This sermon was delivered to to congregation at Trinity United Methodist Church in Youngstown, Ohio some time in 1980. Dad did not record the exact date. Dad also shared this message with the congregation at Paradise United Church of Christ on August 10, 1980.
“…AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION, BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL…”
How many times in your lifetime have you said these words, “…and lead us not into temptation…” How many times have you given that last word – temptation – any thought or meditation? Well, for the next few minutes we’re going
to think together about temptation.
I started by going to the dictionary, not the Bible…that came later. Here’s what I found:
- That which tempts
- The state of being tempted
- Enticed to evil
- The act of tempting or testing
- A state of mental conflict between Heavenly and infernal influences
Then, I looked up the word TEMPT and found that it means:
- To offer, or to be an inducement to someone for wrong-doing.
- To entice, attract or allure
- Used of persons or things to try the forbearance of others
- To provoke or defy
Now that we have the meanings of these words fixed in our minds, let’s examine some of the temptations of Jesus. In the third Chapter of Matthew, the 16th and 17th verses we read that as soon as Jesus came up out of the water after being baptized by John the Baptist, the heavens were opened to Him and he saw the Spirit of God coming down in the form of a dove…and a voice from Heaven resounded, “This is my beloved Son, and I am wonderfully pleased with Him.”
Notice here that as soon as Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist…
…as soon as Jesus emerged from the Jordan River and the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God coming down to Him in the form of a dove…
…as soon as God’s voice announced from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, and I am wonderfully pleased with him”…
…as soon as these happenings happened, Satan began a campaign to test…to tempt this immortal man.
He had good reason to because here was a man filled with the Holy Spirit…graced with awesome, God-given powers. Satan had to find out…he had to test this new adversary…and Satan came off a very poor second.
We can imagine Jesus’s temptations to use or misuse his wonderful powers for selfish ends, but they were endured, and overcome.
- He did not use them for his own comfort by turning stones into bread when he was starving in the wilderness.
- He did not use them for the purpose of self promotion by jumping from the pinnacle of the temple.
- He did not use them to achieve political power over all the kingdoms which could be seen from the mountain top.
Jesus’s whole life was one, continuing temptation. And, it is because he was victorious in this struggle that we worship him. He is very special in our lives. He is our spiritual link to God.
But the temptations of Jesus recurred throughout his ministry…even on e cross, as he was dying, they taunted him.
- “You who could pull down the temple rebuild it again in three days…why don’t you save yourself! If you are truly the Son of God, come down from the cross!”
Still others screamed and pointed up at him…
- “He saved others , but he can’t save himself! If this is the King of the Jews, let him come down from cross now, and we will believe him.”
Others scoffed and muttered…
- He trusted in God…now let God rescue him if he will have anything to do with him: For he has said, ‘I am God’s son.'”
We can well imagine the agonizing, tempting thoughts going through Jesus’s mind as he hung on the cross. Being mortals, we have difficulty…in fact we agonize and puzzle over Jesus’s failure to invoke His power to come down from the cross.
But, God had plans for His Son. He was to die for our sins…and he was to rise from the dead to lead a mighty army of Christians down through the ages.
We are part of that army…and we cannot escape temptation any more than Jesus did. Why? Because we are endowed with the God-given freedom of choice. God leads us into temptation in the sense that he bestows upon us the freedom of choice which makes temptation inevitable.
God wants sons and daughters that are alive…not puppets. He wants His children to think his thoughts after him…to have fellowship with him and to cooperate with him in building a community of people distinguished by reason, affection and moral goodness. That is why we have God’s gift of freedom of choice in our lives.
If we are to be true Children of God, we will naturally be led into tempting situations. If we are to be persons…human beings, and not machines…we must approach situations that try our souls. WHY?
Think, if you will, about an earthly mortal father who has “come up the hard way” who knows what it is to have tough sledding…to go through the “Great Depression” and endure the disappointments of those times.
He decides that his children will not have to go through what he did. So, he showers them with gifts and luxuries. He makes all the hard decisions for them. He vows that they won’t have to get up early on cold mornings to deliver papers…they won’t have to “help out” financially as he did to help the family when he was a boy.
He vows that they won’t be deprived of all the things that young people want…as he was.
He smooths out life’s path so that they are not placed in situations that are not favorable to them.
He sees that no difficult demands are made upon them.
Then, after all this…he wonders why they have made so little of themselves.
The reason is that they were not tempted and tested. They were not smacked around by life as he was. They were not tempered in the fires of trial and error. In short, they were sheltered, and consequently had no growing experiences in life’s problems and temptations.
Everyone in this sanctuary today has been tempted, tried and tested many times. This is God’s plan for us to make us better Children of God.
To be a Christian…to remain a Christian…is to overcome the daily temptations of this earthly world.
Joe Lewis once said of one of the fighters he was to meet in defense of his title…this fighter had a knack of back peddling around and around the ring to keep away from his opponent. When the sportswriters asked Joe Lewis about this, he said, “Well he can run, but he can’t hide.”
We can run from God and Jesus…but we can’t hide from the fact that we have responsibilities as Christians.
We can crawl into what we believe to be a perfectly respectable Christian shell, and think we are hidden and protected from evil…even think that we are fulfilled Christians…but we’re not.
To be true committed Christians, we have to get into life’s ring with both gloves on, ready to take on any adversary, any problem, secure in the knowledge that God is for us and who can be against us.
And when we decide to do this, an amazing thing happens. That little spark of the Holy Spirit that is within us begins to glow from all this exertion of Christian living. And, it heats up…it burns brighter until it’s an inextinguishable flame that glows through and around…wherever you go…whatever you do.
So, we must live with temptation. As Christians, following the teachings of Jesus, and with implicit faith in God, we will be tried and tested.
But, we have something great and glorious going for us. We can talk to our Heavenly Father any time we want to. Then we can be still, knowing that he is God…and listen-to his counsel He will guide us…advise us…but it is we who must decide.
That’s the way it is now…that’s the way it was in Jesus time. We are destined by a God of infinite wisdom to be tempted…but we have the deep Christian resources to pull us-through.
We must not forget this…ever.