Invocabit, The First Sunday in Lent
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time
Mid-Week Lenten Services are Wednesdays at 6 PM.
The Hymn #39 Lobe den Herren 3.1
The Confession of Sins
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual 2 Cor. 6:1-10
The Gospel Matthew 4:1-11
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #145 O du liebe 3.52
Contending for the Faith
The Hymn #307 Old 124th 3.72
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #50 Regent Square 3.86
KJV 2 Corinthians 6:1 We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. 2 (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.) 3 Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed: 4 But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, 5 In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; 6 By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, 7 By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, 8 By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; 9 As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; 10 As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.
KJV Matthew 4:1 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 hungred. 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.
First Sunday In Lent
Lord God, heavenly Father, inasmuch as the adversary doth continually afflict us, and as a roaring lion doth walk about, seeking to devour us: We beseech Thee for the sake of the suffering and death of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, to help us by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and to strengthen our hearts by Thy word, that our enemy may not prevail over us, but that we may evermore abide in Thy grace, and be preserved unto everlasting life; through the same, Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.
Contending for the Faith
Luther’s theology of the cross is a reflection of the Bible’s entire content. He saw the Scriptures as one unit, the Bible as the Book of the Holy Spirit. For that reason, many Lutheran theologians of the Reformation era avoided the term “doctrines” as if there were many different doctrines. There is just one unified truth taught in the Scriptures. It is not a cafeteria line where someone picks and chooses whatever is appealing. Even worse is the idea that a particular sect can gather in a convention, often with people picked for political reasons only, and vote on whether to impose a new opinion on their ovine followers. All the votes in the world will not change the truth of God’s Word. It may even be that the vast majority of official documents are contrary to God’s Word, as they were in the Middle Ages.
In light of that, it is good to consider how Jesus also contended for the faith by employing the spoken Word. He fought against Satan, the master of the Word in his ability to twist the Scriptures to his advantage.
I have heard a pastor claim that Jesus was incapable of sin. If that were so, then He was not tempted. Jesus certainly had a human will and nature, combined with His divine will and nature.
His temptations were primarily spiritual. Many thinkers of the past have noted the same thing – our greatest temptations are spiritual rather than carnal, although people fall into carnal sin after losing the spiritual battle.
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.
In the first temptation, Satan taunted Jesus – prove you are the Son of God. This foreshadowed many similar temptations, when Jesus appeared to be an ordinary man and the crowds demanded proof of His divinity on their terms. At His trial, He warned the judges that He could summon legions of angels. All of us would have done that. But He did not and accepted their insults, verbal, and physical abuse. Sure the Son of God would defeated them, so they were all the more violent in their actions.
Jesus answered Satan challenge by speaking aloud the Word – Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
One of the great blessings of the cross is contending for the faith.
KJV Jude 1:3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
When someone teaches against the Word of God, we have an opportunity to study and clarify our own understanding of the Christian faith. Many have fallen prey to the temptation of never saying anything or excusing error for a wide variety of reasons. Often the choice is bread versus the truth, as if God cannot supply our material needs. No matter what the issue, making a case for the truth makes us more interested in studying the Word.
Luther talked about a technical term, which was more like apathy. People in the snow-belts would probably like to walk out right now in the sunshine and pick citrus from a tree. In Phoenix we have ripe oranges, grapefruits, and lemons in every yard. And all of us are lax in harvesting them. I was on a college campus looking at a tree full of ripe oranges, thinking about my three citrus trees. I often say, “I will have to go out and pick a few more.” But they are so close and the task is easily put off. Where there is an abundance, we take it for granted.
When Lutherans could walk to a faithful church near their home, they took that for granted too. Pastors and laity became spiritually inert. Theology professors worried about pensions and pleasing their political leaders. The truth of Christianity is like gold – nothing can tarnish it. But our grasp of the Christian faith is more like silver, made to be polished every day. I have heard that silver takes on a special sheen when polished daily. Supposedly the freed slaves after the Civil War, still took out the silver and polished it each day, a relic of the former days.
One of the benefits of writing and teaching about religion is the way in which curiosity is fueled. Adult students have a way of demanding to know exactly how something developed, and they want an easy to understand explanation. I cannot imagine studying Islam and reading thousands of pages except for the requirement that I had to teach about it. That provoked some study but the classroom made me want to study a lot more.
When people argue over the Internet about Biblical doctrine, making clear statements is a constant challenge. One matter leads to another, but the search for clarity is enjoyable, satisfying, and worthwhile. Is anything more worthwhile? Since God already provides our daily bread, we do not need to be like the disciples who said in the boat (after the Feeding of the 5,000), “We have no bread.”
KJV Mark 8:15 And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod. 16 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have no bread. 17 And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened? 18 Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember? 19 When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve. 20 And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven. 21 And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand?
That is also why God has hard sayings in His Word. If everything read like The Prophet by Gibran, people would not trouble themselves to understand the difficult passages, like the Canaanite woman whose daughter was so ill, yet she was turned down a number of times by Jesus, in rather harsh words.
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.
It was said that the peak of the new Temple, built by Herod, was so tall that someone could not see the ground from the top. The massive stones remaining are still impressive reminders of how great that construction was. They were thrown down, as Jesus predicted, only 40 years after His crucifixion.
Jesus was capable of divine movement at any time, which we can see in several places in the Scriptures. His divine nature was not hindered in any way by His human flesh. The taunting command to prove that God would care for Him came to bear most painfully during His lonely death on the cross. As someone has said, no one can fully understand the cross of Christ without that cry, “My God, my God, why have You abandoned me?” (quoting the Psalms)
7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
This is the spiritual temptation of many Christians, who are taunted by apostates, “If you hold to the Word of God, why is your church so small?” Or a district president will say, “You are becoming contentious.” DP Mueller said to me, “Your zeal for doctrine has offended the brothers.” (Apparently their apathy did not offend him.) He also said, when I showed how WELS was plagiarizing Fuller Seminary, “You are upsetting the younger pastors.”
People who are ill are tempted to demand healing in their way and in their time, as if the Old Adam has not placed his mark on us all. We are all mortal. Some Christians are very disappointing in the way they treat the sick and disabled. One member will demand daily visits when he is in the hospital but never think of doing the same for anyone else, after complaining that fellow members never visited him.
There are many different types of temptations. Pastors think they should be in more glamorous settings and set their miter to obtain them. Ministers want to serve in areas where the membership is already dense, so their mission work consists of picking up the denominational members already there. If a thousand members move to Phoenix and only 200 join a church, they say, “We are the greatest.”
Members become outraged and bitter when their selfish and demanding prayers are not answered. As Luther said, If we boss God around, that is one thing He will not give us.
No one wants to feel the pinch of rejection when associated with a group thought to be too narrow, too strict. I was in New Ulm shoveling the snow, when two Catholics I knew walked by and starting talking. They pointed at the huge WELS church down the street and said, “They are against Roman Catholic teaching. You are not like them are you?” I said, “We are worse.” They said, “Worse?” and walked away. I offered them a book, but they were not in the mood. That has been the energy behind all the cooperation and ecumenism. And yet, even a liberal like Lyle Schaller has to admit, when churches get together, the sum total result is pathetic. He was talking about multi-denominational VBS.
Even in the same denomination, a joint Reformation service will not fill one church when separate services would be respectable in each one. Calling off the Sunday service does not help the joint service either. In a group of five churches, four men do not have to prepare sermons. And the vacationing pastors like that.
What did Jesus do except preach and teach? He gave us the Word to convert and to nurture people in the faith. There is no other way except through the efficacious Word, so people listen to their Old Adam and make fun of preaching.
Ministers make fun of preaching to gain the friendship of the Old Adam in their audience. A cool guy makes fun of sermons and people sleeping in church. A cool guy entertains, provides couches for us, and makes gourmet coffee. A cool guy directs a rock band to please us aging Boomers.
People are often not grateful for the Word, but that is the cross. Jesus’ multitude was whittled down to a few women and one apostle at the cross. As soon as people change from emphasizing faithfulness to success, they have fallen prey to this second temptation. “Outward success shows God’s love, so let’s adulterate and scheme to showcase that success.”
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.
How could the Prince of Peace be tempted by this? He was going to be looked up on as an ordinary rabbi with a small following. He was going to be arousing the fury of Rome and all the religious leaders. To reign in glory without the crucifixion was indeed a temptation. If not, why did He pray, “Take this cup from Me,” just before He was tortured and killed?
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.
"For neither you nor I could ever know anything of Christ, or believe on Him, and obtain Him for our Lord, unless it were offered to us and granted to our hearts by the Holy Ghost through the preaching of the Gospel. The work is done and accomplished; for Christ has acquired and gained the treasure for us by His suffering, death, resurrection, etc. But if the work remained concealed so that no one knew of it, then it would be in vain and lost. That this treasure, therefore, might not lie buried, but be appropriated and enjoyed, God has caused the Word to go forth and be proclaimed, in which He gives the Holy Ghost to bring this treasure home and appropriate it to us. Therefore sanctifying is nothing else than bringing us to Christ to receive this good, to which could not attain ourselves."
The Large Catechism, The Creed, Article III, #38, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 689.
"But outside of this Christian Church, where the Gospel is not, there is no forgiveness, as also there can be no holiness [sanctification]. Therefore all who seek and wish to merit holiness [sanctification], not through the Gospel and forgiveness of sin, but by their works, have expelled and severed themselves [from this Church]."
The Large Catechism, The Creed, Article III, #56, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 693.
"The second argument is that 'God desires all men to be saved' (1 Timothy 2:4), and He gave His Son for us men and created man for eternal life. Likewise: All things exist for man, and he himself exists for God that he may enjoy Him, etc. These points and others like them can be refuted as easily as the first one. For these verses must always be understood as pertaining to the elect only, as the apostle says in 2 Timothy 2:10 'everything for the sake of the elect.' For in an absolute sense Christ did not die for all, because He says: 'This is My blood which is poured out for you' and 'for many'--He does not say: for all--'for the forgiveness of sins.' (Mark 14:24; Matthew 26:28) Martin Luther, Luther's Works, 25 p. 375. 2 Timothy 2:10; 1 Timothy 2:4; Mark 14:24; Matthew 26:28
"In like manner Moses must precede and teach people to feel their sins in order that grace may be sweet and welcome to them. Therefore all is in vain, however friendly and lovely Christ may be pictured, if man is not first humbled by a knowledge of himself and he possesses no longing for Christ, as Mary's Song says, 'The hungry he hath filled with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away,' Luke 1:53."
Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 149. Matthew 15:21-28; Luke 1:53
"The apostle says 'our,' 'our sins;' not his own sin, not the sins of unbelievers. Purification is not for, and cannot profit, him who does not believe. Nor did Christ effect the cleansing by our free-will, our reason or power, our works, our contrition or repentance, these all being worthless in the sight of God; he effects it by himself. And how? By taking our sins upon himself on the holy cross, as Isaiah 53:6 tells us." Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 180. Hebrews 1:1-12; Hebrews 1:3;
"Christ is speaking here not of the word of the law, but of the Gospel, which is a discourse about Christ, who died for our sins, etc. For God did not wish to impart Christ to the world in any other way; he had to embody him in the Word and thus distributed him, and present him to everybody; otherwise Christ would have existed for himself alone and remained unknown to us; he would have thus died for himself. But since the Word places before us Christ, it thus places us before Him who has triumphed over death, sin, and Satan. Therefore, he who grasps and retains Christ, has thus also eternal deliverance from death. Consequently it is a Word of life, and it is true, that whoever keeps the Word shall never see death." Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 177. John 8:46-59.
"To this incline your ears, and be persuaded that God speaks through men and forgives you your sins; this, of course, requires faith." Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed. John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983 II, p. 200. "If I do not believe it, I will not receive its benefits; but that neither renders it false nor proves that anything is lacking in Christ." Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 258. Mark 16:1-8.
"It is a faithful saying that Christ has accomplished everything, has removed sin and overcome every enemy, so that through Him we are lords over all things. But the treasure lies yet in one pile; it is not yet distributed nor invested. Consequently, if we are to possess it, the Holy Spirit must come and teach our hearts to believe and say: I, too, am one of those who are to have this treasure. When we feel that God has thus helped us and given the treasure to us, everything goes well, and it cannot be otherwise than that man's heart rejoices in God and lifts itself up, saying: Dear Father, if it is Thy will to show toward me such great love and faithfulness, which I cannot fully fathom, then will I also love Thee with all my heart and be joyful, and cheerfully do what pleases Thee. Thus, the heart does not now look at God with evil eyes, does not imagine He will cast us into hell, as it did before the HS came...." Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 279. John 14:23-31.
"All who are born into the world of man and woman are sinful under God's anger and curse, condemned to death. For all are conceived and born in sin as Scripture testifies (Psalm 51:5): 'Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.'" Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, The House Postils, 3 vols., ed., Eugene Klug, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996, II, p. 26. Luke 24:13-35; Psalm 51:5
"The 'rod of His mouth' signifies the spoken Word or the Gospel, which proceeds from the mouth of all whose teaching is pure. It is not inefficacious; it bears fruit; it justifies the godly and destroys the ungodly." [Footnote F. Pieper, Dogmatics, Word of God has twofold effect. It illumines and blinds. I, p. 125.] Martin Luther, What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed. Ewald M. Plass St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, III, p. 1469. Isaiah 11:4
"Christ did indeed suffer for the whole world; but how many are there who believe and cherish this fact? Therefore, although the work of redemption itself has been accomplished, it still cannot help and benefit a man unless he believes it and experiences its saving power in his heart." Martin Luther, What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, II, p. 705f.