By: Sarah Norman
In Matthew 6, Jesus gives us a blueprint for how to pray. We have been exploring this the last few weeks. We've learned how to surrender our wills to God by praying for His will, not ours to be done. We've learned to pray for God to give us just exactly what we need, no more and no less, lest we forget to rely on God. We've learned to pray for forgiveness as well as forgive those who've sinned against us. This week, we learned about temptation. In the prayer Jesus taught his disciples, he says, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil,” (Matt 6:13). If I am being completely honest, the judgmental, legalistic side of me automatically thinks of all the people I think who need to hear this message and flee from temptation. I forget about my own sins and temptation I struggle with. And when I remember, I realize how much I've allowed my religion to influence how I live rather than allowing Jesus to influence how I live.
In the world we live in, temptation is everywhere. But it has been that way since the beginning of time. A look through Biblical history shows us that temptation was there in the very beginning. Adam and Eve were tempted by the serpent and promptly shirked their own responsibility of their sin. Adam blamed Eve, but also blamed God for giving Eve to him. Eve then blamed the serpent for her sin. Neither took responsibility, and thus began the pattern of sin for every person who's ever lived. We see it in all the the stories of the Bible, Cain, Noah, Abraham, Lot, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Sampson, David, Solomon. The list could go on and on. All were tempted to sin, all gave into sin. The difference is, some realized it. Some allowed God to change their hearts. Some saw their temptation, saw their sin and knew it went directly against what God wanted because they had a relationship with God.
In this prayer, Jesus invites us into freedom. He invites us to pray a prayer that gives us a freedom from the bondage of sin. He invites us to flee from the temptations that are around us every day and to run toward Him. This world makes sin so enticing. When we are looking towards this world, choosing to follow people in this world, social media influencers, politicians, pastors, whoever it is we let speak into our lives, we take our eyes off of what the Bible says, off of what God is speaking to us, and so easily begin to follow what may seem good and right, but is contrary to what the Bible says. The world tells us to do what makes us happy, “you do you” as I said last week, follow your heart for it can never lead you astray. But God does not tell us to do what makes us happy. He doesn't tell us to follow our hearts. We read in Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Our hearts will lead us into sin every single time. I have been there. I've chosen many times to listen to my heart. I did what I thought would make me happy. And it did for a while. I had some happy times knowing I was sinning. But that happiness always ended. And then I was left with emptiness, and yearning for more.
We are designed to be filled with something. This world makes it so easy to be filled with the things of this world, money, sex, alcohol, drugs, entertainment, anger, gossip, again the list could go on. We get our fill, think we're satisfied, but we're never done. There will always be another temptation, always be another thing we think we need to fulfill ourselves. Jesus, in this prayer, is inviting us to something different. He's inviting us into a relationship with Him that will fully satisfy everything we need. He's inviting us to flee temptation, to flee the sin that holds us in bondage and run towards Him.
Justin spoke today about a commandment that is in every single Gospel. It's the only one repeated in all 4. Matthew 16:24 says “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Jesus wants us to follow him. He wants us to walk as he walked, do as he did, say what he said. Jesus was gentle, was meek, was a servant. He loved those who were untouchable, he gave humanity to all the dehumanized of the culture. He gave up His throne to walk this earth. He was tempted, he had emotions. Yet, through all of that, he was without sin. And he says to “Follow me.” That is his command.
This is not something we can do on our own. He tells us to pray “Lead me not into temptation.” He doesn't tell us “Just don't sin.” He knows we need help. He knows we can't do it without Him. He never intended us to do it alone, just like he was not alone. He prayed to God the Father daily. He modeled this so that we could see how we were intended to live this life.
Now if I'm being honest, I don't always want to pray, “Lead me not into temptation.” Sin is just easier in this world sometimes. We live in an incredibly forgiving, permissive culture of grace. We live in a culture where everyone is praised for being authentic and real without ever expecting anyone to then say, well how are you going to be different now that you know you shouldn't have screamed at your kids, or drunk that bottle of wine after they went to bed, or watched porn when your wife was out of town, or flirted with that coworker while your wife was watching the kids. It's good to be authentic and real, to share your temptations and sins, but Jesus didn't just leave us there in our sin. When people share their struggles, we should love them, not judge them, but gently point them toward Jesus. There is grace when we sin and there is forgiveness when we sin, but just as Jesus told the woman in John 8:11 “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more,” that should be our response, and that is hard. I think that's often why we don't pray this. We are comfortable in our sin. We know what to expect. But to live a life following Jesus, making the choice to not do the things we may want to do, that is hard, that is unknown to us. But it's what we are called as Christians to do.
If you claim Christ as your savior, following Him is not an option. That's another thing we've learned from this sermon series. He tells us to do some really hard things, but He doesn't leave us to do them alone. He's not going to tell us to do something and then just leave us to figure it out. He tells us to pray “Lead me not into temptation,” because He knows we need Him to help us, to lead us out of temptation. He knows we can't say no to it all on our own every single time.
If you're struggling with temptation or habitual sin patterns, God has not left you or forgotten you or counted you as too far gone. This prayer invites you into freedom from your sin, whatever that may be. This prayer invites you into a new kind of life, not one that looks like the world, not one that is easy, but one that you will find the satisfaction that you have been searching for. This prayer is meant to give you life abundantly.