- Deliver Us From Evil
- Matthew 6:13; 1 Corinthians 10:6-13
- Lyndol Loyd February 4, 2018
Have you ever been around one of those bug zapping lights? Maybe you have one in your home? If it is nighttime and the light is on, periodically you will keep hearing this little electric zapping sound. The light has a way of attracting the bugs only to sizzle them when they get too close. It has a way of going on and on and on – hundreds of bugs – zap! zap! zap!
I don’t know if it is possible or not, but I want to ask you to take a moment and try to think like a bug. You’d think that an approaching bug might observe the tray underneath the zapping light filled with hundreds of dead bugs and wonder, “Is this a good idea?”
Only a bug could possibly be that dense, right? Only a bug would go flying mindlessly into the same trap that countless other bugs have died in, right? Well, let’s think about the glowing light of temptation that the Evil One places in front of human beings.
Listen closely and you will hear it. Political leaders. Zap! Pastors and church leaders. Zap! Successful business leaders. Zap! Stay at home moms. Zap! Wealthy athletes. Zap! School teachers. Zap! Friends and family members. Zap!
Adam and Eve saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eye and desirable for wisdom, “Zap!” Over and over we read and hear of people who fall into temptations that devastate their lives, destroy their marriages, rock their worlds, break up their families and wither their souls.
- Why do we voluntarily give in to what we know is going to be destructive?
- Why do we fly into the light?
The Bible teaches that we have an enemy who is bigger, stronger, and smarter than us. He is devoting time, investing energy, and marshaling the forces of hell in an effort to draw us into sin. This is why the Bible is filled with warnings about the Evil One. Scripture such as:
Ephesians 6:10-12, “10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”
1 Peter 5:8, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”
Matthew 6:13 – “And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.”
We should never be surprised when we face temptation. Jesus himself was tempted. It’s part of being human and Jesus was fully human. He was also fully divine. When we realize Jesus faced temptation, it becomes clear that nobody is temptation free. This means that our ability to resist temptation is enormously important.
The core idea of temptation is allowing oneself to be torn away from the God who loves us. In our day, the word “temptation” is often trivialized, reduced to the lure of fattening desserts or petty indulgences. In the Bible, temptation is never trivial. What is at stake is the human soul.
The tempter isn’t stupid. He’s not going to say, “Choose death.” He’s not going to try to tempt you with something that is obviously destructive and repugnant to you. The most dangerous temptation you face is probably not the most dramatic, but one most likely to subtly lure you away from intimacy with God.
The Evil One doesn’t just tempt you to do what’s wrong. he tempts you not to do what’s right. He wants to keep you from going deep with God. For some people, the greatest temptation is busyness – anything that keeps us from deep prayer, deep love for God, deep trusting faith.
For others the biggest temptation might be the La-Z-Boy and a flat screen television – whatever keeps us from focusing on things of eternal value. When we look for the places the Enemy might attack us, we need to consider the big, obvious places but also the little subtle ones.
The Devil does not have power to destroy you. He cannot kill you or wrestle you away from God; by no means is he the counterpart of God in terms of power. Essentially, the single power he has is to tempt you. If any human being’s soul is destroyed, including yours or mine, it will be through temptation. The temptation battle is the most important battle you will ever fight.
One of the most important passages of Scripture regarding temptation is found in 1 Corinthians 10:6-13 which says, “6 These things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did, 7 or worship idols as some of them did. As the Scriptures say, ‘The people celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry.’ 8 And we must not engage in sexual immorality as some of them did, causing 23,000 of them to die in one day.
9 Nor should we put Christ to the test, as some of them did and then died from snakebites. 10 And don’t grumble as some of them did, and then were destroyed by the angel of death. 11 These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.
12 If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. 13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”
Let’s take a moment to unpack what Paul is saying here.
- Temptation Will Come to Everyone… So Expect It.
This is not meant to discourage us; just the opposite. We are not alone. Every follower of Jesus will face temptation. Every one of us in this room has and will face temptation. Knowing that Jesus himself was tempted, who are we to think that we wouldn’t be tempted as well?
If the Evil One tried to tempt Jesus himself, we better believe he will come after us as well. When we let this truth sink into our hearts and lives we will be ever vigilant and watching out for places the Enemy might seek to attack. This preparedness becomes a weapon to resist evil.
- God will Not Let Us Be Tempted Beyond What We Can Handle.
This Scripture makes it clear that God isn’t going to allow for us to be tempted beyond our ability to resist. This truth brings hope to us, but it is also sobering at the same time. We can never rationalize our sin by saying, “I couldn’t help myself. I just couldn’t resist any further.” God knows what we can handle and will never allow us to be tempted beyond what we can stand against in his power.
- God Will Provide a Way of Escape.
When temptation comes, we need to look around. There is always a way out. We might have to run or we might have to fight. It could be a big “No!” or the exercise of Spirit-led self-control, but there is always a way out.
It seems to me that finding a way of escape is a good place for us to spend a good chunk of our time this morning. If Jesus instructed the disciples to pray “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” then it seems like a good idea for us to examine what actions we can take to help us find our way out.
- Finding Strength in Joy.
One of the single greatest emotional resources we have against temptation is joy. We need to arrange our lives around it. We want to set up our lives so that we can experience high levels of the joy of the Lord.
What we often forget is that joylessness is always a setup for vulnerability to sin and disobedience. One writer puts it like this: “Failure to attain a deeply satisfying life always has the effect of making sinful actions seem good.” In other words, our success at overcoming temptation will be easier if we are joy filled.
Let’s apply a very specific application at this point. When people experience sexual temptation what’s prompting it? Very often, underneath the temptation is loneliness, boredom, self-pity, or resentment, maybe related to a spouse.
If that is the case, focusing only on the sexual issues, trying really hard to resist temptation, won’t work. As long as we just focus on the surface, we won’t get to the root of the problem. The first step to resisting this temptation might not be a battle with misplaced sexual desire. It could be the need to reestablish joy in life, perhaps in the marriage.
To the extent that you have authentic joy, temptation is driven away. Temptation is always the offer of the illusion of joy – never joy itself. The more authentic joy you experience, the less the deceptive illusion of false-joy will be appealing to you.
The question becomes what do you need to do to increase the joy factor in your life? What activities and relationships can you pursue that both honor God and bring authentic joy?
As you pray, “God, lead me not into temptation. Deliver me form the evil one,” one way of doing so might be asking God to help you be a more joyful person.
- Finding Accountability
John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, succinctly described the plan of discipleship in what he called The General Rules. As Christians, we are to (1) do no harm by avoiding evil of every kind; (2) do good to all people; and (3) attend upon all the ordinances of God like participating in worship, taking Communion, reading the Bible, praying, and more.
Unfortunately, knowing that does not always translate into living it. So Wesley formed societies and then bands (small groups) where people would quickly move beyond surface relationships and go much deeper with each other. In the band meetings those who agreed to be part of group used to ask each other the following questions:
- What known sins have you committed since our last meeting?
- What temptations have you met with?
- How were you delivered?
- What have you thought, said or done of which you doubt whether it be sin or not?
- Have you nothing you desire to keep secret?
- Have you just lied to us about anything?
How many of us would be up for answering the same questions today? The early people known as Methodist were serious about fleeing temptation and so they built accountability into their lives.
Temptation always involves keeping things hidden in the darkness. When we humbly tell trusted friends about our areas of struggle with sin, a light begins to shine and the power of sin begins to die.
The enemy wants us to keep our sins, struggles and temptations in the dark and to ourselves. He wants us to stay quiet in our hearts. “I can handle this on my own. I don’t need to tell anyone else about this. It would be better if no one ever knew about my sin.”
The problem is , we have an enemy who is stronger and smarter than we are. Thankfully, God is infinitely stronger and smarter than the Devil. If we try to fight on our own, we are bound to lose. We need to invite God and God’s people into the process.
If you try to handle temptation on your own, you will fall. You need to have somebody you can go to and say, “I want you to feel free to confront me when you’re concerned about my behavior. I give you an open door.”
When you’re tempted, severely tempted, you need someone to call. Notice I didn’t say if you’re tempted. I said when. In 12 Step Programs, like Alcoholics Anonymous, they utilize sponsors. It’s someone who is available anytime, night or day. We all need someone like this.
Such power exists in community. You might need to pray, “God I need a confidante in my life. Help me think about who that might be. Help me to understand the next step I need to take to deepen my relationship with that person until I know them well enough and can trust them deeply enough that I can share with them from my heart.”
- The Power of Scripture.
Another way out of temptation is the power of the Bible. There is amazing strength in knowing and following the Word of God. When the tempter came to Jesus at the beginning of His ministry, the weapon Jesus used over and over was the Truth of Scripture.
Not once, not twice, but three times the Devil tempted Jesus. Each time Jesus countered by quoting the Bible, “it is written.” Jesus’ mind was so washed in the Word of God, and He lived in its reality so thoroughly, that He saw right through Satan’s deceptions.
Too often we consider memorizing verses and sections of the Bible as an exercise for children so they can get a gold star on a chart. Jesus saw the Word of God as a powerful weapon against the enticements of the Devil.
My encouragements to us this morning would be that if you are dealing with a specific temptation in your own life, take time to identify a passage or two in the Bible that speaks to that temptation.
Maybe you want to write the passage on a card and keep it in your wallet or purse. Enter the passage into your smart phone or put it on your mirror in the bathroom. The idea is to keep the Scripture in front of your eyes and heart. Commit it to memory. Meditate on it. Most study Bibles have a concordance to help you find passages on key words. There are searches you can do online.
Get the Word of God deep in your heart and soul. Then, when the Enemy comes to tempt you – and he will – just like Jesus, you can respond by saying, “It is written…”
It occurs to me that as we have been talking about all of this, there are those of us who, at this very moment, find ourselves in the midst of a struggle with temptation. We find ourselves doing things that we don’t want to do, that we know we shouldn’t do and yet somehow we continue to do them.
As we are gathered here this morning, you feel convicted that it is time for this cycle of behavior to stop. You don’t want it to do any more damage in your life. You don’t want it to damage your relationship with God. You don’t want it to damage your relationships with others in your life.
If so, I want to encourage you to take a few moments to acknowledge your sin before God. It isn’t that He doesn’t already know, because He does. It means that you are taking a moment to own your sin before God. There is power in confession. It is a way for us to own, but then release it to God. Receive God’s forgiveness for your sin. It is why Jesus Christ came.
There is a great old hymn called, “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing” and it has a line in it that testifies to the power of our Savior in this instance, “He breaks the power of canceled sin. He set’s the prisoner free.”