September 6, 2019
Over the course of these last few weeks, we’ve been doing a sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer, a prayer that Jesus first shared with his followers some 2,000 years ago and has been passed down from generation to generation of Jesus followers ever since. And as we’ve gone through it line by line, I hope and pray that it’s given each of us a deeper understanding of this particular prayer or even prayer itself, but also has led us to some important insights when it comes to following Jesus in our everyday life. And this morning is the final part of our 5 week series. Next Sunday, we’ll begin a 5 week series on Church Membership, specifically what it looks like to be flourishing and thriving church member, and I can tell already just how excited you are for that series. I can feel it, it’s palpable. Okay, so maybe not, but I need you to know I’m excited about it and there’s more information about that in the newsletter out in the lobby. But anyway, we’ll save next week for next week.
Today we finish our series on the Lord’s Prayer as we look at this final plea, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
And here you might be asking, but wait, there’s one more line, what about the part where it says, “For thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory forever, Amen.” What about that part? Well here’s what interesting – in both Matthew and Luke’s account, Jesus never says that final phrase. It’s something that early church leaders added in later on. It’s as if they said to themselves, “Yeah, this is a beautiful prayer, but it kind of ends on a low note … could we not end the prayer with all this talk about evil or Satan or temptation? Could we go out with something positive, instead? And so for whatever reason, they added that last line. All that said, for our purposes, we’ll end the prayer where Jesus ends it.
“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
As here’s how I understand the connection between last week and this week. Last week we looked at the phrase, “Forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors,” and to pray that prayer sincerely is to acknowledge that there is sin in my life that is in need of forgiving. And we look at this final part today, “Lead us not into temptation,” is to acknowledge that there’s not only past & present sin in my life that needs forgiving, but that you and I are capable of sinning at any given moment, and that we need God’s protection and guidance to help us fight off sin and not succumb to temptation.
And it’s an important prayer for us to pray on one hand because falling into temptation and into sin is an offense to God, it breaks God’s heart. But here’s another important reason to pray against temptation, and that is, when we give in to it, it hurts us to. When we give into temptation, we choose in that moment short term pleasure over long term joy. We say yes to lesser freedoms and in the process forgo greater freedoms. Or one of my favorite ways I’ve heard it put is that when we give into temptation, we’re stepping on dollars to pick up pennies. We’re fixing our eyes on something of little or no value while we miss out on things of real value.
For example, and we’re going to jump right into the deep end of the pool here, take for example, pornography. There are many problems with pornography, one of which being is that in that moment we’re choosing short term pleasure over long term joy. You see, one of the great tragedies regarding pornography is that it fixes our eyes on something fake, something counterfeit, something we’ll never have that in the end can create real and lasting negative consequences when it comes to building intimacy with the ones we love. It is one of the clearest examples of us stepping all over dollars, to pick up a couple measly pennies.
So when we give into temptation it not only hurts God, but it hurts us too, as we trade long term joy for short term pleasures.
Now as for this first line, “Lead me not into temptation,” in that first line, there’s a bit of a problem, or at least something confusing that needs clearing up. That is, Jesus tells us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation,” but yet, Carol just read a scripture from James that says that God himself tempts no one. So why in the world would Jesus ask us to pray for something that we’ve been told elsewhere that he will not, or even more, cannot do. God will not and cannot tempt us, so why would Jesus tell us to pray that he won’t? At first glance it seems to makes no sense, or at the very least, seems unnecessary.
I’ll admit this very problem tied me up in knots all week, and I’ll try to not bring you into my mess. Anyway what I share with you this morning, is not a definite answer, but my best understanding of this line.
Here’s a paraphrase of what I think this line means: “God, whenever I am faced with temptation, give me the strength to withstand it, and bring me out safely to the other side.”
“God, whenever temptation comes my way, stay right by my side and carry me through it, help me choose the better way.”
And I say, “whenever temptation comes my way” because the truth is, there will always be temptation in this life. In a fallen and broken world, there will always be temptation, there are land mines all around us. Jesus doesn’t tell us to pray, “Keep us from temptation,” because it’s simply not realistic. Everywhere around us there is temptation. Every time you go on the internet, we’re one click away from temptation. From the very moment we wake up and our alarm clock goes off, we’re faced with temptation as we make our first decision of the day, “Will we get out of bed or will we push snooze?” Every time you get in your car, temptation is there. For someone struggling with alcohol, it feels like there’s a bar on every corner and for someone struggling with a gambling addition, it feels like there’s a casino everywhere you look. Every time I go to the grocery store, I am faced with temptation, because the first thing I see is ice cream, right there in that first freezer you see, and then it’s on sale. They think they’re doing me a favor, no that just makes it worse! Friends, whether it’s gossip or gluttony, lust or pornography, alcohol or gambling, whether were given the option to lie, cheat or steal, the sobering truth is, temptation is all around.
And so we pray, “God, whenever we are faced with temptation, give us the strength, help us to drive right on by. Show us a better way.”
So all that said, let me give you three quick points of application, and as we do, we’ll continue unpacking the last part of this prayer, including the part where it says, “Deliver us from evil.”
Here’s the first point of application I want to share with you:
Prayer: A Spiritual Weapon for Spiritual Warfare
“…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” (Ephesians 6:17-18)
In the same way real soldiers fighting in really battles use real weapons, we as Christians need spiritual weapons for spiritual battles. When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he talked to them about spiritual warfare and told them to put all sorts of spiritual armor: belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shield of faith, sword of the Spirit, helmet of salvation. He told them to put on all that, and he also told them to pray.
And I would encourage you to pray for two things in particular, or to use battle, war like language, to pray against two threats in particular.
You see, in just this short little phrase, the implication is that when it comes to temptation, we have to fight against, and pray against, two particular threats, an inside threat and an outside threat.
First, the inside threat. That’s us. Notice what James says,14 But one is tempted by one’s own desire …” You and I, in our sinful nature, have a tendency to want to take the easy path toward short term pleasures rather than long term joy. You and I have a tendency to step on dollars in exchange for worthless pennies.
So pray, “God, change my heart. Help me to love what you love. Want what you want. Treasure what you treasure. Hate what you hate. Help me to find beautiful what you find beautiful. To find ugly what you find ugly.”
Pray against the inside threat. And in addition, pray against the outside threat.
Notice, the second part of this phrase, “Deliver us from evil.” Some translations will say “Deliver us from the Evil One", rather than just evil. So there’s some debate on whether this refers to evil in general, or specifically the Devil. Either way, we at least know this. There are outside threats working against us.
Have you ever had a fight or argument with your spouse or kids or someone you love, where you are both so mad at each other and can’t get on the same page and can’t figure out what created the conflict in the first place? Well, that’s because there are outside forces at work. The Devil wants it that way. He wants you to point the finger and accuse the ones you love, rather than accuse him.
Kevin Spacey, in the movie The Usual Suspects says, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he doesn’t exist.”
Friends, never forget - there’s an outside threat working against us.
So, in the name of Jesus, pray.
Pray - Devil, I command you, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to leave my presence with all your demons, and I bring the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ between us. Devil, you have no authority or power over this situation or over this house. Work in my life that there be no ground to give Satan a foothold against me. Jesus, I claim your victory. In the name of Jesus, I pray, Devil, be gone!
That’s the first point of application. Pray against both the inside and outside threat.
Here’s the second …
Make It Known
Remember one of the key features of this prayer. It’s a corporate prayer, it’s a public prayer, one that we pray as we sit next to our brothers and sisters in Christ. And so we’re not only praying against temptation for ourselves, but we’re also praying against temptation for those around us as well. And one of the practical ways that we can encourage and walk alongside one another in our temptations, is by bringing our temptations and struggles into the light and out of the dark. When we share our temptations and struggles, we invite others to join in the struggle with us. Now, this is where you might be thinking, “Are you kidding? There’s no way I’m going to air my dirty laundry out for all to see?” Well, of course not. No one expects you to.
Here’s a good general rule of thumb: While everybody does not need to know everything, everything ought to be known. I’ll say it again: While everybody does not need to know everything about us, it’s best if everything ought to be known by someone. So friends, are you struggling, are you facing temptation, make it known. It may be your spouse or a friend you know and trust, but make it known. And as you do, you may at some point be connected with those who have overcome similar struggles, who can encourage you by saying, “I’ve been where you’ve been and I’ve come out on the other side.”
I love the story about Roger Bannister, first man to run a sub 4min mile. For years and years, no one could break that mark, but after Roger did it, so many other people did as well. They looked at Roger and said, “If he can, then I can too.” But not me, I’m still trying to break 8min. Oh well.
If we bring our struggles and temptations into the light, we may find people who can encourage us along the way, as be encouraged and inspired in hearing how they’ve overcome temptation themselves.
Anyway, let’s keep going. Pray, Make it Known, and here’s an odd one of sorts …
Add a “Nudge”
You’re probably thinking, What the heck is a nudge? A nudge is a small change made that make it easier for us to make the choices we want to make or want others to make. A small change in our environment or routine that makes it easier to make the choices we want, that nudges us in a particular direction.
So for example, when you go to a buffet, the owners of the buffet are nudging you in a particular direction. They are nudging you to make certain choices. So what they do is they put the soup and salad, the cheaper things to make, at the front of the line, and put the rib eye, the most expensive thing to make, at the back. Their hope is to nudge you towards filling your plate with soup and salad so that there’s no room left for the ribeye, which in the end allows them to make more money. Now I’m a bit hesitant to share this example with you since I fear you will leave here thinking that this little buffet tip is the most important thing to take from this sermon, but whatever.
The point is, we can introduce or add nudges to our environment and routines that encourage us to fight against temptation and make healthier, wiser choices.
So, if you are tempted to buy too much food or too much junk food at the grocery store, go when you’re full, not hungry. You’ll buy less. And work the perimeter of the store, not the aisles, the perimeter is where all the healthy food is.
If you are tempted to bring your phone to bed and stay up too late, then create a phone charging station in a different room.
If you are tempted to watch too much T.V. at night, then move the T.V. to a less desirable place in the house, rather than making it the focal point.
If you want to work out but then come home and are tempted not to, then have your workout clothes already laid out on your bed.
If you want to read your bible more or pray more, then put a bible or prayer journal and put it on your nightstand, so that you’ll see it every night, rather that leaving them on shelf.
And of course, even better than nudges, are disciplines, spiritual training exercises, things like fasting or prayer or Sabbath that we as Christians can practice, that will help not only fight against temptation, but also recalibrate our appetites so that we want to choose long term joy over short term pleasure.
So for example, when we practice Sabbath or build in silence or solitude in our regular rhythms, we train ourselves to see the value of rest, the importance of solitude and begin to see how the temptation to work 24/7 is ultimately to our detriment.
So add a nudge, and maybe even build in disciplines, spiritual training exercises too.
Alright, we need to wrap this up, so I’ll finish with this.
Jesus: The New and Better Adam & Eve
Friends, if you’re struggling with temptation, I need you to know, you’re not alone. Humanity has faced temptation from the very beginning of time. Where once upon a time, Adam and Eve were in the garden. And here comes the serpent, it’s the Devil himself, come to tempt Adam & Eve, and he says, “Come on, it’s no big deal. It’ll be good for you. It’s just a piece of fruit.” And as we know, Adam and Eve gave in to the temptation. And you and I have struggled with temptation ever since.
But then years later, Jesus comes on to the scene. And he’s led into the wilderness, a garden of sorts, to be tempted by the Devil. And of course, it’s a flashback to a much earlier scene, it’s a flashback to Adam and Eve, Genesis chapter 3. And Jesus withstands each and every temptation the Devil throws at him. He’s come to show us a better way, a way to withstand temptation.
And then check this out, a few years later, it’s the night before Jesus dies, and Jesus is in Gethsemane, and he’s tempted to not go through with the divine plan, that the Son of God would die on a cross, and so what does he do - he prays, after all, it’s his greatest weapon against spiritual warfare, and here, once again, he withstands the temptation, saying, “God, not my will, but your will be done.”
And friends, where is Jesus standing as he prays? What is Gethsemane, after all? It’s a garden. Friends, it’s not coincidence. It’s not random. It’s all pointing back to Adam and Eve. And here is Jesus, God himself, come down to this earth, to show us a better way, one who would make the right choice, to live the life we, and Adam and Eve, didn’t and couldn’t live. And then as he died and rose from the grave, he stared evil down straight in the face and won.
So friends, are you struggling with temptation? Are you experiencing guilt and shame as you think to yourself, "Why I am still struggling with this, how am I not better than this, what is wrong with me?" Friends, look to Jesus. The good news of the gospel is that at the end of the day we won’t be judged because of our ability to withstand temptation, but because of Jesus’s. And that while we as faithful Christians want to avoid sin and temptation at all costs, we can rest, knowing that Jesus has won the battle on our behalf, where on the cross, he defeated sin, death and the Devil himself.