Friday, November 11, 2016

Lead us not into temptation

 "You need not be led into temptation, for you live in it already."

I read the above statement the other day as I was studying what is commonly called, "the Lord’s prayer" found in Matthew 6:9-15.  What caught my attention was the phrase in this prayer ... "Lead us not into temptation" … as if God does that.  Or does He?

If Jesus was teaching His disciples how to pray, and one of the petitions was … "Lead us not into temptation" … could we then rightfully ask this question … does God lead us into temptation? 

The statement I started with … "You need not be led into temptation, for you live in it already," can have two meanings.  One meaning is that some people are living in daily sin by choice.  They have yielded … they have ceased all resistance to the enemy of their soul.  Another meaning could be that we all live in a world full of sin which require guarding our mind and soul from the influence of the evil one.  We don’t need to be led into the temptation of sin … it is all around us … we live with it.

Most of what I am going to share comes from a sermon delivered on Sunday morning, May 17, 1863 by Charles H. Spurgeon.

The use of the word "temptation" in our translation of Scripture may be somewhat misleading. The word temptation itself has two meanings … to try, and to entice.  When we read that God tempted Abraham, we are by no means to understand that He enticed Abraham to do anything that was evil.  The meaning of the word in that place, is simply and only that God tried him or put him to the test.  God does not entice.

To this point, Spurgeon says … "I grant you that the word includes trial, as all temptation does, for all temptation, even if it is temptation from Satan, is in fact a trial from God."

So … if God does not tempt men, how can it be proper to pray, "Lead us not into temptation."  Notice the text does not say, "Lord, tempt us not," but it does say … "Lead us not into temptation."  There is a vast difference between leading into temptation, and actually tempting!

God tempts no man

Spurgeon continues with … "Our God and Father may … for wise ends, which shall ultimately serve His own glory, and our profit … lead us into positions where Satan, the world, and the flesh may tempt us, and so the prayer is to be understood in that sense of a humble self-distrust which shrinks from the conflict.  There is courage here, for the suppliant calmly looks the temptation in the face, and dreads only the evil which it may work in him, but there is also a holy fear, a sacred self-suspicion, a dread of contact with sin in any degree.

Let me observe that God, in no sense, so leads men into temptation as to have any share in the blame of their sin if they fall into it!  God cannot possibly, by any act of His, become partner with man in his crime."

The devil tempts men that he may ruin them … but God tries men, and puts them where Satan may try or entice them … but God leads them into temptation like a type of  probation; the process being a period of testing, observing their character, while closely monitoring their progress in overcoming the flesh as they walk by faith.

I love this example Spurgeon uses … "By these trials, hypocrites fall, being discovered in the hour of temptation, just as the rough March wind sweeps through the forest, and finding out the rotten branches, snaps them from the tree … the fault being not in the wind … but in the decayed branch!"

While the benefit which God brings out of our being led into temptation (learning to overcome) is a good thing … still, temptation in itself is dangerous … the trials themselves are so perilous, that it is still right and needful for the Christian to pray as Jesus taught His disciples, "Lead us not into temptation."

Though, as Martin Luther says … "temptation is the best school into which the Christian can enter; yet, in itself, apart from the grace of God, it is so doubly hazardous, that this prayer should be offered every day."

That being … "Lead us not into temptation" … but if we must enter into it, add the second part … "Lord, deliver us from evil."

Comments welcome …