|13||And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.|
Well, you and I have just survived the cruelest century in human history; for the first time, a century where more people died at the hands of other people than by disease or accident. And so as Christians, you and I need to deal with the problem of evil head on. Evil is a day to day problem for you and me. It threatens to wound us, to destroy us. Evil is a theological problem for us because we say we worship a God who is all loving and all-powerful. And if that’s the case then why is there evil? Where did it come from? Throughout history some people have said, “The answer to that is that God is not really all powerful, or he’s not all good or loving.” Well, that’s not acceptable. There are others such as Christian Science – (which is neither Christian nor science) that denies the reality of evil altogether. There are others who are attracted to what is called Monism, which is a foundation for many Far Eastern religions that basically say that everything is god and therefore evil is a part of god.
There was an early church sect called the Marcionites. They tried to solve the problem by saying that there is a demi-god that created evil. In fact, the God of the Old Testament, is this demi-god, and he’s at odds with the God we meet in Jesus Christ. Well, the Church rightly condemned the Marcionites as being heretical. When it comes to the Bible and the problem of evil, you and I are going to have to learn to live with mystery. The Bible is virtually silent on where evil came from. But what the Bible is clear on, is that evil’s a reality that we have to deal with. Evil is not supreme; God is sovereign over it. He’s in the process of redeeming it. In fact, God has already won the ultimate victory over it in Jesus Christ. The Bible goes on to say that evil is somehow hooked in with Satan and powers and principalities of darkness, and you and I as disciples of Jesus Christ are to be against it.
Now, you have probably never thought of the Lord’s Prayer as being a prayer of deliverance, but it is. We are going to take a look at verse 13 of the Lord’s Prayer, where Jesus, is teaching the disciples the basics on how to pray. He gives them and you and me here this morning, an elementary lesson in deliverance ministry, praying for deliverance. I invite you to grab a Bible and turn with me to the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 6. I would encourage you to keep that Bible open during the sermon, we’re going to read verses 9-15, the Lord’s Prayer in its entirety, and the 2 verses that come after it, but then we’re going to hone in on verse 13 this morning. Beginning to read at the 6th Chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, the 9th verse. This is the word of God. Jesus is speaking.
This, then is how you should pray:
“Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your Name, your kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.”
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Join me as we pray:
And now Father, as my words are true to your Word, may they be taken to heart. But as my words should stray from your Word, may they be quickly forgotten, through Jesus our Lord. Amen.
I know what’s really bothering you all at this very moment. You’re saying, “What happened to the last phase of the Lord’s Prayer? They’ve left it out of the Scripture text. “For thine is the Kingdom, and the Power and the Glory, for ever and ever.” Yes it’s gone. But if you’ve got the NIV (New International Version), you’ll notice that that’s included as a footnote at the bottom of the page, where some translations have it bracketed within the text. That’s because in the earliest New Testament manuscripts that we have, that phase is not included. How did it get in some of them and not in others? Was it perhaps a worshipful comment that a monk wrote in the margin of one of the original texts, later on incorrectly incorporated into the text by a bleary eyed scribe as he was copying the Scriptures? Or could it have been Matthew himself, doing a Revised Standard Version, “Oh wait a minute, I forgot to put the last phrase that Jesus spoke of the Lord’s prayer, ” and he put it in later? We won’t know this side of eternity. What I can say about that phrase though is that it is a great doxological phrase of praise to God. It’s most appropriate to use that phrase when praying the Lord’s Prayer, as a way to end that prayer. It puts forth something you and I can never hear too much and that’s the utter and total sovereignty of God, which is necessary if our prayers are to be effective.
But this morning I want us to hone in one what was originally in verse 13, and the two petitions that we find there: A petition about temptation and a petition dealing with the problem of evil. Verse 13 starts off by saying, “lead us not into temptation,” and we all know what temptation is… you’re on a diet and visions of hot fudge sundaes dance in front of you. Now, that’s kind of trivial, but you get the idea. Temptation isn’t always bad…”You did a great job on that project. I’m tempted to give you a raise.” But in the context of the Lord’s Prayer the temptation that the Lord is talking about is the temptation towards sin or evil. One of the things you and I need to realize as Christians about temptation, though, is that temptation is not synonymous with sin. There are too many Christians running around feeling guilty because they were tempted. We’re all tempted. Even Jesus was tempted. The difference between Christ’s temptations and yours and mine is that somewhere along the line, you and I give in. We willfully decide to cave whereas Christ never gave in. And so he remains sinless. Temptation is never sin until it’s acted upon. Then you and I move into the realm of sin. Until then don’t feel guilty just because you’re tempted. In fact, we have this great promise from God, in 1 Corinthians 10:13, that says … “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so you can stand up under it.”
Do you hear that? Every time you and I are tempted God at the same time provides a way out. The person who says, “OHHH, I couldn’t help it. I was trapped. I was so tempted I just had to give in.” That is a lame excuse. God always makes a way out of temptation. That’s good to know isn’t it. Well, how about this: when it comes to temptation does God tempt us? We’re called to pray, “lead us not into temptation.” Does God tempt us? No, never. According to Scripture God never ever tempts us. Listen to James 1:13. “When tempted, no one should say, God is tempting me. For God cannot be tempted by evil nor does he tempt anyone.”
Then why in the world is Jesus asking you and me to pray, “lead us not into temptation?” Doesn’t that acknowledge that God tempts us? No. You see there is a big difference between tempting someone and leading someone into situations where temptations abound in order that those folks might do battle against the powers and principalities of darkness, against evil. Which is what God does all the time with you and me, if we have stepped up to the plate and offered ourselves to Him to be involved in ministry.
One of my good friends is Dr. Jerry Kirk, formerly the pastor of College Hill Presbyterian, Cincinnati. About 15 years ago God yanked him out of that church and raised him up to combat pornography on a national level. He heads up the National Coalition Against Pornography. Now obviously, answering that call of God has placed Jerry in situations where he is surrounded by temptation. He has told me many times, “I have to pray up all the time.”
And when God calls you and me to do battle against socioeconomic injustice in our world, you and I are going to be affronted by temptation, temptations of our own affluence and privilege. When God calls you and me to tackle theological heresy within the church and outside of the church, you and I are going to be tempted by the good feeling of religious pluralism. And when you and I are called by God to speak out against racism, things like property values, job security, and for some of us of Southern heritage, pride in that heritage is likely to tempt us to remain silent. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer and ask – lead us not into temptation, we are not asking God to not do anything with us. No, it’s more of a counter to that false bravado that sometimes wells up inside us and says, “come on God, bring on the evil. Bring on the temptation. I’ll whoop em for Jesus.” No, verse 13, when we pray that, it’s really an acknowledgment of our weakness in the face of temptation. It’s not asking God never to use us. It’s saying … “God don’t lead us into situations where we might cave.” It’s saying that it’s ok to ask God to spare us from some of the big battles of life. Jesus, in the garden of Gesthemane on the night before the crucifixion, beset on every side, prayed to his Father, “Let this cup pass from me, if possible. God, isn’t there a plan B?” When we pray the Lord’s Prayer we’re saying, “God, spare us from any kind of situation where we might cave in and bring shame upon your name. Lead us not into temptation.”
But then verse 13 ends with the phrase – “deliver us from the evil one.” Now verse 13 really is all of one piece because every time you peek behind temptation, you know what you find? You find Satan standing there. The devil is the tempter, not God. The evil one refers to Satan, the devil, Lucifer, Appolyon; Scripture has a number of different names for him. “Now wait…Time out…Ron, let’s get real. Ron, this is the 21st century, [even though Jerry wants to debate me on that,] it is a new millenium. Ron, you seem like you’re fairly well educated, intelligent. You seem like you’re fairly urbane, suave, sophisticated, debonair sort of guy. My guess is that for you, Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, are history for you. Ron, come on, do you really believe in the devil?” Let me come clean with you. No, I don’t. I only believe in God. Do I believe Satan’s real, that he exists? You better believe it. Do I believe that we have to reckon with him? That’s what verse 13 of our text is all about. Scripture makes clear that Satan is a real being. Once he was an angel. And for some reason that Scripture doesn’t make clear, he led a mutiny against God, was banished from heaven, and thrown out along with him were all of the other angels who participated in the rebellion. And they now make up that realm of spiritual darkness, called the demonic. Powers and principalities of darkness whose chief aim is to confuse and deceive and oppress and harass and tempt and even destroy you and me.
If you are a born again Christian . . . and that’s a redundancy . . . you can’t be a Christian unless you are born again. If you’re a born again Christian then part of the birth process leaves you and me with a birthmark. Sort of like the deer in that Far Side cartoon. The one that’s grazing in the meadow and on his side is a big bull’s eye and the caption says unfortunate birthmark. When you and I are born again, you and I left with a similar birthmark. That is why Christ tells you and me, in verse 13, to pray – deliver us from the evil one. Because he has his sights on you and me. Satan spends very, very little time with the Hells Angels, with the 37-year drug addicts. He doesn’t have to spend time with them; His target is you and me. Now, I get more than a little nervous when people start talking about things like that. I get more than a little nervous when some of my dear Christian brothers and sisters run around and they seem to make the whole Christian life revolve around spiritual warfare. I get very, very nervous. They are looking for demons under every rock. They’re running around wanting to do combat with Satan, “come on Satan. I’ll duke it out with you for Jesus.” Hey, that has nothing to do with the Lord’s Prayer. I would say that verse 13 is telling you and me implicitly if not explicitly that we are not to go around looking for combat with Satan. The prayer is – “deliver us from the evil one.”
Scripture tells you and me that we are to stand our ground, but not have to duke it out with Satan. It’s God who does combat with Satan. We’re to pray for deliverance. The Lord’s Prayer is frontline spiritual warfare. It’s frontline deliverance prayer. Do you pray for deliverance? Everyday I pray in my quiet time for our family, and I pray that God might place around myself, and Ann and all of our children, my mother and our extended family, the shield of the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ and all of His armor; that we might be protected and delivered from any kind of satanic and demonic influence. And then I go out and live my day.
Let’s bring this home. Let’s bring this down to where the rubber meets the road, this road that God has just recently laid out for Central Presbyterian Church. Because God is calling Central to go through this interim period of time between my departure and the arrival of a new senior pastor. And I can tell you that road is going to be fraught with all kinds of temptations. I am going to flag four of them here this morning.
Temptation number 1 is “the idolatry of the senior pastor.” There is no one at this church, never has been, who is not expendable. I received a letter from someone who was in our most recent new member class, just this past Friday, a three-page letter. Started off… when I heard the news, I was shocked, I was angry, I felt betrayed etc. Then she said, “God brought me to Central, and God has been growing me in Christ and so I looked at my faith and it dawned on me, Hey, I’m at Central not because of Ron Scates but because of Jesus. Central’s not about Ron, it’s about Jesus.” Here’s a new member, growing in the faith, and man, she has got it in a very healthy, faithful way.
There is another temptation out there. The temptation to believe that this interim period is not something that’s been orchestrated by God, but is a human calamity, and therefore we need to panic. Folks, I don’t have time to share with you all of the confirmations and green lights that God has given me and Ann and our family, and friends around us and covenant brothers and sisters. It’s of God. And if that’s true, then that means that God already has in the pipeline the process and the procedure to bring the next senior pastor here. And you’re job is to pray that way open for that person.
Well, a third temptation is to say, “I’m out of here. I’m going to go find another church where everything is more settled and where they have a senior pastor.” Shame on you. If that thought ever entered your mind, shame on you. God has called Central to the most unbelievable, exciting ministry…get that annual report and look. Central’s ministry has always been, and will remain, independent of any one personality. Independent of the office of the senior pastor. God doesn’t change your call because he’s changed my call. If you left here, you know what’s going to happen? You’re going to wind up where you don’t belong; you’re going to block somebody else’s ministry, you’re going to leave …Peter talks about us being bricks, or living stones, fitted into the wall God is building . . . you’re going to leave a hole here. But you know what’s going to be the worst thing. You are going to miss out on one of the most exciting periods of Central’s life. God has a call upon this congregation. He’s fueling ministries here like you wouldn’t believe and if you leave you’re going to miss it. I have this feeling that when the next senior pastor arrives he’s going to find a much more lively, vibrant, healthy congregation than we are right now. Because, men and women, boys and girls are going to catch this vision (you’re going to hear some of it next week at the congregational meeting) and they are going to step up to the plate and offer their gifts of ministry, and God’s going to maximize those gifts in ways that boggle your imagination. This is going to be a great period of excitement for Central Church.
One final temptation, though, is to go through this interim period flying mostly on our emotions rather than on prayer and wisdom. Satan is real, he’s out there, and he’s prowling like a lion, we are told in Scripture. He’s waiting to use your thoughts, my words, and our actions to bring divisiveness and discouragement to the body of Christ. That’s why Central’s prayer during this interim period has got to be, “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.” That is a prayer that God will answer in very exciting and faithful ways.
This Lord’s Prayer series is obviously about prayer, but it begs a question. And the question is this… and this is a question we, North American, affluent Christians are obsessed with – “Does it work?” Will it make any difference for me, for this congregation, if I pray for deliverance? Will it? Let me close with a story, a true story, out of a book, Questions God Asks/Questions Satan Asks, by one of my covenant brothers, Doug Rumford, of late the senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Fresno California, recently yanked out of there and now working as a solicitor for Tyndale Publishing Co.
It happened in early December 1934, in a little town in China. Betty Blackstone and her husband Bill and their 20-month-old son Bobby, had returned to their village after leaving it to escape the onrush of Mao-Tse Tung’s army. The army had passed by, but the area was still full of communists. Their house outside the city wall was the only one outside the city wall that the communists had not completely destroyed. About 2:30 one morning they were awakened by shots from a repeating weapon. It sounded like it was at their front gate. It meant Communists, not local bandits; bandits had no modern weapons. They jumped from bed and dressed in silence. They grabbed a small suitcase of diapers, milk powder and other essentials for the baby, went to his bed on the sleeping porch and looked down at him, what to do next? If they woke Bobby he might cry and give them away to the soldiers outside. Betty sank to the floor with no strength; Bill stooped down, kissed her and prayed in a whisper, a prayer thanking God for His presence, affirming that He had called them to China and that He would give them strength and be with them no matter what happened. After the prayer they had such perfect peace that they went back to bed and fell asleep. That’s not the end. At an early morning prayer meeting, the Chinese Christians asked, “Why didn’t they get you? We heard them go by marching down the road that leads to your house.” The Blackstone’s could not answer that question. In the next airmail letter from Bill’s mother she asked, “Did anything special happen out there on December 3rd? Many of the women here at the 1st Presbyterian Church of Hollywood felt a deep burden to pray for you. They phoned around and found that many felt the same burden so they met at the church. It was the same day that the Hollywood Women’s Club was meeting and some even missed that meeting. They knelt and prayed until the burden was lifted and then they got up and wondered what in the world all this meant, and went home. We are all anxious to know what happened.” Well Betty Blackstone looked in her diary. At that very hour that the Communists were going along the path to their house, the women at 1st Pres. Hollywood were on their knees in prayer. And Betty writes, “according to the people who lived along the street the Communists had gotten as far as our house but then changed their mind, retraced their steps, shooting their weapons.” She continues, “There are many things I do not understand about prayer. For instance, why we were spared and other missionary families were not. But one thing I do know, our lives were saved because we had friends back home who were obediently and fervently interceding for us.” Does prayer work? Does it make any difference if you and I pray? Will it make any difference in our personal lives, or in the corporate life of this congregation? Don’t be a dummy, pray.