Lead us not into temptation…

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

On this night in which we take time to remember the last supper in which Christ instituted Holy Communion for his Church we will also be taking a continued look at the Lord’s Prayer.  Tonight we will look at the sixth petition “And lead us not into temptation.”  This is one of those lines in scripture that has garnered a lot of attention throughout the history of the Church due to the fact that with a simple reading one could come to the conclusion that God is in the business of tempting His followers to sin. We always allow clear passages of scripture to interpret less then clear passages of scripture and James seems fairly clear on this point 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.[1] The sixth and seventh petitions of the Lord’s Prayer seem to be connected and work together. In light of the temptation that we will face we plead with God in this petition and the next to help us in the time of temptation that we face.

There are three places in which our temptations come from.  We are tempted by our sinful flesh, the world, and Satan.  At times these all work together while at other times they need no help.  Scripture is clear that we have a spiritual enemy in Satan 1 Peter 5:8 (ESV)Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. It is also clear that we ourselves are our own worst enemies at times Galatians 5:19–21 (ESV) 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. The world around us often times simply gives us the means for our sinful flesh to do that which should not be done.  1 John 2:15–16 (ESV) 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. We see in Romans that the world not only tempts us but it attempts to convince us that the sin that we are tempted with is actually a good thing. Romans 1:32 (ESV) 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. We don’t have to look real hard to find temptations because they are in us, around us, and following us where ever we are. We don’t have to look real hard to find places that we not only were tempted but succumb to those temptations in thought, word, and deed.

What is meant by “lead us not into temptation?” What we know as those who have faith in Christ is that we are being led by God.  We know that we are being led by Christ the good shepherd.  I think a wonderful picture of this petition is a familiar psalm, Psalm 23:1–6 (ESV) The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

We are the sheep and Christ is our shepherd who leads us.  We know clearly from scriptures as well as from our own lives that our lives are full of temptations. When we are tempted does that mean that Christ has stopped leading us? No. When we are tempted does that mean that it is in fact Christ who is tempting us? No.  Christ is leading each of us through this life a life that is often covered by the shadow of temptation, sin, and death.  We know just because Christ is leading us does not mean our lives get any easier in fact often times they become more difficult.  Christ knew that where he would be sending his followers and leading them was not going to lack temptation. We hear this in part of his prayer before the passion which is often times referred to the High Priestly Prayer. John 17:13–18 (ESV) 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

Did you catch verse 15 and what it said? “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”  One does not have to try too hard to hear both the sixth and seventh petitions of the Lord’s Prayer in this section of the High Priestly Prayer.  When we pray the 6th petition of the Lord’s Prayer we do not ask God not to lead us into temptation because we think we might be tempted but rather as you are leading us in places where temptation exists also deliver us from that very evil and the evil one.

So as we are led by Christ into a world that is full of temptation and where we are tempted by the evil one and have enough problems to worry about with our own sinful flesh what does Christ’s leadership look like.  I invite you back to the 23rd psalm where Christ not only leads us as our good shepherd but also gives us what we need. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.[2] “You prepare a table before me.” Christ knows what we will face in our life time because he himself was tempted.  Christ also knows that the only source of hope for us in this world of temptation is Himself for us.  Christ is leading us to the only place that we can find hope he is leading us to himself!  He has prepared a miraculous table for us to partake in.  Today we celebrate the institution of the Lord’s Supper in which Christ invites us to come to the table and partake in receiving his body and blood in, with and under the forms of bread and wine.  Christ is leading us not that we might fall but rather leading us that we might be delivered from the temptations of this world and he has promised to be with us every step of the way.  When we fall he is there to pick us up and speak the words of forgiveness.  When we fear he is there to give us comfort and protect us from all things.  When we get off course he is there to get us back on track.  He is there for us in those places that he has promised to be, in the word and sacraments.

As we go about our lives as those whom have been called and redeemed by our Savior Jesus Christ we know that we will be tempted in all sorts of different ways.  We must understand that Christ is leading us every step of the way and calling us to him even as the world, Satan and our sinful flesh are attempting to distract us and get our eyes off of the one place that they need to be, our Savior Jesus Christ! As you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, fear no evil, for Christ is with you; his word comforts you.  He has prepared a table before you in the presence of your enemies, come and receive the body and blood of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for your life and salvation! Amen!

[1] James 1:13 (ESV)

[2] Psalm 23:4-5

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