************ Sermon on Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 127 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 11, 2012
Q & A 127
"Lead Us Not Into Temptation"
I We Pray in the Midst of Danger
A Life is dangerous. I am not talking about accident or injury. I am not talking about medical concerns like heart attack or stroke or cancer. I am not talking about financial insecurity or uncertainty. I am not talking about broken relationships. Even apart from all of these, life is dangerous, very dangerous, more dangerous than most of us realize.
Life is dangerous. What am I talking about? I am talking about temptation. Temptation is so dangerous that Jesus teaches us to pray about it: "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."
B What is so dangerous about temptation? A temptation is anything which tears us away from God, His Kingdom, and His righteousness. A temptation is anything which causes us to lose contact with our Father in heaven. A temptation is anything which leads us away from Christ and the cross and the grave.
C You need to realize, congregation, that anything can become a temptation. And, everything can become a temptation. That is why life is so dangerous. We can be tempted by anything and everything. Any time. Anywhere.
Do you know what are the most dangerous temptations? The most dangerous temptations are not the seven deadly sins: sloth, lust, anger, pride, envy, gluttony, greed. The most dangerous temptations are not addictions to alcohol and drugs. The most dangerous temptations are the ones we don't even notice as they pull and drag us away from God and Christ and their kingdom.
Do you remember the temptations mentioned by Luther in that greatest of Reformation hymns, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God"? Luther writes, "Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also ..." Do you hear what Luther is saying? When we put them higher than God and His Kingdom, the biggest and most dangerous temptations are goods and kindred; that is, wife and work, husband and things, money and children.
The family part is easy enough to see. I've witnessed it more times than I can count. How many times haven't I seen someone allowing their spouse to drag them down spiritually? How many times haven't I seen people using family – and their sports – as an excuse for missing worship. How many times haven't I seen otherwise godly parents or grandparents defend or excuse or remain silent about the godless behavior of their children or grandchildren? Do you remember what Jesus said?
(Mt 10:37) Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me ...So, about our family we pray, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."
Goods and money are big temptations as well. Let me tell you something I have seen more than once. A family buys a cottage in the mountains or a beach-home at the coast. Or, they buy a motor-home or fifth wheel. Or, they buy a 4-wheeler for the desert. All these things keep them so busy on weekend trips that they have no time for worship. And, they suck up so much time and energy that could be better spent on God and His church and His kingdom. So, about goods and money we pray, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."
I haven't even mentioned the many men and women who so lose themselves in their work, their careers, their businesses, their dairies, and their farms that they hardly have time for God. I haven't mentioned all the entertainment devices – Netflix, DirecTV, DVRs, Wii, Nintendo, Fantasy Football, iTunes, iPhone – that can so distract us that we don't make time for personal or family devotions anymore. So, about work and entertainment we pray, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."
Do you see what I mean when I say life is dangerous? Very dangerous. More dangerous than we usually realize. We are surrounded on every side and tempted by big things and little things. Life, my brothers and sisters, is dangerous. So, we need to pray, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."
D As we look at this petition we need to keep in mind the message in Jesus' High Priestly prayer in John 17. Remember what Jesus prayed?
(Jn 17:15) My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.How does Jesus pray? Does He pray, "Keep them from temptation"? Does He pray, "Keep them away from the dangers of life"? Does He pray, "Let them be so heavenly-minded there are no temptations"? No! According to Jesus, in this life and on this earth we will always remain in a state of siege and will never be free from the dangers of life. We will not be taken out of the world and therefore avoid all temptation. Jesus' prayer for us is that we remain in the world, but at the same time be protected from danger.
"Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." Do you realize what this petition actually ends up meaning? Jesus is teaching us, His children, to pray, "Let me not fall for everything that tempts me. Let me not fall for the temptation of goods. Or kindred. Or money. Or work. Or entertainment. Or weekends away." Life is dangerous and I need protection. "Give us the power to overcome temptation."
II We Pray out of Weakness
"Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." Not only is life dangerous, but we are weak – so weak and helpless that we are like a newborn baby. Listen to how the Catechism puts this: "By ourselves we are too weak to hold our own even for a moment."
How weak are we? Listen to what the Psalmist says in Psalm 103:
(Ps 103:15-16) As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; (16) the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.Here today, gone tomorrow. That's how weak we are.
More than once as a child I woke up to a crystal wonderland outside. Freezing ran fell during the night and the ground, the trees, the cars, the telephone poles, the electrical wires, our home, the steps leading into the house – everything in fact – was covered with a layer of clear, shiny, and very slippery ice. Us kids would go outside and would have great difficulty staying on our feet. The Apostle Paul has this image in mind when he writes, "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall" (1 Cor 10:12)!
Of course Paul is not really thinking of us kids slipping and falling on ice; rather, Paul is thinking of a man slipping and falling on temptation. He thinks of a Christian who is over-confident, full of spiritual pride, self-assured. He is thinking of a Christian who believes he or she is so strong and firm in the faith that temptation can come knocking but the door will not be opened.
A couple of years ago I overhead two men talking. "I will never be unfaithful to my wife," said the one man. "I will never commit adultery." It is great this man could talk this way and I wish every husband could make a similar declaration. But do you know what Paul would say this to man? He would say, "be careful that you don't fall!" (1 Cor 10:12). Why? Because "we are too weak to hold our own even for a moment."
Perhaps there are some teenagers here this evening who say to themselves: "I will never do drugs, I will never engage in pre-marital sex, I will never get drunk or drink and drive." That's great to hear and I hope every young person will make that commitment. However, says Paul, "be careful that you don't fall!" (1 Cor 10:12). Why? Because "we are too weak to hold our own even for a moment."
Perhaps there are some here this evening who say: "I will never cheat on my taxes. I will never engage in unethical business practices. I will never embezzle from the boss or the company." Again, that's great to hear and I hope every businessman and employee can say this. However, says Paul, "be careful that you don't fall!" (1 Cor 10:12). Why? Because "we are too weak to hold our own even for a moment."
Perhaps there are married people here this evening who say: "I will never get a divorce. I will never use pornography. I will never abuse my kids. I will never use physical force on my spouse." That too is wonderful to hear. However, says Paul, "be careful that you don't fall!" (1 Cor 10:12).
Perhaps there are Christians here this evening who say: "I will never stop attending worship services. I will always hold up and pray for my pastor. I will always take the time for family and personal devotions." Wouldn't it be fantastic if every home and family could make such a declaration? However, says Paul, "be careful that you don't fall!" (1 Cor 10:12).
"Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." I am so weak and helpless that I cannot stand on my own. I am on such slippery ice that I cannot remain standing without help.
III We Pray Because of Enemies
A "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." Life is dangerous. We are helpless. And, we are surrounded on every side by enemies who want us to fall. As the Catechism puts it, "And our sworn enemies–the devil, the world, and our own flesh–never stop attacking us."
Our first enemy is the Devil. The Bible tells us that at one time the age-long war between good and evil, between light and darkness, between righteousness and wickedness, took place in heaven: Michael and his angels on one side, Satan and his demons on the other. But when Satan got kicked out of heaven the war got moved to earth and the battleground became the hearts of men. Satan and his hosts attack God's people for that is the only way they have of attacking God. The devil is our great opponent: he is powerful but not almighty and is equipped with many tricks, wiles, and schemes (Eph 6:11). Peter sees him as a "roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Pt 5:8).
B Our second enemy is the "world." By "world" is not meant earth; rather, "world" is that part of society and culture which opposes the goodness, purity, and truth of God and His Christ. The world prompts us to follow our lusts and passions; it attacks us with vain philosophies; it tosses us to and fro with every wind of false doctrine; it beckons us with treasures and pleasures; it attacks our faith; it mocks and blasphemes God; it denies Christ.
C Our third enemy is our very own flesh. By "flesh" the Bible does not mean our body; rather, it means the old man of sin that still lives within us and which Paul warns us against:
(Gal 5:19-21) The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; (20) idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions (21) and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
D The devil is our opponent who attacks us from the outside. The world is the hostile environment in which we live. And our own "flesh" is the enemy within us. Our enemies are all around us. This is what makes our enemies so dangerous. In this life, in this flesh, on this earth, we can never get away from them. In the face of our enemies, "the devil, the world, and our own flesh," the Christian prays, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." The Christian cries and prays for deliverance.
IV We Pray for Victory
A Life is dangerous. We are so very weak. We are surrounded by vicious enemies who want us to fail and fall. So what are we to do? Jesus says we are to pray, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." Paul says,
(Eph 6:18) And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
We all know we need to pray. But what exactly is it that we are praying for in the sixth petition? We don't ask God to keep all temptations from us – for in this life and on this earth temptations are unavoidable. We don't ask God to build a wall, a barricade, an impenetrable shield, against our enemies – because the enemies are all around us and even within us.
"Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." In praying this, says the Catechism, we are praying for victory:
And so, Lord,
uphold us, and make us strong
with the strength of your Holy Spirit,
so that we may not go down to defeat
in this spiritual struggle,
but may firmly resist our enemies
until we finally win the complete victory.
What are we asking for? We are not merely asking God to defeat Satan, but to also fight through us. We are asking God to equip us, to uphold us, to strengthen us, so that we can fight and, by the power of Christ and His Spirit, be victorious.
B "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." In praying this, we are asking to be like Jesus. He was victorious over temptation. He was tempted as we are, yet was without sin (Heb 4:15). The devil tempted Him. With hunger. With putting God to the test. With power and glory. But Jesus said "No." We are asking to be like Jesus.
And, we are asking to share in the victory of Jesus. His victory over Satan. The victory Christ won for us at the cross and the grave. The victory that is celebrated by the angels and saints in heaven.
"Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." Do you know what this petition requires of us? The Apostle Paul says, "Put on the full armor of God" (Eph 6:10-18). To resist temptation and sin requires that we clothe ourselves with the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit (which is the Word of God). Or, to state it another way, we are told to put on Christ. Then we who are weak will be strong. Then we will be able to fight and resist the devil, the world, and our own flesh. Then we can live victorious lives in the midst of danger.
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