INTRODUCTION – In our journey through the Lord’s prayer, we come to a request today that has stumped many. And if you are looking for a crystal clear explanation of this request, I’m not sure I can give it.
But dive in we must, because even if we can get 90% of its meaning and practice it,… our personal lives, our families and our community will be far better off as a result. One thing we know – – giving in to temptation eventually has a ripple effect far broader and wider than any of us considered when we decided to take the bait.
“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”. Next week – Lord willing – I will deal with the latter phrase.
In our Lord’s attempt to build a company of disciples who can bring heaven down to earth through their prayers and through their sanctified lives, and who can finish this long race well, He takes us now into the minefield of temptation.
To successfully navigate this minefield we must first make sure we know what temptation is; and what it isn’t.
What Temptation is: The inner urge or compulsion to sin.
Example: When I’m driving down the street and someone pulls out in front of me, as happens quite often, I am tempted to honk my horn and yell something less than loving in their direction.
What Sin is: Acting on a given temptation. It is not sin to be tempted. It is sin, when I act on the temptation.
Example: Sin would have been honking and yelling.
Another Example: Temptation: Unrighteous assessment (something the Lord has been busting me on a lot lately) You are driving down the road and you pass a member of our church, and you wave and smile, and they do not wave back at you. You immediately are tempted to think or assess: They are arrogant, unfriendly, unloving, full of themselves, cliqueish, mad at me, etc. But the Holy Spirit whispers to you – – you really don’t know that. They might not have recognized you; they might have been engaging in a cell phone conversation; they might have been listening to a sermon or news account on the radio; they might have been in deep thought and not paying any attention to other folks on the road. So you have a choice at that point to either keep thinking and holding on to those thoughts, or you can choose to yield to the Holy Spirit’s counsel, and determine right then and there you will give that person the benefit of the doubt – – knowing that love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, etc.”
That’s a simple explanation of the difference between temptation and sin.
The Reality of the Destructiveness of Yielding to Temptation & Choosing to Sin
Luke 8:13 – Jesus – parable of the soils: “Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away.”
Many people experience enough of God and His kingdom to know some of the joy therein, but because they do not learn how to effectively handle temptation, they fall away.
Gal. 6:1 – Paul’s concern for those willing to get involved in helping others get free
“Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.”
Part of the responsibility of a mature growing believer is to help those caught in the web of sin to break out of that pit or web. But in so doing, he or she must be very careful that they do not let their guard down and fall in it themselves.
I Thess. 3:5 – Paul’s fear that the Thessalonian believers might fall into temptation:
“For this reason, when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor would be in vain.”
Satan’s wiles were so effective and cunning – that all the work Paul had put into the church in Thessalonica could have been brought to naught.. if they weren’t careful to resist the temptation the tempter threw at them.
I Tim. 6:9 Paul to his protégé Timothy – exhorting him to pursue contentment and righteousness and flee from greed and covetousness.
“But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.”
(married couples look at I Cor. 7:5)
James the apostle and brother of Jesus says of sin’s consequences: “…when sin is accomplished it brings forth death.” Spiritually we die to a constant experience of God’s presence, intimacy, favor and power when we sin – until we confess and repent of that sin.
One writer put it this way, “Sin costs more than you ever expected to pay; and it stays longer than you ever expected it to stay.”
Another wrote of sin….
“It will always take you farther than you wanted to go.
It will always keep you longer than you wanted to stay.
It will always cost you more than you were willing to pay.”
The Puritan writer Thomas Adams back in the early 1600’s wrote of the deceitful destructiveness of sin, “ Sin is like a bloody Prince that having invited several great men to a great feast flattered them one by one, and then chopped off their heads.”
Lord Byron, the brilliant European poet, who died in 1824 after only 40 years of life, spent his short life in a mad search for pleasure. In despair towards the end he wrote, “The thorns I have reaped Are of the tree I planted. They have torn me and I bleed. I should have known What fruit would spring From such a tree.”
The consequences of sin are nothing to sneeze at; and sin always starts with temptation.
Two Sources of Temptation:
1. The Tempter – Matt. 4:3 “And the tempter came and said to Him (Jesus)…” & I Thess. 3:5 “….for fear that the tempter might have tempted you…”
2. The Temptee or you and me – James 1:13-16
C.H. Spurgeon said, “For God to tempt, in the sense of enticing to sin, would be inconsistent with His Nature and altogether contrary to His known Character.
But it is certainly not contray to ours.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer – the great German Lutheran theologian and pastor, who was hanged by Hitler and gang at the age of 39 wrote in his book “Creation and Fall and Temptation” “In our members there is a slumbering inclination towards desire which is both sudden and fierce. With irresistible power, desire seizes mastery over the flesh. All at once, a secret, smouldering fire is kindled. The flesh burns and is in flames. It makes no difference whether it is sexual desire or ambition or vanity or desire for revenge or love of fame and power or greed for money. A this moment God is quite unreal to us – – He loses all reality, and only desire for the creature is real. The powers of clear discrimination and of decision are taken from us.”
God’s Provision for Overcoming Temptation
I Cor. 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”
Many of us who have walked with the Lord and battled temptation for all these years have found great comfort in this promise of God’s good and sovereign control over the temptations that come our way.
Heb. 2:18 “For since He Himself (that is Jesus) was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.”
Heb. 4:15 “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”
Because Jesus Christ lived 33 years on this planet – all that time – denying Himself the right to draw on His attributes of deity – – and experiencing every fiery dart you can imagine from the evil one – – He knows how fierce temptation and spiritual warfare can be.
Based on all the thousands of years of experience God has in protecting His people from the wiles of the enemy, Peter writes,
II Peter 2:9 “then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment.”
Danger here: Casual or careless belief that everything is taken care of ,and you can go on and live your casual carefree life.
That these things are automatic. That God will take care of me.
God’s Two-fold Prescription for Overcoming Temptation
But before I share that…..
The Stumbling block of the specific words in this request.
1. It means what it says. There is no better translation, which is why most of the translations – King James, Revised, NASV, and NIV translate it the same. Some have tried to solve their discomfort by suggesting a different translation. There isn’t one, without corrupting holy scripture; and declaring that you are smarter and better and more good than God Himself, who wrote it with absolute intentionality and specificity.
2. While God would never tempt us in the sense of enticing us to sin or to fail; He does evidently lead us into times of temptation or into situations where we are sure to be tempted. Matthew 4:1 “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” The devil’s intent was to sabotage the call and mission of the Messiah. God’s intent was to help His Son, who though fully God must learn obedience by the things he suffered as fully man; His intent was to help His Son grow in spiritual strength, resolve and focus – – and one of the tools God used was temptation from the evil one.
A.B. Simpson – on the value of temptation says, “Temptation exercises our faith and teaches us to pray. It is like a military drill and a taste of battle to the young soldier. It puts us under fire and compels us to exercise our weapons and prove their potency. It shows us the recourse of Christ and the preciousness of the promises of God. Every victory gives us new confidence in our victorious leader, and new courage for the next onslaught of the foe.”
3. The more we grow in our relationship with the King; and the more we learn about this raging conflict between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light or His kingdom; the more clearly we see what is truly at stake in our daily decisions to obey or not to obey; and the more we see just how dependent we are on the mercy of God to finish well, and not be brought down by the deceitfulness of sin and the weakness of our flesh – – the more we see how desperate we must pray for God’s mercy and tender, careful dealings with us..
Temptation is one of the workout rooms of the fitness center of faith; but if the trainer puts too much weight on that barbell – based on what he is comfortable with rather than on what I can safely handle; or if one of the other trainers is delegated the responsibility of helping me on a given late evening and she chooses to wear the skimpiest outfit possible that evening, and she is lost and lonely and looking for some caring person like me to fill that void in her life….. God don’t let me go in a room that I might not safely escape from.
God’s Prescription for Overcoming Temptation:
1. A solid growing trust in God’s adequate provision – I Cor. 10:13; Heb. 2:18, 4:15; II Peter 2:9
2. Daily Fervent Dependent Prayer – – Jesus was very clear that this is the only sure way to victory.
Matt. 6:13 (cf. Luke 11:4)
Luke 21:34 -36 (turn to it)
Matt. 26:41 (cf. Mark 14:38 & Luke 22:40, 46)
Those guys were beat and depressed and under tremendous stress.
“Pray when you feel like it. Pray when you don’t feel like it. Pray till you do feel like it.” Dr. Stephen Olford
3 aspects of prevailing prayer
a. Preventive Prayer – – (Not crisis oriented prayer) Praying the scriptures
This morning – Judges 11 – protect me from impulsive, emotional, soulish or fleshly judgments or vows or commitments like Jephtah the Gileadite.
Isa. 29 – Protect me from just going through the motions in worship; and from not practicing the presence of God moment by moment.
Luke 14 – having God’s heart for the needy and rejects of society
I believe the Holy Spirit through His word can alert us to things that we will encounter later that day or in the near future.
Andrew Murray said of the relationship of the word of God and prayer in the believer’s life these words, “Little of the Word with little prayer is death to the spiritual life. Much of the Word with little prayer gives a sickly life. Much prayer with little of the word gives emotional life. But a full measure of both the Word and prayer each day gives a healthy and powerful life.”
“Lord, help me not wait until Sin stalks to lay me low
Before I ask for eyes to see the way that Thou dost show
Lord, help me not to wait until sin makes a fierce attack
Before I ask for help from Thee, And strength which I now lack.
Lord, help me keep in touch with Thee Each moment of the day
And help me learn to ask for power Before sin comes my way.
b. Individual Prayer – Dependent prayer for me has come to mean praying in anticipation of every situation or circumstance I am going to encounter. Meetings; going to the store; coming home from work;
c. Corporate Prayer – Have you ever noticed the context of that phrase, “the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much?” James 5:16 “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”
CONCLUSION – John Calvin – “Words fail to explain how necessary prayer is.” God’s full intention and expectation is that you will become an overcomer in regards to temptation.