Three Sermon 2004
ďGood and Evil in Mortal Combat"
Lutherans are accustomed to talking about the unholy trinity of the
devil, the world, and our sinful flesh.
These three work in concert to tear us away from the loving
embrace of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The devil attacks the creation of God the Father, setting his
sights specifically on the human race since we were created in the image
of God. The world attacks
the redemption of God the Son, despising His vicarious suffering for the
sin of the world. The flesh
fights against the influence of the Holy Spirit who calls us out of
darkness into the light of Godís truth.
During this season of Lent it is appropriate that we focus our
attention on the cosmic battle between good and evil that takes place
every day of our lives. On
the side of good is the one and only God, the Holy Trinity.
On the side of evil is the unholy trinity, the devil, the world,
and our sinful flesh.
battle against good and evil cannot be avoided unless we choose to
embrace evil. If we are
Christians, we are engaged in a battle.
This is why the first question posed to the one requesting
baptism is: ďDo you renounce the devil and all his works and all his
ways?Ē That is a
declaration of war. The
church on earth is called the church militant because she is at war. When the church forgets this she loses battle after battle.
There is no peace and there can be no peace with the devil, the
world, and our flesh.
devil lies to the church through the false doctrine taught by false
teachers. The world
persecutes the church by social, political, even military pressure.
The flesh seduces individual Christians from within to lead them
into serving their own pleasures, which is the worst kind of slavery.
todayís Epistle Lesson, St. Paul makes it crystal clear that the life
of the Christian is not lived to please the flesh.
In his day, the religion of the flesh was more honestly portrayed
than it is in our day. Those
who wanted to commit fornication would often go to the local temple of a
pagan idol. The pagan
religion would offer sexual gratification with temple prostitutes as
part of a religious observance. Fornication
and idolatry were literally joined together into one and the same
our generation, things are not so straightforward.
It is still socially stylish or perhaps beneficial to business
for people to pretend to be Christians when they are not. Many people who describe themselves as Christians regularly
engage in fornication as if a Christian may remain a Christian while
living this sort of a life. Meanwhile
the popular culture condemns anyone that presumes to agree with Godís
judgment that fornication is wrong.
God has placed a certain intimacy within the permanent marriage
bond between one man and one woman.
When fornication, adultery, and every other kind of sexual
immorality is practiced and condoned, the true God is denied.
sins are sins against the Creator.
The Creator is the One who has the right to decide what may and
may not be done with His creation.
We are Godís creation. God
created us male and female and He created us in His image.
It is idolatry to deny the Creator His authority to govern His
own creation. The Creator
made them male and female and the Creator instituted marriage between
one man and one woman as the only place in which sexual intimacy may
take place. The many
arguments raised today against this traditional teaching are not merely
liberal arguments against traditional arrangements.
They are idolatrous arguments against God.
The Creator governs His own creation.
It is idolatry to refuse to consent to this.
Godís creation, a man can be married to a woman and a woman can be
married to a man but a man cannot be married to a man and a woman cannot
be married to a woman. It
is not only morally wrong, it is impossible.
Whatever that union is called, it is not marriage because
marriage is defined by the Creator as a union of one man with one woman
for life. The Creator
instituted marriage. Neither
the state nor the church has any authority to alter a divine
institution. If I baptized
a frog and filled out and signed a baptismal certificate for it, this
would not make it a Christian frog.
When we are dealing with divine institutions God is in charge.
is also idolatry. The
worship of the creation over the Creator is the essence of idol worship,
and this assumes a variety of forms.
The single-minded pursuit of sensual pleasure is not just seen in
sexual sins, but in gluttony, drunkenness, and every other activity that
puts sensual gratification above loving our neighbor as Christ has loved
us. When we insist on
getting what we want when we want it we deny the God who has promised to
bless those who cling to His word instead of their own will.
creation is not ours to do with as we please.
The Creator is in charge of this world.
And if there were any doubt about it, consider how our Lord Jesus
Christ drove out demons. Surely,
His heart went out to those suffering under the cruel control of these
evil spirits. But it was
more than His compassion toward those particular victims of demonic
possession that motivated such display of divine power.
The driving out of devils was the Lord God throwing down the
gauntlet before Satan. It
was the divine declaration of war against all the powers of evil.
God joined His creation to do battle against the spoiler of His
creation. Jesus cast out
demons to prove that He was God, come to set His world free.
proved His true deity and equality with the Father by miracles too
numerous to mention. He
stilled the storm. He
raised the dead. He created
bread in the desert. He
gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and speech to the mute.
He did not appeal to power outside of Himself.
Listen to what He said: ďIf I cast out demons with the finger
of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.Ē
Who, but the King of kings, could say this?
man who was mute could not speak words to praise God. He was under the control of a hostile power.
The attack against Godís creation is always an attack against
God the Creator. The crown
of Godís creation is not the beautiful wilderness of Alaska or the
gorgeous pine forests of California or Minnesota. The crown of Godís creation is you. With all the physical flaws, sinful corruption, and deadly
diseases that plague humanity in this world, it is the human being Ė
male and female, young and old, of every race, tribe, people, and
language Ė who bring the greatest pleasure to Godís heart.
For it was in the form of sinful human flesh that the holy and
incorruptible God chose to live.
was not just a phantasm or ghost appearing here on earth doing battle
against devils and healing diseases.
It was God. It was
the Creator. Not the Father
and not the Holy Spirit, but the Son of the Father, by whom all things
were made, became flesh and lived among us.
Why? To do battle
for us as one of us. To
fight our fight and to win it.
devil is the strong man guarding his goods.
Jesus is the stronger man who invades the devilís kingdom.
It didnít belong to the devil.
The devil stole it. It
belonged to the One who made it. And
so do we. We belong to Him who created us because it was the Creator
who took on Himself our flesh and blood to win for us the battle that we
fact that we lose the battle when we fight alone by ourselves does not
mean that the human race has lost.
God became a man and remains one of us to all eternity.
The devil is routed. His
lies are exposed. The lure
of idolatrous worship of the creation is shown to be a deception whose
end is death. The
pleasure-seekers who despise Godís commandments grow old and they lose
their lovers and they die and so lose all their money.
Other pleasure-seekers take their place worshipping at the altar
of self-gratification and then being laid in the grave from which they
cannot escape. Only Jesus raised Himself from the dead.
When? After He bore
in His sacred body every idolatrous sin ever committed by fallen
humanity. He raised Himself
from the dead by the same divine power He displayed before His
crucifixion. He raised
Himself from the dead and He is the firstfruits of those who die
trusting in Him.
suffering and death of Christ on the cross displays to our eyes a
weakness of body and soul. He
cries out, ďI thirst.Ē He
cries out, ďMy God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?Ē
The devil saw this display of great weakness and thought he could
prevail against it. But
underneath the apparent weakness of Christís suffering in the place of
all sinners the wrath of God against all sinners there was divine
strength. He was fighting a
winning battle. He took our
sins upon Himself only to purge those sins by His innocent suffering.
God became a man to do as a man for mankind what no man could do.
He fought all the powers of evil.
He battled against the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh.
He won. We won.
In Christ, our sin is gone forever and cannot rise up to accuse
us. In Christ, the
devilís head is crushed and his lying tongue silenced.
In Christ the pleasures of the flesh are seen as nothing but a
pretense and a sham, giving no lasting satisfaction, but leaving one
unsatisfied, empty, and just that much closer to a bitter death.
the Christ who suffered for us, we have the victory that He won for us
in that suffering. He comes
into our home and makes Himself at home.
The unclean spirit cannot come back into us with seven more
spirits more wicked than himself, because the Strong Man from whom the
seven-fold Spirit of holiness proceeds wonít let them in.
He defends us through His word.
He promises us that whoever holds on to His word will never see
death or taste its bitterness. This
is because His word reveals to us His victory over all evil.
It tells us that for Christís sake all our sins are forgiven.
His passion appeared as death.
But it was the death of death that took place and in the place of
death is a life worth living.
we live and as long as we live we fight.
We fight against the unholy trinity of the devil, the world, and
our own sinful flesh. We
fight as those who have already won the victory in Christ.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus