The Lord’s Prayer… JT, Conor, and I have teamed up to go through the key elements of this model prayer. And they have done well – except for Conor’s singing of Timberlin last Sunday! In this series (Thoughts & Prayers), we are asking, as the disciples did centuries ago, "Lord, teach us to pray." Don’t forget about the Prayer Experience later this afternoon at 4pm right here in the building to lean into this more.
That brings us to today’s final sentence in the Model Prayer. "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one…" I heard about a mom who had been teaching her three-year-old daughter how to pray the Lord‘s Prayer for a week at bedtime. One night the little girl said she could do it all by herself. The mom listened with pride as the little girl carefully enunciated each word in line right up to the end of the prayer when she finished with this. "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from email." That’s actually not a bad prayer, don’t you think?!
Let’s unpack what this means. "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one…" Make no mistake - the devil IS the evil one. Let’s quit blaming each other (or God) for our problems and start blaming the one who came to steal, kill, divide, and destroy!
Let me begin with a very personal question. What is your biggest temptation? We all have one you know. God knows it, the devil knows it for sure, but do YOU know it? It’s vital that you do because that’s the way the devil will work.
And knowing it will keep you out of where you’ll find trouble for your life. If you are tempted by alcohol, why are you hanging out at the bar? If you are tempted by lust, why are you hanging out at the strip club/adult porn sites, and if you’re tempted by gluttony, why are you dining at the Golden Corral buffet?! "If you don’t plan on going in the house, stay off the front porch!"
You can be assured, the evil one is a street fighter and he never fights fair! And Satan is so insidious. He will tempt you to sin and then beat you up with guilt when you do! I hate him!
All of us have a besetting sin or temptation we are uniquely challenged with. Even pastors - especially pastors! Would you like to know what mine is? Well, I’m not going to tell you. But I’m tempted by similar, and probably some different things than you. Not many folks come up here offering me drugs or to get drunk. But as our church has grown over the last 19 years, the temptations increase, NOT DECREASE. Ego, the temptation to be a workaholic or resist wise counsel, or going to food to self-medicate when I get stressed or anxious – even sexual temptation.
One Bible college professor was fond of advising pastors, "Don’t touch the gold, don’t touch the girls, don’t touch the glory. Those are the things that get preachers in trouble!" And probably not just pastors! During the last 18 months of COVID, the temptation factor has only gone up for pastors, and I bet for you, too!
I played in a big amateur golf tournament last week, something I've always wanted to do - the Myrtle Beach World Amateur golf tournament (4,000 golfers from all over the US/World). I competed in the age 60-69 division. I was tied for first after the first round, then dropped to 3rd in the middle rounds and then finished in a solo second! Not bad for a bald-headed pastor who hadn’t been playing that much!
But, I discovered something crazy/unusual in that last round as I was trying to win. I had the temptation to cheat! I missed a short putt coming in and made a 5 on a par 3 hole, but the guy keeping score only put me down for a 4 on the official scorecard. So I had a choice. Not say anything and help my chances of winning or tell him what I really had. I did the right thing and told him I had a double bogey! I was afraid not to because if I didn’t, I thought God might speak in a thunderous voice from heaven and say, "He got a 5! In him, I am NOT well pleased!"
So let me give you some words of wisdom about temptation from a lifetime of following Jesus and not always getting it right. It will help you whether you are new to the faith or a veteran…whether you’re watching online or in-person today OR whether you’re on a golf course – especially if you’re on a golf course!
Since we’re following the pattern of Jesus Christ let's flip over to Matthew 4 and watch how he dealt with HIS biggest temptations. And let me note here Jesus' temptation is proof that temptation is not a sin - falling for it/into it is. In fact, I think greater temptation is proof that you are actually growing as a Christian. Someone might say, "Pastor, I don’t need this stuff today - the devil never bothers me!" Ha - that’s because you’re not a threat! So let’s unpack this powerful and practical passage. (See Matthew 4)
The good (and comforting) truth about temptation is this wonderful verse found in 1 Corinthians 10:13, "He will provide a way of escape, but you have to look for it."
As we close the message today, I invite you to get your eyes fully on Jesus and join me in saying The Lord’s Prayer one more time together. When we get to the part we covered today on temptation, I want you to silently, but specifically, name your top temptation. "And lead me not into ______" (lust, anger, greed, pride, lying…) If you can name it, you can defeat it! By the way, if you really want to grow, tell someone you trust what it is, too! But let’s pray it one more time now.
Thanks for worshipping with us today on this very special weekend. Come back next week or tune in next week for a brand new series, For Today. It's on worry and anxiety.