FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT March 10, 2019 John 8:42-47
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (NIV 2011)
In the name of the Way, the Truth and Live, Jesus Christ our Savior, my dear friends,
Fishing is a popular past time here in the land of 10,000 lakes. It is a year-round activity even here in the cold north. You can head out on the lake with a boat on a balmy summer day or drive your truck on a two-foot thick ice sheet, auger a hole through it and drop in a line in winter.
Actually, catching fishing involves more than just tying a hook to a line and dropping it in the water. Fish may look stupid, but they are smart enough not to bite on a plain barbed piece of steel. So, a good fisherman needs to be skilled in the art of deception. He needs to disguise the hook inside something the fish might consider food. One method involves the use of live bait like worms, leeches and minnows. The problem is, worms, minnows and leeches eventually die while on the hook or they can be stolen off the hook by a wily fish.
So, fishermen have invented devices called lures. These are made of plastics, metals, wood, and rubber. They are designed and painted to mimic the motion and look of worms, fish, frogs, and insects. The more life-like and natural they make them appear the more effective they are.
Today we are beginning a series of sermons focusing on Satan’s deceptions. His ultimate goal is to lure us away from fearing, loving, and trusting God above all things. This morning in John 8:42-47 Jesus exposes for us the contents of Satan’s tacklebox. Like an expert fisherman, he uses baits and lures to hook us so he can land us in everlasting darkness with him. But that’s not what Jesus wants for you and me. To unhook us from Satan’s death line and keep us swimming free in the ocean of life he has given us his word.
In this portion of Jesus’ word the Holy Spirit inspired John to record for us, Jesus was speaking to his Jewish countrymen. They thought they were God’s children when they were actually Satan’s children. Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires.”
While at a church potluck a couple of years ago, I was chatting with members when a young three-year-old wrapped his arm around my leg and stood there sucking his thumb for one or two minutes. During that time I was listening to the other person talking to me. When I spoke in response, the child looked up at me and was absolutely startled to see I wasn’t his father. How was it that so many during Jesus’ ministry thought they were holding on to God’s leg, when they were really holding on to Satan’s?
Listen what Jesus has to say about the devil, ”He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Satan’s tackle box is filled with all kinds alluring lies. He fools people into thinking they are actually following God’s voice by sounding like God.
Consider the Third Commandment—"Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.” Many Jews condemned and rejected Jesus for healing people on the Sabbath. In their eyes he was doing work. He was violating the Sabbath and rejecting the voice of God.
Don’t the Jewish objections to Jesus’ healing work sound godly? They do on the surface. But take a closer look at the Sabbath law. Listen more carefully to voice of God. "There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a sabbath to the LORD” (Leviticus 23:3). The Sabbath was a day for people to put aside their work to gather at the temple or synagogue to hear about God’s past work and promised work for them in his word. But Satan lured them into turning the Sabbath upside down. They made the day more about their work than God’s work for them. They had been hooked by a godly sounding lie. By healing people on the Sabbath, Jesus as the Son of God was displaying the gracious work of God. He was fulfilling the very purpose of the Sabbath.
Satan loves lies because they lead to false beliefs. In particular he loves half-truths—sayings like: “God helps those who help themselves.” “God hates sin but loves the sinner.” The truth is God’s hates sin and the sinner and yet loves the sinner because of who he is. “God is love” (1 John 4:8). The truth is we can’t help or do anything to free ourselves from our sin. In love Jesus freed from us all our guilt all by himself on the cross. “It is by grace you have been saved, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8,9). All the glory belongs to God.
Satan’s lies are aimed at either causing us to trust ourselves instead of God or to think there is no hope or help, not even from God. Earlier in my ministry a neighboring pastor shared the story of visiting a never married shut-in who boasted she was going to heaven because she was a virgin. Satan’s lie appealed to her pride. During my vicar year, I had a conversation with a woman who was convinced there was no forgiveness for her because she had attempted suicide. Satan’s lie appealed to her conscience. He is an expert fisherman. In both cases he lured them away from trust in Jesus’ saving work.
Satan is a master of deception. What’s to keep us from swallowing the devil’s lies and clinging to his leg as our father? See if you can find the answer these verses? “Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” The truth is our only defense against Satan’s lies. Who speaks the truth? God does and so does Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus only speaks what he hears from his Father. God’s word is truth. It is so powerful it creates reality. “God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light” (Genesis 1:3). Satan told Eve and Adam if they ate from the forbidden tree they would not surely die yet they did. His words are empty. They don’t control reality. God’s words do.
So, when God says, “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags” Isaiah 64:6). They are. When he says, “[Jesus] died for all” (2 Corinthians 5:15), he did. Even if you tried to end your own life, the reality is in Christ you have been reconciled to God by the blood of Jesus. So, compare the Word of God with everything you hear and believe. Can we find security in money? Satan says you can. Jesus says, “life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15). History proves Jesus’ right. Many a fortune has been lost, but no one and no thing can undo Jesus’ sacrifice for you or destroy the treasure Jesus has stored up for you above. You have security in Jesus.
Satan is a liar and murderer of souls. As long as this earth remains he will be fishing with his lies to hook the children of God and pull them out of God’s family and saving faith. But Jesus is greater than Satan. He has given us his word of truth. If we listen to him, we will never find ourselves holding onto the wrong leg. Amen.