Beware Of The Devil's Playground Of Future Fake Promises

Text: Matthew 4:1-11

In the name of Jesus. Amen.


The easy road to hell is the long gradual one. The hard road to hell is the sudden cliff. In other words, the road to hell is easiest by way of a gentle slope without any sudden turns and any warning signs. 


But how does the Devil tempt people down this long and easy road to hell? Well, the Devil puts a carrot on the end of the stick and draws humanity away from reality. But what is the carrot, then? The carrot is an unrealistic future. In other words, the Devil dangles a fake future in front of people and then pulls them away from their past and present reality into a dreamy and superficial future.


You see, when we look to the past, we are dealing with reality. Past regret and past gratitude are rooted in real things that happened in real-time and space. We have regret for the past sins we have committed and gratitude for the blessings we have received. And regarding the present? When we look around in the present, we find things we presently hate and things we presently love. Our past and the present are grounded in real things and events that have happened and are currently happening. But here is the point that is being made, the Devil does not like to function in reality. So the Devil likes to work in the realm of the future. He loves to play in the realm of future possibilities.  


Now, please keep in mind that our Lord God does speak of the future. However, when God speaks of the future, He does so to sober us up in the present moment. Remember back in November? Do you remember all those sermons that we heard about the Second Coming of Jesus? 

In those Gospel readings, the Lord Jesus taught us about His Second Coming when He will resurrect our bodies and judge the living and the dead. However, keep in mind that when Jesus teaches about the end times, He does not teach us to get lost in the future by drawing futuristic diagrams, or predicting horoscopes, or creating our own futuristic prophecies. He is coming a second time, but we do not know the day and the hour. 

And so, when the Lord taught about the future, He did so to wake people up in the present moment. In a word, the best way to be ready for Christ’s future judgment and eternity is to be awake and sober in the present moment before Christ and His gifts. The second coming of Jesus should drive us back to the present moment– to be full of faith… awake, sober, alert, and ready in the present moment.  


But this is not how the Devil works when he dabbles with the future. The Devil hates the past, and he hates the present because he hates reality. He would rather play in a fictitious and pretend future that he can manipulate and drag people into. The Devil’s future is a long path towards nothing, except his darkness.    


This is what we see in the reading from the Gospel of Matthew. The Devil tempts Jesus, and with the temptation, he promises Jesus something in the future. Listen to the Devil: bow down, and I will give you the kingdoms of the world.  


You see, when the Devil tempted Jesus, he was all about, ‘if you do what I say, Jesus, I will give you something awesome in the future that you don’t have.’  


My friends, it is no different with you and me. The Devil loves to play with the future. And he does it quite cleverly by dangling future riches, power, and control out in front of us - down that gradual path.  


Now, if the Devil can get you down that path chasing after promises of future riches, power, and control, you will leave the present reality of life and live in the Devil’s playground of future fake promises. And yes, they are fake promises that are unhinged from present reality.  


How do you get a man to hurt his wife and children? The Devil knows. Just tempt the poor lad down the path into the unrealistic future, where he is promised power, fame, control, and riches. The Devil can get a man so far down the gradual slope into so-called future riches that the man believes he is providing for his family when in reality, he is punishing his family with brutal neglect.  


How do you get a woman to hurt her husband and children? The same. The Devil paints a futuristic picture of bliss, harmony, love, and delight. The Devil can get a woman so far down a path into the future that she will hate her present husband and love her futuristic husband – a futuristic husband that does not exist, except in the Devil’s version of unreality.  


How do you get a Christian to despise Christ’s church? The Devil knows. Just tempt parishioners with a futuristic version of the church with full pews, energetic members, full offering plates, and a charming minister. The Devil can get young and old Christians to despise the faithful church they have attended for years, as he pulls Christians away from past gratitude and present love into his version of the future, where he promises everything to be so much better. 


How do you get Baptized Saints to get bored with the Word and Sacraments? The Devil knows. Just tempt them with visions of future supernatural miracles, visions, and signs that will surpass the boring forgiveness of sins. The Devil can get whole groups of people to neglect the Word and Sacraments and spend a lifetime chasing after potential visions, signs, and miracles.   


It is quite interesting to see how Jesus responds to the Devil’s tactics. Jesus does not debate the Devil in a match of clever rhetoric. He does not enter into a cage, to go toe-to-toe with the Devil in a good ol’ fashion brawl. Jesus does not become a victim, longing for some other warrior to rescue him. He also does not burst into tears or make a scene. He does not grab a smartphone to record the whole incident to post it to social media, and shame the Devil. No, He does none of this. Instead, Jesus quotes the Word of God. He quotes scripture.  


Now, it might be easy to think that by quoting scripture that Jesus was somehow going old-school as if Jesus was trying to offset the Devil’s future with God’s past. However, by quoting scripture, Jesus was simply speaking reality back to the Devil’s unreality.  


Dear friends, please hear this loud and clear. We do not subscribe to God’s Word because it is old. Yes, we like old things here at St. Paul’s, but we do not embrace God’s Word because it is old. No, we hold to God’s Word because it is reality.  


You see, scripture is reality. It is not a book for yesterday only, but it is a book for the present right now. God’s Word is living and active. And so, when Jesus quoted God’s Word to the Devil, Jesus was speaking reality to the Devil. And my friends, the Devil hates reality. The Devil hates God’s Word because he hates reality.  


Baptized Saints, it is so very easy for us to be wooed down the subtle path with the rest of the world. It is easy for us to get tied up in a futuristic frenzy, drifting away from the present abiding reality of Christ and our calling to all the neighbors in our lives. The Devil wants us always pursuing the end of the rainbow – always pursuing but never finding. He wants us always running after joy but never having joy. He promises us light but, in the end, gives darkness. But this is not who you are! You are Baptized Saints who have been given the Word! You have been given Christ. You have Christ and His Word, so you have reality!  


And so, today, repent – with me - of falling into the Devil’s futuristic playground of unreality. Repent of the temptations that pull you and me out of the present reality into superficial, pretend, and unrealistic promises that the Devil dangles before us. 

 Repent, and say, together, 


“Be gone, O Devil!”  


Yes, say clearly and confidentially this present moment,  


“Depart from me, O devil. Go to hell with your fake future, unrealistic dreams, and false promises. I am presently baptized into Christ. In the stead and by the command of Jesus, my pastor absolved me; I am really forgiven. Hear this, O devil, I have also feasted upon Christ’s holy body and blood. Jesus is in my belly; therefore, I have forgiveness in me and for me. O devil, I do not live by your futuristic pipe dreams. Your silly carrot on a stick will not lead me, for I am captive and live by every word that comes from the mouth of God. His Word is real; you are not; be gone evil foe. Depart, be gone, for Christ has spoken, and I have heard. I listen to my Savior’s voice, which is truth and my present reality. In Christ, I lack nothing but have every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm. He has redeemed everything and has given it back to me as a pure gift.”


In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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