“He that dwelleth in the secret place of The Most High shall abide under the shadow of The Almighty. I will say of The LORD, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; in Him will I trust.” But Adam did not dwell in the secret place of The Most High. He had been created by The Almighty, and The Spirit had given him breath, but he did not think being made in God’s Image was good enough. He thought that equality with God WAS something to be grasped. He was created very good, but he wanted to know evil as well. For evil told him if he ate the one fruit he wasn’t supposed to, he would be just like God, and he ate.
What did Adam find? He found that he was not just like God, but had made himself nothing. He found out that by trying to become like God, he had committed idolatry. He found that he had actually knelt down before a false god, THE false god, Satan. He found that knowing evil was not a good thing at all, that God was protecting him when He created him to not know it. He found that the devil was not at all his friend when he implied God was just out for Himself, but had instead risen up against him in order to kill him. And killed he was, for he was soon to die, and he had lost his God, which meant he’d lost eternal life unless His God would intervene.
He had been created without sin, to live forever. He had been created in God’s Image. But you know something called Adam’s image of sin and death. That’s what he gave his children. He handed it down to Seth, it got down to Noah, and even though God wiped out evil in the flood, Noah had already handed down Adam’s image to Japheth, and down it’s come to you today, and you’re handing it down to your children, and they’ll hand it down to your descendants.
The devil rose up against mankind and killed him. He wanted to throw God off His throne, to become god of gods and lord of lords. He wanted men and angels to worship and serve him alone, even though he is a created creature just like us. This is what he still desires. He still desires you to worship him. He still wants you to know evil instead of good.
How does he do this? He still uses the same tricks he used against Adam and Eve. At the core of every one of them he wants you to doubt God’s Word. He wants you to sin and remain in that sin unto death everlasting. He gets you to think God doesn’t have your best interests at heart and isn’t your Friend or Protector. That’s what temptations do. When you sin, you say God didn’t care about your interests, your desires, your felt-needs when He gave His Ten Commandments. He gets you to think that perhaps you can do so much and still be OK or it’s OK for you even if it isn’t for others. He gets you to think you’re more important than anyone else, even though God wants you to serve others. He gets you to think God should serve you the way you want Him to, which means God should worship you.
But when you worship you, you worship Satan. When you think God doesn’t have your best interests at heart, you worship Satan. When you sin, you worship Satan. For Satan is hard at work contradicting God’s Word, has been ever since he said to Eve: “NOT ‘You shall surely die.’” Active sin shows we believe him. That’s why in this Lenten season we implore you to fast from sin. “Watch and pray, lest ye fall into temptation!” Be on your guard, lest the devil overtake you unawares. For he is prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking to devour you.
So examine yourself and God’s Word. Recognize what is a sin and what sins you like to commit, and then work to avoid them. But how can you do this? You’re a sinner; you’ll never be completely free of sin in this life. Your sanctification is not like “Cliff Hangers”’ “Yodely Guy” who keeps going up and up to the top to win, except when you fall off the cliff by easily doing sins you didn’t want to do. No, your sanctification is like “Candyland” or “Chutes & Ladders;” you often find yourself going back a few spaces or down a chute so you’re not as sanctified as you thought you were the day before.
What’s the answer? Christ Jesus is the answer. Adam did battle with Satan and lost. Christ did battle and won. Adam ate the fruit when he was not hungry, but Christ did not eat the stone when He WAS hungry. Adam leapt out of the holy place to certain death, but Christ stood firm in God’s Word. Adam bowed the knee to Satan, but Christ obeyed His Father. He made Himself nothing and did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. He was tempted so that He might help those who are being tempted – YOU! He sympathizes with your weaknesses, for He was tempted in every way you are tempted, yet remains without sin.
So when you sin, and when you are tempted by sin, draw near to the throne of grace that you may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. For that throne does not look like a judgment seat. It looks like a cross, like a crucifix, to be precise. That’s why some Lutheran churches put a crucifix on a pedestal on The Altar called a gnadenthrone – “throne of grace;” First Sharpsburg’s Altar, now at First Trinity, is a good example. On His Cross Jesus was tempted even more for you, tempted to come down, tempted to deny He came to save you, tempted to fight back and not die though that’s what He was born to do. He was tempted but did not give in to temptation. Instead He bore the punishment for your sins in His Body on The Tree, and God declares you righteous.
“He that dwelleth in the secret place of The Most High shall abide under the shadow of The Almighty. I will say of The LORD, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; in Him will I trust. He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust.” What is Jesus singing about in Psalm 91? He’s singing about His Cross. He’s singing about the arms He stretched out on The Cross to carry the awful load of your sins. Live where He is. Seek Him out. Stay close to His Cross. Stay close to His Word, because that’s where The Cross is delivered to you. His Word delivers you the fruits of His Passion: forgiveness, life, and salvation.
His Word is not just delivered to you in The Scriptures, but in His Sacraments too. He works through us in them. Holy Baptism uses water because we wash ourselves in water, and our bodies need to be cleansed of sin just as much as our souls. The Sacrament of the Altar uses bread and wine to remind us that Jesus is the Bread of Life and because wine brings joy and delight. Christ by His Death has not just destroyed death and sin, but brought life and immortality and joy to light. We sin with our bodies physically, so He physically forgives the sins we commit with our bodies and physically gives us the pledge that our same bodies will rise from their graves someday.
Through His Sacraments and through the preaching of The Gospel, and through these Means alone, Christ Jesus stretches forth the right hand of His majesty to defend us from those that rise up against us to drag us down into hell. Through them He forgives our sins and enables us to do what is good. Through them He gives us what Adam lost for us but He regained for us. Through them He delivers and honors us. Through them He satisfies us with long life, eternal life, and shows us, yes, gives us, His salvation. Through them The Son of Man serves us. Yes, God serves you here, at His Service, for here He saves you from sin, Satan, and eternal death, and gives you eternal life.