We come, this morning, to the final look at the text of Luke chapter 11 verses 1 through 4 in the series, "Lord, teach us to pray." How important is this, huh? Heaven is full of resources waiting to be dispensed on our behalf by a gracious and loving Father and all that is required is that we ask according to His will and purpose. And the floodgates of heaven are opened for us. God is not stingy, He is generous. His grace is super-abundant when we ask.
We're learning how to pray and Jesus is our teacher. Luke 11, "And when Jesus taught His disciples that day in Judea, He said to them...in verse 2... 'When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be Thy name, Thy Kingdom come, Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us, and lead us not into temptation."
Now you remember that it was months earlier in Galilee in the Sermon on the Mount, according to Matthew 5 through 7, that Jesus also gave this model prayer and there is recorded a more full version than this, but very, very parallel. You will also remember that in Matthew's edition of this we have added in verse 2, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," so that you really have three petitions at the outset that are directed at the glory of God, "Hallowed be Thy name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done." Followed then by three petitions directed at our needs, "Give us our bread, forgive us our sins, and lead us not into temptation." This is how we pray. The priority is for the glory of God. First His glory, then our need. And, in fact, every element of this prayer in Luke could be directed at God Himself, He is the focus of them all. When we say "Father," we acknowledge Him as source. When we say "Hallowed be Thy name," we acknowledge Him as sacred. When we say, "Thy Kingdom come," we acknowledge Him as sovereign. When we say, "Thy will be done," we acknowledge Him as superior. When we say, "Give us this day our daily bread," we acknowledge Him as supplier. When we say, "Forgive us our sins," we acknowledge Him as Savior. And finally we come to the last petition, and when we say, "Lead us not into temptation," we acknowledge Him as shelter.
He is our covering wing. He is our hiding place. He is, as we read this morning in Psalm 62, our refuge. He is the rock we run to. And so Jesus says, "When you pray say 'And lead us not into temptation.'" And in the Matthew account, of course, Jesus also added this, Matthew 6:13 says, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." Or as the New King James says, "From the evil one."
And, you know, every one of these petitions expresses the affirmation of a promise God has already made? His name will be hallowed. His Kingdom will come. His will is to be done. He will supply all that we need to sustain our life physically. He will forgive our sins if we ask. And I promise you this, He will not lead us into sin.
You see, in the praying here you're simply lining up with what God has already promised. You're bringing your life into harmony with his will already expressed and revealed. This is part of what it means to follow Christ. "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself." When you came to Christ, it was the end of you. Your life was over in terms of your own agenda, your own personal ambition, goals, dreams, plans, desires. And from now on it's, "Father, Your name, Your Kingdom, Your will, I want only what You promised, physical sustenance, forgiveness from my sins and protection from temptation that could ruin me."
When you think about your future, what do you pray about? When you look at your future, when you think ahead, what do you pray about? What do you pray for the people you love the most? What do you tell God you want in the future for your kids, for your spouse, for your friends? I think probably if they don't know Christ, if they have not been regenerated and justified and set right before God and received eternal life, you're probably very concerned about praying for their salvation, right? That's probably the first thing you think of. And then right behind that is probably the idea that you're thinking, "Well, I need to pray for their physical well-being so they can stay alive long enough to come to Christ." But when somebody has become a believer, and somebody is a Christian, and you're looking down the road and wanting to sort of pray in their behalf, what do you pray for? You can't pray for some other believer that God would forgive their sins in that relational sense we talked about last time because that's conditioned on their own confession, isn't it? And their own repentance. So what do you pray about?
Typically, we pray that God will protect them and usually it's in the physical realm. Or that God will give them something that they desire, or something they want, or allow them to do this, or to do that, or be protected from some injury or whatever. But our prayers that reach into the future on behalf of each other collectively are bound up in that last petition, "Lead us not into temptation." That's what we ought to be praying for each other. And you'll notice the verb is...or the pronoun is plural here, "Lead us not into temptation," it's sort of a collective prayer here. It's like that all the way through really, forgive us, give us, lead us not.
What should we be praying about for each other? Materially we need bread. Spiritually we need forgiveness. Morally we need protection. And we need to pray more about that moral protection than we do about that physical protection. Yeah, we pray that people might not be ill, they might not contact some disease, that they might not have to go through a surgery, etc., etc., etc., and certainly we can bring those things before the Lord. But here we find Jesus teaching us to pray into the future with regard to where our lives are going that could become potentially ruinous...ruinous. And that's not necessarily related to illness, disease, or tragedy because very often those are the most spiritually strengthening events that ever happen in anybody's life. What we need to pray about has to do with our moral direction.
Now at first glance you look at this and you say, "And lead us not into temptation," and if we add Matthew's text, "But deliver us from evil, or the evil one," you say, "Why am I praying that? Why would I pray, lead us not into temptation? Does that assume that God is going to lead us into a temptation so that we can sin?"
Well, that would be a wrong assumption based upon James 1:13, "Let no one say when he is tempted, I'm being tempted by God, for God cannot be tempted by evil and He Himself doesn't tempt anyone." God isn't going to tempt anyone. And on the other hand, you say, "Well the word temptation could be trial." And that's exactly right, it could be trial or test. And then why would you say, "Lead us not into a test?" Because James 1 also says in verse 2, "Count it all joy when you fall into various tests." Because they have a perfect work. They produce endurance. Peter says, "After you've suffered a while, the Lord will make you perfect." Paul said, "It was in my pain and my suffering, in my agony that I was humbled and that I found in my weakness the strength of Christ." So if God promises not to tempt me and it is necessary that I'd be led into trial, how am I to understand this?
Well there's really two ways to understand it and it's a simple outline I give you to think about this morning in our abbreviated time, because we're going to have the Lord's Table. Just a simple thing to think about. I want to talk about a general way to view this and then a specific way, okay? This is a great outline, point one is general, point two is specific.
First of all, what you have here is essentially basic spiritual instinct responding to life. This is the most normal cry of the believer's sense of weakness and the realization that he lives in a dangerous environment. This is no different than all the prayers throughout the Psalm pleading for protection, for God to be a hedge, for God to put His wing of covering over, for God to be a hiding place, for God to be a refuge, for God to be protector. This is just instinctive praying just as out of our heart comes, "O God, I want Your name to be hallowed, I look at the world all around me and it's not, and You're...there's a terrible reproach that falls on You and the reproach that falls on You falls on me and I feel your pain and I suffer when Your name is dishonored." We know in the end that God will exalt His name, but in the process of getting to the end, we feel the pain of God's reproach, or the reproach that falls on Him and we cry out for God's name to be hallowed. We collect ourselves under the altar with those in the book of Revelation, we say, "How long, O Lord, how long, how long?" We know that God is building His Kingdom and He will build His Kingdom and it's an inexorable process that He is working out according to His perfect plan, and yet we look at the world around us and we see what appears to be a weak time in the Kingdom and we see the shallowness and the triviality and the superficiality and the marginal character of those that identify themselves as Christian and we see Christianity a hodgepodge of all kinds of things true and false and our hearts cry out, "Your Kingdom come, Your Kingdom come," and again, "Lord, can't Your Kingdom be all that You want it to be? And when will Jesus come and establish the glory of His millennial Kingdom?" And we know God will do His will and yet we look at a world where His will is flaunted and denied and rejected and scoffed and mocked. We know He's going to give us bread and yet every day, Lord, we say, "You need to provide my bread, my physical well-being, everything I have comes from You." And we know He will forgive our sins and yet it comes out of our heart that cry of repentance and a desire to be cleansed day in and day out to have our feet washed.
And it's the same here. This general reality that we live in a very volatile, very destructive, very dangerous world and we have seen the long sad tale of Christians whose lives were scandalized, who became shameful, disgraceful, lost their ministry, lost their effectiveness because they fell into some sin. And we know this is a very dangerous environment. We know that the Lord Jesus said, "Whoever the Father gives to Me will come to Me and I have lost none of them but will raise him at the last day." We know that "He who began a good work in us will finish it in the day of Christ." We know that He is able to keep us from stumbling and present us faultless before the Lord," in the end. We know that eschatologically, we know that ultimately we're going to be there, nothing will ever separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus...nothing, nothing in heaven, nothing in earth and nothing in hell. But at the same time, in the process we don't want to be dumped, as it were, out of the category of usefulness, we don't want to bring shame on the Lord. We know God isn't going to lead us into sin, but we do know He's going to put us through trials. And let me tell you something, folks, trials put you on the edge of temptation, don't they? It's the same word in the Greek...we'll say more about that later...peirasmos, same word for temptation as trial. And we live close to the edge and in a dangerous world.
This then becomes a general prayer of humility. This is the kind of prayer that grows out of self-distrust. I know myself, I know I can be in situations that could be tests for my strengthening, but they become temptations and sin. I'm afraid of my weakness. I'm afraid of my inabilities. I'm afraid of the shallowness of my devotion. I'm afraid of the weakness of my love. I remember my past sins. I remember the pain of repentance. I remember the pain of confession. I know my flesh is weak. I know I live in a fallen world which is an ever-present threat to my virtue. I've seen it in my life in the past and I've seen it all around me. We are sinful and we are enveloped in an evil world. The things that threaten us are monumental physically...volcanoes, earthquakes, fires, floods, pestilence, accidents, disease, death; intellectually, we're blasted and bombarded by demonic wisdom. We see partial and unfair judgments, a black kind of justice that only touches the fringes of the light of truth. And it's that kind of perversion that careens on toward the chaos of relativistic destruction under the propulsion of self-love. We have in our culture and in our world is logic ruled by pride and logic dominated by lust so it gets twisted. The collision of human opinions is more like the collision of human deceptions. And you look at the emotional world, cares and silent griefs that scar the soul. They shrivel up the human spirit, envy stings, hate embitters greed, is like a canker. Affections are misplaced. Love is trampled and trashed. Confidences betrayed. The rich trample the poor, the poor try to dethrone the rich. Prisons and penitentiaries mark the emotional upheaval of the world and so does the proliferation of drugs.
And you look at the spiritual world. And here the signs of evil are the thickest and the darkest because man is completely out of harmony with God. And the machinery of man's moral nature is visibly out of gear. The wheels run out of sync. Evil tendencies dominate man. He may want to do right but he's pulled down to evil as if by some unceasing, unrelenting force of spiritual gravity drawing him into hell.
And then you can add Satan to the mix. Going about seeking whom he may devour, like some lion, orchestrating a corrupt, evil system, sophisticated beyond human comprehension and building his fortifications which become men's prisons and tombs. We live in this dangerous world and, you know, we have to get real close to it because we can't come out of the world, we have to reach the world, right? I've got to go into those fortifications to smash them down, in the languages of 2 Corinthians 10. I've got to go into those dens of deception to snatch brans from the burning, in the words of Jude. I've got to do that. I have to live on that edge. So do you. And I want to do that in a way, Jude says, to make sure I keep my own garment unspotted because I'm getting so close to the stain, to the pollution. And this is what he's saying. We're in this thing. We live in a this very dangerous environment, very dangerous. And we know our own weakness very, very well. Don't kid yourself. If you don't have a divine protector, you are in some serious trouble. And you have only one, and that's God who is our refuge.
And in the general sense, this prayer just says, "Lord, be my protector. Don't ever let me get into a situation that will devastate me. Don't ever let me get into a situation that will ruin me. Be my rock. Be my shelter. Be my refuge. Be my hiding place. Be my covering." This is that general cry of the heart that knows itself too well.
And I'll add a footnote to that. If you're crying that from your heart honestly, then you're going to be careful where you go and what you do because you're going to make a contribution to this prayer by doing everything you can to stay out of those places that would push you over the edge into sin, right? Otherwise the prayer is hypocritical. God isn't going to deliberately lead you into temptation. God is not going to attack your spiritual well-being. And Jesus knows that, He's not asking God not to do what He'd otherwise do, He's simply telling us...ask Him to do what He's already committed to do and that's to protect you. I believe you can say to God, "Don't ever let me get in a place that's too much for me. Don't ever let me get in a place where I would go over the edge. Lord, keep me from those places and those relationships and those experiences."
And if it happens...back to James 1 again...verse 14, "Each one is tempted when he's carried away and enticed by his own lusts." It's when lust is conceived that it gives birth to sin. And when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Don't be deceived, brethren, the problem is not where you are, it's who you are. But who you are goes everywhere you go.
END OF SIDE ONE
So, God, You're asking...You're saying to me, God is saying, "You can say to me, don't let me ever get in a place that's too much where lust will conceive and bring forth sin." Don't blame God. Verse 17 says, "Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights." All God ever gives you is good. Well you say, "Well God will put me in trials." For your good, for your betterment. God will take you into a trial like He took Job into a trial, right? Like He took Paul into a trial. Like He took Jesus into a trial. Like He took Peter and others. And if you look at Job, for example, what happened? Job went through an absolutely incomprehensible series of trials, beyond understanding. And yet in all his suffering, he never once sinned with his...with his mouth. And he even said, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him." That was a trial but in that trial he was strengthened. As chapter 42 in the end of the book indicates, he came out with better understanding of himself and a better understanding of God. And then there was Paul, God allowed a demon to become to him a thorn in the flesh and he prayed three times to have it removed and God said no. And why didn't God remove that? "To keep me from exalting myself." He says that twice in 2 Corinthians 12, to keep me from exalting myself. "And I've learned that in my weakness then I'm strong, so I rejoice in insults and distresses and persecution." And then there was Jesus who was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted...to be tested. And He came out triumphant.
You see, God doesn't tempt anybody but for our own perfection we have to be tested. And every time we pass a test triumphantly, we get a little stronger and more useful. God doesn't tempt anyone. In the case of Peter, unfortunately, Satan desired to sift Peter. Satan came after Peter, Peter failed the test and it became a temptation, it turned into a terrible sin of denial. He should have done what the Lord told him. The Lord said to him, "I'm warning you...Matthew 26:41...you better watch and you better pray lest you enter into temptation." And instead they did...what?...went to sleep. We're susceptible and we live on the edge. We live in a dangerous world. We have to go through trials. There we are on the edge. And we have to take all the means of grace made available to us, at the same time crying out to God from the depths of our hearts, "Lord, lead us not into that which would become for us a temptation more than we could bear. Be our protector."
It's also in the general sense...don't let Satan have his way with us. Don't let Satan have the final word. "Deliver us from evil, or the evil one." So there is in that sense a broad understanding of this, a general one.
Let me just get a little more specific...and it's just really another or a deeper look at the same thing. Let's look at the word "temptation" and kind of look at it specifically. I've already sort of introduced this, but I'll take you a little further into it. The word "temptation" is peirasmosin the Greek. It's a neutral word, it has no moral connotation whatsoever. It just means a trial, a test, temptation. If we say temptation, that leans hard against the word sin, doesn't it? If we say trial, it kind of leans hard against the word righteousness. We look at trials as those things that make us more godly. We look at temptations as those things that make us sinful. But the word itself has no moral connotation. And in that sense, the things we have to go through in life that God allows us to go through in life can be trials or temptations so it's a good word. You could say, "Lead us not into trials," but you'd still have to define that. "Lead us not into any trial that's more than we can bear. Lead us not into any trial that's going to become to us an overwhelming temptation which could cause some disaster and some disgrace and some shame." These are prayers of protection. People, I'm telling you, this is how Jesus taught us to pray...pray for protection. Don't take anything for granted. We all believe in the sovereignty of God, we all believe in the protecting promises of God. But at the same time, we have seen Christian after Christian after Christian crash and burn and we ourselves know our own hearts, know ourselves well enough to have had some kind of history of falling into sin because we got into a place where we became victimized by temptation. We were either in the wrong place or didn't have the heart preparation.
So this request in the more specific terms is saying to God, "I know I have to be tested." First Peter 5:10, "After you've suffered a while, the Lord make you perfect." "I know, James 1, I have to count it all joy when I fall into various trials because they have a perfecting work." I know that I cannot be made mature apart from suffering. I know that some day there's a crown but before a crown there is a cross. I know that I have to suffer and suffering takes me to the edge of my faith. I know that after I've suffered a while I'll be made perfect. But suffering is hard for me to bear and it takes me to the edge and I know I have to reach the world and I know I have to win unbelievers and I know I have to get close to the fire and to the corruption and try to be unspotted. So, Lord, what I'm asking is, keep these things tests that perfect me and don't let them become temptations that destroy me. That's how you pray into the future. Parents, you ought to be praying that not only for your own lives, but the lives of your children who are in Christ.
So, we're going to have those trials. "Don't lead me, Lord, into a trial that's more than I can bear. Don't lead me into an experience that will become a temptation that I can't handle. You may desire to let Satan do something, although not in me because I am dwelt by the Holy Spirit, but You may allow Satan to hit and attack, You may allow demons to come after me like You did Paul, or Satan like he did Job. But, Lord, in all of it, be my protector and never ever let me stumble and never ever let me fall into shame."
This is really a process, you know. The word peirasmosis a noun, it describes a process. Life is a process of perfecting trials or debilitating temptations. And yet it depends on how you respond to them. Somebody in your family gets a very serious illness, how do you deal with that? From God who allows that, that's a trial intended to strengthen your faith. But Satan wants to work hard. Your flesh wants to respond and it becomes a temptation. On the one hand, you accept it, you rejoice in it, you praise God, you see it, you understand it, you know what sin is doing in the world. You know this person is on their way to heaven, perhaps they die, they go to heaven, you rejoice, you're glad that they're out of their pain and that they're in the presence of the Lord. Or you become bitter, you become angry. Same event, depends on how you respond. So when you pray, ask the Lord to ready you, to face the issues that are coming in life. Ask the Lord to keep you out of those things that are more than you could possibly endure and to protect you in those places when you have to get near the corruption for the sake of the gospel.
Deuteronomy 13:3 says, "The Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul." Do you love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul? Well the test of life will indicate whether you do. God tested Abraham, didn't He? Hebrews 11, when in Genesis 22 the story is told of him having to take Isaac up and knew he'd take his life as a sacrifice, what a test. It didn't become a temptation to evil, it became a test, it strengthened Abraham. And it was an evidence of the genuineness of his faith which was like pure gold. Therein lies the specific understanding here. You're going to go throughpeirasmos. From God's vantage point they're trials to make you strong. From Satan's vantage point, they're temptations to make you sin. How do you come out on the positive side of those things? Jesus said, "Pray...pray." And would you pray with this confidence? You say, "Well, I don't know if prayer is going to do any good because I get in to some pretty severe situations." Listen to 1 Corinthians 10:13, okay? Just to sort of galvanize you with a promise that you already are familiar with, 1 Corinthians 10:13 says this, "No temptation has overtaken you but such is as common to man." You know what that means? You're never going to have a temptation that's not human. In other words, you're never going to be in a position to say the devil made me do it, it was supernatural, I couldn't help myself....that's not true...that's not true. You will never have a temptation that is not common to man. Further, he says, "And God is faithful who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you're able." You will never have a temptation that's anything other than human and you will never have a temptation that's more than you can bear. And God is faithful to make that promise a reality. He knows what you can bear. You're never going to be overwhelmed by demonic forces and you're never going to be in a situation that you can't handle, because the Lord will protect you from that. And He will, it says, with that temptation provide the way of escape that you may be able to endure it. The Lord will not lead you into sin, but He will lead you into peirasmos, same word. There's no peirasmostaken. Every trial you go in has a way out. Every trial you go in is a human trial, it's not a supernatural one that you can't cope with. And never will you be in one that you cannot bear in the strength available to you if you use the means of grace, a knowledge of the Word, the disciplines of grace and prayer. And out the other side of that, you come triumphant.
The petition is really, "Lord, protect us from running in the direction of sin in our trials," does that kind of convey the thought? Protect us from running in the direction of sin in the midst of our trial. Cause us not to enter. The original Aramaic would be, "Cause us not to enter," kind of causative or with a permissive force. Don't allow us to enter any devastating temptation, any trial that pushes us over the edge. Another way to look at it would be to say, "Give us the necessary strength that we might not find our trials turning into temptations." You know, we're going to live our lives and we're going to be under assault all the time, the world the flesh, the devil. You're saying, "Lord, protect us, we depend on you." Don't get too convinced that you're capable on your own, you're not. So you pray preemptively against these kinds of strikes.
"I know temptation is going to come in my trials, but when it does, I want you to make sure You lead me in the direction of obedience."
This is how Jesus prayed. One of the most beautiful statements Jesus ever made on our behalf is in John 17 in that High Priestly prayer. In verse 15 He said this, "I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world." Obviously He can't take us out of the world, the world has to hear the gospel from us. "But to keep them from ek to poneros, the evil, or the evil one, both would be an accurate translation.
So there's Jesus, praying to the Father, "Keep them from the evil..." You say, "Well doesn't His theology tell Him God will?" That's not the point. It's the distinctive cry of His heart for God to do what He promises to do. And Jesus, of course, has also seen the crashing and burning of so many Christians. They didn't lose their justification, nor will they forfeit their glorification, but they mucked up their sanctification. To their eternal diminishing, or they forfeit an eternal reward. Martin Luther says, "We cannot help being exposed to the attacks, we just pray that we may not fall under them." Joseph, I think, understood it when he talked with his brothers. You've been reading that this week. He said, "You meant evil but God meant it...what?...for good." That's the way to look at the trials of life, God means good in all of them. There's good if you triumph in faith and strength, out the other side.
And isn't that really clearly the meaning when you think about Matthew 6:13 which adds the phrase, "But deliver us from evil," or from the evil one? That's the explanation. What do you mean "lead us not into temptation"? What we mean is rescue us from evil, deliver, save us from evil or the evil one. And certainly there's an eschatological element to that. Don't let Satan and sin have the final victory, and they won't. But I think there's a more temporal reality there then just eschatological. As we face the dangers living in this cursed world, O God, we confess our weakness, our inadequacy, our fear, our dread, our self-distrust. We plead with You to protect us. Save Me from this hour, Jesus said, save Me from this hour, but nevertheless Your will be done. Jesus went into the greatest test any man ever knew, alienation from the Father, separation and sin bearing, came out triumphant.
I don't know about you but I want to go through my test like the three Hebrews went through the fiery furnace. You remember, it says in Daniel they came out and they didn't even have the smell of smoke on them. And Daniel came out of the lions' den without a scratch. And God will take you through your trials if you pray and prepare your heart. God is faithful.
Father, we thank You again today for being faithful as our protector, our shelter. May we be faithful in our prayers, in our watchfulness, our knowledge of the truth that we might not sin. And then in the end, our lives will redound to Your glory, not just eternally, but even here.