Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lead Us Not into Temptation

First Sunday in Lent
February 21, 2010
Luke 4:1-13

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always thought it odd that in teaching us to pray our Lord told us to pray that our Heavenly Father lead us not into temptation. As if our Heavenly Father might just lead us into temptation so we’d better pray to Him that He doesn’t. God wouldn’t lead us into temptation, would He?

Sometimes I think ordinary Christians are the best theologians. When I was on vicarage an elderly woman, who when praying the Lord’s Prayer and came to the sixth petition, would always say it this way: “and lead us NOT into temptation”, as an affirmation that God indeed does not lead us into temptation.

Consider, though, what occurs in the Gospel reading for the First Sunday in Lent: Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil.

There’s no question that the devil is the source of the temptation. But there also is no question that God the Holy Spirit is the one who led Jesus into the wilderness in order to be tempted by the devil, Matthew makes that clear. Mark is even stronger, saying the Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness to tempted by the devil.

Was the Holy Spirit leading Jesus into temptation? Was Jesus walking out to the wilderness praying, “Lead me NOT into temptation?” All joking aside, Jesus knew exactly why He was going out there. And He knew exactly who it was that was leading Him out there. He was being led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

Even as the Scriptures teach that God tempts no one, at the same time they teach that God does indeed test us. They teach that God works all things for good for those who love Him who have been called according to His purpose. This includes temptation. God doesn’t tempt, but He uses temptation. He doesn’t lead us into temptation but He uses temptation for our good.

Temptation is the work of the devil. All the more better, then, that God uses it for our good. The devil is going to try to bring us down by tempting us. God builds us up through temptation, the very thing the devil is trying to bring us down with. What the devil brings about to harm us God uses to strengthen us. What the devil attempts to use to tear us away from God, God uses to draw us closer to Him.

What’s tempting for us here is to hear this and think that it’s ridiculous. Or impossible. Or what we would just as soon not have to go through. Temptation is by its very nature enticing. We’re tempted to do something we want to do that we shouldn’t do. But wrestling with temptation is miserable. You want to go through with the sin but you know you shouldn’t and you don’t want to go through with it but the urge is strong. And your mind is very good at rationalizing all kinds of ways of why it’s good to succumb to the temptation.
How does God use this for our good? How does He strengthen us through this?

We must look to see what He does in His Son. What He does in us is what He does because of what He has done in His Son. We are strengthened through temptation because of what Jesus endured and accomplished.

The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted. This is vitally important. We really should not talk about temptation apart from the fact that God the Father wanted Jesus to endure temptation. Not for the kicks of it all. So that we may know there is victory over Satan. So that we may know that temptation can be overcome, because it has been overcome.

We are powerless against temptation. Not Christ. The devil meets his match in Jesus. Because that is so it is so with us. We have power over Satan because Christ does. We have the victory in Christ.

Christ did not veer. He did not succumb. He stayed the course. And not only did He battle Satan with the Word of God in the desert, Christ continued on His course all the way to the cross. He accomplished victory over temptation and the devil in suffering and dying for every one of our times we have fallen into temptation. Every time we have listened to the devil and heard his enticement as appealing and what we desire more than the Word of God.

Jesus’ final word to Satan was that you shall not put the Lord your God to the test. It’s not just an answer to Satan. It’s a word for you and me to live by. Otherwise we die. Succumbing to temptation leads to death. God will never lead us into that. What He will do is give us what we need in times of temptation. His Word. Strength when we are weak. This is all in His Son, the one who conquered Satan and his temptations. That’s why our Lord gives Himself to us in His Holy Supper, just as He gave Himself to the world in His suffering and death.

You might hear the voice of the devil questioning whether Jesus’ body and blood could really be given to you for you to eat and drink in simple bread and wine. When you hear this voice respond in confidence with the Word of God, Jesus’ words themselves: This is My body, this is My blood.

And when the voice of Satan comes right back at you, getting you to wonder what that really does for you—receiving the body and blood of Christ, how it could possibly help you in the time of temptation—come right back at him with word of Christ, His victorious words to you in direct combat to Satan: shed for you for the forgiveness of all of your sins.

Jesus was led into temptation. He will lead you through it. The Holy Spirit led Jesus through the wilderness while Jesus was being tempted. You are Baptized. The Holy Spirit led you into eternal life when you were washed in those waters connected with the Word of Christ. The Holy Spirit leads you through the dark valleys of temptation. You have the victory in Christ. Rely on the Word of God. Pray in the fullest confidence the prayer your Lord has given you to pray: and lead us NOT into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.


1 comment:

James said...

Praise God for the revelation He has given you on this issue. I was researching on this topic and found this blog. Indeed God does test us as is evident in Jesus' case and also for Job. And He does allow us to be put into situations where we will be tempted though He does not do the tempting. But all this is for a purpose of strengthening us, reminding us of our need for Him and that His name maybe glorified in the process.