Summary: As we pray, we recognize sources of temptation: the world, the flesh, and the devil. We commit ourselves to overcoming with God's help: Know what is right, tell the truth, build a life too good to lose, and play to win.
Have you ever said something like this?
“I don’t know how it happened. I got sucked in, and couldn’t seem to avoid it.”
“Why did I say that? It was stupid and wrong—and I didn’t really mean to.”
“I want that so bad! I know I really shouldn’t, but…”
“Man, what was I thinking? How did I let it go this far? And now that I am this far, how do I get out?
As we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we come to this: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
WHEN WE PRAY THIS WAY, WE ARE RECOGNIZING THAT TEMPTATION COMES, AND WE NEED GOD’S HELP.
“Lead us not into temptation…” Would God tempt us? No, James 1:13-14 says, “When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone…”
There is plenty of temptation all around us. One traditional way of breaking down the sources of temptation is to focus on the WORLD, the FLESH, and the DEVIL.
-The WORLD, in terms of temptation, is a distorted worldview of reality that we often confront in our daily lives. 1 John 2:15-16 says, “Do not love the world…For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.”
In the world, we are bombarded by messages that might lead us into temptation.
We are told we have to have the newest gadgets, the best ride on the block, and the greatest vacations. We are manipulated by commercial messages, celebrities, and influencers. Our lives are filled with subtle messages about how we should look, act, or feel, which are often contrary to God’s values and God’s commandments.
The world, through all kinds of media, influencers, and cultural messages, tolerates and even celebrates immorality. Materialism, depraved sexual acts, dishonesty in business, and self-centeredness are viewed as normal. We swim in a polluted pool, and we face pressure to not make waves, or go against the current.
-The FLESH, in terms of temptation, is our own warped human nature, which distorts our judgment and tempts us. James 1:14-15 says, “Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin.”
Even without external temptations, people seem bent on self-destruction. Why do we overeat? Why do we stay up too late? Why do we allow negative thoughts to drag us down? Why do we want so badly to seek revenge, when we know it would be sinful and destructive? It is our warped human nature.
-The DEVIL also tempts us.
We usually say, “Deliver us from evil.” The NIV translates, “Deliver us from the evil one.” Either translation is possible, as the devil is identified with evil.
Ephesians 6:12 says, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
The evil one is looking for some way to tempt us and drag us down. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
The devil looks for a weak spot.
When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, the devil appealed to his hunger, his mission in life, and his need for security. The apostle Peter was tempted by his ambition and aggressive nature—potentially good things. Judas was tempted by his love of money.
The devil might come to us when we are tired, or we have had great success. He attacks weak spots in our character: insecurity, the need to please, or lack of self-control. He tries to corrupt our highest and deepest passions, to turn them bad. (For example, a person who really cares about other people might be tempted to gossip or manipulate.)
Temptation is part of life. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.” Everybody is tempted.
Being tempted is not a sin! Hebrews 4:15 says that Jesus is able to “empathize with our weaknesses, [because he was] tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.”
Although temptation is not necessarily sinful, we should avoid it as much as we can, so we pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” The word translated “temptation” could also be translated as “trial” or “testing.” Sickness, emotional distress, war, or cruelty could tempt us; those temptations are not sinful, but they are evil. We ask God to spare us from those things, if it is his will. Yet sometimes God allows those times of testing.