Temptation

This, then, is how you should pray:
‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Matthew 6:9-15

In the recent studies we have been looking at the portion of the Sermon that many people know as The Lord’s Prayer. There is one more thing that I wish to look at before moving on to the next section. It is to do with temptation and the devil.

So this time I want to look in particular at verse 13. In the context of the prayer as a whole, this request about temptation, as with the other requests, needs to be a daily request.

Every day acknowledge who God is. Every day acknowledge His authority. Every day desire for His will to be done, and let it begin in you and in me. Every day acknowledge that the Lord is the source for your provision. Every day ask for a forgiving heart so that all unforgiveness and bitterness can be removed from you. And every day pray for deliverance from temptation.

This is a very practical prayer, and with much power to change the world – when we truly understand it. And the focus I have for today is every bit and practical and powerful as the rest.

Temptation is something that we all face every day. In conversations I have often heard how people feel guilty even if they are tempted. Brothers and sisters, I want to ask a simple question about that one: if Jesus was without sin, and he was certainly tempted in a big way by the devil as is recorded in the gospels, then why feel guilty about temptation? And if Christ, as our example, was tempted, then should we not also expect to be tempted?

But there is something easily overlooked in these verses. The prayer is ‘lead us not into temptation.’ If we are honest, we are all weaker in some areas of temptation than others. If we are provoked too much in the wrong way, we will become sinfully angry. If we have a weakness towards tobacco, it is probably not a good idea to visit a tobacconist, or to think of a tobacco product as a gift for a friend. Similarly with alcohol, if you have a weakness it is probably not a good idea to visit the off-license and browse the booze for a ‘gift.’

In our culture we do not have the same stigma over a weakness towards confectionery, and yet it can be just as damaging as alcohol or tobacco or even drugs. It can ruin your self-image as you see your physical image becoming increasingly unattractive when you look in the mirror. It can reveal your weakness in terms of willpower when you find that you can’t stick with diets (which, by the way, most people don’t need anyway – cutting out sugar and taking some good exercise every day will solve the problem for nearly everyone).

As an aside here, it is revealed how sinful the world really is in that people will have you spend money on diet programs, ‘diet’ versions of food products (which actually make the problem worse by having sweeteners that, although have no calories, yet mess with your brain and make it harder for the hormones that tell your brain you are full to communicate with the relevant receptors in your brain). You spend money on books and programs, on weight loss drugs and drinks that are supposed to replace meals. Yet, if you do what is really necessary, you will actually spend less money than before.

It is free to go for a brisk walk every day, to run up and down some stairs several times every day, to do some push-ups and squats every day. You don’t have to pay that expensive subscription at the gym and if you do this with a friend you can motivate and challenge each other. It is also good to simply say to yourself that, for the next 3 or 6 months, you will buy no cakes or confectionery. Don’t buy anything to replace these things!!!!!!! And get used to reading ingredient labels – because it is really amazing how many food products have added sugar but don’t really need it (ready-made bolognese sauce is a good example). Avoiding processed foods, and begin to do cooking from fresh ingredients (or learning to if you are not used to it or don’t know how) will avoid many of the pitfalls and the added chemicals that harm. You will save money – you don’t need to spend to put this problem right!!

Temptation and the weakness of the flesh is a problem that affects everyone. It is related to those passages of writing by Paul that I have referred to before, in Romans, 2 Corinthians, and Philippians. The problem of the fact that, although redeemed and sanctified by the precious sacrifice of Christ on the cross of Calvary, yet we still inhabit the old flesh body born from a fallen species… And this body has a very addictive nature.

It is simply a truth that there are some places and some situations that are not helpful to be in. Because when we are in those places and situations, the temptation can be too much for us. The temptation in itself is not sin. If you feel guilty when tempted, you have every right to tell the devil to shut his mouth, and you don’t need to be polite about it. He is the father of lies, as we are told in the scriptures, and the guilty feeling when tempted comes from his lies.

Of course, when we are tempted, we are often reminded of past failures in that area of our lives. But think again: if we have confessed our sin before the Lord and submitted to the redeeming work of the cross, then we have been forgiven and the Lord has chosen not to remember that sin. So I can say with confidence that the past failure is in your memory alone, and not from God. And the devil loves to weaken your power and your self-esteem by making you feel like a failure. The moment of temptation is the perfect moment for him to do exactly that.

But I want to add here something important to realise: weakened self-esteem is connected with weakened willpower, the exact gift that is in you and empowers you to say ‘no.’ So it is really very important, this teaching of taking up your cross daily. Because in this way, every day, you will recognise that the old man/woman with all of its failings is dead with Christ on the cross, and that today you are redeemed and sanctified, covered with the holiness and righteousness of Christ. And so in His Name you can oppose the temptation – because it cannot defeat the holiness of Christ.

So, when you pray to be delivered from the evil one, you need to know what is really going on here. Satan is referred to, in several places in the bible, as the prince of this world. He is in authority over fallen angels, demons, and evil spirits. He uses them to oppose the holy and the righteous. And we are all subject to this spiritual attack. Do you want to be in this warfare alone? Or do you want to have the help of the one who has already won this battle and defeated the evil one?

You see, when you are clothed with holiness and righteousness from above, and when you ask the help of the Father, you have the power available to you that has already defeated Satan and all his minions. This is a war that is already won!

So we have a 2-part strategy placed before us by our captain in this battle: first to be led away from the places and situations that would be too much for us at this time, and second to be walking in the victory that has already been won for us by Christ on the Cross.

Of course, if you already have that 50 inch waistline and you walk into the confectioner, then the lack of wisdom will reveal itself rather quickly… It is not following the guidance and direction you have been praying for, if you have been praying in this pattern taught by Jesus. You are required to take some responsibility!

But, to again be that ‘stuck record,’ I would oppose any legalism about this. You should not be bound by any chains, because Christ came to set us all free from that nonsense. There are chains of legalism just as much as there are chains of habitual sins. And to beat yourself up over the temptations that are troublesome for you, and to be working hard to ‘live according to the law’ will only result in you falling far short of the standards that are required to be accepted into the kingdom, because you will be clothing yourself only in the filthy rags of your own righteousness – and it is time that we saw and recognised that, however good and righteous we are, this is filthy rags and will not count for anything on the day of judgement.

There is only one who is holy. There is only one who is righteous. And I caused Him to be put to death because of my sin. And so did you cause Him to be put to death because of your sin. So recognise and identify with that death, so that you may be clothed in His holiness and righteousness. Only in this way will you be clothed in such a way that you will be acceptable to your Father in heaven.

Temptation, therefore, is not a sin. Any guilt you feel associated with it is connected to past sin and the accusations of the devil. Tell the devil to shut up and remember that the past sin has already been cleansed by the work of the Cross. If you have not yet confessed it to the Lord and asked for forgiveness and cleansing, perhaps now, at the moment of temptation, would be a good time to do so. But ask the Lord, each day, to lead you away from the situations that would be too much for you in your weakness, but instead to continue to make you strong. And also, again identify with the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, because there is the place where the evil one was defeated. On the cross you will be partners with Christ in the victory, and so know deliverance from the evil one.

And most of all, remember that Christ came to break all chains of bondage and to set us free, so do not surrender yourself again to be bound in chains, whether of the old sins or in the new sin of legalism. You are a new creation, powerful, with authority. As a child of God you have all the resources of heaven to help you walk a powerful and sanctified life. You can change the world around you, and the world will not poison or spoil you. You are holy, as Christ was and is holy. You only need to recognise it, and to act on it.

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