Content with Death: A Sermon for Invocabit on St. Matthew 4:1-11

Temptation icon

God has always wanted His people to be content. That’s why He made Eden. The most spectacular national parks or the nicest homes in the best neighborhoods pale by comparison to that luxurious garden Paradise. All the wealth of Solomon combined with our best efforts and technology would produce at best a child’s playground when compared to Eden.

Our first parents had it all. They lived in paradise.

They had everything they could have possibly imagined and more. God blessed them abundantly with family, food, and satisfying work.

They didn’t have a single worry in the world.

They lived in perfect harmony with God, with one another, and with all creation.

In Eden, life was not only as perfect as life could be, it actually was perfect.

But still, it wasn’t enough. Adam and Eve wanted more.

And ever since then things have only gotten worse. If we weren’t satisfied with perfect, why should we expect to find things any differently outside of Eden? We look for contentment in as many places as there are people. Maybe its financial security or buying something like a nicer place to live, a faster car, the latest technology, or the newest fashions. Maybe you think you’ll be happy once you finish that degree or find the right person.

Our goals change as we grow, but one thing stays the same: we’re constantly looking for contentment, but we never find it in worldly things. The satisfaction we get from our achievements, possessions, money and other people is temporary at best. We always need more.

We had Eden; we had perfect. But not even that was good enough.

Satan plays off  this. It’s how he deceived Adam and Eve, and it’s the same trick he tried to pull with Jesus. He knows we always want more. And he assumes, often correctly so, that if we can have what we want, why would we possibly choose to go without?

That’s how he enticed Eve. Satan fixated on the one thing God told Adam and Eve they couldn’t have. He tried to make it look like God was the bad guy.

He told them God was holding out on them,
that there were some things God didn’t want them to know.

Now this is partially true: God was holding out on Adam & Eve.

There was something God didn’t want them to know.

But Satan led them to believe that God was withholding good things from them. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

The thing God didn’t want Adam and Eve to know was death.

It was the good of His people that God was withholding mortality from them. God withheld that from them for their own good. But when they sought it anyway, it resulted in great evil.

It’s been the same story ever since. You’ve sought contentment in all the wrong places. To seek refuge in your own self-serving desires brings nothing but discontentment and harm. It’s to dwell in the darkness of death.

Why would you go without if you could help it? This is the same logic the devil used with Jesus. The devil knew Jesus was hungry. Have you ever gone a whole day without eating? It’s almost unbearable. Jesus went forty days without eating. Satan knew Jesus had the means to satisfy His hunger. “You’re the Son of God, and You’re hungry, so why not tell these stones to become bread?”

No big deal, right? If you have the means to make yourself comfortable, why wouldn’t you?

Self-denial is the one thing Satan can’t understand.

Jesus faced the same temptation, to use His power to save Himself, on Good Friday: If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross, (Matt 27:40). But Jesus was not about using His power for His own benefit.

He wasn’t about saving Himself; He was about saving you. He sought His contentment in you, even though it cost His life. In Christ, we see that contentment isn’t found in gaining something, but in giving up everything for those around you. Whoever finds His life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for Jesus’ sake will find it (Matthew 10:39). Life is found in being content with death, in living in Him whose death makes you His own.

The devil wanted Jesus to use His connections for His benefit: “Go ahead and throw yourself down from the temple. God won’t let you get hurt; He’ll send His angels to help you.” First the devil quotes Scripture to Jesus, which is a warning to us—just because someone quotes from the Bible doesn’t mean what they are saying is true.

And then there’s the spectacle of it all: if Jesus has done this, many would have undoubtedly seen it and believed! Why wouldn’t Jesus do this miracle? Doesn’t He want people to believe? Satan’s great at making himself look like the good guy.

But faith doesn’t come by seeing, it comes by hearing. A few weeks ago we heard the parable of the sower. Just because the beginnings of faith appear evident, this doesn’t mean the seed will take root and create enduring faith. Satan loves it when people base their faith on weak things like Hollywood’s pseudo-Christian movies, generic, Christ-less praise music, or the latest pop-Christian bestseller. When your faith is based on these things, the devil can sift you with the greatest of ease.

It isn’t your pagan neighbor’s head the devil wants to hang on his wall, it’s your head.[1]

Faith isn’t based on seeing something awesome; it comes from hearing the quite ordinary preaching of God’s Word. Satan wants us to be in constant state of discontent. He wants us to think that we don’t have enough, and even that our faith isn’t strong enough. He wants us to always want more.

But Jesus says, “You have enough. You have me. You have been clothed in my righteousness in Holy Baptism.  You have my Word, which never fails. My body and blood are the Bread of Life. What more could you possibly need?”

Whoever finds His life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for Jesus’ sake will find it.

Contentment isn’t found in gaining anything, but in giving something up. This is what Lent is all about. Just as our Lord died on the cross, so also we follow in His steps, die to ourselves, and live for those around us.

Life isn’t about us. It’s about living by faith in God and in fervent love toward others. Remember today’s Epistle?

As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

This is a picture of the life of the baptized.

Life isn’t about you.

Whoever loses his life will find it.

Contentment is found in death, in dying to yourself and living for others. Avoid the temptation of the Evil One to live for yourself, to use what you have for your own good. Live in Christ. Be as Christ to your spouse, parents, children, workers, and neighbors. Put more of your time and treasures to work on behalf of God’s kingdom. Love the people in your life and congregation enough to make sure they are coming to church and receiving the grace of God. You are your brother’s keeper. Contentment is found in Christ, not in squandering what God has given you for yourself. It’s found in giving yourself for the good of others—just as Christ has given Himself for you.

Soli Deo Gloria

+Rev. Eric Andersen
St. Matthew 4:1—11: “Content with Death”
Invocabit, 2014
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Categories: Sermons, Theology

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