“Lead us Not into Temptation but Deliver us from Evil”
Luke 6: 9-13
March 1st and 2nd, 2008
The word “temptation” probably conjures up all sorts of images and situations in your mind. Images and situations that may involve chocolate, sleeping in, lust, laziness, smoking, alcohol, pornography, forbidden, extra deductions on the W-2, impatience, gossip, chocolate (oh, I said that), white lies, self absorption, and the list could probably go on and on, and on. These last three petitions all make the assumption that even for the Christian, maybe especially for the Christian, all is not right in this world. Last week we sin is real, but Christ’s forgiveness is even more real. Today, we pray for God’s protection and leading when it comes to very real temptation and very real evil. It is a prayer of protection t Jesus himself prays for us in John 17 where he says “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them fro the evil one.” The Father of lies who does whatever he can to get us to neglect or despise the wondrous gifts of God’s grace found in his Word, in his Meal, and in baptism.
Some might falsely assume that temptation would lesson for the Christian as he progresses in his faith This viewpoint says strong faith, less temptation. C.S. Lewis in a book titled Mere Christianity makes the case that it is in fact the opposite which is the case. .
“A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is…. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why “bad” people know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always given in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means.”
Lewis’s insight points us again ultimately to Jesus himself who alone is our hope in the midst of temptation, and our Savior when we fall to temptation. Hebrews 4:15 says “…..He was tempted in every way as we are yet, without sin”.
To pray “lead us not into temptation” is to know that temptation ultimately is not God’s doing. James writes “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God, for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it is conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death”. It is evil from the outside; the devil and the fallen world in which live; and from the inside, our sinful nature, which brings about temptation. While God doesn’t cause temptation or create it, he can use it to exercise our faith muscles. In 1 Corinthians he gives those who struggle with temptation this assurance “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” Here again temptation is seen in light of Jesus, and in him there is always hope.
We pray lead us not into temptation and deliver us from the evil one, because the evil one seeks to wrest us away from the one true faith. A famous German Pastor named Dietrich Bonhoeffer in World War 11 put it this ways “It makes no difference whether it is sexual desire, or ambition, or vanity, or desire for revenge, or love or fame and power, or greed for money. At this moment God is quite unreal to us, He loses all reality, and only desire for the creature is real…. Satan does not fill us with hatred of God but with forgetfulness of God.” He is a deceiver, which is why the apostle Paul says in 2 Cor. 2:11 that we are not ignorant of his designs or that we are up on his tricks.
How does the tempter work, and how does Jesus respond to him. Let us look briefly at the temptation of Jesus and how unlike the Israelites a thousand plus years earlier, he handles the temptations perfectly. Right after he was baptized Jesus was lead in the desert, and he didn’t have anything to eat for forty days (very similar to the forty years of the Israelites in the desert). This first temptation can be summed up in this way “You’ve got to have it now”. The second temptation dealt with testing God and could be titled “Does God really care? The third temptation deals with ultimate worship, and could be stated “Which God gets the credit?”
First, you have to have it now. Jesus was hungry and the devil asked him to turns stones into bread. How tempting. It wasn’t that the hunger of even the desire was in appropriate. The temptation was, Jesus you don’t have to wait. You don’t have to rely upon the promises of God. If your Father really cared for you, you wouldn’t have to wait around for even your most basic necessities. The Israelites some thousand plus years earlier fell to this temptation. They were not satisfied with their situation, and so they demanded change, and they wanted it now.
How often have we been consumed by the “its got to be now thinking”. Jesus says “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God”. The Father at his own time provided him with daily bread, and in the mean time he could wait knowing the words and promises of his Father. Where the Israelites failed, Jesus succeeded, where we fail, Jesus succeeds.
The second temptation involved “Does God really care”. Throw yourself down from the temple, and the angels will watch over you”. God may tests us, we are not called to test God How do we test God? We stay away from His Word, his forgiveness, His meal see how long God will keep us in the faith. To often we place ourselves in tempting situations and in essence challenge God to help us out. One example might be the alcoholic who keeps going place where alcohol is served. Jesus responds with God’s Word by saying “do not put the Lord to the test”. Jesus didn’t take the bait….he would show his glory, but not on the devils terms, not on our world terms. He wouldn’t jump of a building, but he would go to the cross. He would show his glory latter on his terms. He would show his glory by dying our death, and taking our sins to the cross.
Finally the last temptation could be summed up as “Who gets the credit?” Satan takes him up on a mountain. “Worship me, all this is yours” Many years earlier the came to the promised land and succumbed to this petition by worshiping the “the Baal gods”. To often our issue is also a first commandment issue. We rely on and trust our abilities, our sincerity, our good works. We like to give ourselves the credit. However, where the Israelites failed, and where we fail Jesus succeeds. He says “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only”.
Jesus helps us In the midst of temptation, and like we have an advocate, a Savior who speaks to the Father in our defense. In other words in him we are forgiven for all those times we have succumbed to temptation. We know from scripture that Jesus appeared to destroy the devils work. He is judged that he is judged and his time is short. We pray “Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil”, because in Jesus Christ we have one who has done just that. Thanks be to God. Amen.