Lead Us Not Into Temptation

Ken Jones
Tuesday, August 28th 2007
Jul/Aug 1993

In order to get a proper understanding of this or any of the petitions contained in "Lord's Prayer" it is necessary to understand the context in which Jesus is offering these prayer instructions. From the very outset of his instruction Jesus uses the medium of contrast in outlining our relationships with God. Therefore, we see the image of a holy, sovereign and sufficient father, contrasted with sinful, dependent children. Each petition can be understood through this contrast.

With that in mind let's consider "And Lead Us Not Into Temptation." As a child I somehow thought this was a reminder for God to lead me in those green pastures instead of pathways of testing and temptations. However, when viewed through the medium of contrast it becomes clear that the temptations are within me and deliverance from temptation is in the word and way of God.

The Apostle James reminds us "When tempted no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed," (James 1:13-14). So within this petition we see a recognition of the fact that, as humans, temptation is a very real problem. But it is also important to remember that temptation is not a sin within itself as James points out in verse 1:15, that it can lead to sin. This is why divine leadership is seen here as a prayer request not because temptation is a sin, but because it can be a step on the way to sin. So what Jesus is making clear with this petition is the contrast between man following his own mind which leads to temptation and being led by God, which leads away from temptation. In the framework of contrast we are able to see therefore our dependence on God for guidance. Remember the words of Solomon "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death" (Prov. 14:12).

There is one other thing to be noted about temptation. We are only tempted by that which is pleasing to us or at least seems expedient at the moment. Temptation within the context of scripture is seen as an urge to satisfy a practical need such as Satan's tempting of Christ with the stones that he (Christ) could easily turn into bread (Matt. 4:3). The same elements are present with Esau in Genesis 25: he is hungry as Jesus was in Matthew 4. Food is a legitimate human need but when it is set against spiritual responsibility or an opportunity to exercise trust in God it becomes temptation. As Jonathon Edwards stated in his On Religious Affections, "Christ and other things are set before us together, for us particularly to cleave to one and forsake the other." The other side of temptation that Jesus presents is that of desires born of our sinful natures, pitting the pleasing of self against pleasing God. In either case, we are only tempted by that which satisfies either a legitimate need such as food, or an exaggerated pleasure.

This brings to mind the temptation that Adam and Eve underwent in the garden of Eden. Satan, you will remember, tempted our first parents to disobey God, reminding them that the fruit was "good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable to make one wise." The way this product was marketed sounds as if it would sell like hotcakes even in our own day. The problem, however, is the fact that God commanded them not to eat the fruit of this particular tree. The violation of this divine command has been the source of many evils. We too, violate God's law in many ways when we give in to temptation, thinking of ourselves before God, and our neighbors.

Jesus, however, when he was tempted in the desert by the devil, did not think of his own desires of hunger and relief, but rather, thought about God and his neighbors. He said no to immediate gratification, and honored the commands of God, and he also was thinking of us, those he came to save. For if Jesus would have given in to the devil, he would have failed to be our pure, righteous, and obedient substitute. This same Jesus, who persevered through his temptations, now calls us to do the same, not to earn salvation, but because he earned salvation for us, and now he is calling us to be his people.

Therefore we stand in perpetual need of Divine guidance so that our needs and desires are kept in proper perspective. Remember what the writer of Hebrews says about Jesus, "For we have not a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are; yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15). Temptation, when engulfed, ultimately leads away from God, so we need to be led in his word that we may understand that our needs are not worthy to be compared to the pleasures of his grace. It is only by the hand of our heavenly father and through his guidance and care that the folly of our own imaginations which promote self-glory instead of his glory, is exposed. This is what prompts Paul to say, "Casting down imaginations; and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5).

Temptation is not always moral but it is always spiritual. Therefore, at times we are tempted to complain about our circumstances rather than realize that "all things do work together for our good." We can be tempted to trust our own understanding of things rather than trust the word of God. Temptations are manifold but deliverance from them comes only from God.

"O, God our father, lead us into the riches of the knowledge of thy Word and the beauty of the Word and the beauty of thy ways, and away from the vanity of our own thoughts that would tempt us away from thy glory."

Tuesday, August 28th 2007

“Modern Reformation has championed confessional Reformation theology in an anti-confessional and anti-theological age.”

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