Summary: sermon focusing on Lead Us Not Into Temptation
Lead Us Not Into Temptation
A boy was in confession: Bless me Father for I have sinned... Father, I had bad thoughts... PRIEST : Did you entertain them? BOY : No Father... but they entertained me!
A mother told her son not to go swimming. However, when he came into the house his mother noticed that his hair and bathing suit were wet. "Johnnie," his mother scolded, "I told you not to go swimming." "I couldn’t help it mom," he defended himself. "The water looked so good." "But why did you take your bathing suit with you?" "In case I was tempted."
A man and his wife were shopping at a mall and a shapely young woman in a short, form-fitting dress strolled by. The man’s eyes followed her. Without looking up from the item she was examining, his wife asked, "Was it worth the trouble you’re in?"
Temptation. It’s something each of us wrestles with and what Jesus asks us to pray about in the Lord’s Prayer. One theme of Scripture is that the human story could be summarized as the story of human temptation, how we often succumb to temptation and God’s efforts to save us from the tragic consequences of temptation. The story begins with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. God says you can eat anything in this Garden I have created and given it to you, there’s only one rule: don’t eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. So one day the snake begins to say, 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 surely 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 so after mulling over the beauty of the fruit until one day they took that fruit and ate of it. Now you now that the power of that story is that it is our story. It is the story of our life from the earliest time we can understand. We have two voices in our ears: one is the voice of God who calls and beckons us to live in his love and pursue his will and the other voice of self says, That’s not right. It doesn’t really matter what you do, especially if it doesn’t hurt anybody else. You want it. You deserve it. You’ve earned it.” Now you know this. We hear these two voices every day and in every situation we face. And the question is: “Which voice will you listen to?”
Today’s phrase may be the most perplexing part of the Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation.” When we pray these words, it sounds like the Lord might do just that. Why would we pray for God not to lead us into temptation when we know he would never do that? And yet James, at least part of his Epistle, writes in response to this misunderstanding in the Lord’s Prayer. “When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.” If God doesn’t tempt us then why do we need to pray, “Lead us not into temptation”? Some people have tried to solve this dilemma by saying this should refer to a time of trial and testing. So the NRSV says, “Do not bring us to the time of trial.” But then why do we need to pray for God not bring us to the time of trial? If God wants to do that, shouldn’t that be OK with us? Let’s answer this dilemma with a question. What happens when you move the comma? Normally we see the passage like this: “Lead us not into temptation, comma but deliver us from evil.” What happens if we move the comma and put it here: Lead us, comma not into temptation” which says, Lord, let me listen to your voice, lead me in a way so that I won’t go into temptation because I have a natural tendency to do just that.” Not that God is leading us into temptation but we’re pretty good at leading ourselves into temptation.
First, we are to pray about leadership. This part of the Lord’s Prayer is about: “Who is going to lead you in your life?” Lead us. God throughout the Scriptures is continually trying to lead his people. He tries to lead the Israelites in the wilderness by a column of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night. God gives them the law and the 10 Commandments and says, “If you listen to my commands and obey them, I will bless you.” God tries to lead Israel as a young nation but in the face of mounting threats from the surrounding Gentile nations, the Israelites cry out for their own king like the Gentiles. When they people do stray from God’s law, God sends prophets when the people have strayed to call them back to the law and God’s will, “No it’s this way. Follow this voice.” The psalmist says, “He leadeth me beside still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Psalm 23:2-3 In the New Testament, Jesus defines what it means to be a disciple as those who are followers of His: “If any would be my disciple, they must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me.” Luke 9:23 “I am the Good Shepherd, I know my sheep and my sheep follow me…” John 10:14 So to be a Christian is to be a follower of Christ and that means to be led by him. That‘s what it means to follow Jesus and call him Lord. And so each day, we need to pray, “Lead me Lord, Help me to hear your voice and to choose to do your will.” This is in part what it means to be a Christian.