Saturday, May 03, 2008

1.Peter.4:12-19.5.6-11, Seventh Sunday after Easter, May 4, 2008

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:12-19, 5:6-11 ESV)

Grace and peace to you from Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Today’s sermon is about the Seventh Petition of the Lord’s Prayer. But deliver us from evil. This text from St. Peter’s letter talks about just that. Turn to your hymnal on page 303. Go about halfway down the page and let’s read it together.

The Seventh Petition
But deliver us from evil.
What does this mean?We pray in this petition, in summary, that our Father in heaven would rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven.

Deliver us from evil. I like that part rescue us from every evil of body and soul… Martin Luther just had a way of saying things that rings true. When we pray this prayer, deliver us from evil we are asking a great big things from God, and there is nothing wrong with that, in fact that is exactly what God wants us to do… ask for big things. And there is hardly anything bigger that to be delivered from evil. Now in fact when Jesus gave the prayer to his disciples He said it a bit different. What he said is often lost in translation, although some versions of the Our Father reflect it. He said, deliver us from the Evil one. And that’s how we get from the Lord’s Prayer to our text for today. Deliver us from evil is all about Satan and his work in the world.

St. Peter paints a frightening picture. Satan prowls around like a lion seeking someone to devour. He is out there, sneaking around waiting to pounce. Picture in your mind the lion hidden in the tall grass with unsuspecting gazelle grazing peacefully nearby. If the gazelle knew the lion was there it would have found someplace else to eat. Instead it eats its last meal without knowing the danger. The cat moves quietly and slowly on padded feet. It is patient even though it is hungry. Every tendon in its body is tense ready for action. Suddenly the gazelle senses something is wrong. It raises its head to look about sniffing the air for a scent of danger. It leans back on its haunches to spring away. Suddenly, out of the shadows of the grass the lion springs into action. Long sharp claws sink into the animals back as the full weight of the great cat brings it to the ground. Then the crushing jaws clamp onto the gazelle’s throat cutting off the oxygen it needs to live. Its death is certain and swift. The cat’s hunger is satisfied.

The warning is to be taken seriously. Satan wants nothing more than to kill you, to devour you, for you to spend eternity in hell. These days it isn’t popular to talk about Satan as a real being. In fact, in our minds we probably don’t even think he’s real. That’s the warning exactly. Satan does his best work in the shadows. He hides behind the actions of people we love. He skulks around whispering thoughts into our ears that sound so reasonable. His lies sound so truthful and reasonable. We want to believe they are true. And he even presents them in such a reasonable manner. “There are many ways to God, as long as you are sincere,” is one of his favorite lines. But it directly contradicts Jesus’ own Words,

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 ESV)

That’s Satan sneaking up, hidden by the reasonableness of the tall grass. He is ready to pounce. He wants only to satisfy his own hunger for your death. We graze ever closer to his hunting ground thinking we are safe, thinking that we have nothing to fear, until he sinks his claws into us and suffocates the life out of us with his lies. And we are helpless to resist.

In the Large Catechism Luther puts it very plainly.

Since the devil is not only a liar but also a murderer,3 he incessantly seeks our life and vents his anger by causing accidents and injury to our bodies. He breaks many a man’s neck and drives others to insanity; some he drowns, and many he hounds to suicide or other dreadful catastrophes[1]

And so St. Peter tells us to resist him, firm in faith. He’s telling us that when Satan strikes we have no defense but faith.

But here’s the thing we should come to grips with. Faith isn’t a quality that allows us to stand up to Satan and defeat him. Faith is trust in the promises of God. True faith, doesn’t look inside ourselves for something to use against Satan, for some inner strength to resist. True faith trusts that no matter what happens God is in control, even though Satan seems to be in charge. True faith trusts that no matter what happens God is allowing it for our benefit.

Go back to the first part of the text. He says; don’t be surprised if the fiery trial comes. It comes to test you. It comes to strengthen your faith. It is nothing strange for Christians to suffer.

But often that’s not what we want to hear. We want God, my god, to deliver us from all that we see as all evil. We don’t want to suffer. We want to live my life in comfort, far away from the trouble that other people go through. But this isn’t faith the faith that Peter is talking about is it? The faith he’s talking about is trusting in God’s promises in spite of what it looks like is happening. St. Peter says it this way in the text:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV)

That’s right before he tells us that Satan is out there prowling around to devour us. He’s saying that God uses fiery trials in our lives. And that suffering has a purpose. God will use any means necessary to bring you to the realization that you are helpless to save yourself, even Satan who is out there wanting to destroy you. Humble yourself means the same thing as standing firm in faith. Submit to God’s will. Look for God in the suffering. Look for God in the pain. Look for God to reveal Himself. God shows Himself to you when you are helpless when you are at the point where you can do nothing else but to cast all your anxieties on Him.

How about an example: The example is this: Jesus lying on the ground in the garden of Gethsemane the night He was betrayed praying:

“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39 ESV)

Jesus could have used these words, Deliver us from evil. They say and mean the same thing. And yet Jesus wasn’t delivered from the cross. He suffered there. Satan unfolded all his might to destroy Him. Satan pounced on Jesus and suffocated the life out of Him. He mocked Jesus thought the lips of the thieves on the crosses beside Him. He died there. This thing isn’t the great evil that it appears to be. Even though the actions of all those around Jesus, the betrayal, the nailing, the mocking, and the piercing, were all great evil, God allowed them all and made it all our greatest good. Jesus suffering and death there brings new life and salvation to you and me. Satan does his worst to Jesus, but Jesus wins anyway. Death turns to life. Jesus opens the grave and lives again.

The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

At the right hand of God means Jesus rules over all things. He is in control. Jesus Christ has control over even Satan. Satan can only do what God allows him to do. He may attack you, but God turns his attack into your good.

And that brings us full circle back to the beginning of the text.

But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:13 ESV)

Satan is after you. He wants you dead and suffering in hell for all time. But God is in control. His loves you too much to allow Satan to destroy you. That means that when you suffer at Satan’s hand, God is doing something good in your life. That means that no matter how it looks, no matter how it hurts, when you have to cast your anxieties on Him, you can rejoice. He cares for you He will deliver you from evil. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

3 John 8:44.

[1]Tappert, T. G. (2000, c1959). The book of concord : The confessions of the evangelical Lutheran church (435). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

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