Summary: Before we can even think about resisting temptation,we have to first choose if will we follow Christ.
Title: Lead Us? Not!
Text: Matthew 6:13a (Lead us not into temptation)
FCF: Being led is contrary to our natural desires, but when we choose to follow a good leader such as Christ, we end up in a place that is better than we would be naturally.
Winston Churchill is famous for two things. He was a keen observer of man, and he seemed to have a knack for pointing out those observations in subtle but hilarious ways. One of my favorite lines is: “Mankind occasionally stumbles over the truth, but he’s generally quite able to pick himself up and continue in spite of it.”
This morning, as we continue our series looking into the Lord’s Prayer, we come to the phrase “Lead us not into temptation.” I think that Mr. Churchill may have understood that the greatest temptation is not to be led at all.
You’ll note the title of my sermon, even as it is phrased in the vernacular of the 80’s, is perhaps the more the more natural response, “Lead us? Not!” because frankly, we naturally don’t want to be led anywhere.
But, even just as normal human beings, we know at a certain level, we need to be led if we are ever going to amount to anything. This morning, I want to spend some time focusing on what it means to be led, and next week we’ll tackle the end the rest of the verse – where we get to talk about the dreaded “T” word – temptation.
Specifically, in our abbreviated time, I want to talk about the fact that being led, by definition, is specifically something we don’t want to do, but at the same time it’s voluntary. I’ll be ending by focusing on the fact that there are good reasons for choosing to follow, because without, we’ll never get where we want to be.
*Leadership is doesn’t take us where we naturally want to go*
I need to start by saying, however, that being led means we are being taken in a direction different, perhaps, than that which we would normally choose on our own.
On the face of it, I want to point out the obvious – you don’t need to be led to do the things you want to do naturally. Very few of us, for instance, need an exhortation to eat Joanne’s cheesecake. You might be asking where it is, but trust me, you don’t need to be told twice to eat it. Real leadership is the guy at the gym who uses things like that cheesecake to motivate you to make more room for the next serving.
When we talking about Jesus’ leadership in our lives, we know that he is specifically calling us to what we don’t naturally want, but what we inwardly need. Paul gets this conflict so well, when he says, “I find this law at work within me – The good things I know I want to do, I can’t seem to do them. And the things I don’t want to do? That’s what I keep finding myself doing. Oh wretched man that I am! Thanks be to Jesus who saves me!”
You have the full text there in your bulletin, but you’re getting the gist. By default, I can’t do it. It’s easy to gratify my flesh, or spend all my time trying to make money, or abuse the generosity of those around me – but everybody knows those are short-term gains. Praise be to Jesus who has rescued me from this body of death!
When I think about how the world so easily calls me to its way of life, the image that I get is that old fairy tale about the Pied Piper of Hamlin. You remember the guy playing the flute, and leading the rats out of the city? Well, if you know the fairy tale, you know that what happens is that the town stiffs him – they won’t pay. So, this Pied Piper comes back. He plays his flute and leads away. Then, he holds them ransom til he gets his money.
It’s actually a pretty great story about how the desires of this world so easily entrap us. Thanks be to Jesus who has rescued us – who has redeemed even this body of death.
Like the sirens that Ulysses sails past in the Illiad, the world beckons and begs us to come to it. The music sounds so pleasing, who wouldn’t want to dance? And when it calls, I usually just want to follow.
I’ll tell you, when it’s really tough, I often have to quote scripture to set my mind back straight. One in particular you’ll hear me use a lot is Proverbs 14:12 – “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is death.”