Jul 292016

temptationAnd lead us not into temptation (Matthew 6:13)

We are approaching the end of ‘The Lord’s prayer’ within my ‘sermon on the mount’ series. Last week we looked at the huge issue of forgiveness and forgiving others just as we have been forgiven.

Verse 13 is split up into two phrases which go ‘hand in hand’. This week I am going to look at the negative aspect “And lead us not into temptation” and next week the positive statement of “but deliver us from evil.”

Today’s phrase on the surface could give us cause for concern. Surely God is not tempting us? After all it says in James 1:13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”, for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.

We understand the word ‘temptation’ today in purely negative ways, however at the time of Jesus it did not just mean to cause to sin. The meaning had the idea of being tried and tested or put under trial. It is clear from the bible that God did allow certain trials to come people’s way to see if they would prove true. A classic example is Abraham who was prepared to sacrifice His son Isaac. When Abraham passed the test, God said “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” (Genesis 22:12)

Joseph too, in Genesis 39, was severely tempted when Potiphar’s wife kept pressing him to sleep with her. He passed the test even though it meant being in prison for at least another 2 years. Through this trial, God had seen his character and rewarded Him in due time.

And what about Jesus? He was tempted in the wilderness after fasting for 40 days, as recorded in Matthew 4. This was of course not the only time Jesus was tempted. Even in the garden of Gethsemane before His crucifixion He was in torment and asked the father if there was another way possible. But He stood firm. The bible makes it clear that Jesus went through every temptation that we go through, He did not receive special privileges;

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

I believe this prayer about God not leading us into temptation, means we are asking not to be tempted prematurely or unnecessarily. We are asking God to restrain us from heading into trials and temptations of our own making. We want His help rather than coping on our own. Praying this prayer earnestly, reveals your utter dependence on God and a realisation of your own weakness and a determination to do what’s right. You will do all in your power, as far as it depends on you, to avoid temptation. You are following the example of Matthew 26:41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. Notice that the first thing to do is ‘watch’, you need to be mindful of what temptations you are vulnerable to. The phrase “Don’t play with fire” springs to mind. Find out what the fire is and then don’t play with it!

After we have done all we can to avoid temptation, sometimes God still allows them to get through, but take heart that He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Next week we will look at what it means to be delivered from evil.

 July 29, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm Prayer, Temptation, The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Feb 052016

Tearing eye outIf your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. (Matthew 5:29)

This is one of the most misunderstood verses in the bible. Was Jesus really commanding self mutilation?

Jesus liked to use shocking, provocative language to make His hearers sit up and listen. A good technique, because you certainly wouldn’t forget what He had said, which was very useful in a culture that had an oral tradition with no books around. The technique that Jesus was using was called ‘Hyperbole’ this means to make extravagant statements or claims, which are not to be taken literally. It is the opposite of understatement. Jesus used this technique on a number of occasions, for example “straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel” (Matthew 23:24) or the famous “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24)

Another reason it should not to be taken literally is the logic of tearing out just one eye. One could just as easily lust with the other one. Lusting can be just as strong in the thought life with both eyes closed. No, Jesus was referring to the seriousness of sin. We cannot play ‘fast and loose’ with what we look at with our eyes. To avoid sinning we are to deal radically with the problem. As I said last week and previously, it is an issue of the heart. It is the heart that makes the decision to take a lingering look, to dwell on what shouldn’t be dwelt on and defy the purity that God requires. Some images you can’t help seeing, but it’s what you make a choice to linger on that is at issue here. I find Job’s attitude useful from the Old Testament “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman.” (Job 31:1) (NIV)

One of the interpretations of the first part of this verse is “If your eye causes you to stumble” The Greek word for stumble is ‘skandalizo’ where we get our English word scandalize. It does not mean to trip up like you nearly fell over. It means to cause to do wrong. This word was commonly used for a stick put in a trap used for bait. When the prey would enter the trap the ‘skandalon’ would snap shut the trap, catching the animal. This is just the sort of meaning which Jesus was conveying. We look at things that we shouldn’t and suddenly we are trapped!

Finally, the warning is strong. Jesus did not pull any punches when he said that it would be better for our body to be thrown into hell. Jesus talked about hell many times. He was referring to a valley outside Jerusalem called Hinnom where the rubbish from the city was burned. It was considered a place that was cursed because it was the site where ancient worshippers offered their children to be burnt alive to the pagan god Molech. After king Josiah pronounced the place unclean (2 Kings 23:10) it became the town rubbish tip and because of the constant fire and smoke, it became a vivid picture of hell’s eternal fires.

This week’s subject may be really difficult to take action on, but if we are struggling, act we must. We need to determine in our hearts that we are going to change and ask the Holy Spirit to help us. Another excellent way to deal with this kind of sin is to be accountable to someone. If Jesus felt it necessary to warn about the fires of hell, it must be an important subject that demands our full attention.

 February 5, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm Temptation, The sermon on the mount No Responses »
May 162013

What have I done to deserve thisGrace is so unfair. We like to think that everyone gets what they deserve. Good people deserve good things and bad people deserve… well, punishment. Or at the very least, nothing.

God’s grace isn’t like that though. It defies our understanding.

Abraham was one of the first people to receive grace, not because he deserved it or was better than anyone else; he wasn’t. In the mystery of God Abraham was chosen and grace was lavished on him. God is an extravagant God and Abraham’s blessing is still going on now thousands of years later.

When God bestows his grace, however, it is no guarantee of an easy life. In fact it can make things harder! Joseph, one of Abraham’s descendants, received great grace in the promises he was given by God, and he also received grace to sustain him through the trials that came along because of those promises. If you have received God’s grace, don’t expect everything to be plain sailing. But you can expect Him to be with you every step of the way.

God’s choice – unexpected

Throughout the bible and beyond, God never seems to go for the obvious choice. This should be a real source of comfort for you and I (especially if, like me, you don’t have much to shout about). If you are clever, attractive or influential you should be even more grateful that God has made an exception of you!! It says in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29:

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.”

Before David was chosen as King, he was in exactly this position, even overlooked by his own father when Samuel came to pick the future king from among David’s 7 brothers. Everyone had overlooked David. He was just a shepherd boy out in the fields, but God saw that he was the sort of person he could use and chose him to be king. The rest as they say is history!

So don’t disqualify yourself too quickly. God in His grace has chosen you and appointed you for great things in His kingdom. You may have once been an adulterer or even a murderer (as David later became) but that doesn’t mean that God cannot use you. No-one is too far away from His grace.

Let’s look at one more character from the bible; Peter. He boldly proclaimed in front of Jesus and the other disciples that he would never deny Him, but within a few hours of this proclamation he had disowned Jesus, not just once but 3 times. He would have felt totally condemned and worthless at the realisation of what he had done, but Jesus graciously and lovingly restores him. Within a couple of months, on the day of Pentecost, Peter is leading out and proclaiming boldly the news about Jesus.

God’s grace not only chooses us but it also sustains us when we fail.

This grace is absolutely astounding! We can only ask in astonishment the same question as David did in 2 Samuel 7:19 “Is this your usual way of dealing with men, O LORD God?”. (Net bible)

What have I done to deserve this? Absolutely nothing. Amazing!!

 May 16, 2013  Posted by at 7:13 pm Grace, Temptation 3 Responses »
May 032012

There are so many blogs on the internet, some good, some not so. Whenever I find a good one that’s worth sharing I will share it with you, my reader. This one comes from UCB a Christian media ministry who send out a word for today each day. This was one that Liz and I liked and found helpful from April 4th. I hope you enjoy it Continue reading »

 May 3, 2012  Posted by at 6:42 pm Temptation 1 Response »