Tuesday, 25 February 2014 11:26

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

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Do you know the sixth and last petition or request Jesus taught in the Lord’s Prayer? Jesus taught in both Matthew 6:13 and Luke 11:4 that when we pray, then along with the requests made so far we may and should add also this petition: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Truly how rich and instructive and encouraging to be able to pray also this to God Triune. “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Don’t you agree this is a good request for you to pray as well? Do you see reason to make this request to God along with the other requests? Oh, to learn not just what the Lord’s Prayer is, but to pray it truly and repeatedly from heart and lip sincere! “Our Father who art in heaven: Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever, Amen.” Focusing now on this sixth and last petition, let us consider together why this is especially such an instructive and encouraging prayer to pray. Notice with me in this regard the following four main thoughts with this petition. 1. the holy connection 2. the holy concentration 3. the holy concern 4. the holy comfort Coming to our first point about the holy connection with this petition, it is striking how much we can learn from just the small word, ‘and’ at the beginning of it. You find it also at the beginning of the fifth petition. What is that little conjunction, ‘and’ telling us? There is a connectedness between the petitions, especially with the last three petitions where we pray to God in reference to all our needs for body and soul. What we need to take note of in particular here is that there is a connection with truly asking for forgiveness of sins and truly seeking to walk in God’s ways. When we spoke on the fifth petition about the forgiveness of sins and how God so freely and abundantly and delightfully forgives our sins and sinfulness even as we ask Him and every time we ask Him, a person could come to a wrong conclusion! What wrong conclusion? That you say: “You know what? I will just live in sin, because after all God is such a ready and free forgiver of sins anyways. I can sin freely even because I don’t need to worry for He will forgive whenever I ask Him to.” But you know the apostle Paul’s answer to that in Romans 6 after so bringing out the riches of the forgiving grace of God in and through Christ Jesus? Paul says there: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid! How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” So Jesus also teaches us here with this connection between the fifth and sixth petition. When you truly ask for forgiveness of sins, then by the Holy Spirit bringing you to that point, He will also bring you to this point where you don’t want to live in sin anymore. And you will desire not even to be tempted and plagued by sin anymore whatsoever. The conjunction ‘and’ teaches, in other words, that truly praying for forgiveness of sin also will involve a certain attitude towards sin and evil. You don’t sin and ask for forgiveness, and then just happily go on in sin. No, not if you are a Christian and one who truly asks for and receives forgiveness of sin. The true Christian abhors sin and is afraid of temptation and looks to Christ and His Word daily in the fight against sin and evil. The true Christian armors himself or herself, not wanting to be overcome by temptation and sin and anticipates ultimate victory over evil and the evil one in the last day. Are these things also true of you? Is such your attitude towards sin and temptation? Is this holy connection of the sixth petition alive and well in your life, and would you have it no other way? Do you know from Scripture and your own Christian experience that something is seriously wrong in your Christian life and perspective when this conjunction between the fifth and sixth petition isn’t much considered nor valued? The full gospel message is that when Jesus saves us, not only does God justify sinners and adopt us as His dear children. He immediately, by His Holy Spirit and Word, leads us in the way of sanctification. John writes in I John 3 that he that has the hope of salvation and of heaven one day “purifies himself even as he [God our Savior] is pure.” What is the result when this ‘and’ at the beginning of the sixth petition is not functioning in our lives, yours and mine? We fall into sin and so many wrongdoings in ways and measure far worse than a sewer backup in the home. If you are someone who just won’t pay attention to the holy connection between the fifth and sixth petition, and cares not to do so, what does that indicate? Does it not show that you have never yet truly asked for forgiveness of sin either? That you can be saved and yet live in sin is false teaching. It is most dishonoring to God and to the Saviour who came not to save us in our sins but to save us from our sins. Will you learn and promote the true gospel of Jesus Christ in your life, praying truly the sixth petition as well, even urgently and repeatedly so, by God’s grace? Saying that, we come also to our second point, considering the holy concentration expressed in this sixth petition. The request, “and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, and from the evil one” shows a concentration not to be taken in by sin and the many temptations to sin. Is this your concentration, by God’s grace? If we are true Christians, isn’t this actually a matter of daily concentration even? At least should it be so when in a healthy spiritual mindset. Why is it the case that a true Christian abhors sin and is afraid of temptations, and cringes before Satan? It is because a true believer has learned something of his or her own natural weakness and inability over against sin and Satan and temptation. We are by nature sinful and foolish and so prone to falter, and fail, and fall. Each day and week anew we take our sinful selves with us, and maybe already today that old nature has reared its ugly head and ways in your life too. Left to ourselves against the sly devil, and in the face of the luring world and with the natural lusts of the flesh there is just no way, of ourselves and by ourselves, that any one of us can handle temptations to sin. Besides our weaknesses and inabilities, and natural sinful inclinations of ourselves, there are also the unceasing and wicked sly attacks of the devil and his temptations before us. Satan is no dummy. He keeps up to date with the latest to ensnare people in one way or another. “The devil walks about” says Peter in I Peter 5:8, “as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” The devil is a relentless, ruthless, restless enemy and never stops in his tricks and schemes to destroy the church and every faithful and true member thereof. This is what the Christian when healthy and in a good state is always aware of 1. I am so weak and helpless over against sin and evil on my own. 2. The force of sin and evil and Satan and his tactics are so strong, I’ll never be able to stand up against them on my own! A Christian confesses over against temptation and sin, “I’m just a helpless hopeless weakling and loser in the battle against sin on my own. Left to myself I am bound to stumble and fall.” It is in so not trusting yourself at all and instead ever looking to the Lord to be your guide and guard in all your life, that you and I can be strong. The true Christian learns what Paul learned and taught as crucial in the Christian faith and walk, namely, as he says in II Corinthians 12:10: “ …for when I am weak, then am I strong.” That is the same passage [vs.9] where the apostle tells how God taught him: “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” The point now is how we need to confess our weakness in the sight of temptations and with the fight against temptations. How good when you and I have the holy concentration as expressed in this sixth petition, asking the Lord to “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Is this your holy concentration, being afraid of the least sin and temptation to sin left to yourself? What did our godly forefathers say? The Christian authors of the Heidelberg Catechism taught the following. They said, the prayer, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” is among other things a confession, “since we are so weak in ourselves that we cannot stand a moment, and besides this since our mortal enemies, the devil, the world, and our own flesh, cease not assault us, do Thou therefore [O God] preserve and strengthen us by the power of Thy Holy Spirit.” Do you hear that acknowledgement of being afraid of sin and evil and being anxious about coming close to it because you know of yourself you can never stand up against it? It is helpful to make yet this further statement of clarification in connection with the sixth petition. Let us all be clear that when this petition asks, “lead us not into temptation” that by no means suggests ever that God Himself is out to tempt us in wrong ways. No, God’s Word states emphatically as we can read in James 1:13-14: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man. But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” This sixth petition is not saying God deliberately ever tempts people into wrongdoing, for the Bible teaches God, as holy and good, never can or would do this. However, the prayer is that God so guide our lives that we not be brought into testing times that undo us and have us go astray and fall away. The sixth petition pleads that the Lord guide us and help us so that even when we are brought into a situation of great temptation and severe testing that we be able to stand up against it. And that we be delivered from evil and not overcome by it. Yes, that both in the little tests and the big tests of life we do not waver but stand strong in God’s ways and not come under the power and sway of sin in any way. Sometimes when the devil tempts us, God may use the very same event to test us. We have an example of that with David numbering the people of Israel. I Chronicles 21:1 tells that as a temptation of Satan against David while II Samuel 24:1 says it was a testing from God. The point is, the true child of God looks to the Lord for help against sin and evil, and is dependent on God to stand and not fall. How does the Catechism put it? After stating we can’t handle temptation and sin on our own, not for a moment, the Christian confesses there, “do Thou therefore, [O Lord] preserve and strengthen us by the power of Thy Holy Spirit, that we may not be overcome, in this spiritual warfare.” Can you identify with this request, this focus of the sixth petition, as explained here now? Are you not only afraid of temptation and abhorring sin but applying to Christ for His saving powers in this spiritual warfare? Do you identify in your heart with the following words? All our strength at once would fail us If deserted, Lord, by Thee, Nothing then could aught avail us, certain then our defeat would be! Therefore keep us Lord, Oh keep us ever, vain our hopes if left by Thee, We are Thine, O, leave us never… till Thy face in heaven we see. That is the Christian attitude to sin and temptation. When converted you become afraid of sin and always and again you then call on the Lord for deliverance from its deadly attractiveness and poisoning enticements. Do you have and are you exercising this holy concentration in your life presently and intending so to live day by day, till your last breath, God helping you? Do you see the need daily to pray also this sixth petition: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”? When this is a real prayer in your and my life, that will become evident in a clear way. Do you know how? Won’t it show in holy care for keeping from all evil? Here we come to our third main point in connection with this sixth petition. When you and I truly pray this sixth petition, then also we do our best to stay clear from sin’s temptations and enticements. So while we depend wholly on God our Saviour not to fall into sin, yet at the same time, when we are genuine in the ways of grace, we do everything possible from our side not to fall into sin. Heartily depending on God does not negate our responsibilities to avoid sin and to flee from all appearance of evil but rather it only underscores this calling we have. The true Christian praying the sixth petition in truth knows it is mockery if then he or she will put self in temptation’s way. Isn’t our best stand always to keep far distant from temptation and sin, and to abhor sin and be afraid of it in any way, shape, or form that it comes to us. It is never a good sign in a person’s life when repeatedly one looks to see how close to sin’s edge one can go, how like the world one can be and yet remain a Christian. No, the healthy Christian knows, truly and also from painful, shameful experience, never can one afford to trifle with sin. What reasons for carefulness against all sin and evil and temptations to such from anywhere and everywhere. Is this your conviction and conduct, by God’s grace? We read of the apostle Paul in Acts 24:16 testifying: “And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offense toward God, and toward men.” He strove always and took pains not to sin in any way in thought, word, or deed. Will you and I show this same care in our lives, yes, before God and our neighbor, at home, at school, at church, at work, and in our communities where we live? The Christian in good health guards his soul from sin and evil, not trusting himself, and not trusting the powers of sin and evil either. We need the attitude of 19th century preacher, C.H. Spurgeon, who wrote: “Things tempting we must not [trifle] with, but flee from them with speed. Things doubtful, we need not doubt about; they are wrong to us. Careful walking may involve much self-denial, but it has pleasures of its own which are more than a sufficient recompense.” Indeed, the true Christian is one who prays and works as the Catechism puts it, “constantly and strenuously [to] resist our foes, till at last we obtain a complete victory.” How wonderful when we also are examples to each other in this good fight of faith. Do you help others in the home, or at school or at work, or in your church life and society life to live godly holy lives? Or do you live dragging others in the way of this evil world? What is your influence on others? Is it leading them towards God and His Word and will or away from God and His Word and will? What a solemn question? Oh God, we pray, forgive our bad examples all too often! Let us pray the sixth petition really meaning it each day and week again, taking seriously the holy connection, the holy concentration, and holy care included in this petition. Will you so live, God helping you, even as you ask Him in prayer every day? What reasons to pray this sixth petition living in the times in which we live. For we live not only in a world of growing evil but in a church world in general of growing apostasy, most sadly so, both in doctrine and in conduct. Shall we be different and not just follow the crowds but rather humbly and heartily follow after the Lord and His gospel Word in spirit and truth, in doctrine and conduct? Then you know never can we pray enough and never is there reason arrogantly to think we have arrived. But always there is earnest reason to press on in humbly and heartily seeking and serving the Lord. And the great gospel comfort is, as we so run the race in our earthly pilgrimage, ever looking to Jesus the Saviour, it will not be in vain. He will guide us from grace to grace, and strength to strength, and victory to victory, and glory to glory! Here we come to our last point, namely, the holy comfort with this sixth petition. When Jesus teaches us to pray also this request, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”, He does so pledging His help in all our temptations. With this sixth and last petition of the Lord’s Prayer, surely the implication from the Saviour is that with the Lord there is deliverance and victory from sin. Indeed, with Him all our life long we may find grace and strength to resist the devil and sin. We have the Saviour’s sure promise that one day all who trust and follow Christ will be made perfect and forever delivered by His grace and saving power. This is the great steadfast gospel comfort that with the Lord is plenteous redemption from all sin and evil. Jesus through His blood and righteousness as Saviour of sinners has obtained complete and eternal sure victory and triumph over all of sin and its consequences. He gave Satan the death blow on the cross and overcame and transformed death even for all His people, as many as trust and obey Him. In other words, in and with Christ Jesus as the Captain of our salvation the sixth petition is not something empty or in vain. No, it too is a prayer of God’s people that God Triune in and through the Saviour, Jesus Christ, will hear and answer. As the years come and go, God’s saving and sanctifying powers for us by His Spirit and Word for Jesus’ sake never diminishes or wanes. How beautiful and encouraging I Corinthians 10:13 is also in this regard. Do you know it? We read there: “There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful who will not suffer [allow] you to be tempted above what ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape that ye may be able to bear it.” How striking the next verse too in regards to this: “Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.” God’s Word is instructing and ever inviting us here: ‘Daily run from all temptations to sin, and ever look to Christ and abide in Him and His Word!” Is that what you are doing, by God’s grace? We also have the sure gracious gospel promise that when we fail and fall under temptation, there is yet more grace and mercy and renewing strength and power with the Lord for Jesus’ sake. The Lord knows our frame and remembers we are dust. Through His once for all sacrifice, now also as exalted Saviour He stands ready, time and again, to supply us in all our needs for body and soul, especially also in the spiritual warfare we are yet in here on earth below. And there is the further comfort of this gospel truth in the doxology of the Lord’s Prayer: “for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.” We hope to think about that more next week but just think what an encouragement that doxology by itself gives also for praying the sixth petition as well as the other five, yes, to pray them all, all our life long even! All too often when we fall into temptation and fail in the way of sin and giving into the lusts of the flesh and ways of the world, we can be slow to return to the Lord thinking: “How can He forgive me again and restore and renew me once more?” But here think again of the fifth petition Jesus taught us to pray and how praying it, we can go right on and pray the sixth petition again too. It sounds too gracious and good to be true. But it is the gospel truth! And God Triune delights in us ever needing and depending upon Christ the Saviour from beginning to end, from start to finish, for as long as we live. The honest truth is we need Jesus, always and again. Even the strongest and most godly believer needs Jesus the Saviour constantly. And the gospel message is always and again we may go to Him, no matter how great our sins and miseries. Jesus always welcomes those who look to Him for mercy and renewal. Oh, what holy comfort this gives. To our comfort, God’s people may know one day, according to Jesus’ promise, the battle against all temptations and evil will be forever over, completely and eternally so! You see again Christ Jesus, as Saviour and Lord above all, will take care of it by His saving grace and power, as the Catechism puts it, “till at last we obtain a complete victory.” There is no doubt about the outcome of the battle against Satan and all sin and evil. And one day, who knows how soon now, sin will be no more. Then Satan and his hosts will be cast into the bottomless pit along with all unbelievers. But God’s people washed in the blood of the Lamb shall reign with Christ and be joint heirs with Him of the new heavens and the new earth. Paul states thus in Romans 16:20: “The God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.” And we read in II Peter 2:9: “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment, to be punished.” Oh that we all then be a praying people, redeemed by grace, requesting daily also this sixth petition in spirit and truth: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Is this your earnest prayer? The unsaved will not pray this petition in spirit and truth but the saved will pray it regularly and pray that they may pray it sincerely and truly time and again. Does God Triune hear you praying the sixth petition, in Jesus Name? Amen. Hans Overduin, Radio Pastor
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