Service for July 17, 2020 — “Lead Us Not Into Temptation”
19Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and honor him. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me.”
20Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: 21When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels (That is, about 5 pounds ) of silver and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels (That is, about 1 1/4 pounds), I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”
22So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent, and there it was, hidden in his tent, with the silver underneath. 23They took the things from the tent, brought them to Joshua and all the Israelites and spread them out before the Lord.
24Then Joshua, together with all Israel, took Achan son of Zerah, the silver, the robe, the gold bar, his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys and sheep, his tent and all that he had, to the Valley of Achor. 25Joshua said, “Why have you brought this trouble on us? The Lord will bring trouble on you today.”
Then all Israel stoned him, and after they had stoned the rest, they burned them. 26Over Achan they heaped up a large pile of rocks, which remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his fierce anger. Therefore that place has been called the Valley of Achor (Achor means trouble ) ever since.
Psalm: Psalm 122 in Christian Worship Supplement
I rejoiced with those who said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
Our feet are standing in your gates,
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”
For the sake of my brothers and friends,
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your prosperity.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
4Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6“If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
7Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9“All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
11Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
The author Mark Twain Was no fan of Christianity. As is the case with the number of people who are not fans of Christianity, he did have some insights into the faith. One of his stories that shows this is his later short novel The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg. It tells the story of a town that prided itself on its righteousness. They felt that they, as a people, were incorruptible. They had as the town motto written on a sign coming into town, “Lead us not into temptation.” The story goes on to tell how a man who had not received a warm welcome in town decided that he was going to corrupt them. He set up an elaborate ruse which was designed to show just how hypocritical the people in town were. Because they had never faced a test to their faith before, when he pulled his con job on the town A good number of the good citizens of Hadleyburg ended up doing things that they regretted. At the end of it all, the people decided that it was good to be put to the test when it came to their faith from time to time. At the end of the story, they changed the motto on their sign to “Lead us into temptation.” In this short novel by Mark Twain, we see two senses of the word temptation. Which one of those are we talking about when it comes to the six petition of the Lord’s Prayer? Are we asking God never to test us in our lives or are we asking him to make sure that we are not tempted to fall into sin?
Lead Us Not Into…
A brief reminder of the purpose of the epistle of James: James wrote this epistle to believers who were tempted to hide their faith so that they would not attract the attention of those in authority who wanted to persecute them. Although James clearly knows that a person is justified by faith rather than by deeds of the law, he spends most of his time talking about how the Christian faith shows itself in a person’s life. That is why he dwells so much on what we do rather than on what we believe.
What he says in the opening verse of this text really falls in line with the major theme of his book. These Christians were being tested by the persecution they were beginning to receive in the world. They thought that this was something unwelcome in their lives. James, however, shows that this was something that was done under the direction of God. He writes: “12Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” Notice that he uses the same word that Jesus used throughout the first part of his sermon on the Mount. Remember, Jesus began that sermon with a number of statements about how different people are blessed. All those statements revolved around things that wouldn’t normally be thought of as being a part of a blessed life. He spoke of those who were poor in spirit, the meek, those who are spoken ill of and persecuted, etc etc. James says that believers are blessed when they persevere under these trials in their lives. The word for persevere means more than just put up with. It means to accept it with full confidence as something that came to them from God. Often, these things are referred to as temptations. But that is really the old sense of the word. You see that many times in The King James version of the Bible. There it often speaks of God tempting someone or sending a temptation their way.
However, this is not the same as a temptation into sin. What James is talking about here is a test to the faith. Peter also spoke about that in the opening chapter of his first letter. He talks about God refining our faith the way that a metal worker will refine precious metal like gold or silver. Sometimes that means being put through the fire in a figurative sense. When we pray in this petition, “Lead us not into temptation,” we are not asking God to keep away the tests too our faith that he brings into our lives. If we are praying anything about them, we are asking that God would use them to do what they’re supposed to do. They’re supposed to lead us to rely on God all the more and to look forward to that Crown of life that he has prepared for us. We are not asking God to keep these tests, these temptations, away from us.
What we are praying in this petition Is illustrated very well play what James writes next to his readers. He says, “13When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” This is the same thing that Luther writes in his explanation to the Sixth Petition: “God surely tempts no one to sin, but we pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us, so that the devil, the world, and our flesh may not deceive us or lead us into false belief, despair, and other great and shameful sins; and though we are tempted by them, we pray that we may overcome and win the victory.”
What James writes here is Important. As sinful human beings, we like to blame God for the wrongs that we do. God made me this way, after all, that’s why I couldn’t help myself. This sort of attitude goes all the way back to the garden of Eden Where Adam blamed the woman that God had given him and the woman blamed the serpent that God had created. James is very clear. He says that no temptations to sin come from God.
Where do they come from , then? The most common way of putting it is to say that those temptations come from the devil, the world, and our sinful nature. I believe that most of the temptations that we face actually come from our own sinful nature. James, like his half-brother Jesus, often uses very vivid pictures to describe what he’s talking about. Here, in talking about temptation, he uses the picture of a Hunter snaring his prey. He talks about temptation enticing us and grabbing us. The idea behind the picture is that temptation first gets us to be dissatisfied with what we have or what we are and then It gets us to want to commit a sin in order to get what we don’t have or improve what we are. Again, this goes all the way back to the garden of Eden. Satan convince them that they were missing out because they did not have the full knowledge of God, knowing both good and evil. He offered the remedy of the forbidden fruit to correct that.
In our lives, what does temptation do? The temptation, no matter where it comes from, makes us first think that we are missing out on something in life. It makes us think that there is some joy or some luxury that eludes us. It makes us think that there is some power that we could have over others that we do not have right now. So what does temptation try to get us to do? It tries to get us to put someone down so that we can be better than they are. It makes us want to steal something so that we can have a luxury that others enjoy but we don’t. It makes us want to sin against the 6th commandment so that we can have the pleasure that we don’t have right now. It tries to get us to believe that this will lead us to live a more fulfilled and happy life when we sin against what our God has told us to do.
Why was James warning against this and why is it a danger to us? After all, we might say, don’t we sin every day? Aren’t we, as sinful people living in a sinful world, simply going to fall into sin every day? Certainly we are! However, this is talking about something else. This is talking about the willful disobedience to God’s command. What is Satan, the ultimate tempter, attempting to do with these temptations? He is trying to get us to fall into those sins, to sin deliberately against God’s will, and then arrive at one of two opinions about those sins. One of those opinions is that, once we’ve committed them, that they don’t really matter. He convinces us that it wasn’t as bad as God said it was going to be. “Look, I committed this, and I’m doing alright.” That gets us to be used to the idea of sinning against God. That gets us to begin to wonder if this sin really needs to be repented of or forgiven. After all, it doesn’t seem to be that bad. That, after a while, can lead us away from Christ because we don’t think that we need him.
The other thing that he tries to do when he gets his to fall into sin is to despair of any forgiveness. The way it works is this: Satan gets us to fall into sin; we fall; and all of a sudden we feel guilt. Satan plays on that guilt and tells us there is no way that a holy God could ever forgive us. With that attitude in place, we despair of ever being forgiven of that sin, and are let away from God in a different direction. This is why Jesus wanted us to pray that God would keep us away from temptation. Really, that’s a better way of putting it than the way we commonly word it.
We know that our God can Keep us safe from the effects of temptation. James tells us that here. He tells us how he does that in these words: “16Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” The answer to this prayer is found in the pages of Holy Scripture. God comes to us again and again and assures us that we have one who faced every temptation that we ever faced but stood up to them for us. This one offers us full and free forgiveness from all the sins that we have ever committed or will ever commit. It is this knowledge that overrides either our lackluster opinion of our own sins or our despair over our sins to point us once again to the Crown of life that he has one for us. When we pray this petition, we know that God can hear and will answer our prayer and will see us through the temptations that we face in this life by his powerful promises. Amen.