Sermon from March 4th, 2018

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“Lord, Teach Us to Pray #8: Lead Us not into Temptation”

James 1:2-15; Matthew 6:9-13

By Pastor John Bent

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Sermon Text
Good morning! Welcome! Welcome to those joining us on the radio. I’m thankful you are here to worship with us this morning! With his help you overcame the temptation to skip out and you made it!  To God be the glory!  Today we take on the most difficult petition in the Lord’s Prayer. “Lead us not into temptation.”

This is a tough one and I’ve been praying about it and studying it for several weeks now. Both Luke and Matthew record the same words just as they heard them from Jesus so we can’t chalk this petition up to a miss-translation.

So what are we praying for here? One thing we know for sure. God does not tempt anyone. That would be contrary to his nature. God does not lead us into temptation to set us up for destruction so he can wack us. Satan is the tempter, not God. James writes:

“When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” James 1:13-15

At the same time, we live in a world filled with temptation. The Lord doesn’t lead us into it, we’re already in it, we face it every day. Luther said these temptations come from the world, the devil, and our own sinful flesh.
The Bible tells that God allows these temptations to strengthen our faith and help us depend on him rather than on ourselves. Let’s go back to James. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

I have to be honest with you. I don’t get any joy out of facing temptation. It’s a real struggle. When I succeed, I’m tempted to become spiritually proud which sets me up for a fall. When I fail, I’m tempted to get discouraged and so filled with shame I want to give up.
The Bible tells us to flee temptation. Easy to say, not easy to do!  What tempts one person doesn’t tempt another. One person may walk down the aisle in the grocery store and not even notice the bottles of wine. Another can’t even go past that part of the store without breaking into a cold sweat.
Maybe your temptation is apple fitters, or candy bars. Maybe you struggle with the pictures on the magazine stand or pornography on the internet. Maybe you are so tempted by gossip that you can’t resist glomming on to the next juicy tidbit. Others are tempted to fall into criticism, negative thinking and fault finding. What temptation do you struggle with?

Jesus called us to follow him but following him doesn’t exempt us from temptation. We face it every day as long as we live in this world. The good news is that we don’t have to walk this gauntlet alone.
Remember how Jesus started this prayer with the word “Abba”, Father? When a loving parent takes their toddler down the toy aisle or the candy aisle, they often reach down and take their hand to lead them through these places of great temptation.

 I think in this petition, “Lead us not into temptation” we are confessing our weakness before our Father. We are saying, “Lord, I’m weak, I can’t handle this on my own. Please don’t lead me past them!”

I believe the Lord protects us from temptation every day. But sometimes, he takes us by the hand and leads us through these places so we become stronger and more dependent on him. David knew about temptation. In Psalm 37 he wrote.

“The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.” Ps 37:23-24  (TLB )

And in Psalm 141 “Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil so that I take part in wicked deeds along with those who are evil doers; do not let me eat of their delicacies.” Ps 141:4

The devil knows what he’s doing. He knows how to distract us. He knows where we are weak. Robert Robinson’s father died when he was a child. There were no social services in 18th century England so in order to survive, Robert’s mother, sent him to London to work as an apprentice in a factory. There Robert began hanging out with a street gang.

One morning he woke up overwhelmed with shame at the abuse he and his gang had dished out to a poor gypsy woman the night before. He realized how far he had drifted from the Lord. He was 22 years old when he wrote “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; Here's my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.”

Great evil rarely shows up spontaneously. It usually results from gradually drifting away from the Lord. One little compromise at a time, we stray away from the Lord until we find ourselves far afield and alone in our battle with temptation.

In Rev 3 Jesus confronts the church of Laodicea. “I know your deeds. You are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!  So because you are lukewarm - neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Rev 3:14-16

How do we know if we’ve been drifting away from the Lord? Here are some symptoms.

1.    We only come to God when we have a problem. We think we can handle the rest by ourselves.

2.    We are only interested in what God can do for me, not what God requires of me.

3.    We neglect God’s Word.  We don’t obey it or value it. We may even try to use God’s word to justify our sin.

4.    We become blind to our own depravity and even imagine ourselves as less sinful than others.

5.    Instead of repenting of our sin, we justify ourselves and condemn others.

6.    We have no desire to grow closer to Jesus or become more like him. We avoid God’s people.

7.    We may make a show of how religious we are, but we are hypocrites. Our faith is phony.

Drifting away from Jesus is a real temptation for us all, even if we are in church every Sunday. Unless we cling desperately to the Lord’s hand, the temptations of the world, the devil and our own sinful flesh, will draw us away from the Lord. Instead of resisting temptation, it will rule our lives. But what if we have drifted away? The truth is we have. Isaiah says, “We all like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way.” Isa 53:6

The good news is we have a shepherd who specializes in finding lost sheep. Jesus told the story of the shepherd who left the 99 sheep in the fold to go find one who had wandered away. I can testify to that, how about you?  22 year old Robert Robinson put this line in his hymn, “Jesus sought me when a stranger wandering from the fold of God.”

30 years after Robinson wrote his hymn, John Newton wrote, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost, but now am found t'was blind but now I see.”

There were Christians in Newton’s day who criticized his use of the word ‘wretch’. But Newton knew what he was talking about. When he drifted away from the Lord, that’s exactly what he became. When we let go of Jesus hand and begin to drift, we become victimized by the temptations of the world, the devil, and our own sinful flesh. We become wretched.

When 22 year old Robert Robinson looked in the mirror he was appalled at what he saw and it drove him back to the cross and the blood that was shed there for his salvation. He put in his hymn “He (Jesus), to rescue me from danger, interposed his precious blood.”

To interpose means to come between. There are two things here. Jesus as the good shepherd put himself between us and those who threaten accuse us. Luther use to say, “When Satan comes to the door, I send Jesus to answer.”  Jesus is our defender, our advocate.

He gave us his name and told us to call on him in the day of trouble and he would deliver us. But that doesn’t mean he will exempt us from the tests and trials. What it does mean is that he will hold our hand and walk with us. He won’t abandon us in the struggle.

John Newton wrote “Through many dangers, toils and snares, we have already come. T'was grace that brought us safe thus far and grace will lead us home.”

So what can we learn from this petition, “Lead us not into temptation”?

1. It’s not the Lord who tempts us. It’s the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh.

2. The most dangerous temptation we face is drifting away from the Lord, becoming lukewarm. Either we stay close to him and let him lead us like a shepherd though the valley of the shadow of death or we drift away from him and find ourselves eventually drowning in our own depravity.

3. God has given us all the resources we need to survive in our battle with temptation. But we need to use them. What are these gifts?
First, he has given us Jesus. Without him you can to nothing. With him, all things are possible. If he doesn’t reside in your heart by faith, you will be powerless against the temptations of the world, the devil, and your own sinful flesh.  If you have never invited him to move into your heart do it now.

Second, He gives us his Word. You need to be in his Word, in Bible Study, in worship, in fellowship with God’s people. Satan cannot stand against the truth and authority of the word. You need to get into it and it needs to get into you if you are to be successful in your battle with temptation.

Third, He has given us the Holy Spirit. The Bible says we need to be continually being filled with the Holy Spirit. What we pour into our lives is what will come out of our lives. Garbage in garbage out. What are you pouring into your mind and heart?  Only the Holy Spirit can keep you tight with Jesus. The Holy Spirit is God’s teacher to help you in times of need.

Fourth, Our Heavenly Father has given us blood of Jesus through which we receive daily forgiveness and cleansing of our sins. Once the Lord has forgiven us, Satan can no longer hold us hostage to the mistakes of our past.

Lead us not into temptation.  Lead us, Lord! Without you leading us, we are lost, helpless against the enemies that surround us!

Whose hand are you holding as you walk through the temptations of this world?   Let’s close by reading together what David wrote in Psalm 37. “The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.” Ps 37:23-24 (TLB)


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