Elizabeth Koetsier, a member of the congregation I pastor, provides a summary of the sermon I preached on March 1, 2015 during the morning service.
Depending on the context, the Greek word for “temptation” can be either translated as an enticement (evil temptation), or as an examination (good temptation). The word temptation in our text should be understood in the former sense (as an enticement to sin). However, the prayer “lead us not into temptation” does not mean that God entices us to sin. God does not tempt anyone to sin (James 1:13). Evil tempting is Satan’s work. Yet, temptation itself is not necessarily a sin on the part of the person being tempted. Satan tempted Jesus, but since Jesus did not yield to Satan’s temptation, he did not sin (Mark 1:13). It is when you yield to the temptation that you sin.
In the KJV, Genesis 22:1 reads, “God did tempt Abraham.” This sounds confusing at first, but the ESV clarifies this by saying “God tested Abraham.” What this verse means is that the purpose of the good temptation (or trial) was to examine Abraham’s faith. A trial is anything that comes to us from the Lord that tests the genuineness of our faith; its purpose is to strengthen us. A temptation, on the other hand, is anything that comes to us that allures us to sin; its purpose is to weaken us.
If you are tempted, do not blame God. You sinned because you succumbed to the temptation (James 1:13). God gives us trials. Our actions in response to those trials are our responsibility. Sadly, sometimes we act like Adam who, after yielding to Satan’s temptation, put the blame on God (Gen. 3:12). Sin is not God’s fault, nor is it Satan’s fault. James 1:14 says, “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” Only you are responsible for your own sin. Satan can only tempt you to sin; he cannot force you to sin. Satan knows, based on your appetite, how to bait the hook just for you, but it is your own fault when you bite and swallow it.
What does it mean then to pray “lead us not into temptation”? It means that our heavenly Father may allow Satan to tempt us but not in order to cause us to sin but to test our faith. For example, God allowed Satan to tempt Job but not with the intention of making Job sin but with the intention of trying his faith. Let us pray therefore that God will not allow us to be tempted by Satan to sin.
How should this petition be applied to daily life? The preacher suggested four ways:
- Admit your tendency to sin. Though saved from the power and penalty of sin, you still have sin remaining in you.
- Ask for help from God. You cannot stand up against Satan’s temptation by yourself. You need God’s help.
- Avoid the Devil. Do not give in to his temptations.
- Anticipate your complete deliverance from all evil. One day, you will be perfectly and permanently preserved from the presence of sin.
To listen to the sermon, click here.