How Shall We Pray?
Lead Us, Not Into Temptation, but Deliver Us From Evil
The phrase that we come to look at today, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” is admittedly troublesome and difficult. On the face of it, it seems that the one praying is anticipating that God, unless He is implored not to do so, is likely to lead one of His children, directly and purposefully, into situations to be tempted to do evil things. One could almost configure the scenario in his mind to see the struggling saint fighting a three-pronged battle with evil: his own corruptions, the work of the devil to tempt him, and the active leading of God into evil situations.
Of course, the very thought of such a thing is repugnant to us and contrary to everything that we know of God and how He deals with His people. He leads them, as we saw in the last lesson from this text, “in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” He does not lead His people to do wickedly or, as a constant process, place them in situations to tempt them to do wicked things. He for sure does not tempt them to do evil. In fact, James absolutely forbids us to blame any of our temptations on God.
13 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:
14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. KJV
Every language has peculiarities which sound strange when they are converted into another language. Many people from other countries find our American expressions strange or even humorous. I, myself, find some of the expressions strange. When I was young, there was an expression in which a person would express complete disdain for a thing or an idea by saying, “I could not care less.” What they meant was obvious. They cared so little for whatever it was that they could not imagine a level of care that was below it. Now, that phrase has morphed into one that is used in the same way but actually means the opposite, “I could care less.” When it is used, it means what it meant historically, the person does not care. But, logically, it actually means that a person cares a significant amount. It is just one of the many peculiarities of the thought processes of Americans.
The Hebrew people also had some odd expressions. They would ask a person to do a thing by asking him not to do the opposite. For example:
1 O LORD, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.
12 Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up thine hand: forget not the humble.
11 Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.
2 O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me.
None of these things suggest that God is going to do the thing He is asked not to do unless He is begged not to. It is merely a way of expressing a desire and a longing to be the object of mercy, to be remembered, to be helped and to have victory.
So, this expression in the Disciples’ Prayer is to state the desire and longing to be delivered from temptation and from the hand of the enemy of all truth, goodness, righteousness, and purity.
The impulse to do wickedly in the person of a child of God has two separate sources: his carnal nature and the devil.
From both of them, the believer needs the daily, constant, help of God. He must first of all become aware of the danger and the need in a way that is consistent with reality. Then, he must sustain the sense of need together with a faithful seeking of help. Finally, he must grow both in his sense of need and his faithful seeking.
The danger from our own corruptions.
As Rom. 7 teaches us, the inclination to sin does not go away when one becomes a believer. The nature with which we were born, as described in Rom. 3:10-19, remains and, unless dealt with daily and powerfully, can wreck and destroy the life of a child of God.
We could cite numerous examples of really damaging things that have occurred in the lives of believers because of indwelling corruptions. We might mention the incest of Lot, the abusive treatment of Hagar, King Saul’s rebellion against God and attempted murder of David, or David’s sin against Bath-Sheba and Uriah. We might remember Peter’s vile denial of Jesus, his duplicity in the error of the gospel at Antioch, the immorality of the man at Corinth, or John Mark’s abandonment of Paul and Barnabas on the mission field. We could talk about the sins of the pastors of the churches of Asia rebuked by the Lord Jesus Christ, or we might think of examples from the history of the church, or even of our own lives.
The greatest enemy of any child of God, we have come to understand, is not the world or the devil, it is his own ‘flesh’ that inclines and persuades him to indulge in wickedness. It does what neither the devil or the world can do on their own or by their own power, it bends the will and the mind away from God and voluntarily gives the life over to sin.
The danger is enormous. Through the corruptions in the human soul of a genuine child of God, entire races of people have come into existence who were so wicked that God destroyed them all. Children have been brought into the world who were unwanted and rejected. Lives have been lost, testimonies ruined, and hideous stories recorded for all posterity. Corrupt and error has been brought into the Christian church and generations have been damaged. There is no question in my mind at this moment but that the sad state of the church in our day is the result of corruption in the lives of believers and preachers, not the corruption of the world around us. For sure Satan is involved, but he has been invited in by people who should have known better and should have warred against him rather than welcoming his deceptions and lies.
Knowledge of that danger must drive us to God on a daily basis, seeking His help from our own temptations, “lead me not into temptation, lead me to resist my particular inclinations toward sin, guide me to walk righteously.”
The way that we are likely to sin in any particular day is not, for the most part, a mystery to us. Past sins and failures provide us with a pretty good road map as to how things are likely to go unless God helps us and delivers us from our own ungodliness.
It might be anger, lust, fear, compromise, covetousness or any number of the grosser of sins that we are inclined to commit either overtly or in our own minds. It might be just the selfishness of living only for ourselves and crowding God out of our hearts and minds. But we know ourselves and our sins. We know our weaknesses and our corruptions. Therefore, we know most of the possibilities for any day.
But it is not until we see the danger as real danger than we will rise each morning with a sense of desperation in our need for God that gives us an energetic and intense motivation to seek Him for His help lest we sin again this day in ways that we have done so often before.
It is the fear of doing dishonor to Him and damage to others that will sustain our motivation to seek His face. It will be those days in which we are more concerned about ourselves than Him or others that will be our days most likely to fail. For this reason, the honor of God and the needs of others must remain close to our souls. Interestingly enough, Jesus said the following.
29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. KJV
Obedience to those commandments keeps us locked into the concern about our own sins and temptations.
Finally, we must grow in the concern and the commitment to ask for help each day.
The possibility to sin does not go away, ever. Nor do we, in and of ourselves, grow stronger in our ability to resist it. We may grow more accomplished at seeking and finding God’s help and we may grow more faithful in that. In fact, we must. But at any moment, no matter how far advanced we might become in spiritual things, if we step away from dependence upon Him and assume that the victories we have been seeing are from our own strength, we will become as vulnerable as Samson was when Delilah had cut off his hair.
20 And she said, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he wist not that the LORD was departed from him. KJV
Unfortunately, failure is the only teacher which will convince us that we are not mighty in ourselves. Let us pray that our failures do not do irreversible damage before we learn the hard lessons of leaning on God daily for help from our temptations.
Dangers from the devil.
The devil is a destroyer, an evil monster that cares for nothing, respects nothing and has no mercy upon his prey. Peter compared him to a ‘roaring lion’ seeking someone to devour. And Peter was convinced that the saints of God are not immune from him because he warned his readers to be on guard, be watchful, be careful because of him.
We see in the poor Gadarene maniac the manifestation of what Satan would do to any life if he had free rein.
1 And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes.
2 And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit,
3 Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains:
4 Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him.
5 And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. KJV
This man, for sure, is an extreme case. For whatever reason the devil does not ruin ever life in the same way that he had ruined this man up to this moment of encounter with Christ. But the desire is always with him to destroy.
If we understand the issue clearly, the devil is not allowed access to believers on the same level that he is given permission in the lives of unbelievers. This does not mean that he has no access at all. Otherwise, the lesson in the Model Prayer is nonsensical. When Jesus said, “deliver us from evil,” He really said “deliver us from the evil one.”
He taught us to seek God’s deliverance from the work of Satan in our lives. And He did so because it is a real issue and because there is a real possibility of the devil working his destruction in our lives if we do not diligently seek protection from the Lord’s hand.
One of the great advantages the devil has is that he is invisible to our eyes.
Therefore, we often attribute things that he does to other causes.
He works to deceive people concerning the truths of God’s word.
………..to deceive them concerning sin, repentance, and their own responsibilities.
………..to deceive them concerning the gospel and what it means to be right with God.
He works to undo the faith of believing people.
He is called ‘the accuser of the brethren’ because he continually brings accusations of sin to the minds of saints to confuse and confound them concerning whether they have been forgiven or not.
He undertakes to bring them into bondage to fear and guilt by continually trying to deny them the sense of comfort and forgiveness before God.
In doing so, he seeks to undermine their confidence in the Finished Work of Jesus Christ as their One and Only Sufficient Hope of forgiveness.
And, then, he tells us that the cause of these thoughts is our own weak faith and stupidity, hiding the fact that he is working to destroy faith in us.
He works to create chaos, confusion, destruction and misery in the lives of God’s people.
He will often use other people, who are sometimes acting ignorantly of his promptings, to introduce conflict and trouble into our lives.
He tempts us then to become sinfully angry at the tools that he uses and, so, gets a double benefit himself. He has used someone to do evil and then he has provoked us to sin against God because of it.
He is also able to bring to bear forces from outside our immediate environment, political powers and such, to torment the church.
10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. KJV
And, of course, he also works to so configure circumstances around us to provoke and tempt us concerning our particular weaknesses and tendencies to sin.
Given that we have such an enemy and such a work going on against us, it is absolutely urgent that we daily seek the face of God in a diligent way to be delivered from the work of our enemy.
The Remedy for our problem can only come from God.
Christ, in His Work on the Cross, dealt a death blow to our carnal nature so that it does not have any power at all except what we give it.
We have looked many times at Rom 6 and what it teaches us about our union with Christ and the impact that His Work on the Cross has on us in practical terms. Our old man is dead and we ourselves are raised to walk in newness of life. Our sinful nature has been rendered powerless and we have been given the power and energy to live within the realm of the Spirit.
But the results of that are not automatic nor does any Christian start his believing life understanding the principles involved. The Word of God must be learned and then the principles deliberately and consciously applied, looking to God to make them effective in our persons.
11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
Daily prayer, intense seeking, diligence and faithfulness in them both is required as well as many stumbles and recoveries. But the help is there for the asking.
He has also delivered us out of the Kingdom of Darkness so that the devil has no power to enslave us to sin unless we yield ourselves over to Him.
9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
11 Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;
12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:
13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: KJV
We have been delivered from the power of darkness. And, as we said already, the only power Satan has over our personal and internal lives is that which we given him.
Therefore, we need the daily help of God to revoke all permissions we have ever given, avoid giving any new ones, and live free of the devils accusations, lies and temptations.
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