Click here for the reading: Matthew 4:1-11.

Jesus hungered after fasting forty days and nights. The devil comes to our Lord when he thought He was weakest. He tempts Him with food, security, and power. The Lord never succumbs to temptation.

Jesus answers the devil with something very powerful, the very Word of God. The devil too knows his Bible and sought to trick Jesus using God’s own Word. Just as he did in the Garden, the devil would distort the Word in order to lead men into sin. Jesus does not fall for such trickery. Where our father Adam failed, Jesus Christ is victorious, and the devil flees.

As we are buffeted by sin and temptation, the devil whispers in our ears, sometimes using Scripture, but often appealing to our own reason or base appetites. Where Jesus found comfort and protection in the Word, the devil will often tempt you to find remedies elsewhere. Are you struggling with stress? The devil would lead you away from prayer and the Psalms and turn you toward drugs and drink. Are you a glutton? The devil will sing siren songs of freedom and glorify you as you gorge yourself. Are you fearing you won’t be saved? The devil turns your own eyes toward you and directs you to find salvation outside the finished work of Christ.

But the promises of Scripture are more powerful than any demon. The promises of Scripture are sure and true. Jesus says “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).
Jesus delivers what He promises. He gives you rest from this weary world and cleanses you from all sin. In times of great trial, we must remember the Words of Christ.

As we are led into the wilderness, we often forget to bring that which is necessary, and find ourselves with the very thing that will guard us in moments of temptation. We must keep the Word in our hearts and minds. If we do this, we will never be without a two-edged sword.

Do not give ear to the devil. Instead turn to God’s Word. Turn to Christ. Pray to Him for deliverance. Our Lord is victorious over the devil. Our victory is His victory. Fear not the evil one. Cling to the Word. It is a mighty arm for battle.

Click here for the reading: 2 Corinthians 6:1-10.

“Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” The Apostles understood the urgency of carrying the Gospel into all the world and placed no obstacle in anyone’s way, nor did they allow anything to dissuade them from fulfilling their calling.

“We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but 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.” (vv. 3-10)

Knowing the urgency of the message and understanding that “now” is the time and no other, Paul would suffer greatly for the sake of Christ, so that man might come to a knowledge of Him and find salvation. Through all of his trials, he could rejoice knowing that God the Holy Spirit was working faith in the hearts of those who would believe.

The time to believe the Gospel is when you hear it, and the time of preaching the Gospel is now. May we recover some sense of urgency, some measure of the zeal of the Apostles, some taste of their dedication. Let us be ready to hear and believe. Let us be ready to proclaim the Gospel whatever may befall us. Let us trust the Lord to sustain us in all things and bring to completion the work He has begun in us and all who believe in Him.

Click here for the reading: Genesis 3:1-21.

In the beginning all was well. Our Lord made everything good. Soon, the devil, that wily serpent, tempted Adam and Eve. God gave a simple command: “you shall not eat of this tree.” Eve, being tricked by the serpent, ate of it, and all creation fell into sin. Adam failed to rightly shepherd his family, failed to be a faithful leader, and thus all men are now subject to sin and death (Romans 5).

Satan likes to twist the word of God. He tricks Eve by saying “did God actually say?” This happens to us today. The devil would have you doubt the clear Word of God. The devil, like a good lawyer, would trap you in word-games, subtleties, and legalities. He does all he can to twist and distort the Word in order to bring about your destruction. He would have you disbelieve, dilute, and rationalize the Word away. He was victorious in his first effort to sway our parents.

Adam and Eve eat of the fruit and their eyes are opened. They feel their nakedness for the first time. They feel shame. God confronts them about this, and Adam reacts with fear, blame, and contempt. He no longer protects his wife, but seeks to place all blame on her (v. 12). Satan seeks to divide, and he succeeded in the Garden. He divided husband from wife, and thus sowed the seeds of discord in the first family of Creation. He has been doing the same ever since.

God curses the serpent to forever crawl upon his belly. He curses man that his work be a toil and curses woman that her travails in childbirth be greatly increased. He curses all to natural death as a consequence of that first sin. Yet our Lord is merciful to mankind. He Himself makes garments of animal skins to cover their nakedness. Our Lord would not leave our forefathers without hope. He gives them the Gospel promise, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (v.15)

Mankind is the Jewel of Creation, and the devil would seek to tarnish our crown. Thanks be to God where Lucifer twists the Word, the Holy Spirit dwells to keep it forever in our hearts. Where Eve allowed the devil to twist the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ is present to keep it straight in our hearts minds.

Immediately after the Fall, our Lord preaches the Gospel. And even today we must be constantly reminded of it. When Satan cries “hath God indeed said?”, we proclaim all the more loudly “indeed He has!” He has prophesied His own coming and fulfilled it! He has redeemed His people from the curse of their sins! He has crushed the head of the serpent and put death to death!

Click here for the reading: Matthew 6:16-21.

In the sixth chapter of  Matthew, Jesus begins by explaining the three basic forms of Christian living: charity, prayer, and fasting. These three are part and parcel of the Christian life and serve as a perfect text for Ash Wednesday and the entrance to Lent.

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”  Matthew 6:1-2

The Christian is expected to give alms (vv. 3-4), to pray (vv. 5-15), and to fast (vv. 16-18). Yet these must never be done in a way so as to boast or draw attention to oneself. Those who do so are described by our Lord as hypocrites. They are like play-actors who seek only the applause of men.

You are to perform these spiritual acts in secret, making no provision for man’s acclaim. God sees these acts and will reward you, according to the words of Christ. However, we do not do these things for earthly rewards. The crown gained by a life of faith is found in heaven, not in temporal things. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

To be after heavenly things is to be after God. It is to follow Him in a life of faith. Your desire is for Him alone. What do almsgiving, prayer, and fasting have in common? Nothing less than self-denial. We give away some of what we have to those who need it, demonstrating that all we have is God’s. We demonstrate the mercy we have received from God in the mercy we show to others. We pray, a sacrifice of time meant to bring us closer to God. We fast because man does not live by bread alone.

We need the season of Lent and its texts, because we need discipline. We must consider our ways. We consider our ways and amend them according to the Word of God and with great humility. Beware those who would diminish or demean these disciplines. Beware those who boast in themselves, be it for their righteousness or unrighteousness, from their rooftops, pulpits, or digital street corners.

Let the Word of God have its way with you this Lent. Do not be afraid to give, to pray, to fast. Let these disciplines continue with and in you throughout all seasons. Consecrate a fast that will lead to feasting.

Click here for the reading: 2 Peter 1:2-11.

In his second letter to the Church, the Apostle Peter straightaway admonishes the believer to life of faithful devotion to the Lord God. He demonstrates just what Jesus has done for us and how this grants to us “all things pertaining to life and godliness.”

Words like “virtue” and “self-control” have been given a bad name by those who would not want to be associated with words like “fundamentalist” and “prude.” Indeed even the term “godliness” is rarely heard from pulpits and studies. Yet Peter is clear in this text. You have been called to God’s own glory and excellence, and “for this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.”

To lack these qualities, says Peter, is to be blind. To neglect love of neighbor or self-control, to refuse to live according to God’s will, is to forget the forgiveness of sins you received (v. 9).

Those who are being saved are elected in Christ before the foundation of the world. This brings great hope to the believer, that from first to last God is the author and perfecter of our faith. However, Peter tells you to be diligent to confirm your calling and election.

We must guard our faith from the devil and seek shelter from the temptations of the world. The promise of salvation is to those who have genuine faith (Matt 10:22, 24:12-13, Heb. 3:6). True faith persists until the end and will bear good “qualities” or fruit.  “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Healthy introspection is not detrimental to faith, if one keeps his eyes on the cross. Peter begins with what is ours in Christ and urges toward cultivating that and keeping it close to us. To grow in godliness is to grow closer to Him. We do so by prayer, meditating on his word, discipling our bodies, and brotherly love. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus Christ, keep your ears open to His Word, keep your heart inclined toward Him and to your brothers, and these qualities will be yours.

Click here for the reading: Joel 2:12-19.

In this great age of compromise and equivocation, the temptation to soften the language of “return” or repentance is strong. Yet the message God gives to the prophets is clear: “return to me with all your heart.” The Lord promises mercy to those who return to Him.

The call to repent goes out to all. “Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber.” What does repentance look like? Is it different for the young and the old? In what ways do we hesitate to preach, ponder, and exercise repentance, and why?

Contrition and repentance go hand in hand. We must be humbled by the knowledge of sins, knowing first of all that we have offended God and wronged ourselves by giving way to passions and sins.

There is an outward element to repentance that is often lacking and important to highlight as we observe Ash Wednesday. The Word of the Lord says “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.”

It is true that the Lord looks upon the heart and not the outward appearance. It is likewise true that the Lord breaks our hearts to bind us closer to Him. The contrite heart at times gives ways to tears, to mourning, to lamenting what we have done. Do not be ashamed of such things. Be ashamed of sin but never of godly contrition that leads to repentance.

The sinner is called to repent, to turn to the Lord, rending his heart, and He responds with mercy.  “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.”

The Lord Jesus Christ forgives sinners. He forgives those who know they have sinned and turn to Him. We should not be afraid to repent. We should repent daily and mean it. We should let God’s Word work in our hearts, that they be broken and turned to him. He does not turn away the brokenhearted, but binds them up and washes them clean.

Fear not the Lord’s call to repent. Fear not to proclaim the urgency of repentance. Fear the Lord, not men. Trust in Him. It is only in the preaching of the pure Word of God that true repentance is given, that saving faith is kindled, that men reach their heavenly goal.