Matthew 6 v 13 And lead us not into temptation,
In John’s gospel chapter 8 we are presented with an ugly scene. A poor woman is dragged half dead with shame to the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ and she was charged by a kangaroo court of local elders of a crime – she had been caught in the act of adultery. A crowd of men gathered around clamouring for her instant punishment on the basis that Moses’ law demanded that she be stoned for her crime. No mention was made of the stoning of the man involved with her, also according to the Law of Moses.
Not only was the woman on trial for her life, but also Jesus Himself was being tried for His Biblical orthodoxy. Legalistic men came to tempt the Lord.
But the Lord Jesus Christ was infinitely tender and kind to this woman. Even though He did not condone her sin, neither did he utter a harsh judgement against her. One by one her harsh accusers crept away from the scene after they had been challenged to be the first to throw a stone at her IF they themselves were without sin. After a few tense minutes they had all gone. “Where are thine accusers? Is there one left to condemn you?” seeing that there were none left He assures her that He did not condemn her either. There was pardon for this woman, forgiveness for her shameful past.
But having pronounced his forgiveness the Lord Jesus Christ does not let the woman go until He had given her a command – GO AND SIN NO MORE!
This was an illustration of the way that the Lord Jesus Christ deals with sinners – like you and me who are as guilty as this woman, yet perhaps not with her exact crime. Forgiveness, full and free forgiveness is to be had from Jesus for the asking. “And forgive us every day our debt of sin” is what we learned last week that we should ask. And the assurance comes back to us – bring your shameful, black past to Him; bring your burden of guilt and shame and you will not hear any harsh words of reproach from his lips – on the contrary you will hear tender compassion, love and mercy from the Saviour. When we tell Him of our poverty of soul, our despair because of our sinfulness and failure and declare to Him, “Lord I am in debt and I have nothing with which to pay,” – He gently reassures us that He freely forgives all this debt and that He gives to us abundant pardon.
BUT – forgiveness of the past is not all. What about the future?
A forgiven person cannot return to his or her old lifestyle and habit of sin. After forgiveness comes the struggle – the conflict with the world, the flesh and the devil. After the Lord Jesus Christ has blotted out our shameful past He now is interested in helping us to strive to keep the record of the future clean. So forgiveness is not the end – but the beginning!
The Sixth petition in the Disciple’s Prayer deals with this future. It also begins with the word AND – therefore it is something to be petitioned for every day – “Oh Lord, with each new day – lead me not into Temptation.”
In this life we are surrounded by seductions of all kinds – seductions to live our lives apart from God.
In our ambitions and our successes we are TEMPTED to get honour for our own names; tempted to build our own kingdoms; enticed to take credit for baking our own bread and providing for our own needs, alone; and we are tempted to deny our need for forgiving grace from the Lord God. The enemy of souls wants us to run away from God.
So this next petition is designed to be an antidote to all that!
The words of this petition bear close scrutiny.
LEAD IS EISPHERO literally meaning to “bring into.”
It is used in Acts 17 v 20
For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean.
And 1 Timothy 6 v 7
For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
And when the friends of the man sick of the palsy presented the Lord Jesus Christ with their friend by letting him down through the roof, the same word is used –
Luke 5 v 18 And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him. 19 And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus.
Lead is given the negative sense here – do not bring, do not lead us into – the next word
TEMPTATION. PEIRASMOS has 2 main meanings.
1. It refers to trials, with a beneficial purpose or effect, which are permitted to occur by God’s will.
2. It refers to trials that are definitely designed to lead to wrongdoing, enticements to evil.
There are numerous scriptural examples of both kinds of trials.
1. Trials divinely permitted for the benefit of the one tempted or tried.
Abraham was tempted as we read in Genesis 22 v 1
And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. 2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.
The word TEMPT here means that God instigated the trial of Abraham’s faith in order to bring out of Abraham a profession of his deep trust in the Lord God. Abraham passed the trial with flying colours –
10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. 11 And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. 12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.
In the New Testament the same truth comes out in verses such as 1 Peter 4 v 12
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial (temptation) which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
And 2 Peter 2 v 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:
So temptations are tests, trials, difficulties sent or permitted by the Lord God in order to benefit us as believers.
2. It refers to trials that are definitely designed to lead to wrong doing, enticements to evil.
The most significant example of these kinds of trials are those brought to the Lord Jesus Christ while He was fasting in the desert. The Gospel writers Matthew and Luke both have the details in the 4th chapters of both Gospels.
Matthew 4 v 1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
Luke 4 v 13 And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.
The Lord Jesus Christ was assaulted with a spiritual attack by the devil himself who attempted to entice the Lord deliberately to break the commandments.
Matthew 4 v 3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
We know that the God-man refused to be enticed answering the tempter with the word of God at each point of temptation. ‘The tempter’ here is a word from the same root PEIRADZO – it literally means “the one doing the tempting.” Paul was anxious for the Christians at Thessalonica – he wrote in 1 Thessalonians 3 v 5
For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain.
So putting the two key words together in this Petition – LEAD and TEMPTATION with their meanings – what do we have to learn today about this phrase in the Disciples’ prayer?
1. We learn that there is an apparent dilemma for the Believing Christian in this phrase – “And lead us not into temptation.”
The dilemma is this – if temptations are either trials that have a beneficial purpose or trials that lead us to do wrong – then two questions arise.
1. Can a holy, righteous perfect God possibly lead us into being tempted to sin? The answer straight away is NO. We are certain of that because of His word – he has told us in James 1 v 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:
Thomas Watson rightly says “God permits sin, but He does not promote sin.”
So another question –
2. If we pray “do not lead us into trials” then are we praying that we should be led away from something that will be for our spiritual good, something beneficial? Surely to do so would be to deny the truth of another verse in James 1 v 2
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
What are we to make of these things?
An early church father called Chrysostrom said this about this petition –
“And lead us not into temptation.” He said, “This is the most natural appeal of human weakness as it faces danger.”
By this he meant that this phrase is a cry from the Christian’s heart that despises and hates the potential of sin!
On the one hand trials are allowed to do a PERFECTING work in me, but on the other God never tempts me to do evil.
He allows me to be exposed to the world and its assaults; he permits me to be plagued by inner corruptions left over from my unconverted days; and sometimes He lets me suffer - like Job suffered – the devil’s onslaughts, although always within the limits of His sovereign direction – again as it was with Job.
My friends the Lord God in His perfect wisdom has left us in the world since we were converted. He has not transported us immediately to heaven and the joy of eternal life with Him – but we have been saved from hell, forgiven our sins and cleansed from the unrighteousness that threatened to consign us to hellish outer darkness for eternity!
There is nothing that can alter His decree that we will be with Him for ever. We cannot lose our salvation – but we are called, for a little while, to face trials and temptations while here on earth.
So – what are we praying in this sixth petition?
Oh Lord God – please lead us away from evil and lead us into the path of righteousness, knowing that to learn righteousness we may have to face trials that will stretch our faith considerably!
Oh Lord God, when temptation comes do not let us be overcome by it and sin against Thee.
1. We have to realise that there are PITFALLS in the Christian life.
You will have heard of the battle between the English and the Scots at Bannockburn. Robert Bruce, on the night before the battle, told his soldiers to dig little pits in the field each of which contained a hidden sharpened stake. The pits were covered up with green turf. In the morning when the English cavalry charged on the Scottish troops they found that the ground, which looked so firm and solid, was deceitful and treacherous. Horses and riders were tripped and injured as they fell into the pitfalls.
Sometimes life can look to us like a safe and smooth pathway. All seems well – we have life mapped out – we know where we are going.
Yet the doctrine that flows from these words of the Lord Jesus Christ in this 6th Petition,
“And lead us not into temptation”
– is that we should beware of the pitfalls that are there.
Or it could be that we imagine ourselves sailing in smooth waters – yet who knows whether there are sharp rocks beneath the sea waiting to hole the hull of our lives?
Our lives are filled with temptations. The Bible Class and Sunday School are going through Pilgrim’s Progress in their lessons. The pitfalls that Bunyan describes are these – life is a journey through very dangerous country. The path lies between a ditch on one side and a quagmire on the other. En route are the Slough of Despond in which we can get stuck and begin to sink. There is the By-Path meadow, an attractive diversion that only leads to the terrors of Doubting Castle. There are the Mount of Error, the Broad Way gate, Dead Man’s lane and Vanity Fair. To stray from the true path is always a danger – and we know those who began to travel the King’s way but sadly have now left the road.
God has not promised any of us an easy road – but He has promised to make us strong people and to give us directions. Along the way we are tried and tested – tempted by circumstances. Not one of us is exempt from it.
Incitements to sin are frequent every day of our lives. The broad way that leads to destruction invites us – it is easier than the Christian way, the narrow way. Friends and family, who do not know the Lord, seek to get us away from our narrowness. They can’t understand us. They don’t understand that our loving God, in His wisdom, is finding out what we are made of and what we will do when tested. All of us are at the sovereign disposal of our Maker. He has absolute control over all evil and good. So we acknowledge this when we pray “Lead us not into temptation.” We have to realise that we have offended God, and our wickedness is such that God would be perfectly justified if He should allow us to be completely swallowed up by sin and destroyed by Satan.
But we also recognise His tender mercy – that even though we are rebels - for His son’s sake he has forgiven our debts and allows us to plead that He will preserve us from temptations.
Let us all acknowledge our weakness. We are utterly unable to stand against temptations in our own strength – so we pray – Lord – do not let us be trapped by the tempter and build us up to be those who know how to meet and master temptation, proving that our strength is only in Thee.
Let us therefore be a little more specific.
2. When does God lead us into temptation?
When we manifest as Christians, features of our old nature, that will lead us to sin.
Take for instance SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS. We can sometimes be a little smug about our successes in overcoming certain sins, or even comparing ourselves with other believers who have fallen – when we have not fallen that way.
God will permit us to be tried in an area of our own weakness, and we find ourselves coming to Him in repentance and sorrow. Where is our self-righteousness now? The Lord knows how to deal with it.
Or let us think about SELF-CONFIDENCE. How many of us have acted like the Disciple Peter – I will never let you down Lord! Not me! These others may, but you can count on me! And so the Lord allowed Peter to go through the experience of denying Him three times in the courtyard of the Palace of the High Priest. He denied with cursing on his lips – and the Lord knew all about it. The Lord Jesus Christ did not rebuke Peter at the time – But Peter learned a lesson about self-confidence that night that he never forgot!
The Lord tries us either by His providences with the objective of testing us. Or He tries us by permitting the world, the flesh and the devil to test us.
3. Why does God lead us into temptation?
1. He tries us to reveal our weakness and our need of His grace.
King Hezekiah was a strong and wealthy King of Judah, favoured by God in so many ways. But there is a telling passage in 2 Chronicles 32 that illustrates the way that the Lord God withdrew His sustaining arm for a while.
27 And Hezekiah had exceeding much riches and honour: and he made himself treasuries for silver, and for gold, and for precious stones, and for spices, and for shields, and for all manner of pleasant jewels; 28 Storehouses also for the increase of corn, and wine, and oil; and stalls for all manner of beasts, and cotes for flocks. 29 Moreover he provided him cities, and possessions of flocks and herds in abundance: for God had given him substance very much. 30 This same Hezekiah also stopped the upper watercourse of Gihon, and brought it straight down to the west side of the city of David. And Hezekiah prospered in all his works. 31 Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to enquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.
The phrase in verse 31 –
God left him, to try him that he might know all that was in his heart.
What a thought! God left him for a while – it was a humiliating and painful experience for Hezekiah, as it is for any of us when it happens for whatever reason, to us. We need to be so careful – for God will try us if we begin to stray, simply to bring us back to Him. In that circumstance we need to pray –
Psalm 119 v 117 Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe: and I will have respect unto thy statutes continually.
2. Then the Lord tries us to teach us our need to be prayerful.
How many times have we realised that we have not prayed about a situation before going into it? How many times have we felt inadequate when speaking to someone about the Lord, and then look back and realise how we had either skimped or even skipped our devotional prayer time that day! The Lord brings tests like these to remind us of our need for a close walk with Him.
3. Or He teaches us to be more watchful.
We have to set watchmen over our eyes, over our ears and another over our mouths. We men need to take notice of Job’s words as we go out into the enticing world in which we live –
Job 31 v 1 I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?
We all need to be watchful about whom we see, whom we talk with and where we go.
Proverbs 4 v 14 Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men.
If we choose to sail close to the wind and take risks, then we can expect to be blown into real danger.
Psalm 19 v 13 Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.
My friends sometimes we trust ourselves rather more than is good for us! What we should be doing is rushing into the presence of our Lord Jesus and saying this, “Oh Lord, I will be overwhelmed unless you come to help me – let me not be led into this dangerous path of temptation!”
We are living in a fallen world with temptations that we can never resist in our own strength.
How practical this prayer is – lead us not into temptation!
4. Sometimes God tries us to wake us up!
We can get lazy as Christians and He has to call us out of slumber. We become indolent, and let our work for the Kingdom be put to one side. So He allows some trial that persists for months on end, until we get up, and seek to do something more for him – and the trial evaporates leaving us active and invigorated in His service.
So we do not pray against all temptations – because many of them are good for us. Not all temptations are evil. But we are to count it all joy when we are subjected to all kinds of trials – because they will enable us to grow as believers.
Martin Luther said, “We cannot help being exposed to the assaults, but we pray that we may not fall and perish under them.”
There was only one man in the whole of History who was able to resist temptation. This man was the Perfect man, the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we need to submit to His pattern for our praying – Bring us not into temptation to be overwhelmed by it – but bring us into trials that will do our souls good and prepare us for everlasting life, and a life of pleasing our saviour, until he releases us from these bodies of ours.
There is nothing sinful about being tempted – we only sin when we yield to the temptation.
Are we sometimes overwhelmed with our temptations? Oh how we need to memorise and thoroughly believe the truth of 1 Corinthians 10 v 13
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
What a blessing this verse has been to many struggling Christians for the past 2000 years. How precious it is. Do you feel that no one has ever suffered temptation like you have? God says you are wrong – temptation is common and every believer suffers. There is nothing unique about any kind of temptation.
God is faithful! He will not put us through trials that He knows that we, as individuals, cannot handle!
But the very trials and temptations that we face are all designed with a way of escape.
And that way of escape lies in knowing the Lord and knowing ourselves.
On the one hand we have to be confident in His ability to keep us from falling; and on the other we have a responsibility to avoid all situations that would lay us open to temptation. It will govern what we listen to, what we watch, what we read – for we are the ones who know what will be our weaknesses. We can either lead ourselves into temptation, and then be led into sin – or – we can pray for the strength and courage to be led away from those risky situations determined to stand as believers – temptation then becomes bearable! We have God’s word on it? May we all be helped in this minefield of a world with all of its pitfalls – and live to praise and magnify our dear Lord and saviour with all of our might!