Posts Tagged ‘temptation’

gethsemaneBut God doesn’t tempt us to do evil. That’s the Devil who does that!  Isn’t that what the Bible says?

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. (James 1:13-14)

Why did Jesus teach his disciples to pray, “Lead us not into temptation?” 

The newer translations certainly try to mitigate the impact of Jesus’ teaching. The NLT says “And don’t let us yield to temptation,” while The Message loosely interprets the text as, “Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.”  The ERV says simply, “And don’t let us be tempted.”  Is such a smorgasbord helpful?

Here are a couple of bits of information that might help us sort it out.

First, the word temptation can certainly be translated trial or test, in the sense of some situation that challenges us to choose our will or God’s will.  An Old Testament example of this is in Genesis 22 where the KJV says that God tempted Abraham, the RSV says God tested Abraham, and the ASV says God proved Abraham by asking him to take the son of promise Isaac and sacrifice him.

The origin of the test is probably what is important here.  Jesus was also tempted or tested in the wilderness. We are quite comfortable with this event being described as temptation because it originated with the Devil and was designed for evil.

Second, the last half of the prayer sentence probably should not be separated from the first, i.e., “but deliver us from Evil (or the Evil One).  The contrasting clauses are supposed to suggest opposite ideas—or at least strongly opposing ideas. It seems easier to understand God delivering or rescuing us from Evil, so maybe that will illuminate the first part of the prayer

Putting these ideas together, it seems to me that Jesus is teaching his disciples to pray to be protected from the trials, tests, temptations that the Devil puts in front of us, just as he tempted Jesus.  We might paraphrase it something like this:

And, Lord, you know me, you know where I am weakest and where I am stronger. Don’t allow the Devil to tempt me in the areas where I am the weakest and might fail. And when I must face temptation, Father, deliver me from it.

If this is the meaning in the text, then what does it mean for me?  How do I pray this prayer in the middle of my world?

Here are a couple of my thoughts:

With these words,  Jesus teaches us to acknowledge the sovereignty of God in our lives.  God has released Satan into this world for a time, but Satan is not omnipotent or omniscient. Even though God allowed Job to be tempted or tested, God knew Job, so the outcome was certain!  Job may not have known the outcome, the Devil certainly did not know the outcome, but God knew what Job could bear and did not allow him to be tested (tempted) beyond what he would survive.

God has made us the same explicit promise. He is fully in control!

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

I’ve wondered many times if Jesus prayed the essence of these very words in Gethsemane: 

“Father, must I really go through this test? Is there any other way to do this? You know it is not just the horrible physical pain that is coming towards me to test my flesh, but the mental temptation because I know even those who have been following me not only will abandon me, deny me, even betray me—but they are just clueless about what is really happening and why. They have hardly understood anything yet! Don’t let me doubt what I have done with them and left in their hands.

But the worst of all, Father—what I fear most—is the punishment for Sin—how can I stand to see you turn away from me?  Can I bear, Father, to be in the dark?

Oh, Abba, please deliver me from the Evil One. Do not let me waver, not in my flesh, nor in my mind, and especially not in my soul.

Not my will, but Your will be done, Father.”

And so we who are His disciples still pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from Evil!”  And we know He will because He loved us enough to give His only Son!

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I went to a small Christian school from the sixth grade until I finished high school—and I loved it! Someday I’ll tell you all the reasons it was such a good experience for me, but today I want to tell you about what I learned about SIN.

The summer before my seventh grade year, the new choral director moved next door to us, along with his wife and two small boys. They quickly became friends with my parents, and by the time I got to high school and could be in chorus, he became a special mentor to me.

He was probably the most popular teacher at our school; he worked tirelessly on behalf of the Christian school doing fund raising events with the chorus, the band, and small ensembles—and he even served a short stint as principal of the school.  He was the regular song leader at one of the local congregations.

I graded papers for him, babysat their kids, learned to drive a standard shift on his little Renault and listened to his advice on everything with great admiration.

One night in early October of my senior year, his wife came running over to our house in tears. When she came in, Mom and Dad sent us out of the room so she could talk to them—but I knew immediately what had happened.  My chorus director had just admitted having an affair with one of my classmates.

I was aware that the girls in chorus—always more savvy than the guys at this age—talked about how my mentor always picked a girl Friday—wondering who would it be this year?  I knew that he was just a little flirty, sometimes putting his arm around some random girl, but I always thought it was not much different than many older men that I saw at church who were a little flirty and a little huggy!  In a fairly naïve way, I thought he probably shouldn’t do it, but it was always in public and nobody seemed to take offense, so it really didn’t tarnish my admiration or respect at all.

From the first day of school in September of my senior year, I knew something was different. He not only was flirty, but now he was giving this one girl in my class solos to sing—and her voice was just not that good. He was giving her special responsibilities—and she wasn’t that responsible. She was always the last one off the chorus bus after a program. And one day I walked into the chorus room at an hour when no class was scheduled, and he and she were there by themselves—which I thought was awkward—so awkward that the next time I walked into that room when it should have been empty, I made sure to make lots of noise turning the doorknob and coming in—just in case.

Don’t forget, this is 1964—when we still believed in heroes and before the sexual revolution captured every billboard, every television, every magazine, and every movie. I was 16 years old and not oblivious to sexual improprieties, but I had never seen adultery and didn’t really expect to.  Whether I was just youthfully ignorant or willingly ignorant, I was not really allowing myself to go there –just didn’t want to believe it might be what it was!

Yes, the truth came out. He broke down and told his wife when he thought the girl was pregnant. He was immediately fired. My classmate was dismissed from the school. I never saw her again. He moved away, but came to visit my parents some years later and seemed to have begun his life over again. I really don’t know.

My friend/mentor’s adultery affected me deeply. Mostly, I felt a deep sense of betrayal by someone I had trusted to be a good person, to be a model Christian man.  But I also learned some lessons about life and sin that have helped me in my own walk. Maybe they will help you too!

  • Nobody is so good that they can’t be tempted! As a young person, I felt like even the temptation to sin was a sin! So you not only avoided temptation, but you tried to believe that you were somehow above or immune to temptation.  Admitting to being tempted freed me up to “flee the devil” and to ask the Father to “lead me not into temptation.”  I was nearer to the truth that sets us free by knowing that I too could be—would be–tempted just like my teacher.
  • Heroes not only stumble, they fall! And so I learned people almost always disappoint us. This sounds really bitter, but, in fact, again the truth sets us free to put our confidence in the One who never fails us. Only Jesus never fails us. If our confidence is in the righteousness of our parents, our elders, our preacher, our spouse—even our children—it is misplaced because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Only God never lies; only God is steadfast. Only God will never fail you!
  • Not only did that experience begin to direct my trust and confidence to the right place, but it has helped me manage self-righteousness when others sin. Only by grace will I be saved;only by His power can I avoid sinning. My self-righteousness is pathetic! We all have just one hope: Jesus!

Since this first experience, I have seen too many people I know end up in adulterous and/or immoral relationships. You too?  I’m sorry for my mentor and my classmate, but I learned a lot from them.

Next time, I want to explore with you what we should be teaching our children so that they can avoid sexual sin. Then we’ll talk about what adult Christians can do to remain holy!




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