Summary: Temptation is nothing more than a test of what we love more
Title: Conception of Evil
Text: “Lead us not into Temptation, but deliver us from Evil” + Jas 1:13-15 & 4:4-8
FCF: The only way to resist temptation is dwell on how much better is the love of Christ.
A wise friend of mine put it best. “Jesus promised to deliver us from our enemies. He never promised to deliver us from our friends.” As we begin to round out our series on the Lord’s Prayer, we have come to consider the line “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” If you hear nothing else I say this morning, hold on to that – Jesus never promises to deliver us from our friends.
You’ll remember last week we focused on the relationship of leading and being led. Before we can even begin to think about whether we will choose to give into temptation or resist it, there is a first question – will we choose to follow or go our own way? As we have throughout the Lord’s Prayer, we’ve seen that every phrase Jesus spoke dealt with a relationship.
Even in temptation, I want to suggest to you this morning that we have something to learn about that vital relationship which is the only means by which we’ll overcome temptation. My plan is fairly simple this morning. In examining temptation, I want to divide it into three parts:
1. A Mechanism
2. A Motivation
3. A Plan for Mitigation
I should begin by telling that the word Jesus uses is πειρασμόν, which can be translated as temptation, trial, or testing. You’ll notice that the word temptation or trial or test doesn’t have anything to do with sin directly.
Usually, when I think about temptation, I have a tendency to focus on that struggle that I have to … . I’m sure you can fill in the blank. When the good looking woman walks down the street, that can be a temptation. When the bag of Doritos beckons, that’s a temptation. Even the choice of whether to be with my church or else to stay in my nice warm bed – that’s a temptation. Anything that plays on my desires, leading me to do that which I would not do, or not doing that which I know I should be doing – that’s a temptation.
But in exegeting that word, you can see why I’m able to say with confidence that temptation itself is not a sin. We know that Jesus himself was tempted in the desert, and yet, he was without sin. He just knew how to pass a test. If you focus on the understanding of temptation as a trial or a test, I think it becomes clear.
Taking the SATs, by itself, doesn’t make you smart or stupid. All the SATs do is gauge where you are academically. As just about anyone who takes them will tell you, they aren’t even measures of knowledge, just a test of how well you can take a test. Temptation is the same thing. It doesn’t make you good or bad, it just gauges where you are in your relationship with Jesus.
Now, you can turn the SATs into a learning experience. If you take the prep classes, they’ll teach you how to focus on the important things in a test. They give you strategies for dealing with the stress. They test you so much that you learn just to take it normally.
As we are tested in temptation, we learn to respond. As we grow even in the pressure cooker of these desires, we learn to choose what things we value most, and what can fall away. As Christians, we can see temptation in the same light. It may be a pop quiz, but as we struggle with our desires, we prepare and grow through that test.
Now, if you want a πειρασμόν prep class, the guy to go to is James. A few weeks ago, we heard him tell us that we should consider it all joy when we face this trial, because we know that in doing so, we’ll be mature and complete - perfect. What I didn’t tell you was how the mechanism of πειρασμόν works. Listen to what we says –
But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured away and enticed by it;
The mechanism of a temptation is so simple. Something is dangled out in front of you. The test is, what is it going to do? It’s pass / fail. What do you choose? What is your final answer? Deal or No Deal? I hope that when you are tempted to do the right thing, you’ll let that desire lure away.
Have you ever caught yourself saying, “I’m tempted to get this gift for that kid at Seven Loaves, but….” Give in to that temptation! Your God-implanted desires are attempting to draw you towards maturity and completion. That’s a great test to find yourself taking.