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God’s Word for You

Luke 11:4b The Sixth Petition

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, July 5, 2018

THE LORD’S PRAYER: THE SIXTH PETITION

And lead us not into temptation.

Would God ever lead me into temptation? No. “God,” James said, “cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone” (James 1:13). But we are tempted by other means.

The first of these the Bible describes is the devil, who enticed Adam and Eve our first parents. In Eve’s temptation, we see the pattern: first, she saw the fruit and reasoned her way around God’s prohibition by thinking that “it was good for food.” Next, she talked herself into thinking that eating the forbidden fruit would enable her to gain wisdom, which tells us how far away from the path of wisdom she had already ventured. Finally, her temptation and her resistance to the Lord’s commandment caused her to reach out her hand and pick the piece of fruit from the limb of the tree within arm’s reach. Snap went the stem from its twig, and as the woman silently opened her mouth to bite, her husband let his mouth remain silent as well when he should have been reminding his love of the Lord’s prohibition. As she bit, they fell (Genesis 3:6). Almighty God, send your holy angels to protect me from the devil’s prodding!

The second tempter is the world, now fallen and corrupt. But it is hardly ever nature or God’s brute beasts (abused by sin though they are, Romans 8:20) that lead us to sin. Rather, it is the hoard of sinful men and women that surround us. It is the attitude of the world, the entertainment of the world, the music and dance of the world, and the perverse slang of the world that all leads us away from God. The Lord cautioned his people through the prophet that because of their sins, the skies withheld their rain and dew, and the earth withheld its crops (Haggai 1:10). In this way, even the natural world, the earth itself, tests us to show us our sins and our need for our Savior. The fallen world would have us look anywhere but to God when we must look to God and no one else. Almighty God, send your holy angels to protect me from the enticing pressures of the fallen world!

The third tempter is our own fallen flesh, sinful through and through. “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15). At such times, we might be tempted to turn from God either in shame or standing on the deadly threshold of doubt—the door that leads into a house with no floor, into which the unwary tumble into the abyss of unbelief and despair. Meditating on this will teach us the relentless truth that we cannot trust in our flesh and in our bodies to help us make right decisions. Our choices must flow from faith and not from our cravings and desires.

The most godly craving is for the word of God. Do I crave food? I need to remember that God gives food to strengthen us and nourish us, not to gorge us like vultures too sated to flap away from a carcass. Do I crave sexual satisfaction? This is why God has given me my wife—her, and not another. When I focus my attention on pleasing her, I am pleased. When I make it my daily goal to be faithful to her, I please my Lord and fulfill my vow to her and to Him. Do I crave relaxation? I must not let down my guard against the perversions of the fallen world. I relax so that I will be refreshed to serve the Lord once again tomorrow with a clear conscience, and I please my Savior. Almighty God, send your holy angels to protect me from myself, my fallen, sinful, corrupt self!

There may come times when God chooses to test us (not tempt us) in order to strengthen us or another person through our testing. In such times, we pray that God will not let go of his promises to us. “God is faithful,” Paul wrote. “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” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Jesus said, “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come” (Luke 17:1). But we can also remember the words of Luther’s wise abbot when Luther was still a young monk: “Dear brother, you cannot prevent the birds from flying over your head, but you can certainly keep them from building a nest in your hair.” Luther taught:

      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.
(Small Catechism)

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

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Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.