February 18, 2018

Pastor Mark F. Bartels



Old Testament Lesson; Genesis 22:1-18          

Epistle Lesson; Romans 8:31-39

Sermon Text; Mark 1:12-15


It is traditional for us to begin the first Sunday of Lent looking at the temptation of Christ.  We do that looking at Mark, chapter one, verses 12 through 15.  This is in our Savior's name.


The Spirit immediately sent Jesus out into the wilderness.  He was in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by Satan.  He was with the wild animals, and angels were serving Him.

After John was put in prison, Jesus went to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God.  “The time is fulfilled,” He said.  “The Kingdom of God has come near!  Repent, and believe in the gospel.”


These are your words, Heavenly Father.  Lead us in the way of truth,  Your Word is truth.



I am just going to cut right to the chase, this morning.  I am not going to dance around anything.  A guilty conscience is a terrible thing.  A guilty conscience can 'eat you up', and drive you crazy.  It can keep you awake at night. 

-I have talked to people who have been 'eaten up' by something they said to their children in a moment of anger, when they were driving someplace in their car, and their conscience 'eats them up'. 

-I have talked to people who have been almost relentlessly 'eaten up' by something they looked at on the internet.  They deleted it all.  They got rid of all the history on the internet, but it is still up here, in their mind and it is 'eating them up'.

-I have talked to people who have been 'eaten up' knowing in their desk drawer they have a bottle of alcohol or some prescription drugs.  They don't want to take those.  They don't want to use them in times of stress, but they keep going back to them.  They keep telling themselves, “Tomorrow.  Tomorrow I am going to give it up.  Tomorrow I am not going to do it, anymore.”  Their conscience 'eats them up'.

-I have talked to people who say, “I am sitting at work, and some guy, or some gal walks by, and that cologne, or that perfume makes my heart skip a beat.  It 'eats me up' that I am having those thoughts about him, or her.” 

It 'ate David up', King David.  After he had committed adultery with Bathsheba, and then he murdered Bathsheba's husband, Uriah, it 'ate him up'.  The Bible tells us he would lay awake in bed, at night, and couldn't sleep.  He would sweat, and he said it was like his bones were being eaten up.  His conscience, his guilty conscience 'ate him alive'.

It 'ate Peter up', after he denied Jesus.  The Bible tells us he went out, and he wept bitterly.  His conscience 'ate him up'.

Judas had a guilty conscience.  His conscience 'ate him up'.  He realized what he had done, when he betrayed Jesus.  The Bible tells us he finally went back to the High Priests, and said, “I have betrayed innocent blood.”  He threw the money back into the temple.  And then, what did he do?  He went out, and hung himself.  A guilty conscience can drive you to despair. 

I can only imagine the woman who was caught in adultery, and was brought to Jesus.  They were going to stone her to death.  Can you imagine the guilty conscience she was struggling with?

A guilty conscience is not something any of us enjoy, like, want, or want to live with.  If only we could have a clean conscience, a pure conscience, a conscience that is happy.  God gives us conscience.  A conscience is a wonderful gift from the Lord.  A conscience is a great blessing from the Lord. 

What does a conscience do?  A conscience's job is not to tell us what is right, or what is wrong.  We learn that from our mom and dad.  Or, we learn that from the government.  Or, we learn that from The Bible.  God's Word tells us what is right, or wrong.  But, God gives us a conscience, and it is that voice inside our head, or our heart, that judges what we are being presented with, and measures it against what is right, and wrong.  It is a really healthy thing to have a conscience.

When you are being tempted, your conscience kicks into gear.  And, your conscience looks at what is happening.  Your conscience, which is a gift from God, urges you to do the right thing.  It urges you to obey the Lord, obey your parents, obey your government.  It encourages you. 

It also warns you not to do the wrong thing.  It urges you not to do the wrong thing.  If we follow our conscience, and we do what we should do, we feel satisfied.  We feel happy.  We have a sense of joy.  Our conscience feels good about that. 

But, if we do the wrong thing, our conscience plays another role.  Our conscience then accuses us.  Our conscience begins to alarm us.  Our conscience begins to tell us, “What you have done is wrong.  You have sinned against this person, or that person, and you have sinned against God.”  Our conscience really begins to trouble us.

Knowing that about our conscience, which is this wonderful gift from God and it is there to regulate us, and I don't like a guilty conscience,  I don't want a guilty conscience, why in the world would I ever ever go against my conscience?  That is pretty simple, isn't it?  Why go against your conscience?  Nobody wants to feel guilty.  Nobody wants to be guilty. The reason we go against our conscience, unfortunately, is because we have this very, very powerful thing in us called, “A depraved, sinful human nature”.  Our depraved, sinful, human nature is the thing the devil likes to bait.  He would like to get that sinful nature, even though it knows what the conscience is saying, and our conscience is looking long term, “What's best, long term, what's best for my eternity?”, but my sinful nature looks short term.  The devil likes to bait our sinful nature with short term promises.  We say they fall into three different categories.  When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness He was tempted in three different categories.  Here is what they are.

        -Number one, he can tempt me with what we call, “Short Term Self Consumption”.  In Jesus' case, “Turn the stone into bread.  You can have bread.  You can have food.”  This short term promise, “If I could just have this stuff, this thing, this food, these clothes, these friends, this TV show, then I would really be happy.”  But, then we forget about the long term. 

        -Or, it can be “Short Term Self Preservation.”  The devil told Jesus, “Just throw yourself off of the temple, and the angels will protect you, and keep you safe.”  Self preservation, short term, can get us to do things we should not do.  “I have to tell a lie to protect myself, to preserve myself.”  “I may have to hurt this person, or that person, or do something wrong at work, because in the end, it is going to preserve me.”  Short term promises that we fall into.

        -Or, the other temptation Jesus was given by Satan was what we call, “Self Exultation”.  The devil said, “Bow down to me, and I will give you all of the kingdoms of the world.”

The devil tempts us that way.  He says, “If you would just start drinking like everybody else, think of the friends you would have.”  “If you would commit this sin, think of the pleasure that would be yours, and what people would think of you.”  And so, the devil hooks us, and we fall into sin repeatedly over, and over, and over again, even though our conscience, this gift from God, is there warning us, and encouraging us to do the right thing. 

And then, when we do fall our conscience accuses us.  It says, “Why did you do that?  Look at what you have done.”  And then, the devil tries to use our conscience against us.  Then, the devil tries to say, “You are so bad that God won't forgive you.  Why would He ever forgive somebody like you, when you did what you knew you should not do?”  And so, he tries to use our conscience against us.  St. Paul said,

“The good I want to do,

I don't do. 

The evil I don't want to do,

I do. 

Oh wretched man that I am. 

Who will deliver me from this body of death?” 

Then, he goes on and says,

“Thanks be to God

who gives us the victory in Jesus Christ.”

So, enters Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ enters, and in today's scripture reading, He faces Satan, on our behalf.  He faces temptation, on our behalf, in order to defeat Satan, and in order to be able to give us a clean, clear, pure conscience before God. 

The Bible tells us immediately, immediately Jesus was led, or sent by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan.  We find this account in three different gospels in the scripture.  Immediately after what?  It was after His baptism.  Jesus' baptism brought Him into His public ministry.  At His baptism, He was anointed in power with the Holy Spirit.  He was declared with power to be the Son of God.  God said,

“This is my beloved Son. 

Listen to Him.” 

Immediately after that, immediately, the first thing that happened was, (our text in Greek said),

“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness”. 

Not that it forced Him, but being filled by the power of the Spirit, He now goes out into the wilderness to face Satan - a human being to face Satan on behalf of all other human beings.  It says He was driven out into the wilderness. 

Adam and Eve, when they were first tempted, were tempted in The Garden of Eden, the lush, beautiful Garden of Eden, where all of the animals, and everyone lived in perfect harmony. 

But now, Jesus goes out into the wilderness, because Adam and Eve lost that beautiful perfection with God.  So now, Jesus is in the wilderness.  The Bible says, “He was with the wild animals”.  When you are out in the wilderness, with the wild animals, you realize you are not the top of the food chain, anymore.  There are things out there that can hurt you, harm you, tear you up, and kill you.  Jesus was going out into the wilderness to face the worst enemy there possibly is.  The Bible tells us,

“Your enemy,

the devil,

prowls around like a roaring lion,

seeking someone to devour.” 

-There He was, out in the wilderness, facing the devil, on our behalf, all by Himself. 

When are you most apt to fall into temptation?  You know what, if I pull you out of your family, and I pull you out of the church, and put you somewhere where nobody is watching, nobody is watching because you are all by yourself, you are probably more apt to fall there, than anywhere else.  That is why college students often have a real struggle, all of a sudden, when they leave home, and they are away from Mom and Dad, and they are away from church.  All of a sudden, that conscience is not regulated anymore by anybody else. 

-So, Jesus is out in the wilderness all by Himself. 

That is when we all are most prone to fall into temptation. 

-He had not eaten for forty days, and forty nights. 

You know when most people are apt to fall into lots of temptation?  It is when they are tired, when they are worn out, when they are stressed out, and when they are troubled.  “Maybe this temptation, if I just fall into it, it will relieve me.  It will give me some comfort.  It will give me some peace.”  Jesus, for forty days, and forty nights faced the assaults of Satan.  The Bible tells us,

“He was tempted in every point, just like we are...” 

Whatever temptation we have had, Satan drove that at Jesus. 

“He was tempted in every point just like we are,

and yet He was without sin.” 

He was without sin. 

The Bible says,

“We don't have a High Priest who can't sympathize with us.” 

Jesus knows what it is like to be tempted.  He knows what it is like to be intensely tempted. 

“We don't have a High Priest who can't sympathize with us.” 

It says,

“He was tempted in every point just like we are,

yet He was without sin.” 

And why did He do that?  The Bible tells us,

“Through the disobedience of the one man,

the one man,

many were made sinners.” 

That one man is Adam.  Through his disobedience, we all became sinners.  We all became susceptible to falling into sin, over, and over again. 

But then, it goes on and says,

“And, through the obedience of the one Man,

through the obedience of the one Man,

the many were made righteous.”

Jesus lived a perfect life on our behalf, in our place, to defeat the devil's temptation against humankind.  The Bible tells us God gave our sins to Jesus, and Jesus' perfect life to us. 

So, here Jesus defeats Satan out in the wilderness.  He defeated him.  Never once did Jesus go against His conscience.  Not once.  He always listened to His conscience.  He always obeyed His conscience.  He did the perfect things for forty days, and forty nights.  He was tempted way beyond that, as He continued on in His ministry. 

What did Jesus do, after He left the wilderness?  Jesus came to give you, and me a clean conscience.  The next thing Jesus did was He began to preach.  He did not preach this.  He didn't say, “Fight temptation, and you will have a clean conscience.”  That is not what He preached.  What does it say He preached?  It says He went into Galilee preaching repent and believe the Good News. 

That, brothers and sisters, is how we have a clean conscience before God.  A clean conscience before God is a conscience that has been tenderized by the Holy Spirit, working through The Word, that,in repentance, recognizes its sin.  It is terrified.  Just like King David was when he realized he had sinned against God, committing adultery, and murder.  He said,

“Against you, and you only, have I sinned,

and done this great evil in your eyes.” 

That is a conscience that has been tenderized by the Word of God, repents, and knows its only hope, the only hope to be clean is to run to Jesus, and hear Jesus, the One who defeated Satan, say to you,

“I forgive you. 

I forgive you!” 

I love what our Epistle Text says,

“Who will bring any accusation against God's elect?” 

God is the One who justifies.  Who is the one who condemns?  Christ Jesus died, and more than that, was raised to life, and is sitting at God's right hand, and is also interceding for us.
Who can condemn you?  Who can accuse you?  Can your conscience condemn you?  Can your conscience accuse you?  Can the devil condemn you?  Can the devil accuse you?  Here is says,

“Who will bring an accusation against God's elect?” 

It says God is the One who justifies.  Who is the one who condemns?  If you are justified, if you are declared not guilty for Jesus' sake, if God has given you Jesus' perfect life, as if it were your very own, who can condemn you?  Satan can't condemn you.  Your conscience can't condemn you, either.  God is greater than our conscience.  And, for Jesus' sake, He gives us a clean conscience. 

I am going to tell you something.  There is no more precious gift on this side of eternity than having a clean conscience, a clean conscience before God.  Jesus gives us that.  The Bible tells us Jesus was in the wilderness being tempted, and He was with the wild animals.  And, it also says the angels served Him.  We learn in one of the other gospels that those angels served Jesus after the forty days of temptation.  He had defeated Satan, and said,

“Get thee hence, Satan.”

Then, the angels came, and they ministered to Jesus.  They served Him. 

Can you imagine how joyful the angels must have been?  Here a human being had finally defeated the power of Satan, and withstood all of those temptations.  Those angels served Jesus.  How they served Him, we don't know.  Maybe they brought Him the food He was longing for, for forty days, and forty nights.  But, they served Him.  Jesus didn't even redeem them.  He didn't live a perfect life in their place.  If they served Him, how much more should we serve Him?  He did live a perfect life in your place.  He came to redeem you.  He came to give you and me a clean conscience.  And, if the angels served God, how much more should we, as redeemed Children of God, given clean consciences, say to Jesus, “Jesus, with your help, guided by your Word, (because the weapon Jesus used to defeat those temptations was The Word), I want to strive to keep a pure conscience.  I want to strive to keep a pure conscience, and do what is right in Your sight.”