"A Savior Who Fights for You!"#84-27
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on March 5, 2017
By Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
(Q&A Topic:Where Did the Devil Come From?)
Copyright 2017 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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This week on Action in Ministry Q&A MP3
Text: Matthew 4:1-11
And Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry. The tempter came to Him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones; command these stones to become bread." Jesus answered, "It is written, 'Man shall live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"
Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed. Hallelujah and today we learned that you have One Who fights for you. His Name is Jesus. Amen.
Bullies. Don't you hate bullies? Didn't you hate being a bully if you were a bully? What's a bully? Remember back in school, if you can remember back, that's a little bit of a ways back for me; but, remember back in school, those days what a bully was was someone who was bigger; someone who was stronger; someone who was faster, whether that was by themselves or in a group, and they made sure that you knew that you were weaker; that you were smaller; and you were under their thumb.
It's funny. Bullies; they just stop bullying when they get tired of it sometimes, right? Or they stop bullying when someone else steps in to fight for you. Well, Will just wanted it to stop. His name was William. He was in grade school. He wasn't very big for his age and he started to get that kind of bullying at school; hurtful comments, mean looks, actions excluding him day in and day out. Why, because he had Asperger's Syndrome. If you know what that is, he just had... he had to focus on things too much and when you have Asperger's, you don't really relate to people all that well. So they took it out on him. They took it out on him day after day after day.
Now his mom and dad, they tried to tell him, "Son, we love you and you're just special. That's all it is." But it didn't matter because at school they were merciless.
Now you may know how that feels. Bullies invade your life. They try to dominate you with words that you can't get out of your head and you start to actually think that's who you are. They twist reality and they make you feel like your vulnerabilities are somehow your flaws. They try to make you believe that just because you're different, you are worthless. They try to lift themselves up by pushing you down. Bullies try to shake you up by casting doubt, creating fear; just getting under your skin until it overwhelms you.
That's what's happening in our text. That's what's going on in our text. The ultimate bully has come to do his ultimate work and he's coming for Jesus. He doesn't just come for you, Satan even came for Jesus. Can you imagine? That's what he was trying to do. He was trying to knock Jesus off the mission; because if he could bully Him into submission, he would have every one of you and me too. The ultimate bully.
Matthew, chapter 4. In fact, when you look at the text, the devil's true bullying colors are revealed. We hear in this opening verse where Jesus is hungry and Satan kind of swoops in when Jesus is kind of down; and he hisses into His ear, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread. Clearly, God has abandoned You. Clearly He's not worrying about You. Clearly, You're not Who You think You are. Jesus, come on over to my side. You're weak. You're forgotten."
When I read that text, I started thinking Satan kind of does that to us too, doesn't he? He whispers those kinds of things in our ears. He tries to bully you. He tries to bully me. But he ultimately tried to bully Jesus Himself too.
He comes when we're most vulnerable. He comes when we're down. He comes when we're doubting; maybe it's an extended illness, maybe it's a struggle, a temptation, maybe it's an addiction, feeling unworthy. The list can go on and on and on. Where's there's any opening, Satan himself tries to bring us down. He's critical. He's cruel. He's draining. He's deceptive. But here's the message for today. If that's where you are right now, here's the message. You have One Who fights for you.
In a similar way that's what happened to Will. He was getting bullied until there was nothing else he could do. He just wanted it to stop. One day it was so overwhelming he came home and he ran right past his parents, into his bedroom and he just started crying mercilessly, uncontrollably. But then it changed.
A knock came on the door. It was his friend, Jaden. Jaden decided; you know what, he had seen it and he decided, "You know what, Will, I'm going to stand with you. I'm going to stand for you. I'm going to fight back with you."
Everything changed. Help from the outside in. Jaden stood with Will and he was big enough; he was strong enough; and he was with him all the way. Guess what happened. The bullying ceased.
Now I know our text is talking about more than something like being bullied at school. Our text is talking about something way more important. It's about your and my eternal destiny. It's about your and my eternal relationship with God and Satan's trying to bully it out of Jesus so that he can bully it out of you.
The point today, though, is when you are at your weakest, when you are struggling, when you need another voice to stand up for you; you have Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He speaks with a stronger, truthful, and more sure voice for you and me.
You need the Ultimate Defender when life matters most. The text today says you have the Ultimate Defender when your life matters most. Listen to what it says also in the Bible. It says in 1 John 3, "The reason the very Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil." Defender. Protector. Savior. That's what Jesus Christ is. That's what Jesus Christ has done for you and for me.
When Jesus said "It is finished" as He hung on the cross, He literally is draining and drowning out Satan's voice that is whispering in our ear. When he says, "You're worthless. You're hopeless," you say, "Talk to Jesus." When Jesus Christ rose from the dead, the devil's power to literally drag you and me into doubt and into uncertainty and into fear; that was defeated. And when Satan tried to come and whisper in our ear, Jesus said as the Risen One, "No, their sins are forgiven. They're with me." When Satan pounces, when you are at your weakest, there is One Who is here to stand with you. His Name is Jesus Christ.
Now, I'm not trying to scare you; sometimes this overwhelms me; as pastors, we're nervous about this stuff too. But this is the reality of life. There is a spiritual battle going on in life and what we're learning today is there is One Who not only fights for us; but there is One Who is with us in our fight along the way.
In fact, I think today what we have is a bit of a spiritual warfare guide that can help us as we face temptation; as we face Satan's bullying in our hearts and minds. When we read it in Ephesians, chapter 6, it tells us that we do have strength when the battle's raging. Paul says this, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might; put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil for we don't wrestle with flesh and blood, but against the rulers; against the authorities; against the cosmic powers of this present age; against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."
So, in the victory that has already been won for you in Jesus' Name, let me share with you a kind of user's guide of sorts for your spiritual battle. A spiritual warfare guide when the bully comes after you when it matters most.
Number one. Strategy #1
The devil's first strategy is going to try to weaken you and me and he's going to attack when we are at our weakest point. That's what happened with Jesus in the text. After 40 days and after 40 nights, He was hungry and Satan swooped in to try to overwhelm. Now you may not be dealing with 40 days and 40 nights of hunger; but it could just be stuff that seems to overwhelm you day after day after day.
It could be that a relationship is going poorly and you can't just seem to deal with it. It could be the onslaught of temptation and it's just overwhelming. It just never seems to go away. Satan loves to play on our vulnerabilities. He loves to swoop in when we're at our weakest. So what do we do? Our text says, "Put the Word of God to work in your life." Put the Word of God to work; the sword of the Spirit to work in your life. Jesus starts quoting the Scripture.
Didn't we have to learn...memorize our verses back in confirmation class? There's nothing wrong with that because sometimes when you need it, it just comes right back to your memory because you did it in seventh grade. You did it in eighth grade, but it's deep down in your heart. It's ready to be unleashed when you need it. Put the Word of God to work.
You need God's voice in your life. You need God's Word, God's promise in your life because that's power for all who believe. That's the sword of the Spirit; and that's all Jesus did. He put the Word of God to work even in His battle.
The devil's second strategy will try to confuse you. Satan actually starts to quote the Scripture. Okay, you're going to read it? I'll quote it too. But he starts to twist it. He starts to make you doubt how God is speaking to you.
Jesus comes right back at him and says, "It is written. You shall not put the Lord your God to the test." Jesus reminds Satan and He reminds us that we don't even face our temptations alone. The heavenly Father is here with us as well. Jesus even needed help at that moment and He had help with the Father by the power of the Spirit to actually put Satan in his place. Wow!
Now as you're being overwhelmed by temptation, Satan is going to say, "You can't." And what do you say? "God can. And God the Father in the Name of Jesus by the power of the Spirit is standing here with me." Only God can fight Satan successfully, but we have One Who has come to fight for us.
You know, if you're going through some really difficult times right now, and all of us do, if you are going through some difficult times, here's what the Bible is saying to you. You are never alone. In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you are not alone. Christ is with you. When you come to the table of the Lord, you receive the blessings of God at this table, you are not alone; Christ is with you.
So, when you're facing something very difficult, overwhelming, you are not alone. Know that God is with you and keep calm, and what? Pray on. That's the strategy. Know that the Father is with you in the Son by the power of the Spirit.
The devil's strategy is going to try to dominate you. He's going to try and weaken you, confuse you. He's going to try and run your life. What was the last temptation that Satan had for Jesus? Remember? He took Him to the pinnacle and said, "Look at all the nations of the world. You just bow down and I'll give it all to You;" as if he owned it. Maybe sometimes it looks like he owns it, right?
Now I don't know if you've got that kind of thing going on right now. I don't know if Satan is saying, "Just bow down before me;" and he may not be coming at you straight like he did at Jesus this time; but it might be something a little different where he's just trying to dominate your life; just trying to control your life.
He's got you running so fast to and fro that you don't have time to think about the things of God. You don't have time to think about spiritual things. That's getting you on your knees.
Maybe all the worries that you've got on your mind, all the struggles that you're going through; you're thinking about everything else but God. You're thinking about everything else but Jesus. That's Satan putting you on your knees as well. If you've got time for everything else in the world but God, that's Satan bringing you to your knees.
So, what's the remedy? The Apostle Peter, and I love Peter, because Peter seems to rise and fall and rise and fall. He's a lot like us. Paul seems to walk through walls, right? Peter, every time he does a good thing, he sticks his foot in his mouth. Every time he does a great thing, he falls right after and has to get lifted back up.
I love Peter because he's a great example of trusting ultimately in Christ's mercy. Listen to what Peter says. He says, "Resist Satan. Resist him; standing firm in the faith because you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings."
So, yeah, number 1; put God's Word to work. Number 2; exercise prayer knowing that you're not alone. Number 3; gather with God's people. Be encouraged as you come together and you celebrate this Jesus Who will not let you down. This Jesus Who actually gathers you to give you a clarity; to give you encouragement; to give you strength. Gathered in His Name is great strength for God's people.
I called my confirmation pastor. His name is Pastor T. H. Voss. Boy that sounds great. And so what I told him, I said, "Pastor, I'm going to be preaching in Hurst, and I'm going to tell them something you told me as a seventh grader." He said, "What did I tell you?" I said here's what you told me. You got up and you said, and I remember this; you said, "If you're ever being assaulted by temptation, you're being assaulted by Satan himself, just cross yourself and say, 'In the Name of Jesus, Satan be gone.' He has to flee at the Name of Christ." I remember that as a young man saying, "Whoa. This must be big stuff."
Now I read in the Scripture, "Where two or three are gathered in His Name, He is here with us and now He gives us His Name as a weapon. He pours that Name over us in baptism" and I said, "Pastor, I'm going to tell them what you told me; that whenever we are in the Name of Jesus, we cross ourselves in the Name of Jesus, Satan has to flee." Now he may come back but he's got to go for a while. That's a power I've used from that day to this day. That's the power you have in the Name of the One Who fights for you.
Today we have a Savior. He fights for us. The devil's going to try to weaken us. The Word of God is there for us. The devil's going to try and confuse us, he's going to try and dominate us, but we have a strength and a clarity when we gather together as God's people in His Name.
So today you have One Who fights for you. His Name is Jesus Christ. Put His Word to work. Put prayer to work. Exercise the ability to come together as God's people and then know that the Great Deceiver, Satan himself, does not stand a chance. Put your faith in the One Who not only fights for you today but He wants you to live a life with Him by grace through faith in Jesus now and forever. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. And all of God's people said, "Amen." It is so good to be with you. Amen.
Action in Ministry for March 5, 2017
ANNOUNCER: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. This is Action In Ministry, a call to action in response to all that God has done for us in Jesus Christ.
SELTZ: That's right, Mark, and this is especially important when we consider today's topic. The ultimate bully is prowling around like a hungry, roaring lion seeking someone to devour. The devil is working to deceive us in any way that he can.
ANNOUNCER: As you closed your message today, you mentioned a video resource titled Great Deceiver. We're going to talk about that a little bit. It's suitable for individual study. You could also use it in a group setting; and it also includes a discussion guide.
SELTZ: This study tackles a subject that people might be hesitant to consider. So often the mention of the devil conjures up these crazy things; that he's a guy with horned ears and a pitchfork, that kind of thing. Parents even might dress their kids up for Halloween as the devil. I think there's a real danger in misunderstanding because the devil is not a fictional character. The devil is real. Satan is real and he wants nothing else than to twist and distort all that God has done and said. So this study, I really do believe this, it helps to reveal those schemes and how to combat them.
ANNOUNCER: The Bible tells us that we struggle not against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces of evil.
SELTZ: Right. People might picture horrifying scenes from a movie thriller when they think about evil, but that's, I think again, where they go wrong too. One of the guests in this video, he makes the point that Satan doesn't just show up and say, "Hello. I'm the devil." He's exactly like the title says. He really is a great deceiver and if we're not paying attention, he can get us every time.
ANNOUNCER: His goal is to destroy us. It's not so much that he's trying to make our life harder or cause just pain and grief; ultimately the devil wants to destroy one's faith in Christ.
SELTZ: Yeah, he'd love nothing more. In fact, he'd love it if you were feeling great about the destruction, for sure.
SELTZ: But there is really good news. As much havoc as he can wreak on us and on our world, God tells us in His Word, the Bible, that Satan ultimately has no victory. So, in this study a man tells a story of how his life was destroyed one piece at a time. In fact, I think he said he was living in a warehouse where he worked and he even considered suicide.
ANNOUNCER: Thankfully, his story didn't end there.
SELTZ: That's right; because he cried out three words, "God, help me." And what he realized was that God was already there with His help. What Satan intended, actually, for his evil and his destruction, God used for good to bring him to faith in Jesus.
ANNOUNCER: Now this video resource, Great Deceiver, is divided into four separate sessions and not only will you learn how Satan works and hear stories about those who have been set free from his grip; you'll also be equipped and strengthened along the way.
SELTZ: You don't have to fall victim to Satan's attacks and in this study you'll learn why you have no reason to fear. You're in Christ. So, in His strength, in His power, in His victory you can even face him on his own terms. But what we're given to learn here is what to do when you are struggling; how and where that you will find that strength. What's amazing is even Jesus needed to have that strength of the Word of God and to face Satan himself, He spent time in prayer to be refreshed and refueled.
ANNOUNCER: And how does that struggle against Satan finally play out and come to an end?
SELTZ: Well, listen, Satan, even now, you need to understand this, is under God's authority and his influence is limited, his time is short, and his defeat is ultimate and so even as we're facing some of these things, we're doing them in the victory that is already ours in the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. With that in mind, take on what you're facing.
ANNOUNCER: This resource, Great Deceiver, is available for free at our website: lutheranhour.org; click on Action In Ministry. That is our Action In Ministry segment for today; to bless, to empower, and to strengthen your life in Christ for others.
ANNOUNCER: To read or download this resource, go to lutheranhour.org and click on Action In Ministry. To order a DVD copy, call 1-855-john316. That's 1-855-564-6316.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for March 5, 2017
Topic: Where Did the Devil Come From?
ANNOUNCER: Where did the devil come from? That'll be our question today for Pastor Gregory Seltz. I'm Mark Eischer. A listener says, "The presence of evil in the world is something I see very clearly. I understand that evil is the result of a fallen world and my own sinfulness, but I also know the Bible says Satan wreaks havoc in the world and in our lives. So, where did the devil come from?"
SELTZ: Great question. Our listener is very perceptive about the forces of evil and sin in the world. The problem though is that it's not just out there, this issue. It's also in our own hearts because of our own fallen condition. Right off the bat we cause a lot of our own problems too.
ANNOUNCER: But our listener's on to something about the devil. Jesus' ministry revealed the many ways the devil causes trouble and problems for people.
SELTZ: Yeah. Jesus cast out many demons that caused disability, illness, and turmoil in people's lives. We might want to chalk it all up to misfortune, but Jesus showed the existence and the true colors of Satan himself in the world. In fact, if you remember, at the beginning of Jesus' ministry, He went toe-to-toe with the devil in the wilderness. The Bible is right when it says Satan is a real entity prowling around, looking for someone to devour and we need to be on our guard.
ANNOUNCER: The Bible warns us about that spiritual battle.
SELTZ: That's one thing I love about God's Word: it pulls no punches. It lets us know that our battle in life is not just against flesh and blood. We're not just contending with broken hearts, constant frustrations, and relentless temptations.
ANNOUNCER: In Ephesians, chapter 6, we read that we wrestle "against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12 ESV).
SELTZ: It warns us. It sure does. The devil is real. He's a rebellious, fallen angel; he's raging against people who follow Jesus. And he is angry because he only has a short time to drag people into misery and into the condemnation that he himself is suffering.
ANNOUNCER: What do we know about the devil's origins?
SELTZ: As we do with any question, Mark, our first place to look is in God's Word. We don't speculate or go into tradition. We dig into the Scriptures to gain understanding. The first place we look, then, for this answer is in the last book of the Bible.
ANNOUNCER: And here we're talking about the book of Revelation. Why start there?
SELTZ: Well, in Revelation, chapter 12, we hear about a rebellion in heaven. Blended into this vision of the birth of Jesus, the devil attempts to thwart God's plan of salvation that God is working through His Son's death and resurrection. So we hear about the devil's revolt; we hear about his demise in Revelation 12. Listen to what it says: "Now a war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated." Then it talks about how he was the deceiver. He was thrown down to earth and his angels were thrown down with him" (Revelation 12:7-9 ESV).
ANNOUNCER: The Apostle Peter also reinforces that account of the devil's fall.
SELTZ: He does. In 2 Peter 2:4, he says, "God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to the chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment" (2 Peter 2:4 ESV).
ANNOUNCER: From this, it sounds like the devil was a rebellious angel who was thrown down in some sort of spiritual war that took place in heaven. Bigger question: why would God let that happen?
SELTZ: Well, that's where we need to let the Bible be the context. There's a bigger context to this whole thing. God is a God of love in all things. He is not a God of control; not a God of manipulation. Angels were servants of God, part of His precious creation. Just as human beings were loved enough to be given freedom, it sounds like angels were given that same freedom and unfortunately, some rebelled.
ANNOUNCER: Should we fear the devil?
SELTZ: Well, we should be definitely afraid of what he can be and do to us. He is very, very powerful and on our own, we cannot go up against him, but we don't have to; that's the point. The Bible says that Jesus came. He's our Savior. He fights for us. I love 1 John 3:8; it says it this way, "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8 ESV).
ANNOUNCER: And that's what Jesus did for us in His life, death, and resurrection.
SELTZ: And therefore because of that we don't have to be afraid of the devil as long as Jesus walks with us. When we are in Christ, by faith nothing can overcome Him. Here's a Bible verse I love; Romans 8, it tells us that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ-not even the demons themselves.
ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Pastor Seltz. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
AMusic Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)
"I Walk in Danger All the Way" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)