Trinity 3 2019
1 Peter 5:6-11
July 7, 2019
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
One of the things that Martin Luther is well known for is his letters of consolation and comfort for those with a troubled conscience. He was very vocal about his own issues, a kind of spiritual depression as it were, resulting from a terror stricken conscience before a righteous and holy God; an anxiety stemming from spiritual doubts concerning his salvation. Because he was aware of it in himself, he was also quick to recognize it in others.
For a lot people nowadays, these sorts of concerns don’t seem near as serious. And yet, recent studies have clearly shown that anxiety is on the rise, especially among the younger generations in our country. More people seek secular counselors and therapy than ever before. And while we can certainly thank God for medical advances, we would be remiss if we limited treatment and the cause, simply to medical issues. Frankly, it is shame that so many today, even within the church, seek out secular causes and treatments while downplaying the spiritual. While everyone struggles for a calm heart and peace of mind, as we also have been doing, and run around here and there trying to get it. Yet it is found nowhere except God’s Word which tell us to cast our anxieties on Him.
St. Peter warns that we have an enemy who works to take this away. The devil is the enemy of Christ and of His Church. The devil is dangerous, there is no doubt. His misery wants company. We often make it harder on ourselves because we fight the wrong enemy with the wrong tactics. You will have the devil prowling about you. You will not entirely tread him underfoot. Don’t underestimate the devil. He is strong, he is clever, and furious. Scripture calls him a liar and a murderer (John 8:44). And he has his eyes set on you Christians. He seeks to devour you. He doesn’t become tired; but he pursues, he hunts, you without rest. If you could see how many knives, darts, and arrows are aimed at you every moment, you would be glad to run to Christ as often as possible.
This is what you should do, you know this, and yet it is so easy to do the opposite. This isn’t by accident. One of the greatest tricks the devil plays as he hunts you is to make you feel isolated, alone. It is like those times when something terrible has happened in your life and you know that you should go to church and yet for some reason it is much harder than it should be. Or the feeling that the pain you feel, the sadness, the turmoil is yours alone, that nobody truly understands how you feel, and so no one can actually do anything to make you feel better. Or even more sinister is when things are going well and you feel as though you don’t really need to go to church, you don’t really need to pray, you don’t need to be a part of the body of Christ, because you’re not under attack. But you are, and you can’t fight it alone. And you’re not alone. There are no doubts, no fears, no secret sins, no shame that has not been felt by your brothers and sisters in the faith. For since you are truly the body of Christ, when one suffers, all suffer. And the head, Jesus Himself, has undergone every temptation and suffering for you and He has overcome them all and He cares for you.
Don’t overestimate the devil either. He is not all knowing, nor all present, nor all powerful. And what’s more, he is already defeated. Jesus’ death on the cross has defeated Satan. He has crushed the old serpents head. The devil’s got nothing on you, for your sin is forgiven for Jesus’ sake. Your life is spared because Jesus’ gave His. He gives us faith and the Holy Spirit to stand firm against his futile attacks. Previously you were under God’s wrath, so without the fear of God and faith you belonged to the devil. You have been called by God to His eternal glory, baptized into Christ, adopted in His family and severed from the devil. At your baptism, and then again at your confirmation, and indeed it should be every day, these renunciations are spoken, to renounce the devil, all his works, and all his ways.
We are called upon to be sober minded and watchful, to stay awake and clear headed. St. Peter is forbidding a drunkenness of the soul, when a person goes on in fleshly security, without thought or care of God’s Word. This drunkenness fills a person with the sweet poison of false teaching, which the devil uses to feed the addict of the sinful soul.
The defense against the assaults of the devil is standing firm in the faith rather than stumbling around in a drunken stupor is found in the Word of God. Resist the devil by standing firm in faith, faith that clings to God’s Word and His promises in Christ. As Christians, the Word of God is the weapon against all temptations. The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit. We learn from Christ and from His temptation by the devil to answer, “It is written.” The Word of God is best wielded in prayer as we pray at all times in the Spirit (Eph 6:18). We don’t read the Word, and speak the Word, but we pray the Word. That’s why our liturgies are filled with Scripture, our prayers and songs informed by the Word of God. “If you take hold of God’s Word and cling to it in faith, the devil cannot win and must flee” (AE 30:142).
Today, we hear the promise of the Word that all the anxieties, the fears, the shame and guilt, is but for a little while. Whatever your suffering, as real and painful as it is, is for a little while. This is as sure and certain as Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. The Shepherd of souls guards the sheep of His pasture, He has called you, and will bring you to His eternal glory.