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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Lead Us Not Into Temptation (John 17, Luke 8)

Sermon by: Robert Austell
August 9, 2015
Text: John 17:13-17; Luke 8:4-15

:: Sermon Audio (link) ::
Click link to open and play in browser; right-click to save. Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes. Search for "Good Shepherd Sermons" or "Robert Austell." 

:: Some Music Used ::
Gathering Video: mission trip slide shows
Middle School (Wilmington, NC)                               High School (New Orleans, LA)  
Song of Praise: "Mighty to Save" (Morgan/Fielding)
Song of Praise: "It is Well with My Soul" (VILLE DU HAVRE)
The Word in Music: "The Lord is My Light" - summer choir; Gwen Ingram, dir (James Cleveland)
Song of Sending: "Amazing Grace/My Chains are Gone" (Tomlin)
Postlude: Middle School mission trip video

:: Affirmation of Faith ::
adap. from the Westminster Longer (q. 195) and Shorter Catechism (q.106)
What do we pray for in the sixth petition, ‘And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil’?
Acknowledging that Satan-1, the world-2, and the flesh are ready powerfully to draw us aside and ensnare us-3, and that even after the pardon of our sins we are subject to be tempted, we pray that God would either keep us from being tempted to sin,-4 or support and deliver us when we are tempted.-5

1-1 Chron. 21:1; 2-Luke 21:34; Mark 4:19; 3-James 1:14; 4-Matt 26:41; 5-2 Cor. 12:7-8
:: Video ::
Testimony video of youth participating in the summer mission projects is coming...

:: Sermon Manuscript (pdf)::
This "manuscript" represents an early draft of the sermon. Some weeks the spoken version varies more than others from the early manuscript. Nevertheless, if you'd prefer to read than to listen, this is provided for that purpose.

After a week off last Sunday we are returning to our summer series on the Lord’s Prayer. Today we look at the phrase, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” I want to follow a fairly simple format today – I will look at a passage in John 17 where Jesus prays, and teaches us with his words. Then I want to look with you at a parable where Jesus has something to say about temptation. Finally, and with some further qualifiers on what ‘temptation’ means in the Lord’s Prayer, we will look at what it means for us to pray this part of the prayer.

Jesus’ Prayer (John 17)

We will look first at “deliver us from evil.”

John 17 records some of the events of the night of Jesus’ arrest. He has already had the Last Supper and is on his way to the place where he will be betrayed and arrested. On the way he stops to pray and his prayer is recorded in John 17. It has struck me increasingly this summer that in John 17 Jesus Himself follows after the pattern he taught in the Lord’s Prayer. I have noticed how many times we have turned to some aspect of the John 17 prayer this summer, and today is another example.

We heard this ask our Call to Worship today – Jesus praying: “I do not ask you to take [my followers] out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.” (John 17:15) Jesus’ prayer for his disciples and all those who have followed him since is not that God would remove them from the challenges and temptations of this world, but that God would defend them from the evil one. For a time, God has allowed sin and evil to exist, prolonging judgment so that many might trust and be saved. Because of that, the “evil one” has a measure of authority or persuasion in this world. Scripture refers to the evil one as ‘Satan’ (the adversary), pictured as a “prowling lion” and the “Prince of the power of this world.”

But God’s authority is greater and is complete. And God doesn’t remove His people from the world because it is through them that God has chosen to bless the world. So, Jesus prays in line with God’s plan and will: don’t take them out of the world (and abandon it to darkness), but neither abandon them to the darkness… protect them from evil and the evil one.

A Parable (Luke 8)

“Lead us not into temptation” is a little trickier to understand. I say that because in the Bible there are several understandings of ‘temptation.’ More accurately, there are several understandings of the underlying word peirasmos. Sometimes it is used to describe a ‘test’ – and those can come from God, from another person, or from Satan. Do note that when God tests us, His purpose is to build up our faith, not tear it down! Other times it is better translated ‘temptation’ and describes the potential to turn away from God or God’s will. Listen to James 1:13-14 – “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed…” Those verses go on to say that desire gives birth to sin and that leads to death. So Scripture says that God does not tempt us in that way. More than that, Scripture also says (1 Corinthians 10:13) that when temptation comes God will provide a “way of escape.” We always have the choice to trust and obey God and therefore resist temptation.

Jesus describes a range of these temptations in his explanation of the parable of the Sower. Let’s look at each situation in turn.

So you heard the parable: a sower went out to sow his seed and a variety of things happened, depending on how and where the seed fell. Jesus explains, starting in v. 11. In the first case, the devil or evil one is involved and so distracts or discourages the hearer that they never believe. This is temptation by the evil one and the very thing for which we would pray deliverance in the Lord’s Prayer. Note, however, that neither the Word nor the devil have control of the human will; if we believe the Word God has spoken, we WILL be saved, but God won’t force us to believe. In the second case, those who excitedly heard the Word fall away in a time of temptation. Though this situation aligns the most with ‘testing’ it is still testing or temptation that is not from God, for God does not test to tear down, but to build up. In the third case, the hearing and believing of the Word is “choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.” This is temptation in the world around us, and is the kind we constantly experience since we live in this world. Finally, there are those for whom God’s Word “bears fruit” and the key words for our application are “hold it fast… with perseverance.” This fruitful outcome comes from not turning aside from God or His Will.

For Us (1 Corinthians 10)

As we think about understanding and applying these things, I need to clarify a few more things.

There is a scripture (1 Corinthians 10:13) that says “God is faithful… [and] will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” This is the verse that is often quoted to say that God will not give you more than you can handle. That is NOT in the Bible! I’m going to let that sink in for a moment because I so often hear it mis-quoted. The Bible does not say that God will not give you more than you can handle. There is plenty in life that is more than we can handle! What the verse DOES say is that, in regards to temptation, we always have a choice to turn from God or obey God. Temptation is not action; it is not sin… it is the opportunity to sin and to turn. And there is always a faithful alternative!

As I have said, there is also a critical distinction between temptation and God ‘testing’ us for the purpose of building up our faith. That is the spiritual equivalent of me challenging one of my kids to swim the extra lap or run the extra mile and build up their endurance. While challenging, it comes from a loving father who wants the best for his children. Likewise, if God asks you to rise to a challenge – like sharing your testimony in front of the church or trusting Him with an area of your life to which you have been clinging, it is the Heavenly Father working for your best.

If evil or suffering happens to you – a car wreck, a medical diagnosis, a spouse’s betrayal, financial ruin – those are not ‘tests’ from God but trials that are a part of living in a sinful and fallen world. They do sometimes provide an opportunity to trust God, but they are not sent from God. And then sometimes there are out and out temptations – people or situations that actively invite you to turn aside from God and God’s will; and scripture says that Satan delights to send these your way.

When we pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” we ask the God who has indeed called us to live in this world to protect us and help us hear and follow His voice. He has said that we will always have the choice to hear and obey.  So whether the temptation comes from others, the world we live in, or the evil one; our best hope is to turn again and again to God and His Word. When we do, we are praying just as Jesus prayed and taught us to pray. Amen.

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