We’re almost at the end of the Lord’s Prayer. So far we’re learned that when we pray, we should pray with others and for others. And we should direct our prayers to our loving, heavenly Father. Since he is loving, we should be confident that he will hear our prayers and help us. And since he is the mighty God who rules and reigns in heaven, we should be confident that he can help us.
Then, the first three requests are concerned with God and the glory of his name, and the advancement of his kingdom, and the doing of his will. And so, we learn to pray that he will enable us and all others to give him the glory and the honour and the praise that he deserves. We learn to pray that Satan’s kingdom will be destroyed and that the Lord’s kingdom of grace will advance through the world through the preaching of the gospel until the Lord our King comes again. And we learn to pray that he will help us and all others to know and to obey his revealed will and to submit ourselves to his secret will.
The second three requests are concerned with us and what we need. And what do we need? Daily food. Daily forgiveness. Daily protection. So we ask him to provide us and all others with all the food and other daily provisions we need each day for life. And then, though we have been justified through faith in the Saviour, so that all our sins — past, present and future — are pardoned by God the moment we first believed, nevertheless, it’s right for us, as God’s children, to come before him each day to say ‘sorry’ for the ways we have disobeyed our Father in heaven. And so, we’re taught to come to him and to ask him forgiveness. And since Jesus Christ has died to pay for all our sins, then we can be confident that our loving, heavenly Father will not hold our sins against us, but he will pardon us as he has promised. That’s where we got to last time. This evening, we’re thinking about the last request when we ask for God’s help to stand up to temptation.
But before we get to that, let me remind you once again that just as we’re to put God first in our lives, so we should put him first in our prayers. We pray for his name to be glorified, and for his kingdom to come, and for his will to be done before we pray for ourselves.
However, having put him first, we’re still encouraged to cast all our cares on the Lord and to pray to him for his help for us. The one who knows the number of hairs on our head, and who feeds the birds of the air, and who beautifies the flowers in the field, and who sent his one and only Son to die for us, is willing to hear us and to help us when we ask him to provide for us and to pardon us and to protect us from temptation.
Going back to the text of the Lord’s Prayer, the word commonly translated as ‘temptation’ could, in theory, be translated as ‘test’. If we translate it that way, then the Lord was saying we should pray that God will not test us. And, of course, this makes some sense because, as we know, the Lord sometimes put trials and tests before his people. Think of Abraham who was asked by God to sacrifice his one and only Son. Well, the writer to the Hebrews calls this a test. The Lord was testing Abraham’s faith. In John 6, when the multitude needed to be fed, the Lord asked Philip where they could get bread to feed all the people. And John tells us that he said this to test Philip. And then we have James 1 where we read that we’re to count it all joy whenever we face trials of various kinds, because through these trials, these tests, the Lord is building us up in the faith. And then Peter, in his first letter, refers to the trials which the Lord’s people were suffering at that time. The Lord does put trials and tests in our way. And so, in theory, we could translate the sixth request of the Lord’s Prayer as ‘Lead us not into a time of trial and testing’. However, since the second part of the request refers to the evil one, it seems more likely that what the Lord is referring to in the first half is temptation to sin. Something is said, or something is done, and we’re tempted, we’re enticed, we’re drawn towards sin. And the Lord instructs us to pray and ask God to keep us from such temptations.
And really there are three things which lead us into temptation. And we’ve come across this unholy trinity before. There’s the Devil. There’s the world. And there’s our own fallen, human nature. Two are outside us: the Devil and the world. And one, the flesh, is within us — and it’s always there.
First of all, there’s the Devil. And, of course, in the beginning, he took the form of a snake and he went into the Garden of Eden and there he tempted Eve to sin against the Lord. He tempted her to disregard the Lord’s warning that all who eat the forbidden fruit will die. He also tempted her to disobey the Lord’s clear command not to eat the fruit. And finally he tempted her to doubt the Lord’s goodness by suggesting that the Lord was being mean to them and preventing them from becoming like God. Right at the beginning, the Devil appears as the one who tempts us to sin.
Then in 1 Chronicles we read how the Devil stood against the people of Israel and tempted David to count the number of the Israelites, something which they Lord had forbidden him from doing. And the Lord’s wrath was provoked because of David’s sin.
Then we read how the Devil sought permission from the Lord to attack Job. And the reason he wanted to attack Job and to take away his family, and his possessions, and his health was in order to tempt him to curse God.
In Luke 22, the Lord Jesus tells Peter that Satan demanded to have him and to sift him like wheat. And the image the Lord uses is of crushing the wheat and passing it through a sieve. So, Satan wanted to crush Peter. And he almost did crush him, after Peter was tempted to deny the Lord three times. But the Lord was merciful and pardoned Peter afterwards.
And then there was Judas. And Luke and John tell us that, on the night of the Last Supper, Satan entered into Judas so that he got up from the table and went off to make arrangements to betray the Lord Jesus into the hands of his enemies.
And, of course, we read in the gospels how the Devil tempted the Lord Jesus in the wilderness. And Peter tells us in his first letter that the Devil is our adversary and he’s like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. And Paul tells us in Ephesians that our fight is not against flesh and blood, but it’s against spiritual forces and it’s against all the schemes of the Devil. Therefore, we’re to stand firm and to resist him.
The Devil is able to throw evil thoughts into our hearts and minds just as he put into Judas’s mind the idea of betraying the Lord, and just as he put into Ananias’s mind the idea of lying to the apostles about the money he was giving the church. He’s able as well to blind the minds of unbelievers to keep them from a knowledge of the truth. And Paul warned the Corinthians that the Devil was, by his cunning, able to lead them from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. Paul wrote to Timothy about how the Devil put a snare out for some who were opposing Timothy’s teaching and had captured them to do his will.
And the Devil is both clever and cunning and he knows how to make sin attractive to us. So, think of how he made the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil seem attractive to Eve. And think how he tempted Achan to take the things he saw in Jericho. Think of how he tempted David to sin with Bathsheba. He knows how to make us fall.
And he knows how to use our mood and our temperament against. So, when King Saul was in one of his dark moods, the Devil succeeded in tempting him to throw a spear at David. When Abraham was afraid of getting into trouble with the king of Egypt, he was tempted to lie about his wife. When the Lord was hungry, the Devil tempted him to misuse his power and to turn the stones into bread. The Devil is very clever and he can attack us in many different ways. And he knows what our Achilles Heel is and he’s able to attack us right there, where we are weak.
As one writer has put it, whoever has God for his friend will find Satan to be his enemy. And so, we’re taught to pray to our loving heavenly Father to keep from us being tempted by the Devil. And when we are tempted, we need our Father to support us and to deliver us.
As well as the Devil, there’s also the world. And by ‘the world’, we mean several things.
First of all, the Lord Jesus in John 15 refers to the world which hates his people. And so, we can think of all those throughout the world who persecute the church of Jesus Christ and who are against it.
But then, as well as those in the world who are against us, there are all those people in the world who tempt us to sin against the Lord. And so, in Proverbs 1, the teacher warns us:
My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, ‘Come with us… my son, do not walk in the way with them….
And in Psalm 1 we read about the counsel of the wicked and the way of sinners and the seat of scoffers. And we’re warned not to walk with them or to stand with them or to sit with them. They tempt us to disregard the word of the Lord and they tempt us to sin. Think of Solomon who had many foreign wives, and eventually they tempted him to forsake the Lord and to worship false gods.
And then, the things of the world and the cares of the world can get in the way of our devotion to God. And so, in the Lord’s parable of the seed and the sower, the seed sown among the thorns refers to those who hear the word of God, but the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word and make it unfruitful. Think of Paul’s words to Timothy about those who desire to be rich and who fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. And then we have the tragic case of Demas. Paul refers to him at the end of 2 Timothy as someone who, in love with this present world, deserted him. None of us wants to be like him. None of us wants to turn away from what we believe and to turn away from the church and to turn back to the ways of the world. And so, we need to pray to our Heavenly Father to protect us.
The world God made is good. And there is so much that is good in the world. And every good thing we receive from the Lord is to be used and enjoyed with thanksgiving. But in the world are people who hate the church and we need the Lord to protect us from them. And in the world there are people whose counsel and whose ways and whose customs will lead us into sin and we need the Lord to help us to be wise and to be strong and to remain on the road that leads to eternal life.
So, there’s the Devil. And there’s the world. But there’s also our own, sinful human nature. Think what James says. He, first of all, says that none of us should claim that God has tempted us. You see, God is perfectly holy and good and upright and he cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. And so, where does temptation come from? James tells us. Each person is tempted how? When he is lured and enticed by his own desire. We have our own sinful desires, lurking inside us. And because of those sinful desires, we’re enticed to do wrong and to sin against the Lord. Every good thing comes from the Lord. But inside us, there’s so much that is wrong. The heart is a house of horrors, full of all kinds of monstrous desires and thoughts and inclinations which keep leaking out. The Holy Spirit has taken us residence in our hearts and he’s producing his fruit in our lives, making us more obedient. But, standing against the Holy Spirit, there’s our old, sinful human nature, and the two are continually at war with one another. There’s the fruit of the Spirit:
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
All good things. But then there are the works of the sinful flesh:
sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.
All of them are wicked. And the desires of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit are opposed to each other. And we must pray, and pray again and again, for our Heavenly Father to give us the grace we need to say ‘no’ to our sinful desires and to follow the good influence of the Holy Spirit.
Paul wrote to the Romans about the sin that dwells inside us. Whereas Satan might leave us alone, and whereas we can close the door and shut out the world, our sinful flesh is always with us, dwelling in us, all the time. It never sleeps, and it never goes on holiday, but it’s continually speaking to us, tempting us, leading us astray. And Paul talks about ‘the law of sin’ by which he means it’s like a force, a power, ordering us around, bullying us, directing us. When we want to do good, the sin living inside of us bullies us and tries to keep us from doing that good thing. And so, it’s like a slave-master, making us do what we don’t want to do. We don’t want to disobey our Heavenly Father. We don’t want to do evil. But somehow, we keep doing it. Who wants to be like this? No one. And so we must cry out to our Father to help us.
The Lord Jesus taught us to pray for this protection. And those who pray for this, pray for this because we hate sin. We hate the fact that we’re constantly disobeying our Heavenly Father and we hate the fact that we’re offending the one who loved us so much. Before a person is converted he doesn’t really mind his sins and he doesn’t worry about resisting temptation. But once a person has been converted, and filled with the Holy Spirit, he now hates what he once was and he wants to be better. And so, out of that hatred for sin, and that desire to be better, we pray to the Lord for help to resist the temptation to sin.
And those who pray for this, pray for this because we know we are so weak. Since the Devil is so clever and so cunning and so strong, we need the strength and wisdom of God to stand firm. Since so many others have been led astray by the ways of the world, we know that we’re vulnerable. Since our old sinful flesh is still so strong, we cannot resist it unless the Lord helps us. And so, we pray for our Heavenly Father to help us because we know we’re weak.
And those who pray for this, pray for this because we know that the road to eternal life is narrow and it’s so easy to go astray. We all like sheep have gone astray, and though the Good Shepherd has brought us back to the narrow way leading to life, it’s so easy for us to go astray and to lose our way. Meanwhile, the broad road seems so easy and everyone else is on it. And we naturally want to follow the crowd and so what everyone else is doing. And so, we need to pray that the Lord will keep us on the narrow way.
And those who pray for this, pray for this because we know the enemies are many and they are fierce and they are cunning. The Devil is a roaring lion. And he plots and plans his wicked schemes against us. Our sinful heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. It deceives us all the time, making us think that to sin will be to our advantage. And it never leaves us alone, but is always with us. And so, we need to pray for the Lord to help us all the time and to re-assure us that he is mighty and powerful and able to keep us.
So, there’s the Devil and the world and our own sinful flesh. All of them are trying to tempt us to leave behind the narrow way that leads to life. They’re trying to tempt us to sin against the Lord. And we’re weak and we’re unable, by ourselves, to resist. So, we need to pray to our Heavenly Father who is strong and mighty and able to save. And we must ask him to keep us from being tempted and to support us and to deliver us when we are tempted.
We must ask him to keep us from being like David, who looked at Bathsheba and gave in to the temptation to take her for himself. We must ask him to keep us from being like Jonah, who refused to do what the Lord commanded. We must ask him to keep us from being like Peter, who denied knowing the Lord when put on the spot. We must ask him to keep us from being like Demas, who loved the world and deserted Paul.
And instead, we must ask our Father to make us like Joseph in the Old Testament, who hated the thought of sinning against the Lord and so he ran from Potiphar’s wife. We must ask him to make us like Daniel, who refused to pray to anyone other than the true God, even at the risk of losing his life. And we must ask him to make us like Daniel’s three friends who risked the fiery furnace rather than bow down before the golden statue. We must ask him to make us like Esther who, instead of remaining silent, spoke up in order to save the Lord’s people. And we must ask him to make us like the Apostles who were given strength to obey the Lord rather than men.
We must ask our Father to do for us what he did for the Lord Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, and to strengthen us to do his will no matter what the cost, always believing that there is stored up for us in heaven a crown of life and a great reward. And so, we must pray for him to lead us not into temptation but to deliver us from evil.
And to encourage us, we have the message of Hebrews 2 that through his own death on the cross, the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour has defeated the Devil. And because he himself suffered when tempted, he’s able to help us whenever we are being tempted. And we have the Lord’s promise in John’s gospel that nothing and no one will be able to snatch us from his mighty hand. He is the Good Shepherd who will not lose any of his people. And Paul tells us in Philippians that he who began a good work in us has promised to bring it to completion.
And we have the assurance from 1 Peter that not only is our inheritance kept safe and secure for us in heaven, but we too are being guarded by God’s mighty power every day so that we will finally reach heaven and inherit eternal life which our Saviour has won for us and is keeping for us. And we have the promise in Jude that our God is able to keep us from stumbling so as to present us, one day, before his glorious presence with great joy, and not with shame. Resist the Devil and he will flee from us, and draw near to God in prayer, and he will draw near to us and help us to stand firm against the Devil and the world and the flesh, until the battle is finally over and we enter into our eternal rest.