Readings: James 1:12-15; 1 Corinthians 10:9-13; Matthew 6:7-13;
- What’s the greatest temptation you have faced?
- Come on – share with us today. Don’t be shy.
It’s a great question. Naturally we don’t really expect you to share these challenges publicly. But it’s worth giving it some thought.
- Does it relate to the ten commandments?
- Tempted to steal? Covet? Commit adultery?
Adrian Plass tells a great story of a woman who caught a train to work each day and met someone on the train. She could see that this relationship was going places it shouldn’t go. So she told her husband about it. His advice was pretty simple. Change trains.
If you’ve heard that one before – it’s still a good story. We have to make choices that keep us out of trouble.
Most of us are not at risk of being tempted to rob a bank or something equally public and embarrassing for our families.
We probably don’t have the energy for the more hectic sins people commit.
Temptation for us is probably subtler. It could involve one or more of these challenges:
- Like not getting out of bed on Sunday and neglecting worship or prayer. Or bible reading.
- Or giving up on the important things we should be doing in God’s kingdom. We ought to be seeking His Kingdom first, and we often worry more about the things Jesus tells us not to worry about.
- Or indifference to the poor and neglected – the marginalised. We are sometimes overloaded by the huge needs we see in the world, especially on TV. We can switch off and no longer have the compassion God expects us to have.
- Or possibly holding onto anger and resentment.
Or the more common sins listed by Paul as he writes to the Corinthians in his second letter. It’s a great line and an ominous warning to the church:
2Co 12:20 For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.
A lot of these are about how we speak and treat each other – and about relationships.
Our greatest temptations in church are often related to the tongue. James spells out the danger: Jas 3:5 Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. Jas 3:6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
THE MAIN PRINCIPLES about temptation are clear from the readings today:
- God does not tempt us. (James 1). We ourselves are deceived by temptation really.
- He allows us to be tempted – but has promised not to let it be more than we can cope with. (1 Corinthians 10:13).
We still have to be guarded against temptation. Alert. The roaring lion image in 1 Peter is a sobering one. 1Peter 5:8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
Deliver us from the evil one – that’s the key prayer. What does this mean for you?
Talk to the person next to you and ask them what comes to mind when they pray that line of the Lord’s prayer.
So what did you discover about your neighbour? What does the evil one get up to and how are we to be saved from this? What are the real dangers when it comes to evil and the evil one?
Here are some of my thoughts:
- We are attacked in line with our strengths often. Self-confidence and pride actually prevent us from really trusting and obeying God.
- The evil one puts doubts in our heads about God’s promises. “Did God really say?” is the classic line from Genesis 3.
- The only offensive weapon in the armoury of God in Ephesians 6 is the word of God. Know your bible and take on those lies with the truth.
- We need to pray to be delivered from the evil one because the attacks are very real.
C.S. Lewis wrote “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or magician with the same delight” (C.S. Lewis. The Screwtape Letter. 1941, p. 3).
THE EVIL ONE IN SCRIPTURE – here are some key verses as we explore this further.
- Job – Job 1:6-12
Job 1:6 One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. Job 1:7 The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the LORD, “From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.”
The idea that Satan wanders around looking for targets is an old one. We have already mentioned 1 Peter 5:8 – the roaring lion. He’s on the prowl!
Often though he is more subtle.
- He is a thief of the truth. In the parable of the sower he steals the seed:
Luk 8:12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.
- He is a liar. Jesus in his very direct conversation with the Jews in John 8 says this: Joh_8:44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
- The evil one holds people in his power. Peter in Acts 10 when preaching says this:
Act 10:37 You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached—Act 10:38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him
Jesus liberates people from his hold.
- Jesus describes the evil one’s tactics when talking about himself as the good shepherd:
Joh 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
- The more risky one for us – one of our greatest temptations – is to do with our emotions, especially anger:
Eph 4:26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, Eph 4:27 and do not give the devil a foothold.
The word foothold there is “topos” from which we get the word “topography” – it’s a place where we let him have authority. Stay angry, and you are giving him space in your life.
- Not only does he want to camp in our lives when we allow sin to take root in anger that is not dealt with, there’s a constant barrage that he sends our way:
Eph 6:16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Those arrows can include doubt, depression, illness and persecution.
- He can also appear in disguise:
2Co 11:13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 2Co 11:14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 2Co 11:15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.
False teachers abound. We need to be careful what we watch when it comes to Christian TV programmes.
- We also need to be encouraged because Jesus prayed this in his great high priestly prayer in John 17:
Joh 17:15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.
Clearly we should not be surprised at the onslaught.
10. Finally, He prays for us. Be encouraged.
Heb 7:23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; Heb 7:24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Heb 7:25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Heb 7:26 Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.
We’re not alone in praying for safety and freedom from Satan’s evil tricks.
“Thy will be done” here means God’s desire is for us to be victorious! May you be victorious!
Note: As this is the last in this series on the Lord’s Prayer, you may like to listen to the prayer here, as sung by Jackie Evancho. (If you are getting this by email go to the webpage to click on the link.) Albert Hay Malotte is the composer.