The Readings for the First Sunday in Lent are chosen to help us prepare ourselves spiritually for the celebration of Easter through a time of deep self examination, repentance and confession. The goal is not to make us feel guilty but to help us draw nearer to God by overcoming the things – particularly the temptations to sin; that distract us and pollute our personal spirits and so we cannot survive in the presence of God who is holy.
- The Deuteronomy Reading (26.1-11) reminds us of our Old Testament Covenant and Baptism obligation to give thanks and acknowledge God as the one who gives us life.
- Psalm 91 reminds us that God also gives us protection and refuge in a dangerous world.
1. In Romans 10.8-13 we learn how God’s forgiveness of sin works
First of all we are told that the “Word” is near us, in our hearts. We do not have to go to a special place such as Israel or India. God wants an emotional relationship in our hearts – our soul and spirit. But God is so holy, pure and undivided He cannot be where there is spiritual pollution. Spiritual pollution would burn up in the fire of God’s holy love. This is why we all need to clearly understand and believe in the legal and spiritual process of “justification:
- Depends on “declaring with your mouth that Jesus is Lord. And believing in your heart that God raised Him from the dead” (v.9)
- Core of Christianity - a summary that means we believe in and depend on all the teachings of the New Testament
- Including that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world and that God raised Him to a new form of spiritual life as a sign of hope for us
- Resurrection at Easter was God’s yes to the promise that God would consider Jesus death as full payment for the sin-guilt of anyone who believed - as shown in repenting and asking Jesus for forgiveness
- Justification by Faith = unjust made to be just – in right-relationship
- This is the Good News – process of removing spiritual pollution so our personal Spirit can survive in the fire of God’s holy love.
2. Jesus Temptations (Luke 4.1-13) made Him spiritually stronger
The Gospel story of Jesus being tempted by the Devil teaches us how to see through the deceptions of the Evil One and resist the temptations of our physical, emotional and spiritual needs:
· First there is an irresistible taunt that questions Jesus identity and mission – “if you are the son of God…”
· Second there is a need that is hard to resist – Jesus is starving to death / Jesus wants to change the world / Jesus wants to show the power and glory of God to the world
· Third is the price – by giving in to these very attractive temptations Jesus would be diverted from His identity as Son of God and Saviour – Satan would win, we would have no hope of Salvation from the consequences of our sins and spiritual life
3. Self-examination question: “in what small ways am I tempted by materialism, avarice and gluttony?”
Lent is a time to focus more deeply on examining our lives and preparing more diligently for the Confession and Absolution offered in our worship services. For most of us it is the small and apparently minor shortcuts we take in life that tempt us into gradually polluting our personal Spirits. We need a healthy balance between honestly admitting our failures and not becoming hopelessly overwhelmed and shamed by them.
- Materialism, Avarice and Gluttony pollute our Spirit by distracting us from love of God, others and Self – the “Me Generation”
- Loose our purpose, meaning and identity as a Spirit that is in a love relationship with God – and has temporary physical body
- Children can grow up from pure spirits connected to God into adults that have been distracted, wounded and spiritually polluted by the desires of their bodies
- Personal spiritual pollution means that ultimately the Spirit could burn up and could not live in the presence of God who is holy
4. What emotional needs tempt us: Envy, Jealousy, Lust and Coveting?
We all want more. The question is are we willing to sacrifice our relationship with God to get that more?. The question for self-examination is – “in what ways have I failed to keep the Commandments to love and honour God above everything else?”
5. What spiritual needs tempt us: Pride is the first sin
Jesus realizes that by jumping off the Temple and being rescued, everyone would recognize Him as Messiah and he could avoid the pain of the Cross.
· By avoiding the Cross Jesus mission would have been defeated
· We would have no personal Saviour, no way to new Spiritual Life
Jesus grows spiritually through these temptations by staying focused on God and His purpose and mission.