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3-10-19 Sermon

Lent 1 -  Luke 4:1-3

 

How often do you face temptation? We pray the petition in the LORD’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Haveyou ever paused to consider what it is exactly that we are asking?

 

God does not completely separate us from temptation and evil. Jesus fought with satan over a 40-day period. If Jesus was confronted with temptation, then we, as disciples of Jesus Christ, will also.

 

The word temptation can also be translated as trials. We know from 1 Cor. 10:13 that God will not test us beyond our ability in Christ to bear it and will always provide a way out. But God sometimes subjects us to trials for His own purposes, as in the cases of Job, Paul and Peter (Luke 22:31–32). It’s not wrong to ask God to be delivered from trials and suffering, as long as we submit ourselves to His will. Believers can rightly ask to be delivered from testing as well as ask for the strength to endure it.

 

When Martin Luther wrote a brief explanation to the LORD’s prayer, his focus is on the effects of temptation. He writes, “ We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us, so that the devil, the world, and our flesh may not deceive us nor seduce us into misbelief, despair, and other great shame and vice.”

 

Temptation and evil are parts of life. We pray in this petition that God will guard us from its disastrous effects and help us stand against it. Unfortunately many of us follow the example of the majority of people and follow the path of least resistance.

 

Fishing on Lake Michigan several years ago, for the most part, we caught two types of fish: brown trout and King salmon. The difference between the two fish, was like night and day. The Brown Trout gave up and allowed you to reel them without any fight. The King Salmon fought with every fiber in their body. When we pray, “Lead us not into temptation,” we are asking God to enable us to fight against it with everything we’ve got, following the example of Jesus. He was hungry and exhausted, yet he resisted satan. When the evil one tried to lure Jesus away from his mission, Jesus fought back with Scripture. We too, have weapons to fight back. Scripture, prayer, worship, being with other Christians, being accountable to each other.

 

We are tempted on a daily basis by the devil, the world, and our flesh. It’s almost like we’re programed to self-destruct. All three try to separate us from the LORD our God, to compromise our devotion to Jesus, and to destroy our relationships with the people around us.

 

What is the greatest commandment: “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Our flesh, however, tempts us to be self-centered, selfish—seeking instant gratification. Life becomes “about us,” and not “about God.” The world draws us away from God with promises of security and comfort. We don’t need to rely on God for our well-being; we have our medical plans and our 401k’s. Luther once wrote that anything in which we place our hope and trust becomes our God. We replace the God of all creation with the God’s of fortune, comfort, and what we think is security.

 

Satan messes with our minds. He tricks us into believing we can make a compromise with the Holy Spirit and lead a “comfortable” Christian life. He tells us to be socially acceptable rather than faithful. He tells us in times of struggle, that God does not love us or he’d never let us suffer. He whispers fear and despair pushing us into the deep pit of depression.

The temptations that Jesus faced in the wilderness reflect all three of these areas. The bread tempted him to satisfy his physical desire above his devotion to God. At the temple peak Jesus was tempted to seek the notoriety of being the only person to jump from that height and survive. On the mountaintop, satan wanted Jesus to worship him—rather than the true God—a temptation to false belief.

These adversaries are devious in their means and constant in their attacks. We, as Christians, are called to be vigilant to stand in the strength of the Spirit against the temptations that confront us.

We not only ask God not to lead us into temptation, we also ask the LORD to deliver us from evil. In this prayer we are asking to experience God’s love, grace-filled presence in our lives.

The God whom we worship is the creator of all and His creative activity continues in our daily lives through God’s provision of everything that we need for life. It is common to focus on the injustice, sickness, and poverty in the world and question the existence of a loving God.

But how often do we consider the abundance that we enjoy? The protection of God in our lives from the forces of evil? Do we proclaim with certainty the reality of God? What if God’s protection of us, was determined by our faithfulness to Him?

 

We pray this prayer as we step into the challenges of life, asking God to go with us and to graciously protect us. We say this prayer realizing that if God were to separate himself from us we would literally be “toast.”

 

Our prayers for God’s help to stand against temptation make sense only if we are committed to making God’s name holy and accomplishing God’s will in our lives.