Summary: This sermon is about conquering our temptations to achieve a stronger relationship with God.
Matthew 6:13 “And Lead Us Not Into Temptation but Deliver Us From Evil.”
By Reverend A. LaMar Torrence, Pastor of Cross of Life Lutheran Church.
"Do not lead us into temptation...." For almost 2000 years Christians have prayed that phrase in the Lord’s Prayer. Unless you are new to Christianity, you have prayed for deliverance from temptation many times…Temptations...To sneak a chocolate sundae when you are dieting or fasting. To "hedge" a few line items on a tax return. To sleep with someone you know you are not supposed to. To gossip about another’s life--especially his or her problems. To engage in the telling of so called innocent "white lies." To take to drinking or drugging or eating when you know these habits can dominate your life and lead to grave consequences. To make a racial or ethnic or sexist comment. To claim busyness when family or loved ones need you. To sell out your personal values to meet the expectations of the "system." To hide behind "spirituality" as a way of avoiding earthly responsibilities. (list by H. K. Oehmig) What particular personal temptations would you pick out of this list...? Or perhaps add to the list? The possibilities are endless.
In order for us to begin to pray our deliverance from temptations, we need understand the biblical purposes of temptation.
First what is temptation? Contemporary society tends to think of temptation as seduction or a negative experience. However, the biblical saints viewed the term as ‘putting a person to the test”. Temptation was viewed as a form of boot camp to either show a person’s strengths or to expose his weakness. To go through temptation was to have the opportunity of becoming a stronger saint or to sink deeper in sin. Those who conquer temptation got closer to heaven while those that fail straddled the pits of hell. Temptation was to serve a positive purpose. It was to serve as a thermometer of one’s faith. By going through trials and being tested one’s inner core and limitations were established and understood.
Secondly, because we are caught between a cosmic warfare over the destiny of humanity’s souls, there is a difference in terminology used in the process of temptation dependent upon its source. God himself does not tempt us. He may test us but he does not tempt us. Satan or evil does the tempting. That’s why we call him the tempter or the accuser. When God tests us its for the purpose of toning our character, shaping our faith, refining our integrity, so that we can walk more closely with him and be more like him. When we are tempted either by our own internal desires or external lusts it is for our downfall.
God tested Abraham first when he told Abraham to cast his first born out into desert and secondly when he told him to offer his younger promised son as a sacrifice to him. His test was designed to disclose his faith in God’s provisional care. Because he passed both tests, he became a friend of God. He could name God – Jehovah Jireh, a God who provides. God began to disclose the secrets of his salvation plan to this mortal man.
God had offered Job to be tested by the evil one. Satan accused Job of only worshipping God because God had built and hedge around him. Job had houses, lands, good health, and prosperity. Surely if all was taken and destroyed, Job would curse God and die. God told Satan that he could destroy virtually everything in Job’s life but he could not take his life. And yet, job proved to be faithful on all counts. And Job gained insight into his own character. He learned that he didn’t have all the answers to God’s actions.
The Holy Spirit had driven Jesus in to the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. Three times Satan approached Jesus with the desire of spectacular Messiahship. And yet, Jesus who was himself tested on all points triumphed and then began to preach the gospel of the kingdom of God. In all those cases, temptation was to elevated humanity to sainthood. Brother James tells us, blessed is the man who endures trial for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
And yet, we all know that everyone tested and tried did not successfully conquer temptations. Their temptations turned into sin and led them to destruction. Adam surrendered to the temptation to become more like God. An entire generation of Hebrews, except two, perished in the wilderness because they failed to depend and trust in God. King David yielded to his lustful passions to lie and killed for Bathsheba; as a result his entire household was cursed with the spirit of violence and lust because of his decision. Peter denied Christ. Thomas doubted him. Judas betrayed him.