Andy Stanley - Lead Us Not Into Temptation
So here's something you've heard before, perhaps even prayed before, and lead us not into temptation, and lead us not into you temptation. So what or who leads you into temptation? Or do you lead you into temptation? What or who leads you into temptation or perhaps do you lead you into temptation? Interesting to think about right. If you're familiar with the story of Jesus, you'll know that on multiple occasions he extended a specific but somewhat open invitation, actually a two word invitation. The invitation was simply follow me or to put it another way, allow me to lead you, follow me.
If anyone asks you to follow them your initial response would be, or should be, follow you where? Where are we going? Best we can tell nobody ever asked Jesus that because following Jesus in the first century wasn't really about where, it was more about what, like what he expected folks who followed him to do. And he was clear about that. Sometimes he was too clear about that. He set the bar so high that in the end virtually nobody was following Jesus but he never changed this invitation. Follow me, follow me. Then after the resurrection some unfollowers re followed. After all, if somebody predicts their own death and resurrection and pulls it off, you should probably pay attention to whatever that person has to say. And they did. And together that small group of people went on to turn the world upside down. And ultimately their followers would shape Western civilization. Through their teaching and writing they introduced Jesus' kingdom others' first ethic to the world.
Now whereas Jesus never changed or altered that initial invitation, the church eventually did, which is understandable because follow me has strings attached. It has to dos and it has to don'ts. It requires that we say yes to Jesus if we're following Jesus. And eventually we have to say no to ourselves. So the church shifted the invitation. They refocused the attention to believe in me, instead of following may just believe in me, which is much easier, much less demanding. In fact, it really doesn't demand anything, just believe. So, no surprise, the most popular statement in the entire New Testament, in fact, maybe the most popular statement in the entire Bible is John 3:16. Whoever believes in him shall not perish but shall have eternal life, which is true.
But one of the most unpopular statements in the New Testament, maybe the entire Bible, something Jesus actually said was this. Whoever wants to be my follower, or our English translations say disciple but it really means follower. But whoever wants to be my follower must deny themselves. They must eventually say no to themselves. My hunch is this. You have never seen a Matthew 16:24 tattoo. So unfortunately the message of Jesus was reduced to believe in me, believe in me. And while you believe in me try to behave and you'll be fine. And if you adopt that approach like most religious people have, you may be fine, but let's not kid ourselves. If you're simply a believer, you may not be a follower. You'll be a believer and you'll be a consumer but you won't necessarily be a follower. Jesus, won't be your leader. And as we're about to discover, you will never pray grown-up prayers.
So today, as you probably know, as part three of our series, Grown-Up Prayers, we called it this because most of us grew up praying but as it turns out our prayers oftentimes, well, they didn't grow up with us. And as it turns out, we are not the first group of grownups who never learned to pray grown-up prayers. Jesus' first century followers had never learned either, something they became acutely aware of when they listened to Jesus pray. If he was doing it right, then it occurred to them that perhaps they were doing it wrong. And eventually they mustered up the nerve to bring it up with Jesus. And they came to Jesus and they said, Lord, Lord, we need you to teach us to pray. Apparently, if you're doing it right, we're doing it wrong. So they were ready to learn to pray, to pray like Jesus, to pray like grownups.
Now, as we've said every week in this series, you've probably never asked anyone to teach you to pray. And if someone were to say to you something that suggested that perhaps they didn't think you knew how to pray or that you weren't praying right, you would take offense. And as we've discovered in the last couple of weeks, some of what Jesus had to say about prayer is somewhat offensive because it stands in contrast to our assumptions about prayer, how we pray and even who we pray to. Now like his first century followers, some of us haven't been praying correctly, or to be more specific we haven't been praying the way Jesus prayed and the way he instructed his followers to pray.
Now, if you're not a Jesus follower you will certainly pick up some tips on prayer as you look at what Jesus had to say about prayer. But if you are a Jesus follower, then come on. You really have no choice but to follow Jesus' instructions on how to pray. And as we've discovered, he is very specific. He began by saying, but when you pray, and then he tells us how to pray. And he tells us how not to pray. He says, don't pray to impress other people because, well, God's certainly not impressed. And don't go on and on and on about what you need, want, or wish for, because no surprise, your Father in heaven, your heavenly Father already knows what you need before you ask him, which of course leaves us a bit perplexed because if he already knows, then why pray? Which is the question Jesus wants us to ask.
His disciples wanted to know how to pray. Jesus wanted them to know why they should pray. And why should we pray if God already knows what we need? Because according to Jesus, the purpose of prayer is not to inform God of our wish, want, and need list. According to Jesus, the purpose of prayer is to align our wills with God's will. The purpose of prayer is actually to surrender our will, not impose it, which should come as no surprise, because we're Jesus' followers. We're not Jesus' convincers or Jesus' users.
Now here's something that's a bit disconcerting and something that possibly we don't think much about. In the gospels, the four accounts of the life of Jesus, there actually is an individual who attempted to convince and manipulate and use Jesus. His name was Judas. Judas had an agenda for Jesus, Judas' will be done. And in the end he failed. And so will you, so will I. So Jesus said to his disciples, and Judas was there for this, Jesus said, this then is how you should pray, our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. That when we pray, we are to pause and acknowledge who we're addressing, the great God who has no equal, who has no rival, who is both infinite and intimate, the one who gives meaning to and actually provides context for our lives.
And as we've said last time, if you rush by this, you will certainly be tempted to resist what follows. And what follows according to Jesus is why we pray. Here it is. Your kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven. Your will be done, right here right now in my life. Consumers and users, they never get there. Judas never got there. The other 11 barely got there. So here's the point Jesus is making. We should pray there, we should stay there until we get there, until we can say with all sincerity, your will, not mine, be done. Then Jesus pivots. He pivots to where we usually begin our prayers. And give us, give us, give us, finally, it's our turn. Give us today.
And then as we discovered, Jesus is not taking prayer requests. He's actually issuing prayer requests and he drives us right back into a posture of surrender and dependence. He tells us, here's what I want you to pray for, when it gets to the time for you to ask, here's what I want to make sure you ask for. Make sure you ask for provision, pardon, and protection, provision, pardon, and protection. Provision, give us today our daily bread, a reminder of our dependence on God for our provision, all of our provision. Pardon, and forgive us, and forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors. This is an ask with a catch. Forgive me in the same way and to the same degree that I have forgiven the people who have wronged me. Otherwise I'll be a hypocrite and I don't want to be a hypocrite.
As we've said last time, and this is a major paradigm shift for some of us, God is not a cleaning product. God is not a conscience cleanser. If you ask for forgiveness, but you won't forgive, Jesus said, you're not forgiven. You're still guilty. To which we say guilty of what? To which Jesus says, you're guilty of not forgiving. Which sounds harsh until you consider what happens to people who refuse to forgive. Come on. Forgiveness is good for you, and here it is, your heavenly Father wants what's good for you. So he insists that we eat our vegetables and we forgive. Provision, pardon, then last but not least, protection. And lead us not, here it is, and lead us not into temptation. Protect us from temptation.
Now I want us to personalize this for just a moment. And lead me not into temptation. Here's the question. And I know this is hard. Do you pray this? Do you ask for this? We pray for parking spots. We pray for safe travel. We pray for good grades. But what about this? Do you ask for this? Can you pray that with a clear conscience? Come on. You can't be planning to give into temptation. You can't be planning to lead yourself into temptation and then pray not to be led there. Well, I guess you could but that would make you a, let's say it all together, that would make you a hypocrite, that's right.
Now here's a fun fact, Jesus was actually led into temptation. So he knew what he was talking about. And he'd been there, he'd done that. He was familiar with what that was like. Maybe you're familiar with these verses, the author of Hebrews reminds us just how intense Jesus' temptation was. He writes, for we do not have a high priest, speaking of Jesus, who is unable to empathize or sympathize with our weakness, but we have one who has been tempted, and we miss this, in every single way, in every way, just as we are, yet he did not sin. This is amazing to think about, that Jesus was tempted in every way. Literally Jesus was tempted in all things, not just the three things recorded in the gospels. He was tempted in every way.
And in light of that, the author of Hebrew says, here's the promise, in light of the fact that you have a savior, a high priest who has been tempted in every way, just as you've been tempted, he says, let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need, in our time of temptation. But that brings us back to this. Do you want mercy and grace in your time of need? Do you actually want it be delivered from temptation? Or do you play, and we're all guilty of this, do you play the sin now, ask forgiveness later game? The sin now ask forgiveness later game. You know how this works. It's like, you're tempted, and you're like, well, I'm going to go ahead and sin because I can get forgiveness later. This is an insidious religious game that assumes the worst about your heavenly Father. It's a game that assumes that God is so inept, so gullible, so in the box, it's a game that assumes God can be used and manipulated.
Again, it just reduces him to a cleaning product. It reduces prayer to a conscience cleanse. And so you know, that God does not exist. There's nothing, come on, There's nothing hallowed about a God who is so easily manipulated. That God is not worth surrendering to. That God is not worth singing to. That God is certainly not worth praying to. That's an imaginary God. It's a figment of our religious imagination created, honestly, just to make us feel better about ourselves and better about our sin, our sin that eventually leads us to regret. And come on, let's be honest for a minute. When you find yourself grappling with the consequences and regret of sin now, ask forgiveness later, sin now, ask forgiveness later, when you're on the other side of that, and you're facing the consequences of your sin, what do you do? What do I do? We pray. To whom? We pray to the God who was so senile, he winked at our sin and then just forgot about it? What kind of faith system is that?
Fortunately, this is actually good news, fortunately, that god does not exist. That is not your Father in heaven. But you do have a Father in heaven who loves you, who sent his son to die for your foolishness and my foolishness and for our blatant disregard for wisdom, truth, and sometimes just common sense. God, come on, God, doesn't wink at sin. It cost him too much for that. So Jesus says, when you pray here's what I want you to pray. When you pray, I want you to pray, and do not lead us or do not lead me into temptation but please deliver me, deliver us from evil. And what do you know? We find ourselves right back at surrender. Here's why I say that. You can't be planning evil and pray to be delivered from it. Well, again, you can, but that makes you, well, we've covered that.
So the term deliver, this is interesting, the term deliver actually means, or literally means to rescue one from danger or to preserve. And here's the thing. The reason we lead ourselves into temptation is because we're convinced, well, it's not that dangerous. We lead ourselves into temptation. Think about this. We lead ourselves into the temptation and then we ask God to deliver us from our own evil. Or worse, we lead ourselves into temptation then we turn right around and we blame God for evil. So I want to ask you this. And I want you to think about this for just a moment. What leads, what leads? Who leads? Or why do you lead yourself into temptation? What leads you? Who leads you? Or why do you lead you into temptation? What leads you? Who leads you? Why do you lead yourself to the threshold of regret over and over? And come on, oftentimes the same regret because it's the same temptation. And you know, there's the usual suspects but usually there's something beneath the surface that fuels the usual suspects. What leads you into temptation? Who leads you into temptation? And why are you so prone to lead yourself there?
I think behind the usual suspects are things like fear, isolation, fear of isolation, insecurity, anger, resentment, jealousy, greed, false assumptions about other people, lies we believe, loneliness, revenge. Come on. We're all tempted at times to believe the worst about other people. We're tempted at times to project our own motives on other people. The list just goes on and on and on. These are the things that lead us into temptation. And all of those things along with the A-list temptations that people talk about all the time, all of those things can actually be summarized under two headings, protection and gratification. Protection and gratification, think about this. When we take our lead, when these become our leaders, when we take our lead from these two rogues, what happens? Our lives center on who? Well, they center on ourselves. When we take our lead from these two appetites, somebody eventually gets hurt, actually two somebodies, someone you care for and eventually you. Protection and gratification.
I don't want to be misunderstood. Protection and gratification are important. In fact, they're necessary, but they are poor leaders. Follow them and they will lead you into temptation and they will leave you there. They will lead you into temptation and they will not lift a finger to deliver you from anything, perhaps especially evil. And of course, I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. You've got the T-shirts. You've got the memories, the scars, the wounds. Self protection, self gratification lead us in circles. You'll be chasing your tail. More, more, more. And you know this. There's never enough, right? I mean, appetites, whatever they are, appetites are never fully and finally satisfied. And when you feed them, what happens? They just grow and round and round we go.
Self protection, self gratification. It's all about me. It's all about you. And taking our lead from self protection gratification, it leads us into temptation. Pursue self protection and gratification and eventually you will find yourself asking the question that every philosopher, every poet, every songwriter eventually asks and can't seem to answer. And the question is, why am I here? Why am I here? What's my purpose? You know what this is? This is the self protection, self gratification, self fulfillment question. Here's why I say that because to tease this out what are we really asking? I want to know why I'm here so I'll know why I'm here. The better question, the Jesus question, the thy kingdom come question is, who am I here for? Who, not, why am I here? Who am I here for? Ask that question, ask that question and the world opens up to you. This is so important. Fulfillment, purpose, meaning, those things are always found across the border from what's in it for me. Judas learned that the hard way. Think about it.
A meaningful life, meaning requires that we become a means to an end. That's what meaning means. We've talked about this. Meaning requires that we become a means to an end other than ourselves. Meaning and purpose require us to say no to us so we can say yes to something bigger. So Jesus says, follow me, but be warned. Even the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve. And that's okay because that's where life is found. You've seen, you know this, you've seen what happens to people consumed by or led by, who chase after protection and gratification. What happens? They become small, they become unpleasant, which shouldn't surprise us. Live for yourself and you'll only have yourself to show for yourself in the end. And chances are you won't even like yourself.
When people say there has to be, there has to be more to life than this. Do you know what they're really saying? They're saying there has to be more to life than me. And that is correct. And when we embrace a thy kingdom come, thy will be done way of life, we will live for more than ourselves and we'll have more than ourselves to show for ourselves. This was Jesus' invitation. This is Jesus' invitation. He invites us to follow a better Lord, a better leader. He invites us to follow him. Following Jesus, embracing surrender is actually the alternative to being led into temptation. I mean, there is a path that delivers you from evil but it's not discipline, though it requires discipline. It's not just self control, though it requires self control. The path that leads you away from temptation is saying yes to Jesus original invitation, follow me.
And again, Jesus' invitation is not simply an invitation to believe something. Christianity that has been reduced to merely believing things is a counterfeit Christianity. And I know that's hard to hear, but a faith that doesn't do things, a faith that doesn't accomplish things, a faith that doesn't change things or improve things is a worthless faith. In fact, James, the brother of Jesus was so clear about this. He said that an inactive faith is, this is his word, useless. A faith that doesn't do anybody any good isn't any good. And Jesus was clear on this as well. He said this, anyone, anyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into a notebook, no, and does not put them into practice, anyone who hears these words of mine and is content to simply tuck them away in a notebook, anyone who hears these words of mine and doesn't act on them, you remember this. He said, it's like a person who builds their lives on the sand. And when the tide comes in, it's too late to pray.
So he says to you, and he says to me, come on, follow me right here, right now on Earth, not just heaven. And yes, following Jesus requires surrender. But here's the promise. I will not lead you into temptation. I will not leave you chasing the wind or chasing your tail, because I love you. So I will lead you to look beyond you. I will lead you to do for others what I have done for you because that's where life that is truly life is found. So come on, don't be content to be a believer, be a follower.
Now here's something that to me is so profound. In fact, Jesus never gets enough credit for this. How remarkable, think about this, how remarkable that our first century savior reduced all of life to one transgenerationally relevant unchangeable command that has the potential to change everything, and in spite of how things change here it is. We talk about it as I have loved you, as I have loved you, so you must love one another. This is what following Jesus looks like. This is what following Jesus behaves like. This is what following Jesus requires. And think about it, once upon once upon a time in an illiterate geocentric Motrin free time there was a group of Jesus followers who had, well, they had little else to go on. Their views on most things were absolutely wrong but they knew what love required of them. And apparently that was enough. And it's still enough. That's where following Jesus will take us. Not heaven someday, love today. Love that positions us to be a means to an end that is not us.
The good news is he will not lead you into temptation but the opposite of temptation isn't heaven. The opposite of temptation, which is really all about me to the neglect or perhaps even the mistreatment of you. The opposite of temptation is love.
So one more time. Can you pray sincerely with a clear conscience without being a hypocrite, can you pray, and lead me not into temptation but deliver me from evil? Lead me. The assumption is that you have decided to follow. The assumption is that you have decided to follow Jesus. Have you? The assumption is that you've actually surrendered your will. Have you? Can you pray that? Can you pray the way that Jesus instructed us to pray? Does that create some tension for you? If so, pay attention to that tension. Here's why, because right there in that tension is where God is at work in you. And before you push back, before you decide that the bar is too high, the price is too high to pay, let's be honest. Come on. What do you have? What do you have to show for all the temptation you have allowed yourself to be led into?
Come on. The temptation you've given into? What do I have to show for all the temptation I said yes to? Come on. Saying yes to temptation generally results in a lack of something. It results in a decrease, a lack of financial security, decreased ability to be generous, a lack of trust between you and your spouse or your fiance, a lack of trust between you and your parents, your kids, perhaps your friends, an erosion of joy, decreased transparency, so many secrets, the erosion of physical and perhaps mental health, which imposes a greater burden on the people you say you care for the most. Give into temptation, you have limited options, less freedom, more regret. Temptation, you know this, temptation is actually the threshold to loss.
Choosing to follow Jesus is the threshold to life because it's an invitation to put others first. It's an invitation to love. It's an invitation to spend less time in the mirror, less time looking inward, and more time looking up and looking around. Heavenly Father lead me, lead us, not into temptation but deliver us, deliver us from every evil thing. Deliver me from anything, anything that directly or indirectly dishonors, demeans, or hurts another person.
So as we wrap up, I want to put the Jesus prayer, the Lord's prayer back together. And then I want to give you a simple way to remember all of this. But before I do that, I want to make sure that I don't leave you with the wrong impression about one thing. And that's this. And this is really important. Jesus' prayer is a pattern or a template for prayer. It's not a formula. It's certainly not magic. It simply represents the posture and the perspective that we are to adopt when we pray. It underscores the purpose of prayer, again, which is to get our hearts in tune with the hearts of our heavenly Father.
Again, prayer is not so much about receiving as it is re syncing, realigning, rehearsing, and remembering who God is and who we are in relation to him. Prayer the way Jesus said we're to pray is really a call to surrender. It's a call to surrender our lives. It's thy will be done. Essentially it's an opportunity to recommit to the fact that we are following Jesus, that we are saying yes even before we know what he asked Can we pray for other things when we pray, other people? Absolutely. As I mentioned before, the apostle Peter encourages us to bear our souls when we pray, to cast all of our cares on him.
In fact, next time as we wrap up the series I'm going to suggest that you ask for something Jesus doesn't mention specifically here but it is certainly implied, something that I ask for multiple times a day and have for years. All those requests, all those things that are near and dear to you, your deepest burden, your biggest heartbreak, the thing that is so top of mind that you can barely think about anything else, all of those things are to be laid at the feet of our heavenly Father after we've acknowledged his right to rule, after we have surrendered to his Lordship, after we have decided, yes, we're going to follow.
So let's put it all back together. Jesus says, this then is how you should pray. Our Father in heaven, hallowed, be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven. And give us today our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but please deliver us from evil. And that that's how Jesus' prayer ends. It ends right there. That famous finale that is tacked onto what we call the Lord's prayer doesn't appear in the oldest Greek manuscripts. It was probably added later by a scribe. But even if it's not original with Jesus, it is certainly appropriate and it's so powerful. And whenever I pray this prayer I always include it. For yours is the kingdom, not mine. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory ever, amen.
This then is how we should pray. But to make it simple for you, I want to give you a summary that you might want to use as a template that might help you remember some of the things that we've talked about over the past two weeks. Address God when you pray, address God as Father, then declare his greatness, hallowed be your name, surrender your will, thy kingdom come, and then acknowledge your dependence on him for your provision, your pardon and your protection. You begin by addressing God as Father, declare his greatness, surrender your will, and acknowledge your dependence for provision, pardon, and protection.
And here's the amazing thing. When you do, according to Jesus, your unseen Father will see what is done in secret. He will hear what is prayed in private. And he will reward you. This then is how we should pray. We pray from a posture of surrender. We pray our way to surrender. We pray until we're surrendered because it's only when we've surrendered that we are truly Jesus' followers.