Temptation. 19th century poet Oscar Wilde cleverly said once, “Don’t tempt me, I can resist anything but temptation.” Matthew 6:13 says, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” Here in Matthew 6: 9-13 we see how Jesus is giving His followers a model for prayer. He is revealing the attitudes and desires that should shape our conversations with God. We see the prayers which are moved from adoration of God as our Father, to submission to God as our King, to competence God as our Provider and confession to God as our Redeemer and finally we read the verse, “Lead us not in temptation but deliver us from evil.” His words are filled with tension, they are filled with the tension that we feel in the world around us. Just before these words in verse 12, we claim the freedom of forgiveness when we pray, “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”. We claim the freedom that is in Christ when we receive His forgiveness by faith. God has defeated the power and penalty of sin once and for all at the cross of Jesus. But until Jesus comes again and establishes His Kingdom sin is still present in the world around us. We live in the tension of being in the world but not of the world.
How do we live in the tension of a world full of temptation? Matthew 6: 9-13 give us the full picture, “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.’” Jesus teaches us in this final phrase of the Lord’s prayer, He is teaching us to realize that Satan is still waging war. In John chapter 17 we see that Jesus is praying for us, His disciples. He prays these words, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” (verses 15,16). Jesus prays that for you and me, not that we would be taken out of the world, even though when we put our faith in Jesus we’re told in Ephesians, “we have a new citizenship.” Our citizenship is not of this world. So, when you think about where we are from, our citizenship is not here, our roots are not in this world. And Jesus prays, “don’t take them out of the world but keep them from the evil one.” This phrase which Jesus prays is the same phrase that He teaches us to pray in Matthew 6:13. Part of which Jesus is teaching us to pray is to realize that there is a battle for your soul. Satan is still raging war on you and me. We are told in 1 Peter 5:8, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” So, Jesus is teaching us to realize in our prayer life that there is a battle that is going on that is not of the flesh and blood, it is about the forces of evil that still exists in our world today. Because Jesus at the Cross defeated the power and penalty of the sin, but its presence is still here. And one day Jesus is going to come back, and He is going to wipe off the presence of sin. He is going to establish His perfect reign of justice and peace. But until that day we live in the tension of a world full of temptation.
So, we realized that Satan is still waging war and then we recognized that we cannot win the battle on our own. This is part of the heart of prayer; prayer is an expression of dependence, it’s an expression of ‘I need you’. So, these final phrases of Matthew chapter 6:13 begins with ‘lead us’, ‘we want to follow you’, ‘we need you’. In the tension of the world full of temptation we need to recognize that we cannot win the battle on our own.
James elaborates on this topic of temptation, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.” (James 1:13). The reality for us is that temptation is something that we can find on our own. In verse 14 and 15 James says, “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.” This is the progression of sin, this is the progression of temptation. The lay preacher Haddon Robinson just so eloquently rephrase this to say, “When we have the inclination to sin keep us from the opportunity, and when we have the opportunity to sin keep us from the inclination.” That’s what we pray when we pray, “Lead us not to temptation”, we are asking God to keep us from that inclination to sin and when we have that inclination then keep us from opportunity. So, we recognize that we cannot win the battle on our own.
The power to overcome sin and the power to overcome temptation only comes from the One who defeated it all. So, we realized that Satan is still waging war, we recognize that we cannot win the battle on our own and we rely on the One who overcame. We can overcome the temptation because Jesus overcame. What Jesus is teaching us when He teaches us to pray these words, “Deliver us from the evil one”, “Lead us not into temptation”? I think Jesus is teaching us that the battle of sin is not fought when we are face to face with temptation, the battle of sin is fought when are face to face with Jesus. The battle of sin is not won in the throes of temptation, but it is won in the patterns of prayer. And Jesus is teaching us that we need a dependence.
In order to overcome we need to depend on One who overcame. Don’t think that you are going to win the battle by coming face to face with temptation, you win the battle by coming face to face with Jesus. And you let His mercy and His grace give you the power to claim the freedom that we have in the forgiveness of Christ.
What Jesus is teaching us to pray when He says, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”, He is teaching us to give up the vulnerability of self-confidence and claim the power of the One who overcame. We can overcome the temptation because Jesus overcame for us, we can pray lead us from sin because He freed us from sin, we can pray deliver us from evil because He defeated the evil one, we can turn away from temptations because He carried your cross, we can live for Him because He died for us, we can say no to sin because He said Father forgive them, we can say farewell to fear because Jesus said good-bye to the grave and we can overcome because He overcame. And we can say Amen because He said it is finished. And we can pray these words together, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.