Lead us not into temptation

Lead us not into temptation                                                        

Luke 4:1-13

Dear heavenly Father, lead us by your Holy Spirit so that we may remain faithful during our trials and temptations, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

We pray in the Lord’s Prayer: ‘Lead us not into temptation’.

Now, we know God doesn’t tempt anyone. When we pray for our Father not to lead us into temptation, we’re asking God to keep us safe from the devil, from our own sinful nature, and from those who are against God. We’re praying God won’t let them trick us into losing our faith, giving up all hope, and doing other terrible things. We also pray that even though we are attacked, that in the end, we will win the victory.

 

Unfortunately we’re tempted often. We’re tempted in ways that are deceptive and attractive. Even though the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, he loves to dress up as a harmless lamb. He doesn’t wear a red suit, have horns and a spiked tail, and carry around a red fork. He dresses up in things that are attractive and desirable. Remember, he’s the king of deception! It’s more likely he’ll test and tempt you through things that seem good, right, and reasonable.

He did this also to Jesus.

Jesus was hungry! He’s been in the wilderness without food for 40 days. The stones around him would look pretty tempting even after 4 days! Why not just turn them into bread? Surely God wouldn’t want Jesus to go hungry, would he? Don’t we pray ‘Give us today our daily bread’? Well, through a miracle, God may want to give Jesus his daily bread through these stones! Wouldn’t that seem good, right, and reasonable?

We too are often tempted to satisfy our physical desires. We want to gratify our bellies, our pleasures, our lusts, and our passions. We feel it’s unfair if we miss out. Everyone else is doing it! Surely it’s good, right, and reasonable to satisfy our physical hungers and passions? So we’re often tempted to give in to our hunger in order to fill our bellies… with the result that our waist lines swell to unhealthy levels. We give in to our lusts, mistaking sexual encounters for love, and the result is we lose intimacy and closeness. We seek physical thrills in an effort to feel alive, with the result we live all the rest of the time feeling joyless, depressed and unsatisfied.

In reply to the devil’s temptation, Jesus quotes a verse from Deuteronomy, saying “Man shall not live by bread alone”.

The context of the verse he quotes is the people of Israel were just about to enter the Promised Land. Before they enter that land, Moses reminds them of God’s law, saying “Remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.  And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deut 8:2-3)

For the Israelites, their hunger was to teach them the value, importance and necessity of God’s Word. Food will sustain you briefly, but the Word of God will sustain and satisfy you far longer. No one really lives, no matter how much food they have in their belly, without the Word of God. The testing and the hunger were necessary lessons. Jesus submitted himself to this lesson.  He would not be deceived by any desire for instant gratification. The Word of God sustains him.

Will we learn from these tests? Will we learn to resist the temptation to gratify our fleshly desires right now, or will we learn to wait patiently for what God wants to give us? Through our times of testing, we may learn to be more discerning between what seems good, right, and reasonable, and what really is good and right and reasonable for us.

But the devil continues to say: ‘Don’t trust God and his plans for all these lands and the riches they contain, but put your trust in me instead. I will give you what you want right now and you won’t have to do what God wants you to do. Worship me now and of course I’ll give you what you want.’

In this way, after the devil tests us with fleshly gratifications, he’ll test us with power and possessions.

Think how much we crave the things of this world. We’re not happy with what we have, but always want more. Our TV seems smaller than the one in the shops or in someone else’s house. Our mobile phones don’t look as flashy or sound as good as the person next to us. We want the latest car, the latest gadget, a bigger house; we want the newest best thing. More than this, we don’t want to wait. We want glory, power and riches right now.

Yet, no matter how many things we gather around us, we’re never really satisfied. There’ll always be a new thing we want. We’ll never have enough money. We’ll never be fully satisfied with what we have. We’ll never be able to make up for lost times with our families, friends, or with God. The more we fill our lives with things, the emptier and lonelier we feel.

So Jesus replies, “Worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.” Jesus again quotes Moses who was reminding people God was going to give them a good land filled with houses, good things, vineyards, crops, and so on. Yet even when God gives you these things, don’t forget the Lord your God. He was the One who saved you out of slavery, not the things about you. Don’t chase after other gods who keep demanding more and more. Remember, our God is jealous God and won’t tolerate any rivals (cf. Deut 6:10-15). Don’t worship the gifts, but only worship God, the giver.

But the devil doesn’t give up. He then says: ‘Reveal who you are right now. Show yourself to be God’s chosen one. Use your power. Take parts of Scripture out of context and use them to justify your showing off.’

For the spiritual person, the devil won’t just tempt us with gratifications to flesh and possessions, but with the spiritual temptations of superiority, pride, or abuse of our positions.

We may be tempted to think we’re better than others, whether Christian or not. We may think God saved us because we’re good people instead of seeing and admitting our sinfulness. We may be tempted to abuse our positions as parents, leaders, bosses, or even as pastors. We may be tempted to twist God’s word or use our position to get what we want. We’ll be tempted to ignore or argue away any Words of God that prick our conscience. We’ll be tempted to manipulate and bully others through our shows of spiritual supremacy.

Of course, the devil will also tempt us through our despair. He may lead us to try to make up for our failures, hoping we’ll go into spiritual overkill and that our faith will self-destruct. When we go through troubles, thinking God hasn’t kept his promises or helped us escape from times of trial, we’ll be tempted to take the easy road, the road that leads to success and relief right now, even though it also leads to destruction. The voice that sounds good, right and reasonable will try to lead us away from God and into despair, drugs, drink or hate against God for our misery and troubles.

To quote the full verse Jesus quotes from Moses, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah” (Deut 6:16). Massah was that place where the Israelites grumbled and complained, wondering if God was with them or not. In this case we’re often tempted to make ourselves god, manipulating those around us to get our own way. On the other hand, we may be tempted to despair in God and his goodness, complaining he’s not on our side. Yet in both these ways we test God, trying to set him up for failure in our eyes.

These temptations are real. They’re real for us, and they were real for Jesus.

Yet Jesus, despite his real hunger, relied on his Father’s Word and his promises. They were enough for him. Jesus could have turned stones into bread, but instead he waited patiently for his Father to provide for him.

Jesus was tempted to abandon the road to suffering and receive the whole world and its inhabitants, but to do so would have meant turning his back on his Father. To worship the devil would have meant Jesus too would be trapped in the same state of delusion as Satan is. Sure this would have been the easy road to buy us back, but Jesus chose to walk the path of suffering and death set before him. This was the only way he could save us from the clutches of death and the devil.

Jesus could have thrown himself off the temple so everyone would see he is God’s Son. Yet to do so would be showing he didn’t trust God’s plan of salvation, but chose the path of glory. The path of God’s glory didn’t come through shows of super-spirituality, but through suffering and death where he would feel abandoned by God.

We too sometimes feel abandoned by God as we question the tragedies in this world. We watch innocent children suffer and sometimes die. We watch old people waiting patiently to go home to heaven, frustrated by why it takes so long. We watch families torn apart by tragedies, selfishness and deceptions. We watch wars and terror – sometimes even in our own homes.

The path of faith isn’t an easy road, and the devil will pay more attention to those who follow Jesus than anyone else. He doesn’t want us to receive the gifts of forgiveness, hope and life eternal. He will try every deceptive trick to lead us astray.

Don’t be deceived, the devil roams around like a lion waiting to devour you, but he will do it dressed in sheep’s clothing, using a sweet voice, tempting you with what you already desire. You may be tempted to do one wrong thing for a greater good, but by doing so, you abandon trust in God.

Even if you do succumb to temptations, by faith, believe God won’t abandon you and doesn’t lead you into temptation. No matter what trials or temptations you face, either in times of abundance or times of scarcity, you can trust in God. He will prove true and faithful to you. You have been set free to put your trust in Jesus who has already walked through many trials and temptations and has proved victorious over them. Through trusting his obedience and victory you’re saved. You can trust he’ll give you what you need to endure and persevere in your own times of trouble. You can be certain he will save you from the time of trial and deliver you from evil. 

And the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

This message from The Lutheran Church of Australia is brought to you by Grace Lutheran Church, Web and Park Street, Mountain View, Arkansas.  For prayer or more information, contact Pastor Kenneth Taglauer by email: [email protected].  A Pass it On Project ,  You can read more at: LCA.Com