The Lord's Day Morning
June 13, 2010
“How to Pray (5): Deliver Us”
Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III
We’re today, in the sermon, at the end of a five part series on the Lord's Prayer. Around the time of Christ's life on earth, it was very common for Jewish rabbis to be asked by their followers, their disciples, how to pray or to be taught to pray. And we have examples in extra biblical literature of people who did this. In the Bible, we also have the example of John the Baptist who, apparently, as a good Jewish rabbi, was teaching his disciples how to pray. And apparently, Jesus’ disciples were jealous for Him to teach them to pray like John was teaching his disciples. And so what we call the Lord's Prayer today is an answer to that.
We've been looking at it, piece by piece, working through the five requests that are found in Luke chapter 11 verses 1 to 4. And we’ll come to the fifth and final request today, “Lead us not into temptation.”
Well, let's prepare to worship the living God together.
Shout for joy to the Lord all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness. Come before His presence with thanksgiving. Know that the Lord, He is God. It is He who has made us and not we ourselves. We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Let us worship Him!
If you have your Bibles I'd invite you to turn with me to Luke chapter 11 as we come to the last request, the last petition in the Lord's Prayer, as recorded by Luke. Matthew's prayer recorded in Matthew chapter 6 has six petitions. It includes the petition, “Your will be done.” This rendition of the Lord's Prayer has five petitions, apparently including the idea of God's reign and God's will in the same petition. And so this fifth petition in Luke 11, especially here in verse 4, is numbered in your Shorter Catechism and the sixth petition because The Shorter Catechism follows Matthew's elongated version of this particular prayer.
And we've said several times as we've looked at these five requests, that in response to Jesus’ disciples’ question, “Lord, teach us to pray,” Jesus has pointed them to the Bible. He pointed them to the Hebrew Bible, what we call the Old Testament. And all of the petitions that He gives to His disciples to pray come out of the Scriptures, out of the Hebrew Bible, out of the Bible that was available to Jesus and to His disciples.
And we said that there's a principle for that in our prayers. We want our prayers to be Scriptural. We want to pray God's promises to us back to God in prayer. We want to pray God's Word back to Him in prayer. And there are so many good Biblical prayers that we could simply take over and turn into our own prayers, praying them often, just changing a few pronouns and making them our own. And so we said all along that praying the Bible is one of the important principles that we learn from Jesus’ teaching to the disciples. But we've also said that Jesus is here giving us a pattern for prayer. He's not so much giving us a rote prayer that we are to use like some sort of magical mantra. He's actually giving us an outline of prayer here.
It is of course appropriate that we use this prayer as it is written, as we find it here, in our private devotions, when we're praying with one another in small groups of believers, maybe in our families, and certainly in our public worship. From time to time we recite this prayer. But Jesus was not simply saying, “When you pray, just recite this prayer, don't do anything else.” He was actually giving His disciples an outline of prayer and on that outline can hang much more detailed prayer. And we've been trying to elaborate that as we've worked through the prayer. We looked at the particular petition, we asked what it meant, and then we've asked, “What ways could we drill down into what Jesus is commanding us to pray for there?” and find sources in the Scriptures that would help us pray that prayer more specifically.
And so we see from Jesus’ teaching that we're to pray the Bible. We also see from Jesus’ teaching that there is a pattern to prayer. And today we come to the final petition, “Lead us not into temptation.” And let's pray before we read God's Word.
Lord, this is Your Word and we all perhaps sense the importance of this petition because we know how prone to wander our hearts are. We know that even when You have gloriously changed our lives, saved us from sin and its consequences, we find ways to backslide right into old patterns of behavior that we not only know that You are displeased with and that You have spoken against, but patterns of behavior that depress us because we don't want to live that way anymore. We don't want to go on hurting those that we love, dishonoring Your name, disturbing the company of our family and of our friends and of our congregation. And so this prayer request, this petition that Jesus has commanded His disciples to pray is vitally relevant to every single one of us. Teach us then Lord to pray. We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.
Hear the Word of God:
“Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ And He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.’’”
Amen, and thus ends this reading of God's holy, inspired, and inerrant Word. May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.
Jesus has just previously told the disciples to pray for the forgiveness of sins. Thereby He has taught that His followers, His disciples, will their whole lives long be repenters, those who repent of sin, those who do not enjoy their sin, those who recognize that they still have habits of sin in them that need to be vanquished and need to be abolished. And so He reminds His disciples of this. It's a very practical petition.
We said last week that it was a Gospel petition because it reminds us that the only way that Jesus provides for the forgiveness of sins is not through our repentance and not through some atonement that we offer or some ritual that we perform, but it is provided through His own life and death and resurrection as we believe on Him as He is offered in the Gospel. This is hugely important for us to understand. Our repentance does not bring about forgiveness. You know, one of the old Puritans said that, “There is enough sin in my best repentance to condemn the entire world to hell.” We need to repent of our repentance because it's not deep enough or authentic enough or wide and comprehensive enough.
Our repentance does not bring about our forgiveness, only the shed blood of Jesus Christ does that. But we are committed to a life of repentance because we are committed to walk in the same Gospel that first saved us.
And so we said there's a sense in which that fourth petition that we studied last week is a Gospel petition, but so is this one, and it continues that important theme of the believer's conflict with sin. And there are two or three things that I'd like you to see in this passage that Jesus is teaching us in this petition. And then I'd like us to look at seven ways that we could elaborate this prayer. And I’ll just give you those ways and I’ll give you some scriptural language in which we do that and we’ll just practice praying this prayer back to the Lord together this morning – but just two or three things that we see from this passage.
I. We are to pray for deliverance from sin.
First of all, did you notice that Jesus tells His disciples that He not only wants them to pray for the forgiveness of sins, but He wants them to pray for the deliverance from sin? He not only wants them to pray for the forgiveness of sins but He wants them to pray for deliverance from sin. In other words, Jesus wants us not only to be concerned with pardon and justification and being declared right with God, He wants us to be concerned to so grow in grace that our lives are characterized by more and more dying to sin and more and more living to righteousness. He wants us to be as concerned about being delivered from bondage to sin as we are about being forgiven of the sins that we have committed and so He puts these two petitions together — “And forgive us our sins as we forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”
And that reminds the believer that our lives ought to be characterized by a dogged pursuit of our sin. We should not rest content when we find ourselves disloyal to our God in any area of our life. All sin is idolatry, all sin involves pride, all sin involves worshipping ourselves rather than worshipping God and saying, “You know, I think I’ll do it my way.” All sin involves that and Jesus says to His disciples, “Never rest content while you are like that.” You want to come to the point where you can pray with Jesus, “Not my will but Your will be done,” and you will not be able to do that fully until the day that God has eradicated sin from your life. Now here's the bad news friends, that's not going to happen in this life.
You are always going to be a work in progress in this life. There are no sinless people in this world. But as Augustine said, “The church is not an assembly of the perfect, it is a hospital where sick sinners get well.” And so we all need to be on the journey of killing sin in our life and growing in grace, not only desiring to be forgiven of sin, but to be delivered from bondage to it and the habits of it.
II. We are to fear sin.
But there's another thing that Jesus makes clear in this passage. Jesus wants us to see the horror of sin. Notice He asks you to pray, “And lead us not into temptation.” In other words, Jesus wants you to fear sin. He doesn't just want you to fear the consequences of sin. He doesn't just want you to fear the punishment that comes with sin. He wants you to fear sin itself. He wants you to tremble at the thought of rebelling against God. One medieval theologian provocatively put it this way, that “the true disciple of Jesus would tremble at sin even if there were no hell.” And so Jesus says, “You pray earnestly, ‘Lord, please don't lead me into temptation because the last thing in the world I want to do is sin against You.’”
Now, you may be asking right now, “Wait a second. James says that God doesn't tempt us, so why would you even pray to God not to lead you into temptation because James says that God doesn't tempt you?” Well that's true and it's a rather complex thing. But if I could very briefly explain it — God's testing and Satan's temptation, these things are different in three ways.
They are first of all different in their origin. God's testing comes from God who is loving and kind and generous and above all, good. Whereas Satan's temptations come from the one who is evil incarnate and his intentions are evil. So the origins of testing and temptation are different. So also are the purposes of testing and temptation. God's purpose in testing is always to refine us, always to do us good, always to strengthen us and to make us more like our Savior. Satan's purposes in temptation are to destroy us, to mock God, to ruin our lives, to interfere with God's purposes. And testing and temptation are different in terms of their ultimate end. The ultimate end of testing on God's part in our life if His glory. The ultimate end of temptation on Satan's part is to mock the glory of God, to rob the glory of God. So testing and temptation are different.
Now, here's the tricky thing — they often happen together at the same time. Think of the story of Joseph in the very first book of the Bible. In Genesis chapter 50 verse 20 you remember when Joseph looks at his brothers and he says, “You meant it for evil but God meant it for good.” So at the same time he was the victim of an act which was designed to harm him and God was working in that very series of events for Joseph's good, for the well-being of a multitude of people, and for His own glory.
Or I was thinking this morning about 2 Samuel 21. And you remember that story? We’re told that God's anger burned against Israel and so He incited David to take a census. Now God had commanded through Moses in the Torah that the king was not to take a census. The point being, the king of Israel was to trust in God, not in his military might, not in how many fighting men he had. But the passage says that God incited David to number His people. Well guess what? The parallel passage in 1 Chronicles says that Satan tempted David to do this. Now which was true? Both. Satan's temptation was meant for David and Israel's destruction. God's testing was meant for David and Israel's everlasting well-being and for His own glory.
Think of the book of Job. God says to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job?” “Thanks a lot, God. Did You have to draw Satan's attention to me?” And Satan seeks to sift Job like wheat, but are God's purposes to harm Job or to do him good? Job himself confesses at the end of all that he had gone through, “I had heard of You, but now I've seen You.” And he testified that the Lord had showed His goodness to him in ways that he had never known it before.
Think even of Jesus’ life. Jesus is the victim of a plot of execution and Peter tells us in the sermon on Pentecost that these men delivered Him up by the hands of sinful men but according to the predeterminate plan of God, so that Jesus’ crucifixion was simultaneously a strategy of Satan and the eternal purpose of God. So testing and temptation sometimes come together.
III. We must fear the devil — the evil one.
And here's the third thing I want to say. Jesus makes it clear here that in the battle against sin, we have to worry not only about our own hearts, the flesh — because even if we trust in the Lord Jesus Christ there's still habits of sin in our hearts that are very hard to break and we've got that pulling us on the inside all the time. And there's not only our context, our environment, the world, which isn't helping us follow after God, but there is also, Jesus says, the devil. In the elongated version of this petition in Matthew we pray, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us,” and in English we normally translate that “deliver us from evil.” It probably is a petition, “Deliver us from the evil one” — Satan. Jesus believed in Satan. He believed in the devil. He believed that in the fight against sin you have to worry not only about the inclinations of your own heart, you have to worry not only about the ungodly influences of the world, you have to worry about a personal force in this universe that wants to devour you, wants to sift you like wheat. And so Jesus wants us to recognize that in the battle against sin we are up against principalities and powers and world forces in dark, high places. And in that context only Jesus can prevail. We cannot approach that battle presumptuously and pridefully.
About two weeks ago, get this, I was asked to be a friend on Facebook — and if you don't understand that, just ignore it — I was asked to be a friend on Facebook a female, prosperity gospel, preacher. And in her profile on Facebook, prominently displayed in bold type, was “I am Satan's worst nightmare.” And when I read that, I thought to myself, “Well I hope he doesn't read your Facebook page, honey!”
Jesus says fear sin and the evil one. But remember this — what did we sing in the very first song this morning? “The powers of darkness fear, when this sweet chant they hear.” – Not, “I'm Satan's worst nightmare.” – “May Jesus Christ be praised.” Because He has triumphed over powers and principalities. He has ascended on high and led captivity captive and given gifts to men. And so He says, “You fear sin but you remember this — there is nothing in this world against you that is a match for Me because I am greater than anything in this world. That's why the powers of darkness fear when that sweet chant they hear.”
So how do we pray this prayer then? Very quickly, seven things — let me number them to you and then we're just going to pray them quickly.
First, Jesus encourages us in this petition to pray not to fall in temptation. This prayer probably doesn't mean primarily, “Lord, don't let us ever be tempted.” Do you remember what Jesus prayed for you and me in John 17 in the High Priestly prayer? “Father, I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that You sustain them, that You keep them, that You keep them holy, that You keep them close to Yourself – I'm not asking you never ever to face the temptations of the world, I'm asking you to stand when those temptations come. I'm asking you not to give into the world.” So Jesus is asking us to pray not to fall in temptation. While you live in this world, temptation is coming if it's not already here. But what we want to do is not fall when we're in that temptation.
Secondly, Jesus asks us to pray that God would set gracious limits on our trials and testing. “Lord, don't give me more than I can handle.”
Third, Jesus teaches us to pray that the Lord would lead us into a greater delight than the false delight that our sin offers. Sin always comes to us and says, “If you’ll just do this, you’ll experience satisfaction that you can't find following God.” And Jesus knows that you can't fight something with nothing. So you have to fight the temptation to evil and to the delight of sin with a greater opposite power and that is learning the delights of God. And so He instructs us here by implication to pray to the Lord to lead us into a greater delight.
Fourth, He instructs us to pray, “Deliver us from the evil one.” This is explicit in Matthew; it's implicit here in Luke.
Fifth, He instructs us to pray to be delivered from the evil thing, from doing things which are evil, from doing things which are wrong.
Sixth, He instructs us to pray that the Lord would protect us from pride. There is no sin that has ever been committed that doesn't have a little bit of pride in it. Why? Because if sin – how does the Catechism say it — “any want” I just remember the old version. Sorry, I don't know the new-fangled one — “Sin is any want of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God.” So if sin is breaking God's law, then in every sin there is this choice going on — “I'm going to do it my way. I'm not going to do it Your way.” And what is that? It's a lot of things but one of the things it is, it's arrogance. It's looking up at your Maker and it's saying, “I've got things figured out better than You do. I know how to look out for me better than You do. I'm going to do it my way.”
Seventh, Jesus teaches us to pray that the Lord would deliver us from sin in temptation.
So let's pray through these seven things together.
First of all, Jesus teaches us to pray that we would not fall in our temptation. Let's pray.
Lord, since there is in us a bent to backslide from You so that when our sins are forgiven we find ourselves so often ready to return again to the same folly which we once did, we pray that You would not only forgive us our debts and take care of us, but we pray that You would lead us not into temptation, that we would not offend You anymore. We know that no man can say that when he is tempted he is tempted of God, for God tempts no man, but we do know that You are able to make all grace abound to us and to keep us from falling and to present us before Yourself faultless with exceeding joy. And so we pray, O Lord, that You would do that, that You wouldn't give us up to our own hearts’ lusts, to walk in our own counsels, but that You would restrain Satan, that roaring lion that goes about seeking whom he may devour, and grant that we would not be ignorant of his devices. This we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.
Secondly, Jesus instructs us to pray to the Lord that He would set a gracious limit on our trials and on our testings. Let's pray that to the Lord.
Lord, grant that we would never enter into a temptation beyond our capacity, that having prayed, we would set a watch and we would be readied. Let Your wise and good providence so order all the affairs of our lives, all the events of our lives, everything that concerns us, that no temptation would overcome us but such as is common to men, and that we would never be tempted above what we are able to discern and resist and overcome through the grace of God. Lord, do not lay any stumbling block before us upon which we would fall and perish. Let nothing be an occasion of falling to us, but give us that peace which they have that love Your law, in Jesus' name. Amen.
Third, we pray that God would lead us to a greater delight than sin. In every sin, we see some good thing, some good pleasure for us, that we secretly think God is withholding from us, when in fact the satisfactions and the delights that God gives are far greater than anything that sin can offer. But in the midst of sin we can't see that. So we have to pray that God would give our hearts what Thomas Chalmers called the “expulsive power of a new affection.” You can't fight something with nothing. Your desire to sin has to be countered by a greater desire and that greater desire is satisfaction in communion with God and realizing that there is nothing in this world that can match the satisfaction and delight and joy of communing with Him. So let's pray.
O Lord, lead us to You as our greater and greatest delight. Lead us into all truth. Lead us into Your truth and teach us for You are the God of our salvation. Show us Your ways, O God. Teach us Your paths, the paths of righteousness. Lead us in those paths for Your name sake so that we may be led beside the still waters and taste and see that You are good and know that there is nothing in this world as good as You, no delight greater, no joy deeper, no satisfaction so everlasting. This we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.
Fourth, Jesus instructs us in this prayer to pray to be delivered from the evil one so let's pray that back to the Lord.
Lord, deliver us from the evil one. Keep us so that the wicked one touches us not. Do not allow him to sow his tares in the field of our hearts. Do not allow him to ensnare us by his wiles or wound us by his fiery darts. Let the Word of God abide in us that we may be strong and may overcome the wicked one. And let us, by Your grace, remember that He who is in us is greater than He who is in this world. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Fifth, but we want to be delivered from the evil thing, from the evil things that we do, especially besetting sins. If we were to begin confessing our besetting sins today we’d be here for a long time. And those ought to be things that we pray against regularly, so let's do that.
Lord, deliver us from the evil thing, we pray, from that besetting sin that hounds us, from every evil work. Save us from them, O Lord. Redeem us from all iniquity but especially the sin that most easily besets us. Lord, give us little victories there. Give us — encourage us. Make us begin to hate that sin. We ask in Jesus' name. Amen.
Sixth, and then we pray that the Lord would protect us from pride and greed and lies and presumption in fulfilling this petition. Let's pray that to the Lord.
Lord, hide pride from us. Remove from us the way of lying. Don't let us eat the delights of sin. Incline our hearts to Your law, Your testimonies, not to covetousness. Keep our tongues so that we never speak unadvisedly, but especially keep us back from presumptuous sins. Do not let them have dominion over us. We ask in Jesus' name. Amen.
Seventh, and then finally we pray in response to this petition that the Lord would deliver us from sin in temptation. Let's pray that together.
Preserve us Lord, we pray, that no evil thing may befall us. Keep us from evil that it may not hurt us. You save us by Your right hand as we trust in You. You save us from those who rise up against us, so show us Your marvelous loving-kindness and keep us as the apple of Your eye. Hide us under the shadow of Your wings. Keep what we have committed to You. You have delivered us in the past. Deliver us again. We pray that You will deliver us from all our fears and sorrows and make us dwell safely and grant that we would be quiet from the fear of evil and bring us safe at last to Your holy mountain where there is no briar or thorn and nothing to hurt or destroy. This we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Now let's respond to God's Word by singing a prayer to hymn. If you’ll take your hymnals out and turn to number 567, this hymn is very much a meditation on how to pray this petition.
We've just prayed that the Lord would strengthen us in our trials. How does He do that? With grace. Receive His blessing freely. Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.