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Worship Message - Lead Us Not

Lead Us Not...

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come,

Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread;

and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us;

and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.

Amen.

That is the Lord’s Prayer. The prayer Jesus taught His disciples 2000 years ago to pray.

The prayer we still recite as the Lord’s present-day followers. The prayer that has been

at the center of our messages this Lenten season.

We are, each Sunday of Lent, considering a specific phrase in the prayer. For today, the

11-word phrase, “and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

We are going to begin by highlighting some of the key words in the first part of that

phrase, starting with the word temptation, which has a number of meanings, one of

which is a temptation being a test, as in something designed to make a person stronger.

A comparison is that various metals become stronger as they are put through various

fires. The other is a temptation being a time of trial.

Now, the word and at the beginning of this part of the Lord’s Prayer phrase is

significant. Earlier in the prayer there is the request that God give the daily bread - the

physical food - we need. Then there is the request for forgiveness for whatever ways we

have trespassed - for whatever ways we have missed the mark of proper behavior or

stepped across the line from what is right to what is wrong - for whatever we have done

wrong against other people or against God. Those two phrases are divided by the word

“and,” meaning we need God’s help, both physically and spiritually.

Here is the word “and” again. Here it means that we not only need forgiveness for our

sins, but also God’s strength to keep from returning to whatever trespasses we have

committed and for which we have been forgiven.

And you know, there are many temptations we face, whether they be for testing or

simply are various trials we experience. One example of that is what the very first

woman experienced. The woman named Eve, whose temptation was faced in chapter 3

of the Old Testament Book of Genesis.

You will remember that Eve was created sometime after Adam was created. Adam was

the first person to be created. When God saw Adam needed a companion, He created

Eve. Together, Adam and Eve lived a very wonderful life in the Garden of Eden. It was a

place where everything they could have ever hoped for was provided for them by God.

But one day, Eve was tempted by a serpent. We know the serpent was the devil. At the

least, Satan controlled the serpent, who struck up a conversation with Eve.

In the course of the conversation, a spiritual topic came up. The serpent asked Eve,

“What did God say about your diet? There are lots of trees around the Garden. Has He

forbidden the trees to you?”

Eve answered, “Oh, no. We may eat of the fruit of all the trees in the Garden. All but one.

That one is forbidden. In fact [actually, Eve learned this next statement from Adam, who

was told it by God], that tree is so dangerous, God has said if we even touch the tree, we

will die.”

The serpent may have thought about that for a while. Then he responded by saying,

“Really, Eve? Is that really what God told you? You will not die. It is just God being all

superior. The reason He said what He said is that He knows that when you eat of it...”

By the way, the serpent did not say, “if” you eat of it, but “when” you eat of it. What

subtle wording to put it into Eve’s mind that she could eat of the forbidden fruit.

“When you eat of it, you will not die. Instead, your eyes will be opened, and you will be

like God, knowing good and evil. Wouldn’t it be nice to have such knowledge, Eve? Just

think. You could be as smart as God. With such intelligence, you could have as much

power as God. You, Eve, could be just like God. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”

At that moment, Eve was faced with temptation. Actually two temptations. The

temptation of knowledge and the temptation of power.

What did Eve do? She gave in to the temptation. She gave in to what the serpent

suggested she do. First, she saw that the forbidden tree was good for food and that it was

a delight to the eyes. Second, she agreed it would be nice to be wise - as wise as God.

Third, she took a piece of the fruit, which in itself was a sin. And she ate the fruit.

Right after that, along came Adam. He noticed what Eve was doing and was faced with a

temptation himself. The temptation of taking the easy way out.

You see, he should have been angry with Eve. He could have at least corrected her. And

hey, it was not his idea to avoid the forbidden tree. It was God’s instruction, which Adam

himself had heard. An instruction he should have enforced. He would have been

justified doing so.

But instead, when Eve handed some of the fruit to him, Adam gave in. He did take the

easy way out. Going along with Eve was easier than confronting her. When Eve handed

some of forbidden fruit to Adam, he ate it.

Did Adam and Eve die? No. At least, not right away. Not physically anyway. But they did

die spiritually. That happened when, as soon as God found out what had occurred, He

expelled them from the Garden of Eden. With that, no longer were their lives easy. Even

more seriously, no longer did Adam and Eve have the close relationship with God they

had enjoyed up until then. They and God were used to having daily conversations.

Outside the Garden of Eden, those conversations were a thing of the past.

It must be mentioned that God’s love for Adam and Eve did not end. Just one display of

that was the clothing He made for them so they would be safe outside the Garden. God

made them garments of skins so they could be warm and have some protection from the

elements.

But God drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden. That was the result of Eve and

then Adam falling to temptation.

A falling that also happened in Matthew 26, beginning with verse 14, concerning a man -

one of Jesus’ disciples - named Judas Iscariot.

Toward the end of Jesus’ ministry, Judas went to the chief priests of the Jews - some of

the religious leaders who had been opposed to Jesus for three years. He went to the chief

priests and asked them, “What will you give me if I deliver Jesus to you?”

Right away, the chief priests paid Judas thirty pieces of silver. From that moment, Judas

sought an opportunity to betray Jesus, which he did a short time later. It was Judas who

led authorities to the Garden of Gethsemane, which is where Jesus was arrested. An

arrest that led quickly to Him being tortured and crucified.

When Judas did that - when he planned to and eventually did betray Jesus - he gave in

to temptation. Maybe two temptations.

Judas’ goal might have been monetary benefit. He did get paid for betraying Jesus, so he

had the temptation of money.

On the other hand, there is this. Some Bible commentators suggest Judas was not really

against Jesus, but simply wanted Him to be stronger than He was. Some suggest Judas’

goal was to put enough pressure on Jesus that He would have to become the strong

political leader some like Judas wanted Him to be. If that was the case, it was the

temptation of Judas wanting his way rather than God’s way.

Judas was tempted. He gave in to it. And the result? For Jesus, it was arrest, torture,

and crucifixion. For Judas, he ended up dead. Dead by his own hands.

Matthew 27. When Judas saw Jesus was condemned, he repented, which means he was

sorry. So sorry he tried to give back the thirty pieces of silver. I assume his request was

that if he gave the money back, the chief priests would change their minds and release

Jesus. When that did not work, Judas became so distraught, he went out and hanged

himself. The thirty pieces of silver were then used for a place to bury him.

Eve fell to temptation. Adam fell to temptation. Judas Iscariot fell to temptation. So, too,

did another disciple of Jesus fall. The one named Peter.

And by the way, these people are highlighted in this message for the purpose of

reminding ourselves that temptations do occur and that there are very serious

consequences when they are given in to.

We remain in Matthew for a consideration of Peter. We are back in chapter 26, this time

beginning with verse 69.

Jesus had been arrested. As He was on trial, this happening before the crucifixion, Peter

was in a nearby courtyard. There were others there, too, all of them trying to stay warm

and no doubt discussing the arrest and the trial of Jesus.

All of a sudden, a young woman looked at Peter and said, “Hey, you are one of Jesus

disciples, aren’t you? Yes. I recognize you. You were with the one on trial.”

With that question, Peter was faced with temptation. For him, the temptation for selfpreservation,

choosing that, even if it would cause a lie.

How did Peter handle that temptation? He gave in to it. He did that when he answered,

quickly and forcefully, “No! In fact, I don’t even know what you are talking about!”

With that, Peter moved to a porch in that same area. There, another young woman saw

him. She said the same thing the first young woman had said. This time another group

of bystanders heard her. She said, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.”

Again Peter denied it, this time with an oath. “I do not know the man!” was the reply.

That settled things for a while. But then a whole group of bystanders went up to Peter.

They all said, “Certainly you are one of Jesus’ followers. We know you are, for your

accent betrays you.”

At that, Peter began to invoke a curse on himself. You know what that means? It means

he asked God to condemn him and his family to Hell if he was lieing. Which obviously

he was when he swore, “I do not know the man!”

Three times Peter faced the temptation of self-preservation. Three times he gave in. And

the result?

Here, by the way, is where we begin to sense a bit of hope. But the result? At first, there

was great sorrow. That is because right after his third denial, Peter heard a cock crow.

That is significant because a bit before this, Jesus had predicted Peter would deny Him

three times before a cock crowed to announce the new day. Peter had promised that

would not be the case. He had promised Jesus he would stay true, no matter what. But

what Jesus predicted had turned out to be true. Whereupon Peter left the courtyard,

going out and weeping bitterly.

But here is the hope. Peter did not take the step Judas would take. Peter did not kill

himself. Instead, he repented and then looked for opportunities to get back in the good

graces of Jesus. Which eventually happened, with Peter being given the instructions to

feed and tend God’s lambs and sheep. Peter was given the responsibility of watching

over the early Christian church. Peter then going on from there to be a very strong,

effective minister.

Eve and Adam, Judas and, at first, Peter. They all were tempted with knowledge, power,

taking the easy way, money, wanting their way instead of God’s way, self-preservation.

All of which proves temptations are common.

But remember the part of the Lord’s Prayer, “and lead us not into temptation.” And

actually, it is never God who gives us whatever temptations we have. For instance,

remember it was the devil who tempted Eve. And it was, according to the Bible, Satan

who put it into Judas to betray Jesus. And in essence, it was the devil who was firing up

the crowds while Jesus was on trial.

It is never God who gives us temptations. But we can pray to Him to have fewer of them.

That is the point of the first part of today’s Lord’s Prayer phrase.

And beyond that, the second part of the phrase instructs us to pray that whenever we do

face temptations, we will survive. Survive with God’s power. Hence the words, “but

deliver us [rescue us] from evil.” Or, as some Bible experts word it, “from the evil one,”

that one going by two names - Satan and the devil.

Satan means adversary. We might think of it in a court room sense. The evil one is the

prosecutor. The one who argues a case against us.

Devil means slanderer. Which means that while each of us has something that can be

brought up against us, the evil one will word our offenses in such a way that they are

made to sound even worse than the already are. The devil’s purpose being to ruin our

relationship with God. To ruin it permanently.

It is the evil one - it is evil itself - from which we need to be delivered.

The one to do the rescuing is God. Hence the thought behind the second part of today’s

Lord’s Prayer phrase. “But God, deliver us from evil so that when we are tempted, we

can survive.”

And guess what. We have some examples of that in the Bible as well, again in both the

Old Testament and the New Testament.

For instance, in the Old Testament Book of Daniel there are four special people told

about. They are Shadrach, Meschach, Abednego, and Daniel, all of whom were men of

God in captivity in Babylon. All of whom gained positions of authority in the foreign

land. All of whom also faced the temptation of self-preservation.

First, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego, who are told about in Daniel 3. Very briefly,

the leader of Babylon made an image of gold 90 feet tall and nine feet wide. Once it was

set up, he decreed that everyone in the kingdom, upon a certain signal, fall down and

worship the image.

Upon that signal, everyone in the kingdom obeyed. Everyone except Shadrach,

Meschach, and Abednego. I assume Daniel also refused to obey, but perhaps he was

away somewhere. It was only the other three who are mentioned. But they refused to

obey, which, when it was noticed, caused them to be arrested, made to appear before the

Babylonian leader, and sentenced to the penalty that had also been decreed, which was

death in a fiery furnace.

In their appearance before the leader, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego were given

one more chance. They could at that time have fallen down and worshiped the golden

image. That possibility must have at least crossed their minds. Again, they faced death.

They faced a lack of self-preservation if they did not fall down and worship. They faced

that temptation.

But even then they did not obey the decree. And hey, this was long before Jesus taught

the Lord’s Prayer, but do you suppose they had prayed in their own words the part about

being delivered from evil. Very likely they had because they continued to not obey

Babylon’s leader, which went on even as they were thrown into a very fiery furnace. A

furnace so fiery the guards with those three men were themselves killed by the heat.

As Daniel 3 continues, through a miracle of God, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego

survived the ordeal. They emerged from the furnace alive. So much alive their clothing

did not even smell of fire.

But you know what those three men said before being thrown into the fire? They first

said they were confident God would save them. But, they added, even if that did not

happen, they would forever refuse to serve Babylon’s gods or worship the golden image.

And the other man of God? Daniel? He refused - this is in Daniel 6 - to obey a decree

that for a period of time there were to be no prayers spoken to anyone but the

Babylonian leader. That for anyone who disobeyed the decree, the punishment would be

death by being cast into a den of lions.

Daniel knew the decree. He knew that to disobey it would put his very survival at risk.

But just like the other three, Daniel chose to follow God, no matter what. He prayed to

God. He did so openly, just as he had in the past. He was arrested and sentenced. He

was thrown into a den of lions.

As that report continues, through a miracle of God - the miracle of God shutting the

mouths of the lions - Daniel survived.

Shadrach, Meschach, Abednego, and Daniel. All four were tempted. All four did not give

in. Which was the result of them being delivered from evil. And yes, all four survived,

but that was not their main concern. What they were most interested in was staying true

to God. They were willing to die to stay true.

Which was the case in the New Testament with Jesus, who faced a whole lot of

temptations toward the end of His earthly ministry. The temptations of justice, revenge,

and freedom from pain.

Jesus was perfect, yet He was being mistreated. How easy it would have been for Him to

strike all His persecutors dead. That would have been revenge, but we might even say

that would be justified. At any time in the hours leading up to and including His

crucifixion, Jesus could have called on all the angels of Heaven to come rescue Him and

avoided or at least stopped His suffering. Those were all temptations He faced.

But He did not give in to any of the temptations. He did not give in, all the way to His

death. As it is recorded in John 19:30, after six hours of being on the cross, Jesus said,

“It is finished.” He then bowed His head and gave up His spirit.

And no, Jesus did not, like the Old Testament men we talked about, survive physically.

But that was a critical part of God’s plan. Jesus’ death had to occur for Him to become

the sacrifice for our sins. So yes, He was delivered from evil. From the evil of

succumbing to the temptations He faced.

And then - still John 19 - Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. Two men who loved

Jesus so much, they wanted to take Jesus’ body after He had died and provide Him a

proper burial. Two men who, by doing that, faced several temptations themselves

Temptations based on fear. Fear of both Jewish and Roman authorities. Fear of a

backlash when the hated Jesus was shown some kindness. The possible lack of social

and economic opportunities if the backlash lasted for a long time.

Here is what happened, beginning with verse 38. Joseph, who was a disciple of Jesus,

but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked permission to take away the body of Jesus.

Permission was granted, after which Nicodemus, who had visited with Jesus back in

chapter 3 and had apparently had also become a believer in Jesus, joined Joseph. He

had with him a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes.

Together, Joseph and Nicodemus took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths

with the spices, as was the burial custom of the Jews. They then placed Jesus in a tomb.

A tomb that belonged to Joseph.

Were Joseph and Nicodemus at risk? Most definitely. But they took care of Jesus

anyway.

Eve, Adam, Judas Iscariot, and Peter right after Jesus’ arrest. All of them were faced

with temptations. All of them gave in. Which we have to realize can happen to us.

But Shadrach, Meschach, Abednego, Daniel, Jesus, Joseph, Nicodemus - and Peter after

Jesus’ resurrection. They, too, faced temptations. But they did not give in. Which we

need to realize is possible to be reported about us. Which can be reported - is more likely

to be able to be reported - if we will pray today’s Lord’s Prayer phrase, “and lead us not

into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Lord, please keep our temptations at a

minimum, but when they do come, deliver us - rescue us - from the evil that Satan - that

the devil - throws at us.

What temptations are you facing? Knowledge or power? Wanting the easy way? Money

or wanting your plans rather than what God has in mind? Self-preservation? Justice,

revenge, or freedom from pain? Fear? You and I do not have to give in. We can survive

and stay true to God as the prayer is answered. One more time, it is, “and lead us not

into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

Today’s closing song is Victory. It will give us a chance to proclaim our thanks for the

Lord making it possible to survive - to have victory - over whatever temptations we face.

We will sing verses 1 and 2.

Hallelujah, what a thought - Jesus full salvation brought!

Victory, victory.

Let the powers of sins assail, Heaven’s grace can never fail,

Victory, victory.

Victory, yes, victory;

Hallelujah! I am free, Jesus gives me victory!

Glory, glory, hallelujah! He is all in all to me.

I am trusting in the Lord, I am anchored in His word

Victory, victory.

I have peace and joy within, Since my heart is free from sin,

Victory, victory.

Victory, yes, victory;

Hallelujah! I am free, Jesus gives me victory!

Glory, glory, hallelujah! He is all in all to me.

Temptations. What difficult things they can be. But we can survive them. In fact, our

survival will be much more likely if we will pray the Lord’s Prayer. And not only pray the

prayer, but believe that the one who taught it is the Savior. Something that required His

suffering, which we celebrate this season. Amen.

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