Home > Lent > Ash Wednesday 2014. “To Crucify Desires that Still Entice Me”

Ash Wednesday 2014. “To Crucify Desires that Still Entice Me”


Peter's denial-DixAsh Wednesday+March 5, 2014+St. Peter Lutheran Church+2 Peter 1:2-11+

”To Crucify Desires that Still Entice Me”

Iesu Iuva

In the Name of Jesus.

 

Desire drives you.  Why are you here tonight?  Because you desire something.

 

It might be that you desire to hear Jesus.  Or it might be something else.  Maybe you like getting ashes smeared on your forehead.  Maybe you desire to be and be known as a pillar of the congregation, so you can be praised by men.  Whatever it is, you desire something that you thought you would get by coming here.

 

Desire drives you.  It drives the whole world.

 

God has longing and desire too, even though He has everything.

 

I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.  Luke 22:15

 

Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, may be with me where I am, to see My glory…John 17:24

 

God’s desire is life for us.  But God’s desire is not what drives most people.  What drives most people is what the Epistle called “sinful desire,” also known as “lust.”  Sinful desire, lust, is what drives human nature.  Sinful desire controls human nature.  It controls you as long as you are controlled by your old nature, your flesh.

 

The works that come from sinful desire are obvious, St. Paul says in Galatians chapter 5: “Sexual immorality…idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalry, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness…and things like these (v. 19-21).”  We can see this evil fruit.  You can see it in your workplace, you can see it growing up in your home.  Sadly, you can see this fruit of sinful desire in the church.  And you can see it in yourself—the jealousy and the anger and the lust that flares up in your heart but is put out before it can bear fruit in words or actions.    

 

Other times you can’t see it until it has already been bearing fruit for a long time and polluting other people.  The fruit of arrogant, selfish behavior that treats other people with contempt and provokes them.  The fruit of stubborn refusal to listen to rebuke, even when it comes from God.  The fruit of bitter words, accusations, condemnation, slander.  The bitter fruit of sinful desire that is happy when another person falls, when he is laid low.

 

After listing these works of sinful desire, these obvious, manifest works that we see around us and even in us, Paul adds this terrifying sentence: I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  Galatians 5:21

 

But we don’t always recognize what sinful desire is until after it has borne fruit.  Sometimes we get sinful desire, which comes from the flesh, confused with the desire for God, which never comes from our flesh.  Your flesh never desires God, only an idol it calls God.

 

How easily sinful desire can cause us to fall even when we think we are serving Christ!

 

Who knew this better than Peter?  Let the person who is willing to be instructed by God listen to the apostle Peter, who says in the Epistle today, “If you practice these qualities, you will never fall, 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you (S)an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

 

Do you think Peter ever put those two words together lightly—“never” and “fall”?  Without remembering the night of Jesus’ betrayal, in the upper room?

 

You will all fall away from me this night, said Jesus after giving them His supper.  For it is written, I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered. 

 

And Peter had said, Though they all fall away on account of you,

 

I will

Never fall

away.  (St. Matthew 26:31, 33)

 

But Peter did fall away.  So hear him now when he tells you, “If you practice these qualities you will never fall,” but instead will have an entrance in the eternal kingdom of Christ richly provided.

 

He did fall.  It’s no idle admonition Peter makes:  For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith (I)with virtue,[e] and virtue (J)with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control (K)with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness (L)with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection (M)with love.

 

Before Peter fell, it wasn’t obvious that sinful desire was at work to make him fall.  Not obvious to us, although it was obvious to Jesus.

 

When Jesus “began to show that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised (Matthew 16:21),” Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked Him.  That seems godly, doesn’t it?  Of course it was wrong of Peter.  But his heart was in the right place, right?

 

It looks like that to me.  And right when Peter has just finished saying something that was revealed to him by God and now tries to follow it up with another home run, Jesus says, “Get behind Me, Satan.”

 

It seemed like Peter was trying to honor Jesus, but in reality Satan was there using him.  Right after he confessed Jesus as the Son of God, right after Jesus had given him the keys to open heaven and lock it up, right then Satan speaks.  And nobody would have ever realized it except Jesus.

 

It turned out Peter wasn’t really trying to honor Jesus.  His sinful desire was trying to do what it always does—gain the whole world, save itself without receiving it from God.  That’s why Jesus said, If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me…For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?  Matthew 16:24-26

 

Deny himself and take up his cross, because your old self desires nothing good.  Even when it seems good it’s not good.  It pretends it wants to serve God, but your old self is lying.  It just wants to see Christ glorified and the Church strengthened and people saved and society improved, it claims.  But what it really wants is to gain the whole world, to slither into a hole so secure that God can’t find it and kill it.

 

Sinful desire wants to store up treasure on earth in the vain belief that wealth or honor or enjoyment can prevent the day from coming when we stand naked before the eyes of God who sees what is in secret.  God sees now what is in secret.  He sees what is hidden from men.

 

That is the reason for the ashes today.  They really can’t do anything for you except preach what is in front of your eyes and in your nose every day.

 

That sinful desire has brought corruption into the world.  Not just moral corruption, but literal corruption.  You are going to die.  Your body is going to get cold and stiff, and if it weren’t for concrete vaults and formaldehyde, it would rot and it would stink before it was eaten by worms.

 

Sinful desire brought this about, this corruption.  Eve saw that the fruit God forbade was “desirable to make one wise.”

 

God’s wrath fell in sulfur and fire on Sodom and burnt it to ashes.  The fire of God’s Law reduces us to ashes now, or the unquenchable fire of hell burns us forever.

 

Yet there is escape from the eternal fire, and deliverance from the corruption that is in the world through lust.

 

First comes the terror of God’s punishment and the hatred of the sinful nature and its desires.

I will renounce whate’er doth vex or grieve Thee

And quench with thoughts of Thee and prayers most lowly

All fires unholy.

 

Then comes deliverance and escape from the corruption sinful desire causes.

 

Peter says…he has given us his great and precious promises.  Which ones?

 

Promise of justification and the forgiveness of sins through Christ’s blood.

 

The promise that you have died with Him and been set free from the sinful lust through your Baptism.

 

The promise of the Holy Spirit, who keeps us in faith in Christ, and who also renews us and puts to death our old nature

 

The promise of prayer, where Jesus says “The Father will give whatever you ask in my name.”

 

Through His promises we participate in the divine nature.  We are justified by His blood and forgiven.  And we are given His promises to bury the old nature controlled by sinful desire and to bring forth the new man in Christ who abounds in the qualities Peter listed.

 

We ask Him for His Spirit and to bring these virtues to pass in us, and we strive to fulfill His calling, and HE makes us participants in the divine nature.

 

Just think of this.  What is God’s desire?

Your salvation.  So much so that He gave His Son.  To sweat blood, to suffer.

Yes, Father, Yes, most willingly, I’ll bear what you command me.

My will conforms to your decree: I’ll do what you have asked me.

O Wondrous love, what have you done?  The Father offers up His Son

DESIRING our salvation! (LSB 438 stanza 3)

 

That you participate in His nature.

That you become rich in heavenly treasure.

 

But whoever does not have these qualities is nearsighted and blind and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

 

We are so sluggish.  God eagerly desires to make us participants in His nature so that we store up treasures in heaven.

 

His desire is for us to be rich.  So passionately He desires this that He gave His Son.

 

 

We were not set free from sin so that we could live in it; not forgiven so that we could stay in bondage to death

 

So we spend Lent rightly when we meditate on Christ’s passion

 

There we see what sinful desire has done, what it does

 

If God poured such punishment on His innocent, beloved Son, what will happen to those who do not repent and do not escape the corruption in the world because of sinful desire?

 

O wondrous love, whose depth no heart hath sounded

That brought thee here by foes and thieves surrounded

All worldly pleasures, heedless, I was trying

While thou wert dying.

 

There we see how God has desired us so as to give His Son for our forgiveness.

There we begin to desire Christ, and God fulfills our desire.

 

Yet unrequited, Lord I would not leave Thee

I will renounce whate’er doth vex or grieve Thee

And quench with thoughts of Thee and prayers most lowly

All fires unholy.

 

But since my strength will nevermore suffice me

To crucify desires that still entice me

To all good deeds O let Thy Spirit win me

And reign within me! (LSB 439 stanzas 7, 10, 11)

 

The peace of God, which passes understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Soli Deo Gloria

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