“Devil, You Lie!”

Dear Brothers,

What a contrast in every direction! Led by the Spirit, as the second Adam strode out onto the battlefield of temptation to face the father of lies, what a contrast it was to that day when the first Adam and his wife suddenly found themselves on that same battlefield.

In Eden no human sin yet marred the world that still sparkled in pristine splendor from its loving Creator’s hand.  In the Garden, Adam and Eve were surrounded on every side by countless reminders of their Creator’s perfect kindness.  But then, inexplicably, when confronted with the lie to take matters into their owns hands since God was holding out on them, they believed the lie.  When told to grab for what suddenly seemed to glisten so invitingly before their eyes rather than to hold to what was already theirs in their Creator, they believed the lie.  When urged to dare God to reveal he wasn’t bluffing when he promised that those who eat would die, they believed the lie.

The incredible nature of believing such obvious lies makes it seem almost like a fairy tale.  That is, until we recognize that the same lies – despite all the evidence we too have to the contrary – still deceive us every day!  The deceiver’s lies work because at the root of our natural hearts we do not trust God!

But what a contrast as the second Adam steps out onto temptation’s battlefield!  His temptation does not occur in a Garden surrounded by every possible reminder of his Father’s goodness.  No, the Spirit leads him into the barren wilderness where for 40 days he (who is true God but also true man) goes without food.   Plagued by hunger pangs in that barren wilderness, the fading echoes of the Father’s words at his baptism about being his beloved Son could so easily have sounded like so many empty words.  Where was that Father now as he seemed to be wandering in that wilderness hungry and alone – except for the Tempter dogging his every step?

And so as those 40 days reached their conclusion, the deceiver launched his perfectly-aimed attacks.  “Does the Father love you?  Are you really his Son?  Where is his care as he leaves you to starve in this god-forsaken place?  What you need to do is take matters into your own hand and command one of these stones to become bread!”

And resting in his Father’s Word, do you know what Jesus said in return?  “Devil, you lie!”

Undismayed, the deceiver countered.  “So, you say you live by this Father’s Word?  Will you also die by his Word?  Doesn’t this Father by whose Word you say you live point you to suffering and a cross and to unimaginable agony for an ungrateful world where most will ignore whatever you do for them?   Where’s the love in that?  Here, do you see all the power and authority and glory of this world.  It’s mine, but it can all be yours…and I ask no painful cross for it, just bow down your weary bones for a moment, and it will be yours – all of it!”

And resting in his Father’s Word, do you know what Jesus said in return? “Devil, you lie!”

Satan was not out of lies yet, transporting our Lord Jesus to a peak of the temple he hissed, “So, I see you trust and worship this Father, but if he is truly worth such trust and worship then surely there can be nothing wrong with putting him to the test?  He promises to protect you, doesn’t he?  Time to see that, Jesus, don’t you think?  Throw yourself down and let’s see him and his angels get to work for a change rather than allowing you to suffer!”

And resting in his Father’s Word, do you know what Jesus said in return?  “Devil, you lie!”

Would that each of us could have the joy of being able to say that, resting in our Father’s Word, we had always said to the great deceiver, “Devil, you lie!”  Would that we had the record of perfect battling on the field of temptation so that the devil always ended up fleeing from us, defeated, his lies – like his head – helplessly crushed by God’s truth.

Oh my friends, you already have that record!  Our Lord Jesus did not fight and win these battles for himself.  The Creator clothed himself in our flesh and blood as the second Adam because the first Adam and Eve and all their children had lost.  For thirty-three years of blistering attacks the Second Adam held the field, and he held it for us.  He held that field to clothe us with the breastplate of his righteous record of perfectly defeating every temptation.  That is the glorious truth held before us each year on the First Sunday in Lent.   Lent has hardly gotten underway and suddenly held before us is the life of our Lord Jesus that clothes us in his holiness, just as Lent will end by holding before us the death of our Lord Jesus that washes us from our filthiness.   Jesus has defeated temptation to bring us deliverance!

So, the next time, Satan whispers to you, “Do you know how God sees you?  You, who call yourself a child of God?  Don’t you know that your life is littered with defeats in battle against me?  That is ultimately how God sees you!”

And resting in your Father’s Word, do you know what to say in return?  “Devil, you lie!”

This devotion is being preached on Monday, February 15, 2016, in the chapel of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. The writer of this devotion owes a debt of gratitude to Pastor Jonathan Bauer who in a brief devotion on the WELS Hymnal Project blog identified an insight from Luther’s Works about Luther’s own understanding of the phrase “one little word can fell him” from the hymn A Mighty Fortress.