Summary: Ninth in a series on the Lord's Prayer
1 Lead Us Not Into Temptation
Here are 3 stories to start us off today:
One time a young man went to confession. And he began, “Bless me Father for I have sinned...Father, I’ve had bad thoughts...”
Well the priest said, “Did you entertain them, son?”
And the young man said: “No, sir... but they sure entertained me!”
A mother told her son not to go swimming. She didn’t want him going into the pond. But, when he came into the house his mother noticed that his hair and bathing suit were wet. "Hey," his mother scolded, "I thought I told you not to go swimming."
"I couldn’t help it mom," he said. "The water looked so good."
His mom said, "But why did you take your bathing suit with you?"
He said, "Just in case I was tempted."
A couple was out shopping at the mall and a very good looking young woman in a short, form-fitting dress strolled by. And naturally, the man’s eyes followed her. Without looking up from the item his wife was looking at, his wife said, "Well was it worth the trouble you’re in?"
Temptation. It’s something everybody wrestles with and it’s a subject Jesus includes in his model prayer. One theme running through Scripture is the fact that humans are prone to give in to temptation, and the lengths that God goes to, to save us from it’s tragic consequences.
Temptation started a long time ago. It began with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. God said you can eat anything but, there’s only one rule: don’t eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
So one day the snake approaches them and says, “Are you sure that’s what God meant? Did he really say you couldn’t eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil? Did he really mean that? And you won’t die if you eat at that fruit. Look at how beautiful it is and think about how wonderful it must taste. And you know, when you eat it, you’ll be like God!”
So, they ate it and they fell from God’s good graces. And we’ve been struggling with temptation ever since. Their story is our story too.
Have you ever noticed that when we give in to temptation, it’s really easy to offer excuses why it happens: "It’s my boss’ fault"..."I just couldn’t help it"..."Everybody is doing it"..."Nobody’s perfect"..."I didn’t know it was wrong"..."I was pressured into it"..."I didn’t have any other choice...” “That’s just the way I’m made…” “She drives me to drink.”
2 Paul says to the Corinthians, "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything" (1 Corinthians 6:12).
You know, the devil may tempt us, but we get to decide whether to yield to it or not. The sin isn’t in the temptation. Temptation is neutral. There’s good temptations and there’s bad temptations. The sin is when we give in to something that we really shouldn’t. So our sin, really, is no one’s fault but ours. We are responsible for our actions.
We have two voices in our ears: one is the voice of good that invites us to live in his love and pursue his will.
And the other voice is evil, and it accuses and tempts us to do the opposite of what God says. His aim is to derail us and disrupt our relationships and destroy our souls. It’s called the battlefield of the mind where we hear those two voices every day. And we have choices to make.
“Lead us not into temptation.” It may be the most confusing part of the Lord’s Prayer because it sounds like the Lord might do just that. So why would we plead for God not to lead us into temptation when we know he would never do that?
After all, James 1:13 says, “When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.” So if God doesn’t tempt us, then why do we need to pray, “Lead us not into temptation?”
3 Well, normally we see the passage like this: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” 4 What happens if we move the comma and put it here: “Lead us, not into temptation,” which is saying, “Lord, let me listen to your voice, and lead me in a way so that I won’t head towards temptation because I have this natural tendency to do just that.”
Maybe the best way I’ve heard this explained is from Max Lucado. He writes in his book, The Great House of God, “Imagine a father and son walking down an icy street. The father cautions the boy to be careful, but the boy is too excited to slow down. He hits the first patch of ice. Up go the feet and down plops the bottom. Dad comes along and helps him to his feet. The boy apologizes for disregarding the warning and then, tightly holding his father’s big hand, he asks, ‘Keep me from the slippery spots. Don’t let me fall again.’