Sermon Luke 4:1-15: Lent -1. The Temptation of Christ. Satan isn't a Metaphor - Biblical Foundations

“The Temptation of Christ,” Luke 4:1-15

Jesus is divine and man. Jesus is mysterious and yet revealed and knowable. Jesus is many things and can be said to do and have done many more things than we can easily count or know in fullness. Among the things Jesus is and does is that He is the restorative right King who takes back the fraudulent authority given over to Satan by Adam through his original sin. 

CIS: Jesus Restores Kingdoms Seized by Fraud. His offerings are always false.

In his commentary on Luke, the early church father, Cyril of Alexandria stated:

“Did you think to have him as your worshiper at whom all things tremble, while the seraphim and all the angelic powers sing hymns to his glory? It is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.” It is fitting that he made mention of this commandment, striking as it were at his very heart. Before his advent, Satan had deceived all under heaven and was himself worshiped everywhere. But the law of God, ejecting him from the dominion he had usurped by fraud, has commanded people to worship him only who by nature and in truth is God and to offer service to him alone.”[1]

This sermon is a “have right theology” sermon. My aim is to impress upon you today two key biblical theological statement for your consideration: (1) Satan isn’t an idea. He isn’t the personification of evil. Not according the early church and not according to the Sacred Scripture they affirmed. The Devil isn’t allegory and I’m not an antiquated fool for saying so.

Is it allegory when a man is tempted into adulterous sin? Is it allegory when a man is drawn away by the lies that the kingdom of pleasure will deliver him from his problems, he sins, is found out, and the lives of his wife and children are in ruins? 

Are those metaphorical ruins or are they crumbling bricks?

Surely no one loves Demons and Satan having been allegorized by modern Christians than Satan himself! Listen to these words penned by C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters from Demon command to subordinate Wormwood.

“My Dear Wormwood, I wonder you should ask me whether it is essential to keep the patient in ignorance of your own existence. That question, at least for the present phase of the struggle, has been answered for us by the High Command. Our policy, for the moment, is to conceal ourselves. Of course this has not always been so. We are really faced with a cruel dilemma. When the humans disbelieve in our existence we lose all the pleasing results of direct terrorism and we make no magicians. On the other hand, when they believe in us, we cannot make them materialists and sceptics. At least, not yet. I have great hopes that we shall learn in due time how to emotionalize and mythologize their science to such an extent that what is, in effect, belief in us, (though not under that name) will creep in while the human mind remains closed to belief in the Enemy.

[2] Our intellect betrays us. In our supposedly enlightened awakened state in modernity we have closed our eyes to evil.

I would not have you nor would I choose to be blinded by an enlightenment which sees ancient truths as by necessity to be dismissed out of hand! I would not have you nor would I choose to be the ruler of any counterfeit kingdoms!

And that is what Satan gladly glibly offers; counterfeit kingdoms and we buy in sitting on plastic thrones with pauper’s crowns…

(2) Satan offers counterfeit kingdoms. Satan offers just such a thing to Jesus in Luke 4. Bow down and worship me and I’ll give all of this to you. What a strangely arrogant and blatantly false offer! But that’s all that he has to give.

Satan offers wealth, power, pleasure. That’s the unholy trinity of what Satan can do for you if you’ll worship him. He’s like a greasy con artist selling something he doesn’t own because he promises things not attached to what he can actually give. His money back guarantee has no substance to back it!

He promises wealth but giving into the patterns and schemes of this world to get it, which honors him, which is a form of worship, can’t bring contentment.  

Only God can give contentment. I Timothy 6:6-10: “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (KJV) 

Regardless of our means, only the Lord can and will grant us true godly contentment. Wealth is a burden, a treacherously false kingdom, when contentment is lacking.

He promises power but when power is obtained through bowing down to Satan through obligatory participation in the domination systems presently in place in this world, there can be no authentic covenant.

Only God can give covenant. What do I mean by that? He is a rare man without the Holy Spirit in his heart who can properly submit to authority without resentment or carry the mantle of authority without pride. In the context of godly relationships of authority and service, integrity reigns.

Titus 2:7-8: In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.” (KJV)

He promises pleasure but robs intimacy. This may be the most tragic of all on a close to the heart human level. Is there anything more soul disturbing in our society today than the objectification of other image bearers? Human intimacy has been exchanged for something like a commodity and even a political tool, and much worse. What we call freedom the Bible calls shackles..

We went down to Bell Isle aquarium yesterday. On the way home I meandered off the beaten path a bit and went through a part of town with a particularly high amount of empty and abandoned houses. It occurred to me Satan’s counterfeit kingdom of wealth the worlds way, power the world’s way, and pleasure without covenant is like time, wind, snow, and ice on so many abandoned houses in Detroit – it is the ruination of the home and it will be the destruction of the Christian family if these precious and basic truths remain as neglected and abandoned as those crumbling houses…

Today a lot of folks want Jesus metaphorically – wisdom, guidance, but no difficult truths. We’ve allegorized Satan and kept Jesus in the manger.

The early church was willing the be martyred for the truth, the literal concrete truths contained in Scripture. Did they willingly submit to hungry lions in the colosseum. What about Peter, crucified upside-down who wrote, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” I Peter 5:8 (NIV)

Do what Jesus did in the face of temptation, mimic Jesus who, when confronted and tempted by Satan, quoted Scripture – God’s Sacred Holy Word. Satan isn’t a metaphor and His kingdoms are counterfeit. That’s why Jesus only responded with the Word of God; as should we! Get so much of this [Bible] in us that we have the spiritual weapons to properly stand against temptation. Amen.

[1] Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture – New Testament III: Luke.