1 The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life - of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall.
3 Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.
4 One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.
5 For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.
6 Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at His tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 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. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. 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.
Today we reach the final petition in the second half of the Lord’s Prayer: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” These are words we are familiar with and we have prayed them countless times, but many people are confused by what this petition actually means. So by way of introduction we need to clear up the confusion first. James 1:13 says, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone.” So how do we put those words alongside “Lead us not into temptation?” Is there a conflict here? No. Some commentators have expanded on the prayer Jesus taught us by saying that what we’re actually praying is “Lead us, but not into temptation. Lead us not into a place where we will be tempted, or protect us from temptation.” The very next verse in James 1 helps to explain the problem we have with temptation: “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.” In other words, temptation is real. It exists. But when we fall into temptation which leads us to sin, it’s not that the problem lies with God. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” The problem with temptation does not lie with God – it lies with us. When we give in we have chosen to not stand on His truth and His promises.
So how then, are we delivered from evil, and how does God protect us from temptation?
When we pray “deliver us from evil,” it really means “the evil one.” satan is behind every temptation. The primary strategy of the devil is to deceive us. He is primarily a deceiver. Revelation 12:9 says, “The great dragon was hurled down - that ancient serpent called the devil, or satan, who leads the whole world astray.” Jesus says this of satan in John 8:44. “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.”
So the strategy of the devil in bringing about temptation and evil is to deceive us and to draw us away from God’s truth. Just one look at the world around us, and we can see how successful he really is. satan tempts us with falsehood and lies to us about where happiness and joy is to be found.
And this is what we pray for deliverance from. There is another prayer that Jesus prayed in John 17 that deals with much the same thing. Verse 15: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” And then He prays in verse 17, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” Truth is the key to resisting temptation and avoiding evil.
Essentially what Jesus is praying is, “Father, there is an evil one out there. His primary strategy is deceit. Please, guard them from that evil one.” And then Jesus reveals to us how the Father will protect us – by sanctifying us. To sanctify means to help us in our pursuit of holiness, by revealing His truth, His Word to us.
Our best defence against the lies and deceit of satan is God’s truth. Jesus Himself, when He was tempted by satan quoted Scripture each time. And if God Himself used Scripture when confronted by evil, how much more should we?
The antidote to every falsehood is the truth of Scripture. If falsehood is the modus operandi of the evil one, by which he tempts and destroys us, there is only one remedy and that is the opposite of falsehood - truth.
How can we use the truth of Scripture to guard against temptation? Just 3 verses we’ll look at briefly:
Hebrews 3:13 says, “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” The Church has a vital role to play in our spiritual health. Many say that you don’t need to go to Church to be a Christian, and they are technically correct, but lone ranger Christians have no strength or safety in numbers. It is as the family of God that we grow together, and where we learn from each other’s experiences – both good and bad. Cut yourself off from the Body of Christ, the Church, and you will soon be limping along, susceptible and vulnerable to satan’s attacks on your life.
Secondly, put off your old self. Ephesians 4:22: “Put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires.” Be honest with yourself. What are your weak areas? What are the things and who are the people who appeal to your deceitful desires? Stay away from those things and those people.
What is it about human nature that we consistently flirt with danger? There is a line we know we should not cross, but what do we do? We go and stand right on that line with our toes even hanging over the edge, and then we beat ourselves up with guilt and remorse when we do cross the line. In the words of James 4:7, “Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” So put off the old self, remembering that Jesus died for those things.
And thirdly 1 Peter 1:14 which follows on from Ephesians 4:22. “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.” The RSV translates this verse, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance.” What are the passions that led you astray in your former life? Seek God’s help in resisting those things and He will help you. That is His promise to you, and it is precisely why Jesus prayed that for you in John 17 – because He knew you’d need it.
So when Jesus prayed, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” He expanded on how He will do that in John 17, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”
There is no doubt that part of the problem with evil and temptation is that we don’t take it anywhere nearly as seriously as we should.
Last weekend was the annual celebration and glorification of evil that we call Halloween. I have to say that it just astounds me how many Christians think it’s just harmless fun.
Halloween is steeped in paganism and idolatry. It is a celebration of death and all that is evil. And satan, as usual, cleverly disguises evil in a sugar coated pill.
Over and over again in the Bible are these words – “You are to be Holy, because I, the Lord, am Holy.”
God created us to be holy, while the Bible makes it very clear that satan and evil are realities that we need to be aware of.
When we pray “deliver us from evil”, we are admitting and declaring that this life is a struggle with an evil spiritual enemy who opposes us and the work of Jesus Christ in our lives.
The Lord’s Prayer recognises evil as a deadly fact. The author Josh McDowell wrote “According to the Bible there is a supernatural warfare going on.” The Bible itself puts it like this, and it cannot be made any plainer: “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Who is behind all the unrest we see in the world and in our own country? The rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
We would be very wise to not underestimate the power of evil. It exists, and we need to be aware of it and how God equips us to resist evil and temptation in our lives.
1 John 3:8 gives us one of the reasons for Jesus coming to earth. “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”
Unfortunately many Christians don’t realise the extent of the spiritual warfare we’re engaged in. Part of the problem is that we’ve fictionalised the existence of the devil. He’s become a bit of a cartoon character in a red outfit carrying a pitchfork, and he is delighted that so many are so ill-informed about the very real threat he is to us.
In the beginning we were given the gift of authority over God’s creation, but the moment sin entered the world we gave up that authority and handed it over to satan. We lost our legal rights and satan now holds people in his grip of the fear of death.
But the arrival of Jesus is how God chose to reverse the curse of sin and death, and the battle that began all those years ago continues to this day, and we are intimately involved in this struggle for our souls.
The powers of evil were defeated on the cross when Jesus died, but the battle still rages, and this is why we should constantly be praying, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
When we pray, “lead us not into temptation” we are asking God to give us power and strength to resist, because to be tempted is very different to giving in to it.
satan is a powerful enemy, but he is not the equal opposite of God. It is so important for us to understand that. 1 John 4:4 is a crucial verse in understanding this truth. “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”
God is good and He does promise to save us from the temptations of this world. His Holy Spirit lives within every Christian. When faced with temptation, just follow the example of Jesus - as Jesus used the word of God in the wilderness so, we too are to use the word of God. Get into the Word and immerse yourself in its truth. Remember the promise of James 4:7 – “Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
Our best defense against the devil is a right relationship with God. Psalm 97:10 says, “Let those who love the Lord hate evil, for He guards the lives of His faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.”
Remember that you’re involved in a war, but God has given you the armour you need to stand firm. The belt of truth is the truth that holds all that we believe in place. Because satan uses deception to try and gain ground in the spiritual battle, our first line of defence is to know the truth and to stand on it, and to stand firm. Jesus died and rose from the grave. He conquered death and evil, and He empowers us with the gifts of His Spirit.
Remember that you are righteous before God because of what Jesus did for you. You wear a breastplate of righteousness. It is the righteousness of Christ that protects you in your relationship with God. satan will tell you that you’re not good enough for God, but that’s just another one of his lies. Are you haunted by your sin and your past mistakes? Whenever satan reminds you of your past, just remind him of his future…
Take hold of the shield of faith. God will strengthen your faith if you ask Him to. Faith in the Word of God and in His promises are what you need to resist evil and temptation. Faith most certainly is a matter of the heart, but we also need to know and believe that we are saved, and it’s no coincidence that Ephesians 6:17 talks of the helmet of salvation. Standing in a right relationship with God is more than just a heart and faith thing. God has given us an intellect, and we can know that we are saved. As Paul writes in Philippians 3:10-11, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
You are not alone in your personal struggles against temptation. Jesus died for those things that entice you and drag you away, and He gives you the power you need to rise above them, each and every day.
In closing I’d like to repeat our reading from Psalm 27. It speaks so clearly of the hope we have in our Father, who art in Heaven: “The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life - of whom shall I be afraid? When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident. One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple. For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at His tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.”
What a gift the Lord’s Prayer is to us. Jesus invites us to pray to our Heavenly Father. When we pray this prayer we are asking that His will be done. We are asking that His name be kept holy, and we acknowledge that we are totally dependent on Him as the provider of our daily bread. We are challenged to follow the example of Jesus when we offer forgiveness to others because we have been forgiven. And when we pray “lead us not into temptation”, we are asking Him to direct our lives away from the daily temptations that satan places in our path to divert us from walking a path and living a life that honours God.
We are to be holy because our Father is holy. This prayer focusses firstly on God and then on our needs, but it ends appropriately by pointing us back to God, which we will be looking at next week: “Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever.”
Homegroup Study Notes
We all know that temptation and sin are not the same thing, yet there often seems to be some confusion when separating the two.
Why do you think it is hard sometimes to tell the difference?
In which ways have you confused temptation and sin?
Read Ephesians 6:10-18
Pay particular attention to verse 12.
It is obvious that evil is a reality in the world, yet many do not take seriously the fact that satan exists, and that spiritual warfare is real.
Why does satan want us to ignore him or not take him seriously?
Discuss this quote by CS Lewis: “There are two equal and opposite errors into which humanity can fall about the devil and his demons. One is to disbelieve 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 a magician with the same delight.”
Discuss the armour of God as described in Ephesians 6.
How are we to use these tools to protect ourselves against temptation and evil?
Read 1 Corinthians 10:13.
How have you experienced this promise in your life?
What are your struggles in this area?
Close by praying for God’s strength to resist evil and temptation.
Next week: “Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever, Amen.”