Beating the Devil


On Wednesday of this week (Ash Wednesday), we entered into the Season of Lent. Lent was originally established for new converts to the Christian faith. These new converts were to spend forty days and forty nights preparing for their baptism. If at the end of that time period they still wanted to follow Jesus, then on Saturday of Easter Eve, they would be baptized as the sun was rising in the east, signaling the new day, the new era, inaugurated because of the Resurrection.

I am sure it had a powerful significance for them, to have prepared for their vocation as Christians the same way that Jesus prepared for his vocation as the Messiah: forty days of introspection and self-examination. After all, the forty days of Lent correspond to the forty-day temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. Later the Church used the forty days as a time of renewal and a season of preparation for the whole congregation, those who were already Christians. Thus self-examination, study, fasting, prayer and works of love are disciplines historically associated with Lent. Since then, the time of Lent has been used as a time of renewal and recommitment to the Christian life, examining our lives in light of the one we are supposed to follow.

I’ve always been fascinated with the timing of the devil’s temptations of Jesus. Matthew’s Gospel tells us that it was after Jesus had fasted for forty days and forty nights … a time when most assuredly Jesus’ human side would have been at its most vulnerable state. Fortunately Jesus was up to “Beating the Devil” at his own game. Nonetheless, Jesus’ temptation experience brings two important factors to light for us. (1) The devil knows the what and the when we are most vulnerable to temptation; and the point is that’s exactly when the devil chooses temptation as his means of attack. (2) Jesus modeled for us that taking the time for self-examination, study, fasting, praying and devoting ourselves to works of love are the best means of “beating the devil.” This Lent, let’s go and do likewise.

Join us at Covenant this Sunday for worship on the First Sunday in Lent. At Covenant we call it “Purple Sunday.” If you can, wear purple, and become a part of a sea of purple in the congregation this week. Don’t forget to spring forward one hour on Saturday night so you won’t be late for church. I will be preaching on “Beating the Devil,” as a means of experiencing a new day and a new era of hope for our lives, based on “Romans 5:12-19” and “Matthew 4:1-11.”


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