“What the Devil”
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
I know that many of us goes about our daily lives and every now and then we will slip out a curse, or, even worse, say the Lord’s name in vain. It has become such a regularly thing to do that we usually don’t think anything of it. You stub your toe or you hear something outrageous and you may say something that may go along the lines of “Dear Lord” or “Jesus Christ” or “Holy …” In of themselves, just saying “dear Lord” or “Jesus Christ” are good things, I mean I begin prayers every now and then with a dear Lord, and I obviously invoke Jesus’ name quite a bit through our service, to include this one.
No, the problem is using the Lord’s name in vain, or any of His names. To treat His name as an empty prayer or oath, or to treat His name as a curse, are all sinful things, and not minor sins at that. We are talking about God here, your creator, of whom nothing pales in comparison with regards to power and might.
Can you guess how offended he is each time you curse with His name on your tongue and lips? Now some may say, “God, offended! Bah, He’s bigger than such petty things.” He listed, “though shall not use the Lord’s name in vain,” as His third commandment. And if we know anything about sin, we acknowledge that God despises all sin, even this one, which is a direct sin against God Himself. I ask you this; would you use your own mother’s name as a curse? Would you use your own spouse’ name as a curse? Would you use the name of your pet in vain? I hope not. Now who is more important: Mother or God; Spouse or God; Pet or God? Of course God is more important, so treat His name with the respect that is due to Him.
On the flip side, whereas I am against curses and empty words of oaths, I’d rather you use the Devil’s name in vain; to sin against the Devil; to make a laughing stock out of Satan. Again I rather you not curse or use empty words, but I am not against turning Lucifer into an eyesore that we mock and give absolutely no respect. Yes I understand you may be tempted to use the Lord’s name in vain, it has become a habit or you are surrounded by others who use the Lord’s name in vain and you might get laughed at if you say something less sinful. It just comes out. Breaking the habit in of itself may turn into an ordeal.
Throughout or lives we will indeed face many ordeals, such as Trails or Temptations. Now with regards to these ordeals they come in various sizes and frequency, their impact can be massive or negligible, their rate of occurrence can be frequent to the point that they become background noise or so rare that they standout like a peacock when such ordeals do occur. They could be acute ordeals or chronic ordeals. Now a lot of the ordeals faced in scripture are the acute type, but most of the ordeals we face are chronic. Now anyone in the medical field would tell you that whereas both acute and chronic injuries and pain are bad, the one to fear is chronic, why because it may become so a part of you that you just accept it and never bother seeking aid. Which is more dangerous to the ear; a loud sudden noise or a not-so-loud pulsing noise? The later because whereas both are damaging, the later can be tuned out and thus lead to worse damage.
Chronic Temptations are bad because we come to accept them in our lives and don’t treat them like things that are damaging. These frequent miniature temptations we have come and go and they slip our mind until they come again the next day, ever so slowly creeping into our lives and influencing our perceptions. The culture is filled with these chronic ordeals, and one such is being tempted to use the Lord’s name in vain.
Now we should not confuse Trials with Temptations. Temptations are a thing of the Devil, Trails, on the other hand, are a thing of God. For example, in today’s first reading in Genesis, God is providing Abraham with a trial; sacrifice your one and only son, Isaac. Abraham listened and obeyed, and almost did what was commanded, but God stopped him and provided him with a ram to replace Isaac. God was tested Abraham, and Abraham proved that he was obedient and faithful.
As for Temptations, there is today’s Gospel, where Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness. Now whereas the other Gospels go into depth on this event, Mark only gives one sentence. It is the shortest retelling of Jesus’ temptation story. Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days, and, oh-yah, he was tempted by Satan. End of story. I can imagine Satan reading the Book of Matthew and nodding his head to the account given of his attempt to tempt Jesus, skipping all the other things Jesus did in the Book of Matthew, and then opening the Book of Mark, reading this one line and saying out loud, “Oh, come on!”
We know that Jesus was tempted, but the act of only giving one line to mention it in Mark’s account is a direct snub in the face of Satan, it is like spitting in Satan’s face and saying there are much more important things to mention. Mark is not giving Satan the time of day here, sure the Devil is mentioned, but ever so quickly; this way Mark could focus on other things. He had better things to do, such as telling us Jesus’ amazing proclamation, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel!”
There are much better things to talk about, such as Jesus is indeed here, celebrate for time has come for all of Scripture to be fulfilled through the Sacrifice of the Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world and has mercy upon us; and through His sacrifice has brought the Kingdom of God to us, it is here. All we have to do is repent and believe, have faith, true faith, in Him.
Did Satan succeed in tempting Jesus? No. If Satan himself can’t tempt Jesus, what can? And did not Jesus come for each and every one of you? If Satan could not separate Jesus from you, what can? Nothing! As it says in Romans, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Nothing can stop Jesus in fulfilling his mission, not Satan, not anything. He cannot be tempted. Instead, using words from our closing hymn, He is our Mighty Fortress, our sword and our shield victorious. He breaks the cruel oppressor’s rod, and will always win salvation gloriously. He is our champion, elected by God Himself, the Lord of Hosts. And through Him though hordes of devils fill the Land, we tremble not, unmoved we stand, for they cannot overpower us; God’s judgement must prevail. And never forget, God fights by our side and arms us with weapons of the Spirit, and no matter what the Devil does to us and takes away from us, even life itself, the Kingdom is ours forever.
So we will face our trials and temptations, some big, others little; some acute, others chronic. But despite what life throws our ways, never forget Our Lord who defeated Satan. Rely on Him, rather than yourself. Believe in Him rather than yourself. And, as we proceed through this season of reflecting and repenting, let us not use the name of our defender in vain, but rather make a laughing stock of our Greatest Enemy, the Loser known as Satan.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, help us to reflect on you and your never ceasing love which cannot be held back by anything, not even Satan. Help us to reflect upon our own sins which we do commit. And fill us with the courage to lean on Jesus as we struggle against our own temptations. In your most holy name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.