Lead Us Not Into Temptation
by Bob Burridge ©2012
Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 106a
(watch the video)
From the way advertisers promote things you would think that temptation is not such a bad thing. You would wonder why Jesus told us to pray not to be led into it.
They put the word “Temptation” in the name of colognes, popular perfumes, singing groups, and songs. The Temptation restaurant at the Atlantis Casino on St. Maarten in the Caribbean advertises itself as “sophisticated, elegant, romantic: awaken your senses.” Temptation was also a popular game show in Australia where contestants are tempted by trips to Hawaii, Jewelry, cars and other expensive luxuries. Temptation Island was a reality TV show where couples tempt one another on purpose to see how strong or weak the already immoral relationships are.
We live on the battle field of an often ignored spiritual cosmic war. We should expect the coordinator of the war against God’s ways to do exactly what we see happening. An open attack would be too obvious. It would be seen for what it is. So he trivializes or even glorifies things that openly offend and dishonor God. He makes them seem unimportant, sometimes even appealing. The tragic thing is that even Christians become desensitized to sin and excuse it as normal and accepted behavior.
Jesus explained that this is not the way God’s creation ought to be. In Matthew 6:13 he taught us to pray,
“And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.”
We will deal with the second part of this sixth petition in the next lesson.
The answer to Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 106 is, “In the sixth petition (of the Lord’s Prayer), which is, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, we pray that God would either keep us from being tempted to sin, or support and deliver us when we are tempted.”
Jesus had just told us to pray that God would forgive us of our sins. So this next request follows very logically. If you are sincere about wanting to be forgiven for your sins, then you should also want to be delivered from actually sinning again. If it was possible, you would be happy and willing to have your opportunities for sinning taken away.
First we need to rule out
what we are not asking God to do.
The original word for “temptation” in this verse is peirasmon (πειρασμον). The root idea is simply “to test”, or “to prove something by testing”. We give tests to see how well something has been learned or done. We give math tests to see how well students have learned some particular concept, and how effectively they can put it to use in practical situations. It is not given with any wicked desire to make a student fail. It is simply a test. We test stress points on buildings and bridges to see if they can hold up safely. Sometimes it exposes a weak point that needs to be fixed.
Often the testing is about something moral. In our fallen estate the occasion offering the opportunity to sin becomes an inward desire which pulls us to do something God forbids, or to neglect something he commands.
Testing itself does not have an evil element. This same word was used in Luke 4 to describe how Jesus was “tempted” by the Devil in the wilderness. While he was asked to do something evil, he was certainly not enticed inwardly to do evil. It was a “test” to demonstrate the authority of our Savior, and to be an example to us of how we should deal with moral tests as they come along.
Jesus is not telling you to pray that you would never be tested. Testing is a good and necessary thing in this earthly part of your life. It can prove how much you trust God. It can improve your patience and faithfulness. It can also expose areas of weakness that humble you and make you work harder to improve by the power of the risen Christ. James 1:3 says, “knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”
In Genesis 22 the Lord tested Abraham asking him to sacrifice Isaac. The test was to designed prove his faith, not to make him sin. These tests are good for you. They can show you how strong the Lord is in your life, or where your weaknesses are. They make you call upon him for strength. They can also humble you and drive you to come to him for forgiveness and deliverance.
The word translated “lead” in most of our translations is a form of the Greek word eisphero (εἰσφέρω). It is a compound word where the prefix for “in/into” is attached to the ordinary word “to carry”. The word is used in the New Testament for bearing someone disabled on a stretcher (Luke 5:18,19), of bringing things into a situation (1 Timothy 6:7, Acts 17:20, Hebrews 13:11), and of being led into a location (Luke 12:11).
You should not ask to be exempted from all situations that test you. However, you do not want to be enticed to the point where you actually fall into sin. We should pray that we will not be taken in by the moral tests. We ask for God’s power that we will not be carried by situations into where we fail to honor God by our thoughts, words, or deeds.
God might put you in situations that test you, but the desire to respond in a sinful way comes from your own heart. James 1:13-14 says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.”
James uses the same Greek root word as in Matthew 6:13. God certainly tests you at times, but he never causes you to be enticed to sin. He might send calamities, or permit Satan to test you (he did that with Job, Jesus and others), but God never causes you to sin.
He may bring tests to show an unbeliever his need for Christ. He might test a believer to show where he needs to depend more upon Christ, or to help him see where God has already strengthened him by grace. When a person gives in and sins, it is always his own fault, not God’s. Our evil desires do not come from Satan. He might urge you on, but if you do wrong, you cannot say “the devil made me do it.” It is your own fallen desires that entice you to sin.
Every moral choice is a test. It is an opportunity either to sin, or to do what is right. When God brings them, the tests are no more motivated to make you sin than a math test is motivated to make you fail. When those tests come along, you can only give one of two answers: either, “No, I will not give in to evil,” or, “Ok, I’ll give in and do the thing God forbids.” In every choice that comes along you either prevail or fail.
God tests his children for many reasons, but it is always to strengthen them. David was given opportunity to sin with Bathsheba and to kill her husband Uriah (2 Samuel 11). He failed horribly, and he grieved deeply for his choices. He bore pain that tormented him the rest of his life. There were, however, good results as we read in Psalm 52. David repented. He better understood his own unworthiness and the awesome grace of God. He learned to walk more closely with God.
Peter was tested three times about his readiness to stand for Jesus. He tragically denied the Savior each time that night his Lord was betrayed and arrested (Luke 22). Though he failed, there were good results. He was humbled to repentance and taught to depend more upon Christ as we see in his life after the resurrection of Jesus.
Our prayer then is this, “Lord, though you may test me, do not let me fall into the grip of temptation so that I sin. If I fall, forgive me by your grace, and deliver me from doing it again.”
All the natural human desires which God created in us
can be satisfied in morally good ways.
When you get hungry or thirsty, you have the sense of taste to enjoy satisfying those needs in moderate ways. If you eat foolishly or drink irresponsibly you give in to dangerous temptations. The consequences bring tragic results to your health.
You need friends to satisfy your need for companionship. It is not wise to surround yourself with people who have values that tempt you to do wrong things. Of course you need to be with unbelievers to influence them for Christ. To them, and to poorly taught believers, you need to be light and salt as Jesus taught us. However, that should not be where you look for your encouragement and regular fellowship. God calls you to take advantage of your times together with like-minded believers. Friends can either build you up or bring you down. Proverbs 13:20 says, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed.” You need to be a friend for other believers, and make positive friendships for yourself.
The world has become very open about wrong ways to satisfy sexual desires. God made men and women to be attractive to one another so they would enjoyably build families and have children. When sexual desires are sought to be satisfied outside of marriage, the imagery God intended by it is confused and distorted. The family was designed by our Creator to teach us about his relationship with his church. It is no wonder that as marriage is trivialized we also see a decline in churches. There can be no real satisfaction to the whole person in the confusion of immoral sexual relationships. God provides for what we really need in that area of our lives. It is found only in marriage as he defines it in his word.
Natural desires themselves are not wicked. It is the wrong ways of trying to satisfy them that are evil. Wrong remedies for our desires are no real remedies at all. They only make people less content, and alienate them from God’s ways which alone give true pleasure. What is even worse is that these things offend God. They are truly evil because God forbids them.
When we ask not to be led into temptation, we should not be expecting that God would take away our normal and good desires, but that he will strengthen us to resist trying to satisfy them in wrong ways.
As we would expect, God’s enemies urge
deceptive ways of dealing with temptation.
One strategy of evil is to tangle us up in ways bound to fail. Our fallen nature is very willing to be taken in by remedies that appear to remove the problem. In reality they do nothing to help us avoid being carried off into sin.
Some try to resist temptation by turning against their natural desires. These ascetics make the mistake of thinking that by avoiding all pleasure they can avoid sin. The writings of the monks in the monasteries show that though they denied themselves pleasures, temptation followed them into their cubicles, into their retreats, and into the deepest thoughts of their hearts.
It is not necessary to retreat into a monastery to be an ascetic. Some make lists of common pleasures from which they choose to abstain in their quest of a more pure life. They might even consider the things on their list to be sin. They retreat from the culture in which God calls them to minister. They create isolated sub-cultures hiding their light under a basket when it ought to be on a lampstand shining God’s truth out to the lost world. Such people live with a crippling fear that they might enjoy something.
Wrongly satisfying our normal urges come from our fallen souls. It does not come from our natural needs themselves, or from the good things God made. Avoiding enjoyment will not keep you from lusting or coveting. Denying basic human desires denies what God made humans to be.
Avoiding the pleasures of God’s creation is no answer. There is no victory when the armies run from the battle. That is only giving in to another kind of temptation, the kind that is quick to condemn everyone else, and lay blame upon innocent things God has made. It excuses the person for neglecting his duties as God’s representative on earth.
We are to bring the Gospel of Redemption in Christ to those around us while we enjoy and work to subdue the earth and its inhabitants for God’s glory. Psalm 24:1 tells us, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein.”
The other extreme, quite the opposite of the ascetic, finds ways to embrace things God calls sin. Evil can brilliantly use of the minds God created in us to come up with irrational alternatives to the obvious.
Some openly reject God’s moral commandments respectfully dismissing them imagining that they no longer apply. Placing an expiration date on eternal moral principles is the strange logic used in many churches today. It appeals to the immature Christian if you tell him he doesn’t need to worry about obedience since he is “saved,” and that he can safely ignore what God revealed about himself before the time of Jesus Christ.
Some try to down-play the seriousness of sin. Like the serpent in Eden, they offer lies like, “God is all loving. He understands how hard it is for us, so he is not very upset about our sins.” Or they say, “God will not judge us just for trying to satisfy our natural desires, even if we do not always satisfy them in exactly the right way.” They reason that, “Everybody sins, certainly our common sins cannot make us as evil as real criminals.”
That is exactly the opposite of what God tells us in his word. Any sin demands an infinitely horrible price. It was so serious that Jesus had to die and to suffer that infinite disgrace to redeem us. Jesus wept when he saw the unfaithful hearts of those who said they were God’s people.
Then there are the open Hedonists who meet temptation with open arms. They indulge themselves with things God forbids and neglect what he commands. Usually these do not join with Bible believing churches so their threat is more to society than to believers.
This is the subtlety and deception of sin. It draws people either to despise the way God gave us to satisfy our needs the right way, or to despise God’s revealed ways so that sin can be freely embraced. Neither those who abstain from good things, nor those who indulge in forbidden things are ever truly satisfied.
There is a far better way.
Bible is filled with God’s help about
how you should deal with temptation.
Ephesians 6:14-18 tells about our spiritual armor in the battle against the enemies of God. It says, “Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”
Before you can expect to overcome temptation, you need to be enabled by regeneration. The unredeemed only frustrate themselves because they cannot be victorious on their own.
To protect against the attacks of evil you need to have on that breastplate of righteousness. That is the righteousness Jesus earned for you by dying in your place. His work provides the helmet of salvation that protects your head, that vital part of your body, against attacks. If your sins are forgiven in Christ, there is no barrier between you and God’s care. The power to battle temptation rises to a new level in you.
Your weaponry in the battle against temptation is God’s word. The soldier’s belt holds his tunic in place, and holds the sheath for his sword. In our battle against temptation, that belt, the anchoring point, is God’s revealed truth. Truth is given to us in the Bible, the sword of the Spirit.
Jesus constantly quoted the Bible in his temptation in the wilderness. In Matthew 4:4 he did not allow Satan’s lie to stand. He corrected him from the Scriptures. He said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ”
Jesus was quoting from Moses in Deuteronomy 8:3. The manna God sent for Israel in the wilderness was not what really sustained them. It was God’s faithfulness to provide what they truly needed. He gave them his word of promise, his Covenant. His power is what made the manna fall. God promised and provided all they needed.
The Bible is a powerful weapon against evil and temptation. It teaches the right ways to satisfy our natural needs, the ways God designed, the ways that really work. Living outside the boundaries of what God approves will only stir up less satisfaction. We need to draw that sword of the Spirit and battle off temptation with the weapon of real truth. Psalm 119:11 says, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.”
God’s word does more than just inform us about sin. It is a living word that actually keeps us from falling into sin. It is there to protect us from the enemy’s weapons that tempt us. We need to deploy the shield of faith, trust in the revealed words of God. Temptation can only be battled successfully by the power of the Holy Spirit. By trusting in that power we have a power that no worldly counselor can offer as help in guiding us to overcome what tempts us. In Matthew 26:41 Jesus said, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Call upon the Creator Himself for strength and guidance. This is why the last spiritual weapon in Ephesians 6 is prayer. Psalm 139 is a good model prayer to offer sincerely as each day begins. It says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.”
When temptation comes along, we need to draw alongside the cross. Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world. When he ministers to us by his Spirit, his living word takes on all enemies and defeats them.
When Ephesians 6 tells the spiritual soldier to sandal his feet with the gospel of peace, it means to be ready to go to others to represent God’s ways to them too. Together we can battle against temptation by practicing and promoting God’s ways.
Therefore, when you pray, “lead us not into temptation”, remember what 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)