APC 18th Nov 2020 “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” (Part 2)
Welcome and Introduction
Good morning everyone and welcome to our Midweek worship. Today we will be thinking a little more about what it will mean for us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”
But first let’s take a moment to pause and to talk to our heavenly Father, let’s pray…
Almighty and loving God, we want to bring you our praise today, we want to offer you worship, we want to open our hearts to you and tell you how much you mean to us. We want to proclaim your name in a way that does justice to your greatness.
Lord, hear our prayer.
Eternal and all powerful God, we are hungry to feel your presence, to hear you voice, to know your will, to learn more of you, to experience your power and to offer you a commitment that does justice to your love.
Lord, hear our prayer.
Gracious and all-forgiving God, help us then to acknowledge our faults, to confess our sins, to recognise our many weaknesses, to see the blind spots in our lives and to be a people who do justice to your mercy.
Lord, hear our prayer.
Great and all-transforming God, enable us to serve you more faithfully, love you more deeply, know you more fully, obey you more completely and live in a way that does justice to your renewing power.
Lord, hear our prayer.
Everlasting God, you know what we are and you know what we want to be.
Hear our prayer, receive our worship and so help us become the people you would have us be to the glory of your name, Amen.
Join me as we say the Lord’s Prayer thoughtfully and sincerely together…
Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name,
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread, And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us,
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil,
For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory,
For ever and ever, AMEN.
Genesis 39 v 1-10 Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife
Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there.
2 The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. 3 When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, 4 Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. 5 From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. 6 So Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.
Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, 7 and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!”
8 But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. 9 No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” 10 And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.
James 1 v 12-15
12 Blessed 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.
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
Reflection “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”
Last Wednesday we began our reflections on the fifth request in the Lord’s Prayer – “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” We saw how Jesus overcame temptation in the wilderness by quoting scripture to Satan. We reminded ourselves how memorising scripture enables the Holy Spirit to bring them to our mind, empowering us to resist temptations.
A second piece of advice that God gives us in the bible for how we can overcome temptation is the reminder that we need to be aware of the way our enemy works and which direction his threats are likely to come from.
In modern day sport, most coaching teams will analyse the opposition players and the strategies that the opposition team employ in order to exploit their weaknesses. In cricket this will involve setting more catchers on one side of a batsman and encouraging the bowler to pitch the ball continuously in a certain area of the pitch.
In a similar way, one of the ways reading the bible helps us is that it enables us to understand all the different tactics that the devil is likely to use to try and trip us up, so that we can be ready for any eventuality. Sometimes, the devil is mentioned specifically in scripture but more often than not, we see how he operates in the stories we read about real people who loved God, who were tempted just like us and who at times like us gave in to those temptations. When we look at these stories and place them alongside specific biblical teaching about Satan, we discover that the devil attacks us from two main directions. He tempts us from the outside and he tempts us from the inside.
The first direction is the most obvious. The devil attacks us from outside influences - like the colleague at work who turns to us over lunch and says, “Angela is such an idiot, although that’s not surprising from where she’s from. I can’t stand her…”
The school or college friend who hands you the cigarette or a tablet and says, “Go on, just try it, one’s not going to do you any harm.”
The loving family member who in all sincerity says, “But there’s really no prospects in going out to Africa to be a missionary, sure you can serve God just as well at home and be far better paid in the process.”
The pop up advertisement on your computer screen inviting you to an adult site.
Since we know that the devil will tempt us from outside influences, it’s essential that we are always on our guard. It’s important that we watch out for temptation and that we don’t put ourselves in situations that we may not be able to resist.
It’s essential that we are careful about what we watch, what we read and what we listen to. We must never be too proud and think, “I would never do that” or “that would never happen to me!”
As the old proverb says, “Pride comes before a fall!” or as St Paul puts it in his letter to the Corinthians, “Let those who think they are on safe ground be careful in case they have a fall!”
Just like when we prepare to go on holiday, so too we need to try and be prepared for every eventuality. Sometimes, like the time Joseph ran away from Potiphar’s wife, this may even mean that we have to actually remove ourselves from a particular situation, if not permanently, then perhaps for a time.
That’s why a recovering alcoholic can never go into a bar. We might find that we have to avoid a certain shop if we’ve discovered that we can’t control our desire to buy new shoes. We might find that we need to avoid going down a certain isle in the supermarket until we have been able to lose the weight the doctor says. We might find that we need to curtail a particular association.
Outside temptation comes in all sorts of ways. What’s important is that we look out for it and we take the necessary steps to resist its attraction. We must resist the temptation of proudly thinking that because we are Christians we are invincible. We must never be so foolish to think that we can put our fingers in the fire and pray not to get burned. Sometimes the only way for us to overcome temptation may be to remove ourselves from a particular situation altogether.
Can I ask you – What are the particular temptations that you face from the outside world and where do they come from? How can reflecting on them help you to resist?
But there’s another way that the devil tempts us and because it is hidden, we are often unaware of it, and as a result it is much more difficult to anticipate and resist. St. James tells us about this in his letter. He says that the devil tempts us from within because of the sinful nature of our hearts. He writes, “Each one is tempted when by their own evil desire, they are dragged away and enticed.”
What I think that means is this- When we become a Christian, the Holy Spirit comes to live within us. In that sense, the devil is removed from the throne of our lives and Jesus Christ comes to reign and take control. We become ‘new creatures’ in Christ with new motives and a new power to obey God that we never had before. That is fantastic. But what we sometimes fail to remember is that our sinful nature is not completely removed and the devil does not completely go away. Rather, like a defeated enemy, the devil adopts guerrilla warfare tactics and he uses the remaining sinful nature that is within us to tempt us to do or say or think what is wrong. In other words, we must never forget that we have a hidden enemy within us. That is why Jeremiah could say, “The heart is deceitful and deceptively wicked who can know it?”
The truth is, we don’t know our own hearts. There are recesses of sin and intrigues of our being that we are simply not even aware of. That is why we are still sometimes surprised by something we say, or by something we do or by thoughts that enter our minds. James also tells us that this sinful nature that remains within us works through our desires. That means that we can be tempted without any outside influence, even in those times when we think we are safe. Isn’t that what many of the monks found in the 16th Century? In an attempt to live pure lives many of them hid themselves away from the influences of the outside world. But even those who lived lives of complete isolation discovered that they could not escape the enemy that lay within. This doesn’t mean that all desires are wrong. Many of our desires are good and God often gives us the desires of our hearts. But it does mean that we need to watch our desires and to be careful about our inner strengths and weaknesses. These are all things by which we can be tempted to disobey God even when there is no outside influence.
Think for a moment of the particular temptations that you are vulnerable to. Now think about how often those temptations arise simply because of your inner desires or your natural strengths or weaknesses. I love cricket. Growing up I wanted to be a professional cricketer. I practiced for hours and I had the privilege of playing cricket at a high level. But I reached a point in my life when I realised that cricket was more important to me than God. The only way I could resist that temptation was to practice less and accept the fact that meant I could not play at such a high standard. I’m not saying you can’t play sport professionally and remain true to God. Many people have done so and continue to. I’m simply giving you another example of how our inner desires if left unchecked can easily lead us away from God. If we are going to overcome temptation, we need to remember that the devil will not only tempt us from outside but he will also tempt us from within.
Can I ask you, what are your inner desires that may be perfectly good but that at times if left unchecked can lead you away from God?
Contemplating the often hidden power of temptation brings us nicely to my final point-
If we are going to resist temptation not only do we need to read and memorise scripture, not only do we need to be aware of the devil’s tactics, above all we need to pray for God’s deliverance.
3 We need to pray for God’s help
This is why I believe Jesus teaches us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” I don’t think Jesus is telling us here to pray, “Lord, don’t let it happen!” That’s because we have already seen that temptation and testing can be a way of strengthening our faith and character. It was through the many trials and temptations that Joseph faced that God prepared him for the day when eventually he would have the responsibility of being the Prime minister of Egypt.
Rather, I think what Jesus is encouraging us to pray is, “When temptation comes, help me to recognise it and overcome it.”
You know, learning to pray that prayer every day is probably the most important lesson we can learn about how we can overcome temptation. That’s because at the end of the day, whether we realise it or not, the devil is real and he is a much more powerful force than we are. We cannot and we dare not try to resist him in our own strength.
I’ll never forget the day that a bush caught fire outside a friend’s house. We tried our best to beat it out but the weather had been dry for weeks and no sooner had we extinguished one bit than another piece of hedge caught light. Eventually in a mad panic, my friend ran into the neighbour’s house to get help. Thankfully with more assistance we were eventually able to beat out all the flames.
Overcoming the temptations of the enemy on our own is like trying to put out a forest fire. We just can’t do it. Eventually we will be overcome. The only way we can consistently resist, is to call in reinforcements. That means we must take time regularly to pray and ask God to give us His strength and His ability to overcome temptation. We must ask God to search our hearts as we read His word and to show us whole areas of our lives that we are blind to. We must allow God to show us our weaknesses and strengths because these are often the places where we are most vulnerable to attack. And wherever or whenever the temptation comes, we must send up a silent prayer for God’s strength and courage to resist. The great news is that God will hear that prayer. He will answer and He will give us the ability to overcome.
The other great news is that even if we’ve failed to memorise scripture, even if we’ve forgotten to keep watch outside and within, even if we’ve neglected the place of prayer and as a result we have fallen and fallen badly, God never folds His arms and says, “I told you so!” Rather, he stands with open arms just waiting for us to come back. So if you’re listening today and all this brings back memories of something you’ve said or done which you feel has ruined your reputation or ruined your relationship with God, then resist the temptation to listen to the devil any longer. When he tells you that there’s no way back, he is lying! They say that those who never make mistakes, never make anything! Come back to God! Confess whatever it was at the foot of the cross and know that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses you from all sins that we repent of, no matter what they are, or no matter what the consequences have been for us or for others! You may have had a major fall, but God doesn’t want you to lie there forever! Get up and go on! The years you have left may be the greatest yet for God and for His glory.
Temptation- it’s something we will always face. It’s something that has the potential to strengthen us or to cause us great harm. It’s something that God has provided ways for us to overcome. One of those ways is learning scripture so that the Holy Spirit can bring it to our minds when temptation comes. Another is bible stories which teach us how the devil works. We need to remember that he attacks us from two directions, both outside and from within. The third way is perhaps the most important. Jesus teaches us to pray regularly for God’s strength to say “No!” That’s a prayer we must pray for the devil is stronger than we are. Only with God’s help can we resist his advances. And lastly, we’ve been reminded that even if we’ve given in and fallen badly, God forgives us when we repent, sets us back on our feet and whispers in our ear, “I love you, now go out and make me proud.”
Lord Jesus, you call us as you called the first disciples to follow you – not simply to believe, not merely to declare our faith and confess you as Lord, but to keep on following wherever you lead.
Lord Jesus, help us!
Help us follow you eagerly, faithfully, devotedly, seeing where you are at work and staying close to you.
Lord Jesus, help us!
Help us to follow in your footsteps, pursuing the way of love, and accepting the road of sacrifice.
Lord Jesus, help us!
Help us to follow after you, letting your presence fill our hearts, and trusting you so completely that your love shines through us.
Lord Jesus, help us!
Help us to follow through the life of discipleship, not allowing ourselves to become distracted, or to lose heart so that we wander away from you, but keeping faith to the end.
Lord Jesus, help us!
Lord Jesus, you call us as you call all your people to follow you. Teach us what that means, and by your grace help us to respond and be followers of your way.
Lord Jesus, help us!
For we ask it in your name, Amen.
It’s been a joy and privilege to share with you again today. Thanks again for logging on. I do hope if you haven’t already done so this year that you will consider supporting our United Appeal. You can make an online donation to the church bank account using the details on the church website. Just mark it as for United Appeal. Alternatively you can contact our church treasurer Aleida and arrange to pay in a method which is more suitable for you.
Do tune in again this Sunday as we conclude our series on the Lord’s Prayer by reflecting on the Doxology - “For thine is the Kingdom the power and the glory, forever and ever, Amen.”
I don’t know what’s going to happen in December but please do continue to pray that if we return to Level 3 that the restrictions on church services might be lifted so that we can enjoy our Christmas season as a worshipping community.
Most people I talk to are finding this second near lockdown much more difficult than the first so please do look out for each other and pick up the phone and encourage one another. It seems that good progress is being made with vaccines so there will be better days in the near future. At the same time we are deeply conscious of all those who have lost loved ones to this horrible virus, so please do continue to follow guidelines for safe living and pray especially for all those who have been bereaved. For now, let me lead you in a Benediction after which I will invite you as always, to say the grace together…
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! And…
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and for evermore, Amen.”
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