO FIGHT YOUR DEMONS ALONE
Let me make some general observations. 1) All people possess a morbid curiosity. Even those who don’t really believe in a personal God or a real devil, nonetheless are intrigued by evil. If you don’t believe me, than you had better never read a mystery novel or slow down for a car accident on the other side of the road. 2) Once real evil touches a person’s life they are forever changed by it. Some get sucked down even further—depression, repression, or lashing out come to mind. Others, by God’s grace learn to rise above it and turn an evil event into good outcome. And 3) The nature of any “demon” is to first blame God for your problems, for all “demons” are professional blame-shifters.
I know of various people who identify themselves as Christians and who go to church on a fairly regular basis. However, these same folks who confess God’s reality and espouse belief in a personal Savior also downplay and/or reject the reality of a personal demon called: Satan. To me that is a huge disconnect. For it denigrates Christ’s mission of saving souls from evil. It calls into question all of the Bible since Scripture clearly speaks of a real devil and real demons. And it begs the question: “Than just why do you need a Savior at all?” I guess a whole lot of people live in la-la land today.
Just as there is a personal God Who is kind, loving, and good; so there is also a personal demon who is filled with hatred, pride, and arrogance. And unlike many world religions which teach that we humans are caught in a tug-of-war between these two forces with no true resolution, Christianity resolves the battle. Good wins! Forgiveness and love triumph over evil! There is help! There is hope! Life truly is worth living! And in our lesson our Savior proves all that to be true.
“At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.” St. Matthew and St. Luke give us more indepth account of Christ’s temptation. Yet, Mark outlines its profound meaning, too. After Jesus’ baptism the Holy Spirit “led” or literally “drove” Christ out into the desert to be tempted. Jesus knew it was coming. Satan could never even enter His presence if not allowed. But, Jesus allowed it. He went willingly. He went not to save Himself, but to earn a victory over evil for you and me. Would you allow a serial killer into your home? Would you embrace the “Butcher of Baghdad” and give him free reign of your life for 40 days? Would you trade places with another in a similar predicament? Well, Jesus did. He walked in our shoes in love to win a victory for us.
When you read just Matthew’s account you often get the idea that Satan came to Christ at the end of those days and only tempted Him three times. Mark and Luke make clear that wasn’t the case. No, Satan was with Him each moment of each day. The temptations were continuous, much like in our lives. Also, unlike today when Satan usually employs proxies to drag us down, here he comes directly. He used his full power against Christ, for he knew this was the ultimate life and death struggle between good and evil.
We’re told Christ prepared for this by fasting. Some would view going 40 days without food as fool-hardy. To us well-fed Americans who think of every contest only in physical terms, it seems ludicrous. And yet, in fasting Christ focused on the spiritual contest which occurred. This was an eternal struggle between darkness and light, between good and evil, and it transcended mere physical wants and/or needs. Of course, Christ was still fully human when this happened. His stomach was empty when Satan told Him to turn stones into bread. He was alone and seemingly forgotten in the desert when the devil told Him that the world’s glory could be His life He would bow down and worship the devil. Yes, Jesus was alone when Satan tried to get Him to show-off and test His Godly powers for selfish reasons by hurling Himself from the pinnacle of the temple.Note that in each case, Jesus never gives in to His flesh. He never takes the easy way out. Yes, your Savior battled for you so that You don’t have to fight your demons all alone!
Satan always seeks to attack us at our weakest point. He looks for an in and then seeks to exploit it. He did it to Christ and he does it to us. And his attacks always hurt. They suck nonbelievers into more doubt, despair, fear, and pain. They draw believers into questioning any idea of Divine hope and help. In both cases people feel they are all alone with such demons.
But, we’re not alone! That has always been my message to incest victims, closet homosexuals, thieves, substance abusers and all other struggling sinners. We have God on our side. We have a Savior Who has walked in our shoes, felt every one of our temptations and pains, and Who rose above it all. He went from suffering and death to life and eternal victory! Moreover, when we look to Him for help, He gives it by sending angels to attend us!
St. John the Baptist prepared people for such hope when he announced: “Repent and believe the good news!” My version of that message today is never forget, never forget that You Don’t Have to Fight Your Demons Alone! Amen