Lead Us Not Into Temptation
What are your recurring, chronic temptations? I know you have them. We all do. I classify them as the fearsome foursome: sensuality, food, possessions and speech. There is not a man alive who does not face sensual temptation. It is everywhere he looks. Some battle food, either gorging or purging. All are tempted to want more, to believe the lie that position, notoriety, success, things will satisfy. And then we all are tempted to respond to our spouse, a child or parent, a fellow worker with an acerbic tongue. From where do these temptations come? How do they come? Why do they come? And what are we to do about them? Jesus teaches us to pray, Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (the Greek has an article with the word evil, suggesting the evil one). We are to pray to the Father, asking Him to not allow us to come under temptation from the evil one.
It is interesting to note that the same Greek word, here translated temptation (as in Matthew 4:1ff, I Corinthians 10:13, James 1:13, 14), is translated in other New Testament passages as trial or fiery ordeal. See I Peter 4:12, James 1:2, 12. The context dictates how we interpret the Greek word, whether it be trial or temptation. In our minds there is a difference but it appears this difference did not exist in the minds of the New Testament writers. At any rate, for our purposes we translate the word temptation in Matthew 6:13 since Jesus is referring here to the evil one or evil, and we are always tempted to do evil.
From where do temptations comes? James tells us that they do not come from God. Let no one say when he is tempted, I am being tempted by God, for God does not tempt anyone. Though God does not bring temptation He does, according to His wise and unsearchable providence, allow it. See Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:1ff (Jesus tempted in the wilderness), and Pauls thorn in the flesh, II Corinthians 12. How does it come? Through the world s philosophy or influence (I John 2:15ff). We are told daily, for example, there is nothing wrong with illicit sex, we deserve more and more possessions, we have a right to say whatever we feel to anyone. It comes also through our flesh, our sinful propensities, even the vestiges of sin remaining in the believer. Galatians 5:16. It comes through the devil who desires to destroy us by deluding and confusing us to the nature of truth and sinful consequences. I Peter 5:8. And it comes through our sinful neglect, not guarding our hearts, not living vigilantly. Proverbs 4:23.
If God loves us, if God wants us to walk in holiness and love, then why would He allow us to be tempted? Four reasons. One, to show us our frailty, sin, and helplessness so that we may run daily to Christ for grace. Without a sense of sinful failure we would not pursue Him. Jesus did not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. Two, to wean us from the world. The sooner we learn that possessions will not satisfy the better. God uses our sinful failures to move us to say, Whom have I in heaven, but Thee; and besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth. Psalm 73:25. Three, to make us more like Jesus, evoking within us a hunger and thirst for righteousness. Matthew 5:6. And four, to make us long for heaven, to be rid of sin altogether, to be glorified. Revelation 22:17.
So how do we pray? We should say, Dear Father, I love You so much that I ask You to not allow me to face temptation for I fear that I may fall into sin and shame Your name. If, however, You allow me to face temptation, then I ask for grace to stand against it. If I fall to the temptation, then I ask that You restore me and strengthen me to stand. How does the Father help us? We have two advocates or helpers. See John 14:16, (I will ask the Father to send you another Helper) 26, 15:26, 16:7, I John 2:1. The Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit strengthen, embolden, empower us to stand against temptation. Jesus works from the outside, from heaven, in essence reminding us of the manger of His incarnation, the garden of His agony, the cross of His sufferings, the tomb of His resurrection, the heaven of His intercession. He seeks to woo us toward holiness by reminding us of His loving sacrifice. The Spirit, on the other hand, works from the inside, standing as it were, between us and the temptation, like one holding a person from running toward another in a fight. And what happens when we sin, when we push aside the Savior, when we ignore the Spirits power? The Lord Jesus takes us by His nailed-scarred hand and leads us to the river of grace, filled with His blood and bids us to plunge ourselves beneath its cleansing flood. The Spirit assures, comforts us of our continued right standing with the Father.
The unbeliever has no such comfort, no such strength. He is terribly alone. Christian, seek God, standing against the temptation He allows, always remembering the two-fold advocacy of the Son and Spirit.
FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS is a weekly devotional by Reverend Al Baker,
pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church (Mission, PCA) in West Hartford, Connecticut. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org, www.ChristCPC.org.
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