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Lead Us Not Into Temptation

One of the most often recited parts of the Bible is the Lord’s Prayer. But didn’t Jesus tell us not to make prayer a rote exercise? Maybe Jesus had something else in mind. In this new series, The Lord’s Prayer, we take an expanded look at what Jesus was teaching Christians about prayer.

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We’re continuing our series on The Lord’s Prayer today. This is the sixth installment – Lead Us Not into Temptation.

So far, we’ve put forth the notion that when Jesus told His disciples to pray like this, and then He said to them what we call the Lord’s Prayer, He wasn’t giving them a prayer to recite, but an outline of things to pray about. He didn’t say, “Pray this prayer.” No, instead, He said, “When you pray, pray like this.” First He told them to address the Father in prayer and to recall that He is in heaven, and that His name is holy, special, reverenced, hallow. Then He told them to ask God that His Kingdom would come – to keep uppermost in our minds that it is coming, and that all our troubles will be over when it does. So, all that’s very encouraging to think about. It expands our minds to remember who we’re talking to. After a night’s sleep or a hard day’s work, we need it.

So let’s get started – Lead Us Not into Temptation. Let’s look at that first part – lead us not into. Does God lead people into temptation? Well, let’s read what James said in James 1:13.

James 1:13 – Let no one say when he is tempted, “I’m being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one.

So, why would Jesus tell us to ask God not to lead us into temptation? You know, if you think about Adam and Eve, for example, God wasn’t directly tempting them, but how did the devil get into the Garden. God knew what was going to happen. So, God let him in. So James said that God can’t be tempted with evil and He Himself tempts no one. But He does let other people tempt.

So, think about Job, too. The devil tempted Job, but, if you’ll recall, God called the devil’s attention to Job. Otherwise that whole scenario probably never would have taken place. We know, too, if we read Matthew 4:1 – let’s go there and look at it – it says:

Matthew 4:1 – Then when Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was hungry.

So, yes, God allows us to be led into temptation, sometimes, but He isn’t the one who does it. Let’s look at James 1:14 and 15 to continue his thought.

James 1:14-15 – But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin. And sin, when it’s fully grown, brings forth death.

So, if we’re praying that we not be led into temptation, it follows that we could also, at this point in the outline, ask God to lead us somewhere else. Let’s go to Psalms 23:3.

Psalms 23:3 – “He restores my soul,” David said. “He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

We’ve talked earlier in the series about the human inability to understand, or even know anything about God, without His revealing it to us. So we can ask God to lead us to good places. We don’t know where those places are by ourselves. You know, there’s an easy way to learn lessons. They don’t all have to be trials. We can watch other people go through trials and learn from them. And we can ask God to be gentle with us.

Before I was a counselor, I would read some counseling books, and the authors, almost invariably, would comment that they would learn so much from their clients. I didn’t really understand what that meant until I started listening to my clients tell me about the difficult parts of their lives. It was clear, in most cases, that they had made bad choices. So this sharpened my focus on some choices that work, and then some that don’t. It educated me. So, easier to learn that way than having to go through it myself.

So, we can ask God to teach us gently about a trouble – not to lead us into temptation – and, of course, God will listen, unless our desire isn’t good for us. Then God may lead us temptation to strengthen us.

I heard a Christian comedian say once that he could stand anything but temptation. There’s a lot of truth there. Let’s take a look in 1 Corinthians 10:12.

1 Corinthians 10:12 – Therefore, let anyone who thinks that he stands, take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man – we’re not alone. God is faithful and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, He will also provide the way of escape, that you might be able to endure it.

So, the biblical way to deal with temptation is to get away from it – get out of there. If we’re led into temptation, there’s also a way to get out of it. I tell my clients, at the start of therapy, that they will probably become angry, anxious, depressed, etc. before start to feel better – or, in most cases, more angry, anxious or depressed. Digging around in all the hard things is a difficult thing. It makes us feel worse at first. So I tell them to locate the place in their body where they first feel the troublesome emotion – anger, for example. Then, when they start feeling that way while around others, they can know that now is the time to do something different – to flee the temptation to go off on someone, for example. So, what can they do? Well, they can think of something else. They can go somewhere else. They can be with someone else. The biblical advice is the same – 1 Corinthians 10:14.

1 Corinthians 10:14 – Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

Now that we know we can move into and out of temptation – we can be led into it, we can go into it, and we can flee from it – let’s think about how else we might be tempted. We all know the devil tempts us – sometimes directly and sometimes through his world. One of the things that comes to my mind, working with my clients, is the porn industry and the effect it’s having on the eight billion people living on this planet. Sometimes I have to deal with people who are addicted to it. Dopamine release and receptors are focused on this kind of sexual experience, so that it’s not a replacement for sex with another person, but it becomes the preferred method. Porn is another way, like social media, texting, video games, etcetera, to diminish interaction, making cooperation, and communication, and love harder for humans. Even non-Christians have realized the deleterious effect of pornography. So who’s driving that? Is it a worldwide human plot? Well, it’s a worldwide plot, but the people involved just want the money. The devil is the one driving all of that. He knows that God made us like Him – relational – and the devil wants to isolate us, divide us, and rob us of our ability to relate. Some have said, “There isn’t anything wrong with it,” and yet, when a person watches porn, they’re watching someone violate the laws of God – stimulated by it, even. The actors are prostitutes – paid to have sex. Notice what it says in Revelation 21:8.

Revelation 21:8 – But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolatry and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.

There’s no mercy for those going to their second death. They’ve used up all their chances. We’re advised to flee temptation while we still can.

Christians are supposed to help others avoid temptation, but, as it says in Galatians 1:6:

Galatians 1:6 – Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness and keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

Sometimes other Christians can tempt us, and we can be trying to help others – other Christians, they can tempt us. I saw a movie years ago – a comedy, called Fatso. Dom Deluise had a food addiction, so he joins a support group that would send teams to your home when you have a crisis. The group was called the Chubby Checkers. They’d check on you. He lived with his brother, who had chained all the cupboards closed so he couldn’t eat. But he was in the throws of temptation one evening, so he called the Chubby Checkers. When they arrived, they were four obese men who came to support him. The scene showed them all sitting around the kitchen talking with the cabinets all chained up, when one of them asked for a glass of water. Well, they all wanted a glass, so he got water for all of them. Then one of them asked for a bit of lemon to go in it, and it went south from there. If I remember correctly, the last comment in that scene was about taking the jelly out of a jelly doughnut, putting a Reese’s peanut butter cup in it, and then putting it in the microwave until the chocolate melted. The next scene is the next morning. All the cabinet doors had been ripped off the cabinets. The sink is full of dirty dishes. The place is a mess! His brother, in a fit or rage, asked them how they got spaghetti on the ceiling.

Some Christians are like that. They intend to be helpful, but they actually are weak themselves, and become a part of the problem, not a part of the solution.

And lastly, the other cause of temptation identified in scriptures is our own desire. We read about that in James already. So, I’m going to pass over that, with only James’ comment, because we’re going to see a lot more later about it.

But why does God allow us to be tempted? Well, in Hebrews 2:18, it says:

Hebrews 2:18 – For because He Himself suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.

No one can say to Jesus, “You don’t know what it’s like to be me.” He was tempted more than any of us, and yet, without sin. Let’s look in 2 Timothy 3:16.

2 Timothy 3:16 – All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be completed, equipped for every good work.

See, it’s not just about us. God has work that He wants us to do for Him. And, as we struggle through life with all its difficulties and challenges, failures and successes, we’re more able to genuinely relate to others God has calling, if we’ve had to deal with temptation too. Paul explained that he had a thorn in the flesh – he said, “a messenger of Satan to buffet him.” He was given that trial so “he would not feel superior to others,” God told him – so that he would not judge others down. We read his letters, and we see great humility, and compassion, and acceptance – the qualities of a caregiver. So, it’s difficult, but it’s how God works with us to get us to where we need to be.

It’s not that He’s not fair. He has a plan to complete an incredibly difficult task – to bring all of us to glory, as Paul phrased it. The question is, “Do we really want to be with and like God?” If so, then we have to do battle with temptation. There’s no way around that.

So, I’m going to tell you about another movie now – The Million Dollar Baby. The old boxer, now retired and running his own gym, is training a young woman. After she learns enough, he takes her to Europe to get more experience. There she has to fight a Jamaican girl. After round one, the coach’s protégé comes back to the corner in a dead panic, and she says, “I can’t get inside! I can’t inside!” And he says, “That’s because she’s faster than you are, stronger than you are, and more experienced that you are.” And she just looks at him with this incredulous look on her face – you know, you can just see her saying, “Well, how am I going to deal with that?” And then he says, “Now what are you going to do about that?”

So, you know, we can complain about our temptations, but they’re not going to go away. We have to deal with them. We have to figure out how to handle them. It’s not going to go away. It’s a part of God’s plan. Now what are you going to do about that?

Okay, that’s somewhat about moving into and out of temptation. Next time, we’ll talk about another aspect of that, which is to be delivered from evil, which is the next part of the outline that Jesus gave us for prayer. If you have missed the earlier installments of this series, titled The Lord’s Prayer, you can listen to or read all of them on our Website, liferesource.org.

Until next time then, this is Bill Jacobs for LifeResource Ministries, serving children, families and the Church of God.