Pastor Sean Willman
Good Shepherd Pleasant Prairie
Oculi (Lent 3)
4 March 2018
Do you renounce the devil? Do you renounce all his works? Do you renounce all his ways? These certainly seem odd questions to be asking a baby as we did this morning before Skylah was brought into the family of God through the forgiving and life-giving waters of Holy Baptism. But these questions point us to a reality that we aren’t always aware of: There is a battle that endures in the world and within each and every one of you between God and the devil. Both of them desire you. The devil desires to deceive you and mislead you into false belief, despair, and ultimately hell, that place of eternal torment, suffering, and death in which he will reside forever. God, though, desires to have you as His own child that you would live under Him in His kingdom of Heaven, that place of perfect and eternal life. These two, God or the devil, heaven or hell, are the only two options for any person. Jesus says to us, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” If you don’t belong to God, you belong to the devil.
But the Lord desires to have you. And not only you, but all of His glorious creation. “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides him spoil.” You are the spoil that the devil seeks to defend. But you aren’t his because nothing actually belongs to him. He didn’t create you, God did, and you belong to Him. And He came Himself and took on human flesh to fight and win for you. This is your Lord Jesus Christ. The One by whom all things were made. He came and destroyed the devil by paying for your sins with His death and rising from the grave so that you would have life. And this very morning Skylah was baptized into that death and resurrection and given eternal life.
We got to see with our own eyes that which our Gospel reading proclaims to us: the casting out of the devil by the power of God. We saw before us the victory and power of the cross of Christ our Lord dashing all of the lies of the devil. What an incredible thing to see! Skylah is now God’s child. Her sins are forgiven and she has new life in Christ. The battle against the devil has been won for her and for all who believe.
But don’t imagine that Holy Baptism is a sort of vaccine. It’s not just something you need to get when you’re little and then you don’t have to worry about the devil any more. Skylah belongs to God. She’s been delivered from death and hell. But she was delivered for a purpose, as God proclaimed to Pharaoh in Egypt, “Let my people go, that they may serve me.” God delivers us from the evil one, that we might live lives of faith. That we might flee from sin and walk as imitators of God, as children of the light. The greatest lie by which the devil seeks to pull you away from God is that your sins don’t really matter. Or that if they do, you can take care of the problem by your good works or good intentions. He wants you to believe that you don’t have to worry about sin, but what a horrible damning lie this is! As soon as a Christian stops repenting of their sins and turning from them they cease to be a Christian. They cast out the Holy Spirit and let the devil return!
“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none is says, ‘I will return to my house form which I came.’ And when it comes it finds the house swept and put in order. Then is goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of the person is worse than the first.” Jesus has driven away the devil from every one of you here this day. But don’t imagine that you can fight that ongoing battle against the devil yourself. That would leave your house empty and give the devil a place to take up residence again. Instead, o children of God, confess your sins, believe the gospel, and receive the word and sacraments again and again. That the devil may be constantly beaten back for you by the stronger, victorious man, Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Christian’s life is warfare. And we aren’t fighting flesh and blood. We’re fighting the devil and his lies. There is only one weapon with which to defeat lies. That is the truth. The truth that has set us free is proclaimed with special focus during this holy season as our eyes are fixed on Jesus lifted up on the cross for us. His power over demons was dramatically displayed when he drove them out of people they possessed. But the real defeat of the devil and his lies took place on the cross where Jesus suffered for the sin of the world. The devil would control us by enticing us with sin and then binding us to our own sin as if it can determine our future. By taking our sin upon Himself and removing it from us Jesus frees us from the devil’s power. We are forgiven children of God on account of Christ. So we will welcome Him in and ask Him to make His home in us where He belongs. Surely the God who has called us in Holy Baptism will always graciously deign to remain with us and protect us from all evil. From this time forth and forever more. Amen.