The Lord’s Prayer 7 - Lead Us Not Into Temptation, But Deliver Us From Evil
Sermon by Pastor Eric Chang, December 19, 1976
Here the prayer in Mt. 6:13, in fact, is one which you have so often uttered: “And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil.” What does that mean? We look today then at the sixth and the seventh lines in the Lord’s Prayer, and we ask: Just what does it mean?
Concerning The Conclusion Of The Lord’s Prayer
Now, I should mention before I go on that the Lord’s Prayer, as the Lord Jesus teaches it, concludes at this point. But you are used to hearing the Lord’s Prayer with the conclusion: “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory”. [Mt. 6:13b-KJV] You will notice that there is no such conclusion in the New Testament, and perhaps you wonder why this is so. The reason is simply this: that in the prayer of the Jews, there were two ways of concluding a prayer. One of these was an open conclusion, and the other a closed one. Here in the NT, in the Lord’s teaching, we have this prayer which is left open; there is no seal as a closing. You must put your own seal to it, [that is] what the Jews called “the hatima”, the seal. And so, this was an open prayer, that is, it did not conclude at that point. You had to go on. You could go on and conclude the prayer just as the Holy Spirit led you to pray on. So, the prayer, really, puts all the main substance there, but the conclusion is yours to formulate.
I said also right at the start that the Lord’s Prayer was not meant to be simply repeated automatically, but it was to tell us what are the main items, the most important things that we have to pray for. And then, at the close of that, you conclude as the Holy Spirit leads you to conclude, for all prayer must be prayed in the Spirit if it is to be true prayer. So, you conclude the prayer according to your own words.
The question [then] is: How is it that we have today that the prayer usually concludes with the words: “Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory”? How is that so? Quite simply, that by the end of the First Century, the church had already added on its own conclusion, because the church felt that a prayer should not end with the word ‘evil’, i.e., “...deliver us from evil”. That does not seem to be a good way to conclude a prayer. And so, they went on and added the words: “Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory.”
Of course, at first, it was not quite like this. In the Didache — which is the teaching, a very early Christian book that we still have today which dates from the end of the First Century, or in its present form, the Second Century, the words conclude with: “Thine is the power and the glory”; it does not have “Thine is the kingdom”. But later on, the words “Thine is the kingdom” was also added on. All these words come actually from a summary of 1 Chron. 29:11-13. If you look at that prayer, you will see, there the whole idea of “Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory” comes. So, the church then used the idea of that prayer as the conclusion [to the Lord’s Prayer] and summarized it in this way.
Avoid Becoming Fossilized With Rituals And Formalities In Christian Life
I mention this because here is an important lesson. It shows that in the Christian life, there is a tendency and a danger to formalize things. I am worried about the ‘formalizing’ of the Christian life. The Christian life must always remain flexible and free. It must not be frozen into rituals and into formalities. The Christian life must always remain free and flexible. That is why I worry when things begin to follow a very set pattern, when we begin to get into a rut, and are stuck in that rut. For example, you notice immediately that at every Communion, it tends to be always the same Scripture passage that is read, the same pattern is repeated, without any kind of deviation. It becomes the same routine. Now, where does the routine come from? Certainly it is not from the Bible. The Bible does not give us this kind of routine. But somebody started the routine and other people just keep following, which shows you the danger of all Christian life is the danger of becoming fossilized, of losing the original flexibility. In fact, in Liverpool I somehow surprised the people by serving the wine first before the bread. They came to me and said, “We thought the bread comes first!” Why should you think the bread comes first? Who told you the bread must come first? In fact, when you look at Luke, the order is in fact reversed. So, we find that there is this danger in all Christian life to settle into a fixed pattern.
When we pray, you will notice that some people pray always according to a fixed pattern. You could almost predict the prayer. It is going to be like this. It is going to come like this. It even gets so bad that some preachers fall into the same rut. Every time, you can predict exactly the sort of message that is going to come next week. It is one of the five texts in five messages; it is going to be either no. 1 or no. 2 or no. 3. So, if he starts reading out his text, [you would know]. I knew a preacher whom I could predict exactly what he was going to preach that Sunday the moment he read his text because I knew that that text would fit into one of these five ruts. He was completely stuck in a rut that it always tended to be the same sort-of-formalized message.
It is important in the Christian life always to remain flexible. As soon as you begin to feel that you are being fossilized, you are beginning to repeat a dead pattern, change it! Whatever you do, just change it. Change the pattern. Just deliberately change it to learn to be flexible. If you are always used to praying in one position, just change it. Pray in another position. If you are always used to following a dead, rigid pattern, just change it, even if it is very good at that time, change it for one or two days, so that you do not become fossilized.
So we must see God’s wisdom in delivering us from falling into what we may call something that is a habitual, traditional, ritualized prayer. You can see what happens in the Catholic Church, for example. Any church with a long tradition has a way of falling into the rut. They just do things week by week, by sheer repetition. It is so absolutely boring. The same danger applies to the Church of England. You notice, and I have seen people who have done this in the Church of England, they do not have to look at the prayer book. They stand there and just mutter whatever comes next. They know exactly what is going to come next. They have said it a thousand times since they were knee-high to a grasshopper. You do not need to use your heart, you do not need to use your mind, you just stand there and behave like a religious robot.
So, we see that Jesus wants us to avoid precisely that danger; He wants us to be flexible, to be different. I think it is so good that in the churches we have different sorts of churches. I find it very refreshing sometimes to go to a Brethren meeting. It is very different. Everything is different. They have great weaknesses. Every system has very great weaknesses. The Brethren system has a great weakness — the lack of teaching — like so many churches, because nobody is trained to teach — nobody really knows what to teach or how to teach. And so, they fall into the same rut in due time.
But we must see that there is value in all the different forms of worship. The different forms of worship prove to us the flexibility of the Christian life. It is itself the evidence that there is no one form that has to be right. Every form is good. You sometimes find the Anglican worship helpful. If it helps you, just go ahead to an Anglican worship. In fact it may help you, so long as you do not begin to find you are falling into that rut again. Now this is one point.
Pray In The Spirit - Learn To Be Open To The Holy Spirit’s Guidance
Now, let us come and ask the question: Having seen that the Lord did not give us a fixed conclusion, remember then: pray always from the heart, pray in the spirit. There is no true prayer that is not prayed in the spirit. What does it mean to “pray in the spirit”? To pray in the spirit is to pray in such a way by which the Holy Spirit is the One guiding you in prayer. We will see that in Romans Chapter 8, where even the Apostle Paul says, “We don’t know what to pray for, and we do not know how to pray for anything, as we ought to pray,” [v26] and so the Holy Spirit enables us; He guides us on.
This is something very important in prayer that I would like to share, which is connected with the fact the Lord leaves the prayer open. That is to say, when you pray, learn to be open. And that means let the Holy Spirit move you in prayer. That is to say, prayer is a living work, a fellowship, a living operation, a co-operation, you might say, with the Holy Spirit, in which you operate and the Holy Spirit is praying with you. That is what Romans Chapter 8 tells us, “The Holy Spirit utters groanings that we are unable to utter.” He prays with us.
So our prayer must always be open. That is to say, never stick [to a pattern], i.e., you must not follow a pattern. It must always be: “Lord, what do You want me to pray?” Then you will find that the Holy Spirit will lead you to pray for some particular person that, left to yourself, you will not even have thought about. Suddenly the Lord says, “Pray for this person,” and you pray for this person. The Lord may say, “Pray for that person”, and you pray for that person. You are flexible. You are ready to move. You do not know which person is in need at any particular time. If you just followed a fixed pattern, you would never pray for the person at the right time, even though you may pray for him, but not at the right time. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are always open to pray. Suddenly you will find, “I don’t know why I’m praying for this person,” but you suddenly find that the Spirit is leading you to pray and the reason He leads you to pray is because your spirit is open. Suddenly you may just find you want to worship God; you want to thank Him; you want to praise Him. This means that prayer is part of the Christian life, the ‘openness’ of the Christian life. Just as the Lord Jesus left the prayer open, so our whole Christian life must be open to God.
“Lead Us Not into Temptation” - A Matter Of Survival In The Christian Life
Now we come to this question of the Lord’s Prayer: “...lead us not into temptation”. The question is: What exactly does this mean? What does it mean to say, “...lead us not into temptation”? What are we praying? As I have said before, so many times I have asked Christians, “What is it that you pray when you ask these things?” They do not know what they are praying for. What is the use of repeating the Lord’s Prayer when you do not even know what it means? Now think how many times in the past month or past years you have prayed the Lord’s Prayer. What for? You pray a prayer the meaning of which you do not even know!
What does it mean then also here to say, “...lead us not into temptation”? I tell you right now, from the start, that we are dealing in this prayer with something extremely important, which we can summarize in one word, which is this: the survival of the Christian. There is no theme more important than this, and I wonder again why it is so seldom preached. The fact is that no one has been in the church for very long without realizing that many Christians simply do not survive. They have become Christians at one stage or another. They have actually been baptized. They have made a profession of faith and no one will doubt that it was genuine at the time it was made. But they do not survive!
Look, I have been in the Lord’s work for quite a while and the casualty rate that I have seen in some churches is really something. They go down by the dozens and by the hundreds, not by the ones and twos. And then, within ten years or so, you will find that the original people in the church who were once active Christians, bible study group leaders, and whatever they were, they have fallen by the wayside; they have spiritually collapsed. They are gone. They have been destroyed by the power and the skill of the enemy.
But nobody, of course, thought it right to warn them of these dangers because there was some doctrine going around that nobody ever falls away. In the face of solid, hard facts, we are being told that such things do not happen. I just do not understand what is going on in the church sometimes. I do not understand when we look at solid facts, and say, “No, it doesn’t happen,” or “These people never became Christians in the first place.” But they did become Christians, because I was there in some cases; I saw that. You say, “Well, you can’t see what goes on in their hearts.” I have no reason to doubt their sincerity, any more than I have reason to doubt the sincerity of any other Christian. Why should we think that they were lying when they committed their lives to Christ in the first place?
So we are dealing with this subject of survival, this matter of temptation, the matter of evil. Let nobody deceive you, brothers and sisters. My prayer is that in this church people do not collapse. Because we have been a bit aware of this danger - and I have warned the brothers and sisters in Liverpool - our collapse rate is very, very low in Liverpool, thanks be to God, compared to the collapse rate, the casualty rate in some churches, which really is frightful. Multitudes of people that were baptized in a church that I know of in London, England, i.e., the casualty rate and the fallout rate is so high that I wonder whether even 20% of those who came to the Lord are still Christians today.
The most dangerous thing is that these people will go out and say, “Well, once, I used to be a Christian.” How more can God’s name be dishonored than when people say, “I used to be a Christian, but I am not a Christian anymore!” These kinds of people do the most damage to the church and the fault lies with the church. They have not been warned, as I say.
I thank God that in Liverpool our fallout rate is so low. I think it is right to say that it is very close to zero. I think that out of 30 people who were baptized, taking a figure that I have come to within a period of time, we know of only one who has had a relative backsliding, and two or three others who are wavering on the borderline. But a total collapse I am not sure that we have one yet, and I hope it will never come. It is because we are on the alert! We know the danger and we warn people of the danger, because the Word of God warns us. Do not rest on some phony doctrine that has no Biblical foundation, because you are going to pay for it with your soul, and that kind of price is too high to pay. We must have ‘assurance’, but an ‘assurance’ that Romans Chapter 8 tells us about, that comes from the Holy Spirit, not from alleged doctrine, but it is an ‘assurance’ that comes from the witness of the Holy Spirit within you. That is the only kind of assurance that Scripture allows us to have.
Temptation Is Common To Man - How Can We Pray Not To Be Tempted?
Coming back then to this precise matter of exposition, what exactly does this mean then when we pray, “Lead me not into temptation”? What exactly is the Lord saying to us? In 1 Cor. 10:13, a well-known verse, the Apostle Paul says this: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man,” and “God... will with the temptation make (for you) a way (of) escape”. [KJV] If this is so, to ask “Lead me not into temptation” must be an utter impossibility because the Apostle Paul says explicitly in 1 Cor. 10:13 that temptation is common to man; it is the very nature of this world. It is because of the forces of evil in this world that you are bound to be tempted all the time. This is a fact of life. You cannot have gone past the last week without having been tempted many times. I have been tempted. Certainly, you must have been tempted, unless I live in a different world from yours. You see, the enemy is all around. The Apostle Paul says in Ephesians Chapter 6, “we wrestle... against principalities (and) powers” [v12] - spiritual powers designed to destroy you. Their intention is to destroy you. They are there working with the intention and the desire to destroy you!
Thus, we are being tempted all the time. That is what Paul is saying. And we know what he says is true from experience, when he is saying that temptation is common to everyone. You have not suffered any temptation which other people have not suffered; they all suffered the same things that you suffered. You endure the same things which they do. It is common to man. It is a common experience of man. Therefore he goes on to say, “But God will make a way out for you...”. Because you are His child, He is going to protect you. He will work a way out for you, provided, of course, you do your part following Him. He works a way out, you follow behind Him; otherwise, you stay where you are! But if that is so, how can we make any sense to pray, “Lead me not into temptation”, when temptation is all around me. I am already in temptation. I am in a world that is full of temptation. So what do you think? How do you understand this?
We Must Not Ask For Temptations Or Trials To Come
The first thing we can observe right away as to what it means not to be led into temptation. The first conclusion we can draw is this: We must never ask for trouble. We must never ask for temptations to come or trials to come. On this point I think I have warned some of you before. When you pray, remember this: you are talking to the Living God. If you ask for something, you are going to get it. So, be careful what you ask for, and you never know what you are asking for.
There are some Christians, who, because they think their life is too easy, ask for trouble. They ask for trials and for temptations. They think that by fighting temptation, they will get stronger. Let me tell you this: do not ask for more trouble than you have already got. Let me tell you this: there will be always enough temptation to keep you busy. I do not understand those people who do not think they have enough problems to cope with, so they say, “Lord, give me more problems. I’m having it too easy now. Give me a rough time. Smash me! Beat me! Crush me! Mold me!” My, oh my! Every time I think of those prayers, it just makes me shake with fear. That is one prayer I dare not ever pray. And some people think it is such a pious prayer: “Lord, just break me up.” Huh! If you asked for it, then do not moan when it comes. The strange thing is that once the Lord starts breaking them up, they say, “Hey, Lord, what are You doing?” Obviously, they do not believe that God actually hears and answers prayer. Why do you ask for the things you do not believe in?
This is not only the problem with Christians today. I found this is the same thing with early Christians. We must not idealize them too much; they also had their faults. You notice that case in Acts — I will never forget that — they prayed that the Lord would deliver Peter from prison. They said, “Lord, deliver him from prison. With Your great power and might, bring him out!” And the Lord did! Peter was standing in front of the door; the girl opened the door; took one look and closed it quickly, and said, “It can’t be him!” Do you know what the girl said to the others after she opened the door? She said, “I just saw Peter, or rather, I saw his angel. I think I saw his ghost just now.” They said, “Where?” She said, “In front of the door!” They said, “You must be mad.” The same people who had been praying for Peter to be released from prison, when he was released, would not believe it! So, you see, brothers and sisters, God often answers us in spite of our little faith, our little belief. If God always answered us when we had mighty faith, we probably would never have a single answer to prayer. These Christians prayed for Peter’s release, and they got it! And they could not believe it when they got it, which shows that they did not really believe what God could do in the first place, isn’t it?
Thus, I say to you from the other point that you might say, “Lord, smash me, mold me, break me” and think, “Ah, God never does such things.” Well, why did you ask Him? And when He does it, you say, “Hey, hey, Lord, no, I did not ask for this. I did not mean it like this.” Well, what do you mean by the word ‘smash’? From what I understand the word ‘smash’ to mean, it means take a hammer and smash [something with] it! You asked for it. It is like cracking a nut. If it is a hard nut and you cannot crack it, you take a hammer and you smash it. Does the word ‘smash’ have any other meanings? If you asked to be smashed or mashed, maybe, then you are asking to be like mashed potatoes. So, be careful what you pray.
The first thing that we see from the Lord’s Prayer is this. The Lord is teaching us: “Don’t pray, ‘Lead me into temptation’” [as if to say], “Look, I am mighty and strong. I can take on the enemy. Just bring him on. I’ll twist the devil’s neck.” No, no! The Lord says, “Do not be foolish. Just pray this, ‘Lord, don’t lead me into temptation. I am weak, Lord.’” Recognize that the enemy is strong and you are weak. The Lord is strong, too. Sure! But the problem is not whether the Lord is strong; it is whether you are strong. Recognize that you are weak.
Temptation Is Designed To Destroy Us Spiritually
The second thing we need to learn, and learn well, and what too many Christians do not understand well enough, is the dangerous nature of temptation. Learn well the fact that the reason why we ask the Lord not to lead us into temptation is because temptation is exceedingly, exceedingly dangerous. It is not something to be fooled around with. It is not a training exercise. Temptation is designed to destroy you. The tempter is not there to give you some spiritual exercise; he is there to tear you apart, like a roaring lion. And so Peter says [1 Pet. 5:8], watch out, for your enemy, the devil, goes about like a roaring lion. A roaring lion will not come around to give you a show as in a circus; it has come to tear you apart. That is what its intention is. So, if you are asking for temptation, when you get into temptation, that is putting your head into the lion’s mouth; you are asking for trouble. Understand the exceedingly great danger of temptation. Temptation is there designed to destroy; it is designed to make sure, as far as the devil is able to do so, that you never enter into the Promised Land. That is exactly where the Israelites in the wilderness failed and perished. They never got to the Promised Land. They fell into temptation. They were there! They were really led towards the Promised Land, but because of their disobedience, they went into temptation, instead of into Promised Land. They perished in the wilderness. So, be careful. Understand the great danger of temptation. As Paul says in 1 Cor. 10:11, “These things were written for your warning.” As they perished in the wilderness, do you think you cannot perish in the wilderness? The enemy is exceedingly skillful and dangerous.
We saw at the conference in Trent, on one occasion we were talking about that. We mentioned the fact that Paul said, “We know the enemy.” Paul said, “We are not ignorant of the devil’s devices.” He is a skillful, intelligent, cunning enemy. But the way Christians go about, I can see that they do not even have a clue how skillful is the enemy they are up against. I once wrote down notes trying to predict what Satan would do in any given situation, and I was amazed just how accurate my predictions were. You see, in spiritual warfare, part of the whole purpose of war is to predict what the enemy will do next, so that you can counter him. That is Christian life. You have got to know, observe what the enemy is likely to do next, so that you can counter him. It is like a good chess player. You do not wait for the next person to move, and then you say, “Ah! Oh, I didn’t know you were going to do this!” And he says, “Checkmate!” and you are finished! You are there to try and think in several moves ahead. The better a chess player you are, the more moves you will think ahead, of what you are going to do and how you are going to control him. Now, if you do that in a game of chess, how much more in life, when it is a matter of death and life, when your whole spiritual survival is at stake!
The Enemy Always Attacks Us At Our Weakest Point
I have often been able, as I said, to predict what Satan will do next if he is going to attack. He is going to attack in that quarter, so I move our spiritual forces around to be ready, and sure enough, he comes in and attacks. The reason why I know he is going to attack there is because this is a very easy principle. He always attacks at your weakest point. It is a basic principle in military science that you do not attack the enemy where he is strong; you are going to attack him where he is weak. That is true of all warfare, whether it is in boxing or in judo or in all things. You do not attack him where he is strong; you attack him where he is weak. Satan would always look for the weak point. If you have a church, you observe and you will get to know, so-and-so is going to come into trouble, so-and-so is going to come into trouble, because these are the weak points in the church. Satan is going to attack through them. Time and again, of course, you do not have to be an expert, you do not have to be a genius to know that to be right. He attacks exactly at that point. And that is why, like a good boxer, like a good general, you are aware of where your weak positions are and you make special provision for it.
Thus, you must understand the danger of the enemy. The person who prays “Lead me not into temptation” is also the person who watches and prays that he does not fall into temptation. That is a boxer; he watches. He does not just pray. You have to pray and watch. Watch and pray! That is to say: you have your responsibility, and that is to watch, and God will do His part when you pray. That is to say prayer is not an excuse for carelessness. Prayer is not an excuse to be negligent and say, “Well, that is all God’s job, I can go around. I have prayed, so I have become bulletproof. When the enemy shoots me, nothing will happen.” The boxers who have tried that already [and said], “He is bulletproof” [saw that] it did not work. Obviously, this idea of being bulletproof does not work too well. The point here is this: you have got to watch, and God will do His part, you can be sure.
Again, as we saw a moment ago, all this shows to us that the question of spiritual survival is a very real one. Again I say to you, let no false teaching lead you, lull you into a sense of sleep, that you are secure: once saved, you are always saved. That kind of doctrine is neither scripturally founded nor founded on the basis of experience. Nothing has done the church so much disservice. It is designed to give assurance to Christians, but in fact proves their spiritual disaster. Assurance, I repeat one more time, comes only from the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, when the Spirit witnesses with your spirit that you are a child of God. And that only comes when you are walking with the Lord. You are never secure when you are not walking with God.
Two Kinds Of Temptation
Now we must press on with the question. You say, “Have we not yet answered your original question?” We have seen some of the meanings that can be derived from this. We have said already that we should not ask for temptation. We have seen that temptation is dangerous. All this is true. But you raised an objection right at the beginning by saying, “We are already in temptation; how then can we pray that we do not be led into it?” Here we come then to this next point and that is to understand the nature of temptation, the kind of temptation that Jesus is talking about here. There are two different kinds of temptation. And that is why, in understanding the Word of God, we must understand a word in all its aspects. If you understand only one aspect, you are going to be confused.
Temptation has two distinct meanings both in the teaching of the Lord Jesus and in the teaching of the Apostle Paul, or in fact, throughout the New Testament. We must distinguish clearly between these two different aspects of temptation. The one kind of temptation is the one in which I quoted in 1 Cor. 10:13. That shows you that when a person does not understand the Bible well, he thinks that he has seen a contradiction. The contradiction is in you, from your ignorance. There is no contradiction in the Bible; the contradiction is due to your lack of understanding.
So many people like to attack the church and say the Bible is full of contradictions. I met a man in London. I always remember that he was the one who put it to me so forcefully. He used to be a general in the Nationalist Army and he became a friend of mine. In one of our conversations — he was very friendly to me, by the way; he was not quarrelling with me or anything like this, he was very friendly — he said to me, “How come a person like you, a person that I regard as intelligent, believe in the Bible that is full of contradictions?” I said to him, “General Chan, where do you see the contradiction? Kindly quote me one single instance of a contradiction. Just one! I don’t ask you [for several though] you say that it is full of contradictions, which is a very big statement. Okay, I accept one example. Just give me one example.” He could not think of a single example. So, we can see that there is this kind of statement, that [the Bible] is full of contradictions. But sometimes we find what appears to be, on the face of it, a contradiction. (These contradictions I am better at finding than he is because I know the Bible, he does not; that is why he could not think of a single one to come up with. You have this kind of contradictions, but I can tie up Christians in these contradictions because, of course, I know where they are.) But the point here is this: there is a contradiction and you will find it from time to time when you study the Bible because you do not understand it well.
Now then, there are two kinds of temptation in the Bible. They are very different, and it is very important to distinguish between them. They are related to each other. That is why they can possibly both be called ‘temptation.’ But one is the ongoing process of temptation: temptation in the plural. It is general in that sense; it is always used in the plural. That is how you can distinguish between the two of them. The other one is temptation which is used in the singular. And so you can always distinguish these two things by watching whether the word ‘temptation’ is in the plural or in the singular.
When in the plural, it refers to temptations in general, the kinds of things that we find in experience. And [in 1 Cor. 10:13, Paul says that] there is no temptation — there are many temptations, but no particular one has taken you — which is not common to man. So, Paul is talking about temptations in general, the kind of temptations we face in everyday life. The Lord Jesus uses this same kind of temptation in this sense in Lk. 22:28, when He says to His disciples, “You are those who have continued with Me in My temptations.” The Lord Jesus was all the time also in temptations; the enemy was tempting Him all the time. In fact, when you look at the gospels, you will find it specifically says: “A certain scribe (or a certain lawyer) came to Jesus and tempted Him, saying...”[Mt 22:35] Jesus was being tempted all the time, just as we are being tempted. So Hebrews says, “He was tempted in all points, just as we are”. [Heb. 4:15] That is why He can be a merciful High Priest — a High Priest! — because He was tempted just as we are. These are referring to the general temptations of life.
But there is another sense in which temptations come, and that is when the word ‘temptation’ is used in the singular, as here in the Lord’s Prayer, “lead us not into temptation” — not “into temptations.” We cannot pray, “not into many temptations”, but we can pray not to be led into ‘temptation’— the temptation. Now, why is it used without the article? It refers to this specific type of temptation. It is very common to use it in such a way, to denote a particular thing. Just as you say “the temptation” in English, in Greek it does not have to use the article. But it does indicate, when used in the singular, a particular type of thing. What kind of temptation then are we talking about here? We are talking about temptation which is in the sense of bringing you down spiritually, of destroying you spiritually.
Now, ‘temptation’ in the sense in which Jesus was tempted in Matthew Chapter 4 and Luke Chapter 4, “the Temptation” — that temptation was not the kind of temptation in which, for example, the scribe came and tempted Him with a difficult question, trying to trip Him up. But in the temptation of Jesus, it was designed to destroy Him spiritually, to knock Him out with a spiritual torpedo once and for all. It is temptation in the ultimate sense, not in the trials of everyday life, which are temptations, that is to say, that can cause you to sin, but they do not cause you to sin in such a way that you leave God. They do not cause you to sin in such a way that you apostatize. They do not cause you to sin in such a way that your faith collapses. It is because you always repent from such sins; you turn back again to the Lord. Now we all experience this kind of temptation everyday. But this temptation — the ‘temptation’ in which you are in a very specific kind of situation which is designed that you are not going to come out of it in one piece, if the devil can help it — God must bring you out, or see to it that you never get into it.
This kind of temptation then we find also in Paul. In fact you will find it in several places. Let me give you an example. In 1 Tim. 6:9, you find Paul listing temptation out in a very specific sense - the specific sense of spiritual disaster. It reads like this: “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation” — notice singular — “into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.” Notice here the temptation is designed to plunge you into ruin and destruction, from which there is no turning back. It is a fearful thing that is referred to in Hebrews Chapter 6, that once you fall into that, it is virtually impossible to renew you again spiritually. That is the temptation, the ultimate temptation, the temptation from which there is no return. That, of course, is what Satan tried to achieve at the temptation of Jesus, to destroy Him once and for good. This ultimate sense, in which Paul says so specifically, is referring to that “ruin and destruction”; it is not just falling into the sin from which there is not ruin and destruction. You just repent; you may be a little bit hurt, but you can come out of it again.
Let me read another example of this to you in 1 Thess. 3:5. Here again it is used of temptation in the ultimate sense: “For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent that I might know your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and that our labor would be in vain.” Notice: Paul was not afraid that they would be tempted in the general sense. He said already, everybody is going to be tempted; there is no exception. But he was afraid of one particular type of temptation, “that you should be so tempted by the tempter,” that is, the devil, that you would be spiritually destroyed, so “that our labor would be in vain.” That means to say, “We have worked and labored to bring you to Christ for nothing, because you left the Lord. You have been spiritually torpedoed. You have been spiritually destroyed.
Notice then that Paul himself uses the word ‘tempted’ in these two very different senses. They are related by the fact that both of these activities are basically carried out by Satan. But the difference is the power of the weapon that is used. There is a difference between a blow in a karate chop that one can knock you down, one can stun you for a long time, but another one is designed that you never stand up again. It is particularly well placed in the back of the neck. One such chop can mean you are finished once and for good. You never get up again. So, there are different kinds of chops. One can slow you down a lot. One across the throat, of course, can stop you for about 10 minutes very effectively, so long as it is well placed. Another attack can just put one of your arms out of action, if necessary. It depends on what type of weapon you use. And Satan uses a particular type of weapon if you give him a chance to do so. So, for example, ‘riches’ that we just saw in 1 Timothy is a weapon that Satan can use very effectively so as to cripple you that you are not going to get up again. And he did so well, didn’t he? He did it on Judas; he did it on Demas. We know of two people who had been knocked out and finished, never to get up again. Judas certainly never got up again, and Demas, we are told in 2 Tim. [4:10], was spiritually crippled and finished. He fell in love with the world and he deserted the Lord. He came under the big gun. He fell into temptation.
Thus, notice this. There is a danger, a desperate danger that we face in temptation of this particular kind when Satan is given the opportunity. You open up the gap, and he comes in with his whole might to smash you to pieces. That is what he tried to do to Peter, too. The Lord said to Peter, “Peter, Peter, Satan has desired to have you that he might sift you as wheat...” — to tear you apart; like taking the kernel and the shell apart, he will tear you to pieces — “ but I have prayed for you...” that you will not be torn apart. [Lk. 22:31-32] You know, this is the kind of thing that Satan wants to do, if you give him half a chance. And Peter nearly went, didn’t he? He nearly fell into that ultimate temptation. He did deny the Lord, but he came back. He nearly went under, but he came back. The Lord sustained him yet one more time. His heart did not close completely to the Lord.
Notice then, we find ‘temptation’ in these two very distinct senses. Now we can see what Jesus is saying. When He says, “Lead me not into temptation...”, we are not talking about the temptations that are surrounding me, but into that temptation from which there is no return. You go into that one and you do not come out again. So, that is the prayer that we have got to pray: “Lord, please don’t take me into that. See to it that I don’t fall into this, that I’m not brought into that situation” and how we need to pray for deliverance.
Would We Be Able To Withstand Temptation In The Form Of Persecution?
You know, when we look ahead in the Christian life, I think all of us who love the Lord have fear in our hearts — as Paul says, “in fear and trembling” [Phil. 2:12] — knowing that we are weak and that we might be brought into a situation where we wonder whether we can stand. Think of it: those brothers and sisters in China. If you were one day brought into a situation of persecution, could you stand? Could you stand? If you were subjected to physical and mental torture, could you stand? Pray, “Lord, do not lead me into that situation, because I am weak” and then you will know that if you ever come into that situation that God only allowed you into that situation because He knows you will come through because He will bring you through. Christians in China have been tortured, not physically so much by hard labor, which is a physical torture. And I want to say this: when I say these things, I do not want anyone to think that I am anti-government, or I am anti-Communist. I do not want anyone to think like this. I love the Communists because they need Christ. I want to say this very clearly. Whenever I say something that sounds anti-Communist, I want you to understand: I do not hate the Communists. A Christian has no right to hate the Communists; he never should do that. I love them because they need Christ as much as anyone else does. But we have to talk about the facts. My dear friends, today, one or the other, they are all in jail. Most of them have all been in jail at one time or another. Had I stayed in China long enough, I would have been there, too. But they have been subjected to tremendous pressure. Thanks be to God I have not heard one collapse under those pressures! And I have so prayed that I will never be the one to collapse under those pressures. Think of it. If you were in that situation, would you survive? Will you be able to survive? That is why I always say to people: It is no point telling people to become Christians on an easy course; when they come under pressure, they cannot stand.
Think of this kind of torture that I was told about in China. The Christian is put in a cage and the food is put just outside his reach. He is not physically tortured, but the food is just [out of his reach] — you stretch your arms to the bars and you can just touch the bowl there a little bit, but it is just put out of your reach; you cannot get it. You are left to be hungry. [You get] hungrier and hungrier day after day after day. And they tell you, “Look, you just deny Jesus. Just say, ‘I am not a Christian anymore. I don’t believe in Jesus’ and we’ll just give you the bowl. So easy! Why make it so hard for yourself? One simple word: ‘I don’t believe in Jesus’ and you have got the bowl!” Let me ask you: Would you stand? Would you be able to look at that food, with your stomach growling inside of you, and you say, “I’ll just say, ‘I don’t believe in Jesus’ and I can have that food!”? Will you be able to stand? Think about it. I think I would think about it, too. I think: “Lord, what would I do if I were in the position of such a person? What would I do?” You are slowly starved to death looking at the food or just say, “I don’t believe” and have the food? You can say, “Well, I can cheat them. I believe in my heart. Really, I do. But I’ll just say to them ‘I don’t believe, and give me the food.’” I can get out of the trouble. That is what Peter did. He said, “See, I really believe in my heart, but if you put me in jail, I don’t know, I don’t know who Jesus is. I’m just bluffing you, ha, ha. You see, I believe.” How about being like this? In this case you do not even have to go to jail. When they grab you, you say, “Hey, I’m not a Christian. You’ve got the wrong man!” If I can stay on, I can do more work for the Lord, you see. I just need to cheat the Communists; that is all I have to do. Do you think you can do like this?
No one who has studied church history would have failed to realize how much the early Christians suffered under persecution. When I read the books of early church history, for example, of the trials and the torture of the Christians in Lyons, France, in the Second Century, I tell you it makes you all perspire just to read the account, never mind being there yourself. You just read the account and you already begin to perspire. There was this girl who was tortured for seven full days — tortured day after day after day for seven days to break her — and she did not break. She was physically completely crippled. Her bones were broken; she was a physically cripple. And she was dying, but she was not dead. For seven days, they tortured her. They inflicted pain upon the wounds that had already been inflicted on her, so that there was no more skin left intact on her body. And she could not deny the Lord. When I read about this, I said, “Could I survive this? Could I survive this kind of handling?”
In fact there were two of them, but [I am now] referring particularly to the one who was pregnant. She was going to have a baby soon, and the persecution started. They took her and they put her at the shore and slowly the tide came up. They said, “Well, if you deny the Lord, we will cut you free. If at any moment, you deny the Lord, we will cut you free.” Human beings are masters at inventing cruelty, aren’t they? The human mind is so fertile to invent this kind of thing. Slowly the tide of water came up. And you know how slow the tide comes in? Slowly, it came up to her chin, up and up and more. Think about it. She might have said to herself, “For the sake of the baby, I’ll deny the Lord. Maybe for the sake of my husband, [I’ll deny the Lord].” She went through [this] until the water went over her. She never once asked to be released. She drowned by the slow process of drowning. Her baby was never born, needless to say. But through her death, thousands of people turned to the Lord. They said, “If a person loves the Lord that much and the Lord is so much worth loving, then He must be worth believing in.” In other words, she had far more spiritual children. She would have had one physical child or maybe more, but she had spiritual children instead.
But that is temptation! It is designed to put you under such pressure as to break you spiritually, unless each one of us [prays], “Lord, don’t lead me into temptation. I am weak. Don’t bring me into this kind of situation. But if one day You do bring me into it, if one day You consider me strong enough to endure it, then bring me through to the end.”
The Battle For The Soul Is Being Fought In All Earnest
Our time is going quickly and I need to say one thing. The battle for the soul is being fought in all earnest. I hope that each one of you, brothers and sisters, knows that the enemy of our soul is fighting for it in earnest. He means business. If you do not mean business, then it is too bad for you. He means business. Thus, if he means business and you do not, he is going to get you.
That is why Paul says to the Ephesians in Ephesians Chapter 6: “Put on the whole armor of God,” [v11] and “having done everything, stand.” [v13] We put on the armor of God not to be able to advance and smash the enemy up. Paul nowhere says that. He knows the enemy is very powerful and we are weak. He said, “When you have done everything, make sure that you stand as a Christian. You see, Paul is speaking in terms of spiritual survival. He is not yet talking of advancement to the Ephesians, which is one of the best churches that Paul ever had — the Ephesian church was a wonderful church - and yet, to them he was concerned that they stand.
What is the opposite of ‘standing’? Well, you can see what it means. The opposite of standing is to fall. To fall in battle means to be killed, to be destroyed. That is why Paul is concerned that they do everything to stand: “Put on the whole armor of God.” Now here again, there is an insidious teaching which tells you that you are always safe and secure anyway. I beg to ask of you: What do we need the armor for? There is no Scriptural teaching that tells us that you are always secure. Paul says, “Put on the armor because your life depends on it. Do everything so you may stand.” Hold the sword in your hand because the enemy is going to come at you. That sword will not be for display; you are going to have to use it. So, you had better learn how to use it and use it well. The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit.
We Must Pray “Deliver Us from Evil,” That Is, From The Two Kinds Of Temptation
Notice then, the battle for the soul is being fought in all earnest. So we have to pray, “Deliver us from evil.” Deliver us from evil — what does this mean? The word ‘deliver’ means to ‘rescue’, to ‘preserve’, to ‘save out of’ evil. Now notice here it is immediately presumed that evil has already surrounded us. Do you see that these two aspects of evil: the one, the temptation that is designed to destroy, and [the other,] the continuing surrounding evil that is round about us? Both are presumed here in the perfect teaching of Jesus. Nothing is missed out. You see, here it is presumed that evil is all around us, and we need to be delivered out of evil. In the midst of evil, we need to be saved.
What does this mean more precisely? When I look into the Psalms, I find the same word in the Greek Old Testament occurring 62 times, that is, the word ‘deliver.’ And when I checked out its use, I found in the OT that it is used with the utmost frequency in the Psalms. The Psalms, of course, were the prayers of the saints, and 62 times in the Psalms you find this word, “deliver me” or a prayer of thanks for deliverance. So, we can see the connection of this word in the Lord’s Prayer to the prayer in the Psalms. He is saying to us, “Pray as the man of God in the Psalms did pray. Pray for deliverance from evil, the evil of all kinds, the pressure that is round about you. Look at all these 62 instances in the Psalms and you will have an exact idea. Of course, I have not got the time to give you all the instances. There is the deliverance from death, “Deliver me from death,” — death here referring not only to physical death, but spiritual disaster. Or the [Psalmist] speaks of: “ the sinners, the pressure of evil men are round about me, trying to destroy me spiritually.” Thus, we are in the midst of evil. The Bible tells us that the whole world lies in the wicked one. So we need to be delivered all the time from this constant threat to our spiritual existence.
As We Pray For Deliverance, We Must Guard Against Our Weaknesses
The word ‘save’, ‘deliver’ or ‘rescue’ from evil — this Greek word — is used in the Old Testament to translate 10 different Hebrew words. What all this means is simply this: that this word is used in the widest sense of ‘save.’ “Save me”, in other words, is every sense in which I need saving — from evil, from the power of evil, the destruction of evil. And so, you see the picture here that the Lord Jesus is showing us. You are a disciple; you are God’s representative in the world; you are the light in the midst of darkness, and the darkness is trying to engulf you. We read in John, “the darkness did not overcome it” [Jn. 1:5], but it tried. The darkness now is trying to overcome us, too. And so we are to pray, “Deliver me in the midst of this evil.” We are fighting for our spiritual survival. We have got to win! If we do not win, we are finished. Thus, I said a moment ago, the devil attacks us at the weakest point. That is why evil is going to press upon your weakest nerve. Learn what it is. Find out what it is. Make sure that you keep it far from the attack of the enemy.
I think we all know that the diamond is the hardest stone, the hardest substance there is. It is so hard that it can cut glass, which is very hard. You can do lots of things with diamonds. It can cut through the hardest substances. But I am also told this: that the diamond, though it is so hard, has a weak point. If you know what it is and you strike the diamond from the right angle, you will crack the diamond. And you can crack it with something quite soft. For example, you can hit it with a lead hammer; lead is a very soft metal, as you know. You can take a lead hammer, and provided you hit it from the right angle, you will crack the diamond. That soft substance can break the hardest of all substances, if it hits it from the right direction and gets it at the weak spot. In the same way, every Christian has a weak spot, a weakness in your system. The devil knows that he does not have to be very strong to break you, if he hits you at that right point.
If you look at the Bible, you will see this same thing, that every mighty man of God had a certain weakness, and Satan, without fail, would try to hit him at his weakness. Take David. David was a mighty man of God, a man after God’s own heart. But he had a great weakness, a weakness which is common to many people, a weakness for beautiful women. And you know how it turned into disaster. It was precisely because of that weakness, in which he looked out of the window, and he saw this beautiful woman there and his heart went out longing after her. Satan used that! He said, “That’s right, David!” and bang! He hit him with one shot, and David fell apart. That hard, steel-like substance, that diamond cracked. Incidentally, a diamond is such a good picture of a Christian, isn’t it? The Christian ought to be like a diamond, reflecting the glory of God. The Christian ought to be like a diamond, which is transparent, letting the light through. The finest Christian is a transparent Christian; you can see right through him. He lets the light through; he does not block the light. So, we find here then, the Christian, though he is so much like a diamond in many ways, a jewel for God’s crown, but if he is hit and he is not careful, he can be cracked.
We can see the same problem with Augustine. Augustine had the same weakness, this craving for women, and it drove him almost to desperation. Augustine knew that was his weak point, and did he run as fast as he could to keep his weak point out of the devil’s reach. In fact, he locked himself in a monastery to make sure that Satan could not get him there. I am not sure that is a very good way to do it, but it is one way of doing it.
Then there are others. We find Peter, for example. Peter was a man of great self-confidence. That is a dangerous gift to have. Some people are so self-confident and they are easy to get down. They are not difficult to get down — as Peter went down, and how badly he went down. Or you find other people. Solomon had a weakness, too. Solomon’s weakness was his learning. He was such a learned man, so he made a fool of himself. It is strange, isn’t it? He can be so learned yet become so stupid. Thus we find that he became so learned, so wise, and full of the wisdom of the world, that he could be struck from that angle and in the end the good man did not know where he was. Spiritually in the end, Solomon was a spiritual loss. In fact, in the end, you do not even know whether Solomon is saved or not. If you ask me, “Is Solomon saved or not?” I cannot tell you the answer. I can only tell you that on that Day, we shall find out, at the Day of Judgment. This man, who gave us the book of Proverbs, or at least some part of it, and the book of Ecclesiastes, which was full of teaching to others, he himself fell away! Now you understand why Paul said, “Lest I myself, having taught others, having preached to others, become myself a cast away, and I become disqualified.” [1 Cor. 9:27] The preacher is every bit as vulnerable to attack as anyone else, and he will even be with less excuse.
Thus we find that each person has a weakness that Satan is going to make use of, if we are not careful. Then there are others. We have mentioned now Judas and Demas, people who love money. The love of the things of this world: the flashy car, the nice houses — how many people have not got a weakness for that? And Satan gives you one little bang there and you go right over the edge, like Demas, who was a full-time Christian worker, was finished. Judas was one of the twelve apostles and he was knocked out, too. When you see men of that caliber, men who have already gone so far in the Christian life, collapsing spiritually, you can only say, “Lord, lead me not into temptation, but deliver me out of evil, because I know that evil is all around trying to crush me. Bring me out of it!”
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