He Won for Us

We have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.
(Hebrews 4:15)
Peter knew.
He knew the diabolical nature of Satan’s tactics and the power of his lies. And he learned: you
don’t play games with the devil. The warning comes from the pen of Peter himself: “Your enemy
the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
We’d better pay attention, because the devil plays for keeps. He’ll get us to question God’s
goodness and doubt the wisdom of his Word. He’ll make bad things seem good, so that we
want them more than what God wants for our lives. And once he gets us to fall into that trap,
he’ll lead us to believe that our sins are bigger than God’s forgiveness. His end game is to lead
us—little by little, bit by bit—away from our Lord…and to destroy our souls forever in hell.
We’re at war.
Whether we realize it or not, every day we’re involved in a great struggle against a deadly
enemy. It’s a struggle that is far greater and more devastating than any earthly conflict. That
great war continues to this day.
You remember, don’t you, how the giant Goliath stood before the armies of Israel and defied
them to fight? He proposed that one man fight for all. “Choose a man and have him come down
to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome and kill
him, you will become our subjects and serve us” (1 Samuel 17:8,9). The young man David
volunteered to fight, and with his sling and a stone, and with the Lord on his side, he won.
That’s what Jesus has done for us. Throughout his life, he fought as one man for the whole
human race. The stakes were high. If he had lost—if he had sinned just once—we would have
been subject to the devil forever. But he didn’t lose. Jesus fought and won…and because of him,
we’re free!
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fought the battle against Satan and lost, and I’m not going to
ask how often it has happened to you. Like it or not, the reality is that our sins merit
hell—eternal separation from the all-holy God. And yet, no matter how deeply we’ve fallen,
we’re on the winning side. “We have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we
are—yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
Jesus won. He fought for us and took our place. He won, and his victory is ours! “Thanks be to
God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (Romans 7:25).
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for fighting the devil in our place and defeating him for us. Teach
us to turn to you in every temptation. Amen.


St. Paul’s Surprising Admission

I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. (Romans 7:7)
A popular television preacher once made the remarkable claim that it’s fruitless to tell
people they’re sinners, because deep down they already know that. Instead, churches
need to tell people they are “fantastic” (Robert Schuller).
He at least understood something very basic about human nature: people don’t like to
hear the truth—especially when they’re wrong. Even people who say they believe that
Jesus is their Savior don’t like to hear God’s law. They don’t like to hear that they’re
sinners and that their sins are enough to send them to hell.
What that preacher didn’t understand is that even though we don’t like to hear God’s
law, we need to hear it. Unless we first see ourselves in the accusing mirror of God’s
law, the gospel means nothing. Any preaching that avoids telling us that we’re sinners
actually leads us away from the God who saved us from the punishment our sins
We have a problem. We want to think of ourselves as basically good, so we minimize
our own sins, as if they weren’t that big of a deal. But whenever we do that, the very real
need we have for God’s mercy and forgiveness becomes less urgent to us. We may still
appreciate Jesus as a great example of kindness, love, and compassion—maybe even
the greatest example ever. But if we lose our appreciation for him as our Savior from sin,
we lose the heart and core of the Christian faith.
In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul makes a surprising admission. He writes, “I would
not have known what sin was had it not been for the law” (Romans 7:7). He needed
God’s law. We all do. We need faithful preachers who candidly point out our sins and
their consequences. We need to be alarmed at our guilt so that we turn to Jesus for
mercy. We need to hear the law, because if we don’t recognize that we need a Savior,
the gospel (the message of God’s love and forgiveness) will not help us.
A message that makes no mention of sin may entertain us. It may be soothing and
agreeable to our ears. But it will never expose our hearts for what they really are, and it
will never comfort our conscience when the truth of our sin hits home. Only the law and
gospel, working together as God intended them to work, can do that.
We don’t need to hear that we’re “fantastic.” We need to hear that Jesus is
fantastic—that his love is perfect and that his forgiveness is complete because he
poured out his life for us on the cross.
Prayer: Lord, expose my sin through your law so that my heart is prepared to accept the
sweet comfort of the gospel. Amen.

Note: The season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday on March 2. Worship services are at 3:30
and 6:30 pm.