Posts Tagged ‘temptation’

A few years ago the President said  that if we want to be 100% safe from terrorists, we must balance this safety with a forfeiture of some political liberties.  The problem is not only the forfeiture but the goal:  100% security.  It sounds good. It sounds right. Beloved in the Lord:  We cannot be 100% safe in this world.  Ask any parent watching over and caring for their children know that. “Helicopter parents” have done great damage to the recent generation trying to keep their children 100% safe.  We can do a lot for their safety but 100% will not be achieved.  But once that 100% security goal is accepted, then I/we will do anything to get there.  Darkness has a toehold.

Beloved in the Lord! The devil is the chief terrorist. We can be 100% safe in Jesus Christ from that terrorist the devil who accuses the brothers and sisters day and night (see Revelation 12:10;  1 Peter 5:7-9): “You can be really free in  this world by having everything you ever wanted” and it is never enough. Or the devil says,  “You are no good, you are not a good Christian”.  “Tell me something, I don’t know, foul devil, but I have a Lord, His Name is Jesus Christ, He fights by our side with weapons of the Spirit, for the right hand and for the left  (See 2 Corinthians 6:7).  To Him I confess, to Him I lay down my sin, Who has come to me a lost and condemned creature.” The devil also says, just give up a little bit of your freedom, then you will be safe.  The devil does not want a”little bit of your freedom”! Jesus gives us all His freedom by His grace alone, through faith alone.  We flee for refuge to Thy infinite mercy. All sinners are refugees in the Lord. Beloved in the Lord, don’t look to your flesh, but walk in the Holy Spirit as you are baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Let us pray…O God, You have prepared for those who love You such good things as surpass our understanding.  Cast out all sins and evil desires from us, and pour into our hearts your Holy Spirit to guide us into all blessedness; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil.

Then!  When?  After the Descent of the Holy Spirit, after the Voice  speaking from above had said:  This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well please (Matthew 3: 17).  And since he did everything in order to teach us, and suffered everything for the same reason, so here also He willed to be led by the Spirit into the desert, to meet the devil in combat, and so that no one should be shocked if, after receiving baptism, he suffers even severer temptations: as though something strange had happened; but that he may learn to stand firm and endure with fortitude what happens according to the ordinary rule of our life.

This is the reason you received arms; not to stand at ease, but to fight. And God will not prevent temptations from rushing against you.

  1. And this first that you may learn how stronger you are now than before.

  2. Then that you learn prudence; so as not to be overbold because of the greatness of the gifts you have received: for temptation will steady you.

  3. Thirdly, so that the evil demon, who is uncertain whether you have renounced him or not, may not be left in doubt, through this test of temptation, that you have abandoned him, and wholly renounced him.

  4. Fourthly, that you may become stronger, and more tempered than steel.

  5. And fifthly, that you may receive a kind of indication of how precious is the treasure you have been given. For the devil would not have attacked you had he not seen you now held in honor. It was because of this he attacked Adam, because he saw he was given great dignity. For this reason he attacked Job, because he saw him raised up and honored by the God of all. It was because of this He Himself says: Pray that ye enter not into temptation (Mt. xxvi.41)•

  6. For this reason the Evangelist speaks of Jesus as, not going, but as being led; and this was according to the design of our salvation: implying that we are not as it were to leap into temptation, but, if we are led there, to stand firm against it. And consider where it was the Spirit led Jesus. Not into a city, nor into the market place, but into the desert. For since He wished to attract the evil spirit, He gives him occasion, not alone from his hunger, but also from the place. For then especially will the devil attack us, when he sees us alone and separated from each other. It was in this way he attempted the woman in the beginning: approaching as she was alone, and her husband absent. For when he sees us in the company or others, and united, he does not dare attack us. For this special reason should we ‘come frequently together’ (cf. Hebrews 10:25): so that I it shall be more difficult for the  devil to attack us.

  7. And I add a seventh teaching the Lord imparts through temptation.  It is related to #6:  others have been there and been tempted.  You can seek out a friend in Christ to tell of your struggle. And you can help a brother or sister in Christ when they are tempted.  Temptation occurs more frequently when alone as St. John Chrysostom points out, but we are part of Christ’s Church.  We ask the brothers and sisters to pray, not only when sick, but when the evil one is doing his worse.  And in the midst of this communion of prayer, at the center is the Lord Himself, who has been here and been tempted, and so,
    For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.


For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.1Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
8.  And one more teaching:  the importance of the teaching of Holy Scripture.  When Jesus is tempted, three times He quotes the Bible and three times He said, “It is written…”.  Nowadays, He could be charged with being a fundamentalist and so be it.  Jesus, in the flesh, needed the sure Word of the Bible, and so do we.  We learn this in temptation as well, as Jesus taught, “Lead us not into temptation…”.

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Recently my wife, my mother-in-law and I went to The Cloisters.  My wife and I enjoy thoroughly The Cloisters.  It is a museum of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.    The Cloisters is a reconstruction of  large segments of abandoned ruins of European medieval monasteries and churches  on the Palisade in northern Manhattan, overlooking the Hudson River. It houses an exquisite collection of Medieval Church art. You can read more about it here.During our recent visit, this painting gripped me:  St. Michael Slaying the Anti-Christ:

Artist: Master of Belmonte (Spanish, Aragon, active ca. 1460–90) Date: 1450–1500 Culture: North Spanish Medium: Tempera and oil on wood Dimensions: Overall: 85 1/2 x 47 in. (217.2 x 119.4 cm) Classification: Paintings-Panels Credit Line: The Cloisters Collection, 1955


The portrayal of the anti-Christ is the reason I was taken aback. This is the photo I took of the detail:


What is the meaning of the anti-Christ’s body with reptilian arms and especially the leering, grinning faces from his body?

First, this portrayal reminded me of 20th Century Modern as it is akin to surrealism. 

Second, this portrayal is non-Biblical and rare because Michael defeats the devil (Revelation 12:7), not anti-Christ, though, we could say the anti-Christ is  devilish.

Third, it looks as if the figure of the anti-Christ is guiding Michael’s spear into his/her/it’s mouth.

Adding up those 3 observations comes this conclusion: this portrayal is lurid.  One of the definitions of lurid is:  “very vivid in color, especially so as to create an unpleasantly harsh or unnatural effect”.  This lurid portrayal is clearly contrasted with St. Michael, splendid in the whole armor of God, an angel, powerful and resplendent.  Yet, before this, the anti-Christ, sitting in the Temple, saying he is the Christ, redefining sound doctrine was certainly well hidden in his faux beauty.  As the anti-Christ seems to guide Michael’s spear, in an almost phallic way, this foul beast is now shown for his/her/its true colors, but it’s true lurid colors is flesh without spirit and the Holy Spirit, every part of the body leering forth its utterly narcissistic pleasures.  C. S. Lewis, in The Screwtape Letters, his fiction of letters between a chief tempter in hell and a sub-tempter novice, says this:

“Humans are amphibians– half spirit and half animal…As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for as to be in time means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation– the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks”

C. S. Lewis also calls the human body, “those vast and perilous estates” which we think we own and control and the anti-Christ sets up his own religious rule that says, Yes, you do and you can be like God, controlling good and evil.  Like an amphibian with the Sword of the Spirit, that is, the Word of God thrust down anti-Christ’s foul mouth of teaching heresy, he mutates into pure flesh, even grinning from the crotch.  That grin is surely the smirk of our lustful times. The anti-Christ’s message is lawless, see 2 Thessalonians 2:3, that is without the Law of God showing us our sin, so that man can not see his Savior, Jesus, the Son of the Father, light from light, very God from very God (Nicene Creed).  Notice the devilish lie in Lewis’ depiction:  “constancy…is undulation”.  It is not!  Constancy is change?! This is what the whole vain dark world has been teaching and screeching about for along time now.  Constancy is steadfastness in the Lord’s steadfast love for us in Christ Jesus which purifies all our loves: and so:

“The night is far gone;  the day is at hand.  So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 12: 13).

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From Dr. Luther’s The Small Catechism, The Lord’s Prayer, Explanation of the 6th Petition, “Lead us not into temptation”

“Temptation…is of three kinds, namely, of the flesh, of the world, and of the devil. 

For in the flesh we dwell and carry the old Adam about our neck, who exerts himself and incites us daily to unchastity, laziness, gluttony and drunkenness, avarice and deception, to defraud our neighbor and to overcharge him, and, in short, to all manner of evil lusts which cleave to us by nature, and to which we are incited by the society and example of other people and by things  we hear and see, which often wound and inflame even an innocent heart.” (emphasis my own)

The society and example of other people in our day and time is seen, heard, read and felt  on television, radio and the internet.  For instance: The whole purpose of  advertising has one clear goal and that is coveting.  This means breaking the 9th and 10th commandments to inculcate the desire, even the lust, to want more,to buy more, to have joy and happiness. Even the innocent heart can be so inflamed! And as it is written, “Covetousness is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5and we are back to the 1st Commandment.  It is one vicious circle. All the breaking of the Law is to steal from God’s glory…. and from His help in the time of temptation and trial.   The society of advertisers know this intrinsically as the lust of the flesh inheres in us all.  A DVR sure does help in order to fast forward through the commercials!  But that is only a stop gap measure.  The encouragement today is the last paragraphs of Pr. Luther’s explanation of the 6th petition:

 “…we Christians must be armed and prepared for (the devil’s) incessant attacks. Then we shall not go about securely and heedlessly as if the devil were far from us but shall at all times expect his blows and parry them. Even if at present I am chaste, patient, kind, and firm in faith, the devil is likely in this very hour to send such a shaft into my heart that I can scarcely stand, for he is an enemy who never stops or becomes weary; when one attack ceases, new ones always arise.

At such times your only help or comfort is to take refuge in the Lord’s Prayer and to appeal to God from your heart, “Dear Father, Thou halt commanded me to pray; let me not fall because of temptation.” Then you will see the temptation cease and eventually admit defeat. Otherwise, if you attempt to help yourself by your own thoughts and counsels, you will only make the matter worse and give the devil a better opening. For he has a serpent’s head; if it finds an opening into which it can slip, the whole body will irresistibly follow. But prayer can resist him and drive him back.”

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At Christmas time,I like to say tongue in cheek that, “I just want to be whipped into a Yuletide frenzy”, but that type of emotional high seems to be the modus operandi of many a Christian congregation and their worship services:  get the faithful into some sort of emotional high. In the central act of inculcating emotional highs, generally speaking happy highs, the very act of doing so precludes, disallows and disavows other emotions:  sorrow, sadness, anger to be expressed or confessed.

In C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, in the fourth letter, Screwtape writes to his nephew Wormwood that Wormwood’s “patient” can be tempted, and so succumb, if the patient does not pray. One of the methods that Screwtape  explains to Wormwood to have his patient’s prayer neutralized is the following:

Whenever they are attending to the Enemy Himself we are defeated, but there are ways of preventing them from doing so. The simplest is to turn their gaze away from Him towards themselves. Keep them watching their own minds and trying to produce feelings there by the action of their own wills. When they meant to ask Him for charity, let them, instead, start trying to manufacture charitable feelings for themselves and not notice that this is what they are doing. When they meant to pray for courage, let them really be trying to feel brave. When they say they are praying for forgiveness, let them be trying to feel forgiven. Teach them to estimate the value of each prayer by their success in producing the desired feeling; and never let them suspect how much success or failure of that kind depends on whether they are well or ill, fresh or tired, at the moment. (italics original)

Prayer as in worship is directed outward not inward. I think Lewis was on to something here.  Ministers and churches which practice this prayer just might be doing the devil’s own work. Prayer does not come from our feelings, but on account of God’s Word, even when we don’t feel it. This is why prayer is from the heart,that is,  the heart of God to our hearts, souls and minds through His Word is His grace and guidance to us:  see The Lord’s Prayer, see the longest book in the Bible, the Psalms!  It is that prayer that is prayer to the Lord.  

So many pastors and ministers can get folks feeling brave, charitable, forgiven.  Back in college, when the Jesus movement, later called “born-again”, was starting, a football player had a poster: “I used to get high on drugs, but now I get high on the Jesus”.  I did not think Jesus was like a joint, a drug.  Still don’t.  Too many ministers and their followers hook them with those emotions, like junkies, and when many ask for money, like a junky pay the price.  Am I against emotions?  No.  As a pastor I have seen people kneeling to receive the Sacrament of the Altar, with smiles or with tears.  They heard the Word which causes joy. Feelings will follow but they do not lead and must not: only the Lord leads as He went into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. I am glad my classmate was not on drugs and the Lord turned him around, but getting ‘high’ on Jesus would too wear off.

Prayer, as faith, Baptism, Communion depends upon His Word to us.  So many avoid Good Friday services for Easter.  Good Friday and Easter does not depend upon us but on His suffering, bleeding, dying Word for us and our salvation, thirsting for your salvation. He alone turns us to Himself.

This is the Screwtape Letter quoted above, the fourth one, as read by John Cleese:

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The Old Adam knows he has demons. He knows he should struggle against them. And he knows that he can “snuggle” up to them and yes, enjoy them, but they come back to bite us again. Demons do not snuggle,  and if they seem to do that, then it’s a lie, literally a damn lie.   This saying above reminds me of this quote from Martin Luther’s explanation, in The Large Catechism, the 7th Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation”, as a word of encouragement in the Lenten struggle (emphasis below my own):

Even if at present I am chaste, patient, kind, and firm in faith, the devil is likely in this very hour to send such a shaft into my heart that I can scarcely stand, for he is an enemy who never stops or becomes weary; when one attack ceases, new ones always arise.

At such times your only help or comfort is to take refuge in  the Lord’s Prayer and to appeal to God from your heart, “Dear Father, Thou hast commanded me to pray; let me not fall because of temptation.” Then you will see the temptation cease and eventually  I admit defeat. Otherwise, if you attempt to help yourself by your own thoughts and counsels, you will only make the matter worse and give the devil a better opening. For he has a serpent’s head; if it finds an opening into which it can slip, the whole body will irresistibly follow. But prayer can resist him and drive him back.

And in a similar vein, from “Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer”, C. S. Lewis wrote:

In all of us God “still” holds only a part. D-Day is only a week ago. The bite so far taken out of Normandy shows small on the map of Europe. The resistance is strong, the casualties heavy, and the event uncertain. There is, we have to admit, a line of demarcation between God’s part in us and the enemy’s region. But it is, we hope, a fighting line; not a frontier fixed by agreement.

There is no snuggling with demons, the enemy, on the front lines!   The Lord, “…fights by our side with the weapons of the Spirit” (“A Mighty Fortress) and the chief is prayer: see Ephesians 6:16-18.


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I recently  found this “share” on facebook:

I think Greek/Roman mythology is simple: it is  a projection of the overweening pride of the Old Adam writ large.  Greek/Roman mythology is a ‘divine’ soap opera.  Hubris or pride is only a small part of the pie graph above.  I think this is incorrect.  It should be entirely red. The pie graph should be simple:  basically  pride is 100% and this is the cause of “prophecy that couldn’t be avoided”(see Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, John the Baptist, etc.) and the cause of  envy over someone being better, that is having more talent, money, popularity;  and the cause of Zeus’ inability to keep his pants on (actually his toga down). Note, we can do some thing to prevent this on our own externally, like keeping one’s “zipper closed”.  So note, above illustrates 21st century thinking:  we can do nothing to keep the zipper up, we just can’t help ourselves, so pass out condoms at the next high school assembly.  We can keep the zipper up and the “hissyfits” of envy from our lips…but that does not solve the problem. I still WANT  to do things  against God’s Law, like adultery, anger, jealousy and the like. Lust and envy shows the state of the our hearts (see Matthew 15:17-19).  Lust and envy are marks of hubris/pride. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18  Jesus Christ has borne the destruction and arrogance of us all:  by the preaching and teaching of the Word of Law and Gospel, He gives us a heart transplant by faith in Him, by His grace.  He was killed and lives that He can pour the only salve that cures our souls and bodies and churches and societies:  His forgiveness marked with the print of the nails. His forgiveness is for my neighbor as well, like the one I am envious of, and/or lustful towards. His forgiveness alone cures temptation’s power:

“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us

and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil (or, the evil one).


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