Jesus ended the model prayer for the first disciples with a very nice sentence – “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Jesus had personal experience with this leading and delivering – if you remember – “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” (Matthew 4:1) That seemingly simple sentence has sparked a lot of theological controversy that can be traced in the pages of the New Testament. (It is important to know that the Greek word Jesus used can correctly be translated either test or temptation!)
James says: “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.” (James 1:13-14 NIV) James might not disagree with his big brother Jesus praying “Lead us not into temptation…” but he would be quick to explain that God is not really the source of the temptation! When tempted, we cannot excuse ourselves by blaming God!
Hebrews says: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16 NIV) While God the Father may be above temptation, God the Son faced it all just as we face it – yet he did not surrender! He passed the test without falling into temptation! Now he gives mercy (for those who struggle and fail) and grace to help us overcome the test/temptation!
Jesus said to his sleepy disciples: “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” (Matthew 26:41 NIV) And that gets right to the heart of our testing/temptation problem – we are most often under-prepared and not unified in body and spirit! And then, the fall!
But Jesus gives us some amazing help in his simple sentence – speaking to God he asks for two things – leading and rescue! He desires for God to lead us NOT into temptation, but he immediately recognizes that life can never be that easy, so he adds deliver us from the evil one. Do you see the powerful help there?
We often assume that we are alone when facing the most dangerous tests/temptations (we often work it out so that we are alone!). It is just us and Satan fighting it out. Of course you will lose that one! If God is leading you and then rescuing you it should be obvious that you are never alone when facing the test/temptation! God is with you and he is pulling for your victory. You still have to choose it, but there is help at hand! “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one!” Jesus offers it both as prayer and promise! Claim it…
- Kenny Payne