LORD’S DAY MORNING SERVICE, 6 October 2019
Sermon Text: Matthew 6:13
I. Petition for protection from temptation
II. Protection from the evil one’s wiles at present
III. Preservation from the evil one to the end
This is a story happened to a family after a cruel war which lasted for several years. People returned to their hometowns. Adults were busy with rebuilding their livelihood and their older children, whenever possible, had to give their hands to their parents’ works besides returning to schools. Meanwhile, younger children were mostly left unattended. One day, a child found something interesting in the ground near his home. At first look, it seemed to be an oval shaped rock. So he dug it up and played with it, hitting it with a small pebble. But it wasn’t a smooth oval rock, it was an unexploded bombshell. Fortunately, his father saw him, came to him, not realising what he was playing with, but in great haste, snatched his young boy and ran away from that shell. Since then, his older brother was assigned to a new job, that is, to keep an eye on his younger brother. Every morning, leaving home for work in the field, the father who was a Christian prayed, ‘Heavenly Father, please deliver my son from bombshells and deliver my family from all danger!’
This is exactly what we petition to God when we say this sixth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” This concludes the Lord’s Prayer, although some later copies of the Greek NT which include Matthew’s Gospel have an extra section which we usually say at the end of the Lord’s Prayer, that is, ‘For Yours [Thine] is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever, Amen.’ So, what exactly are we praying and seeking with this petition that concludes the Lord’s Prayer?
I. PETITION FOR PROTECTION FROM TEMPTATION
First of all, we seek protection rather than exemption from temptation. If anyone interprets this section of the Lord’s Prayer as a request to God to stop leading people to temptations, he is wrong. If anyone understands this as an appeal to God to exempt us from having any temptation, he is wrong. Instead, this petition begs God for His protection for the petitioner from all evil attacks of various temptations. Saying, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil,” you and I desire something like this: ‘I’m sure that trials/temptations will meet us, but through God’s mercy, I don’t want to get snared by any temptation and troubled by its evil intention; so, God, protect me in my path through various trials and temptations.’ In a word, we’re not seeking to take us by an airplane and fly us through the stratosphere, passing over all troubles and difficulties, and deliver us safely to the other end. No, that’s not it. It is rather like a firm and courageous request of a soldier to his commander to put him in a tank than on foot to pass through the heavy battlefield. He is saying that he’ll fight through to the end, firing all ammunition provided and defeating the enemy, yet seeks a protection with a full armour. This is the nuance of this petition.
So, if anyone understands it differently, that’s false and a misunderstanding. After all, God never leads anyone to temptation, nor does He tempt anyone Himself. Jas. 1:13 is clear about this, saying, “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.”
Then, someone might ask, ‘What about God testing some biblical figures like Abraham, Job and even Jesus? Doesn’t it prove that God tempts people sometimes, if not always?’ Well, such a question comes from a confusion between ‘trial from God’ and ‘temptation from the devil.’ Through a trial, God gives His children a greater faith and a greater blessing from heaven, whereas the devil’s temptation leads a Christian to despair in guilt and to bear doubt toward God’s word and promise. So, Abraham was tried by God when he was asked to sacrifice Isaac, his son, and the purpose of that trial was to give him a clearer picture of what God had promised to him many years ago, that is, to give him numerous descendants and a great name through which all nations would be blessed. Job had a similar trial in a different scale according to God’s purpose for declaring God’s righteousness and blessing prepared for His dear one, Job. Jesus’ trial was for the completion of the Father’s redemption plan for sinners like us.
In this sense, God’s trials could also be His ‘examination.’ This is why our denomination terms the test for a candidate for ministry as ‘trial for license.’ Every trial is not easy; it’s painful rather. But after a trial, Christians grow in faith, having received the heavenly Father’s blessing, and in the same way, after a trial for license, a candidate for ministry is led another step forward to his ordination and future ministry of the gospel. But, the devil’s temptation purposes something completely opposite; it seeks to entice or make one stumble in sin.
So, when you and I pray and say, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil,” we humbly yet firmly seek the Lord God, our heavenly Father, to protect us while we pass through trials/temptations, and we’re ready for any temptation as long as our Father is with us!
II. PROTECTION FROM THE EVIL ONE’S WILES AT PRESENT
This petition does not mean we’re strong enough to face and defeat all temptations. That’s not what this prayer teaches. Rather, it points out to us that we need our Father’s protection, otherwise, we’d surely fall into the snare of the evil one.
And this prayer emphasises that we need our Father’s protection now, at present! As it expresses our strong will to pass through a temptation and many temptations, this prayer also expresses our urgent need of the Lord’s helping hand. In this sense, this is a plea to God to hear us and answer us now!
A 5-year-old girl disobeyed her mum and she was sent to her room. After a few minutes, the mum went in to talk with her about what she had done. Teary-eyed, the daughter asked, ‘Why do we do wrong things, Mummy?’ Mum replied, ‘Sometimes the devil tells us to do something wrong, and we listen to him. But we need to listen to God.’ Then, the girl wailed and said, ‘But God doesn’t talk loud enough!’
Of course, God speaks to us loud enough in the Scriptures. Other than that, this 6th petition of the Lord’s Prayer nuances that little girl’s cry for help – ‘God, Father, I need Your help right now as I walk through a trial/temptation’ or ‘as I will surely face the next one.’
Why do we need our heavenly Father’s help now, at present, so urgently? Because the evil one’s wiles and onslaughts are both subtle and fierce. Generalising the evil one’s wiles, the first will be his attempt to twist God’s word to alter what the word actually teaches us. This deception of the devil has always been from the beginning of our race. Remember what happened to our first parents in the Garden of Eden. The serpent, Satan, approached Eve, our mother, and said in Gen. 3:1, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” I believe you know what God had said earlier to Adam and, through him, to Eve; He said as in Gen. 2:16-17, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” This, the devil twisted just slightly and said, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
The evil one’s deception is to instigate us to question God’s word, to shine light from a different angle, thus, to add a human thought, a human interpretation to the word, no matter how sincere and genuine man’s intention with any addition to or omission from God’s word might be. See what Eve answered to the serpent in Gen. 3:2-3, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” Here, one omission and one addition took place. First, the name of the tree is omitted – the tree is no longer ‘the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ but ‘the tree that is in the midst of the garden.’ Second, God’s word was, “you shall not eat (otherwise, you shall surely die)” but Eve said, “You shall not eat,” and she added, “neither shall you touch it.” I don’t think she did that with an evil intention. But when she omitted something and added another to God’s word, the serpent grabbed that opportunity and dug into that fine crack and said, “You will not surely die!” And the tragedy of the entire human race began!
Unfortunately, we haven’t learned from our first parents. The exact same deception of the devil parts Christians from God, while alienating non-Christians in this world further from their Creator. Some examples of this evil deception we hear are like these: ‘Are we really summoned to worship God on Sundays only? What about weekdays? We worship God always anyway’, ‘Are we really exclude our children from the Lord’s Supper? What about each parent telling his child what it is all about and then letting the church know that their children are ready to eat with adults?’, ‘Are women really not allowed to take leadership in church in a time like this when women are CEOs and presidents and prime ministers?’, ‘Is tithing really for the Christians of the NT time?’ These are just a few examples we hear from among Christians. The deception that began in Eden continues on and we’re exposed to such a wile of Satan. So we’re urged by Jesus our Lord to pray to the Father and ask for His protection now, and say, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” The devil tried this even to Jesus the Son in the wilderness, tempting Him to turn stones into loaves of bread. So, Jesus taught us this from experience.
The next deceit of the evil one is his attack on believer’s confidence in their Saviour by accusing them of their failures and of their imperfections. 1 Jn. 1:9 is clear about what God’s salvation is in these words, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Rom. 10:10 is another clear declaration of salvation, saying, “with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” What about 1 Jn. 4:15 which says, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God”? But the evil one whispers to the ears of people, ‘No, salvation that allows you to go into heaven wouldn’t be that easy; you must earn it, but you’re not good enough. So try harder.’ This is the devil’s deception.
Some other Christians who even believe that they’re saved in the name of Jesus suffer from this wile of the evil one and think, ‘I must continue my works to keep my salvation effective; I mustn’t stop doing good and being good, otherwise, I’d lose my salvation!’ The evil one accuses even Christians of their failures, telling them that they’re not good enough, not innocent enough, not diligent enough, not holy enough to be true children of God and eligible for the Paradise! So, praying to God, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil,” we ask God to protect us from this evil one’s accusation, and having protected us from that attack, to deepen our faith and trust in the Lord Jesus and His saving blood.
The third wile of the evil one is his persuasion of believers to depart from God. Secular governments of many nations are against the followers of Christ and His church; they introduce and legalise laws and regulations that are against Christianity even to the level of persecution in some places. We’re facing more challenges of this kind even in Australia recently. We pray and urgently seek God’s protection from temptations of this kind, here and now!
III. PRESERVATION FROM THE EVIL ONE TO THE END
In addition to this protection, we also ask God to preserve us from the evil one all the way to the end. Explaining this with the illustration of a soldier I told you earlier, this petition is what that soldier would ask his commander to provide all necessary support for him to complete his mission to the end of that battle, thus, he may be spared till that end. In other words, although that soldier fights and passes through the enemy lines, his mind aims at and longs for the end of his fight. That’s what we ask when we say, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”
This is what 2 Pet. 2:9 is about when it says, “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment.” Moreover, 1 Cor. 10:13 adds a clearer and final layer to this truth in these words, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” What a gracious word of God that gives an unmoveable confidence to all believing hearts!
Praying this last petition of the Lord’s Prayer, we ask our heavenly Father for our preservation till the end, and this with a great appreciation for His willingness to carry us in His mighty hand.
Concluding this message, let me remind you of the Lord’s intention for us with this Prayer. Our Lord Jesus wants us to pray ‘like this,’ as recorded in v. 9 of Mt. 6. Pray in the manner He teaches us through this model prayer; pray in the words He introduces to us in this prayer, calling God, ‘our heavenly Father.’ We must acknowledge who He is, seeking to glorify Him, and through glorifying Him, enjoy Him now and always as His beloved children.
Then, seek what is needed for our daily living, yet, not to satisfy our fleshly desires, but to continue and deepen our dependence on Him because He is the only source of life. This is summed up with our petition for our preservation to the end of this age and further into eternity.
This is why the Lord’s Prayer has been prayed by all members of the NT church since the time of the apostles. It is a precious treasure given to us by our Saviour and Lord Jesus for our daily prayer and as the model for all our prayers in His name in our heavenward journey. ***