Lead us not into temptation - Matthew 6:9-15

This is a sermon by Lee McMunn from the morning service on 8th July 2007.

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There is a charming story told about a little boy who came home from school one day and said to his father: “Dad, where do I come from?” This was the moment the father had been dreading. So he took a deep breath, sat down and painfully worked his way through the facts of life. The boy sat there, wide eyes, hardly believing what he was hearing. Then when the father had finished, relieved the ordeal was over, he said, “Well, son, do you have any questions?” The boy replied, “No Dad, it’s just that Johnny next door said he comes from Birmingham and I wondered where I came from?”

Woody Allen asked a similar question when he was a boy. When he was younger he asked his mum where babies came from but his mum thought he said, “Where do rabies come from?” So when his great aunt gave birth to triplets he thought she must have been bitten by a Great Dane!

It’s important to listen. It is vital that we use our ears properly. Someone once quipped that we have two ears and one mouth and so we are supposed to listen twice as often as we talk. Vital that we listen. Why? Because the language we use is not irrelevant. It is essential to use the right words when we communicate with other people.

Even one word misunderstood can have an impact on the meaning of a sentence.

Remember this principle when we try to understand verse 13 of Matthew chapter 6. Over these last few weeks we have been working through what is traditionally called the Lord’s Prayer but as I suggested last week perhaps should be called the Children’s Prayer or the Family Prayer.

Begins in verse 9 with Our Father in heaven. Not a prayer for anyone. But for the adopted sons and daughters of our Creator God who we can call our Father. Straight away we have that wonderful combination of power and intimacy. Because of this we have a reason to pray. Someone who will listen and yet someone who can act.

Listening ear is okay but we also need someone who can change things. That’s the God we follow. And so this in place we are then guided by Jesus to various topics that we should pray about.

o The honour of God’s reputation
o The spreading of his kingdom
o The doing of his will
o Provision of our daily needs
o Pardon for our ongoing offences

And now in verse 13 we are asked to pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” Protection for the future. But what?

The meaning of this petition hinges on the word temptation. So we need to ask a very basic question, “What does this word mean?”

Original language of the New Testament it can either mean temptation or testing. Only way we can find out its meaning in any situation is to look closely at where we find it in the Bible.

The main difference between temptation and testing is one of outcome. Situation in life can be described as a situation of temptation if it is designed to make us fail or to fall in our Christian life.  Whereas a situation in life can be described as an opportunity of testing if it is designed to make us stand.

Sometimes the same situation can be used by different people for different purposes. Some may use it as an opportunity for us to fall and someone else may use it as an opportunity for us to stand.

Perfect example of this is found in Matthew 4. Turn back in your Bibles to this. Jesus has just been declared to be the Son of God. Not a reference to his divinity but to his identity as the chosen King of Israel and then what happens. Matthew 4:1, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.”

Not that Jesus was led deliberately to a place where he would be tempted to fall. God’s intention was that he was led to a place where his trust in the Father’s affirmation that he was the Son of God, the inheritor of the nations, was true and he would live accordingly.

Adam and Israel. But where they failed he was destined to stand as the one who could live the perfect live of obedience that no one else could live.

This is frequently neglected by Christians even in churches like this. Clear that he suffered for us in our place. But he also lived for us in our place. So we can be perfectly acceptable when we appear before God.

Martin Luther compared this to a marriage. We bring our debts and he brings his righteousness.

All through his life but at the very beginning of his public ministry Jesus was brought deliberately by the Sprit to a place of testing so that he would stand tall. He did at the start what he would always do throughout.

But this situation was used by the devil for a different purpose. Tempted to fall. He encourages him all the way through either to doubt the word of God or to distort the word of God. He uses the same tactics all the time. From the very beginning he said, “Did God really say…?

He wanted Jesus to fall but Jesus stood. If you wanted to describe what was happening you would use the same word in Greek – from God’s perspective it was a time of testing but from the devil’s vantage point it was a time of temptation.

Same word – two different meanings.

When we arrive in Matthew 6 we need to work out what we are asking God to do. So when we pray, “Lead us not into temptation” are we asking God to keep us from situations when we will fail, when we will trip up in our faith? Or from painful trials and times of testing where we will ultimately stand?

We know from James 1 that God cannot be tempted and God does not tempt anyone. Not asking God to resist from a cruel sport where he sends obstacles in our way to trip us up. But still we have our question – Are we asking to be preserved from these harmful situations to our faith or from times of testing?

This morning I want to have my cake and eat it. The bigger teaching of the Bible allows us to pray both things so I want to expand on what it means to pray…

1. Lead us not into temptation
2. Lead us not into testing

First of all, lead us not into temptation.

Asking God to keep us from situations where we will fail. Realistic words. We are being made more mature. Being transformed. But we are not there yet. Situations which are best to avoid.

As the recovering alcoholic should not be down the pub so the recovering sinner needs to be careful about the life situations they put themselves in.

Might be different for each one of us. Some things that really trouble you that will not trouble me and vice-versa. When you pray this it would be a good idea to make it more personal to you.

Or more positively. Lead us into situations of right living.

As Christians we have chosen to put ourselves under the leadership of God. That’s one of the big meanings of repentance. We change our mind and our direction in life. Decide the Father’s instructions are for the best.

What might this mean in practice? Not rocket science and there are no short-cuts.

We read in the Bible, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.”

Keep the Bible at the centre of our living so your Spirit will lead us and take more control over us as we live day by day.

Mind of Christ becomes our mind then we will know the situations to avoid and the right way of live. So let us pray, lead us not into temptation.

Secondly, let us also pray, lead us not into testing.

At first sight this may seem to be contrary to the Bible’s teaching. Surely the Bible teaches that God uses trails and testing to refine his people.

James 1:2, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials (same word that is used in Matthew 6) of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

May seem odd to pray for God to keep us out of these painful times of testing.

Strange tension that we see in the teachings of the Lord Jesus.

o Matthew 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
o Matthew 10:23, “When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another.”
o Matthew 24:20, “Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For their will be great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now.”

There is a tension but it is not a contradiction.

Sometimes people say the Bible is full of contradictions. Often this is not thought through. Walking back from playing football one day and this young lad protested that the Bible was full of contradictions. I asked him what his favourite was.

It does have tensions. But if you believe it is God’s infallible word, as he intended then you think harder and work them out rather than throwing in the towel too soon.

It is a good thing to pray that we will be spared painful trials. Why? Because they are painful. Not to seek them with all our heart.

Lord Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Prays, “if there is any other way take this cup from me. But not my will but your will be done.”
That’s the proviso as we ask this from our Father in heaven. He always hears our prayer. Sometimes he says yes, sometimes no and sometimes not yet.

He knows best. He can see the bigger picture and we need to trust him.

Easier to look back at his providence in the past but much harder to keep on trusting unrevealed providence in your current situation.

He may think it is better for us to suffer trials and endure testing to refine our faith.

If we are in this situation at the moment then there is a different prayer to pray. Not keep from it but enable me to stand through it.

Purpose – it not so we will fall. He will not give us anything too much although he may take us to the brink.

We should pray that our faith would be increased and our character refined so that we will become more obedience in our daily discipleship.

End by giving us a few moments to turn these general requests into something more personal.

What would it mean for you today to pray these two petitions?

o Lead us not into temptation
o Lead us not into testing

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