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Author:Rev. Mendel Retief
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
 Kelmscott, Western Australia
 frckelmscott.org
 
Title:Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one
Text:LD 52 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Prayer
 
Added:2013-08-21
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps.        146: 1, 3

Ps.        16: 1

Ps.        115: 5, 6

Ps.        28:1, 4, 5

Ps.        17:3, 4, 6

 

Scripture reading:                     Luke 22: 31 – 34, 54 – 62

From the confessions:             Canons of Dort chapter 5 art. 4 and 5

Text:                                           LD 52

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


LD 52 - Praying God to help us in our spiritual warfare

 

Ps.        146: 1, 3

Ps.        16: 1

Ps.        115: 5, 6

Ps.        28:1, 4, 5

Ps.        17:3, 4, 6

 

Scripture reading:                   Luke 22: 31 – 34, 54 – 62

From the confessions:           Canons of Dort chapter 5 art. 4 and 5

Text:                                          LD 52

 

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

 

At first glance it may seem as if there is a great difference between the first and the last Lord’s Day of our Catechism.  

In LD 1 we read of comfort and salvation; in LD 52 we read of war and strife.

We confess in Lord’s Day 1 that our faithful Saviour Jesus Christ has set us free from all the power of the devil.   We are in no way bound to the devil, and we are no longer slaves of sin.  

But here in LD 52 we read of an ongoing fierce struggle against our sin and the devil.

Here in LD 52 our daily life is described as a spiritual war.

 

Yet, LD 1 still stands, and the comfort still remains.

While we have to resist the attacks of Satan and have to strife against sin even to bloodshed, we fight this spiritual war not as people who are uncertain of the final victory.  

 

Through our Lord Jesus Christ we are more than conquerors.  

In Him our inheritance is safely kept for us in heaven by the power of God.   And thus we fight the good fight of faith with full confidence, fully assured of His preservation, clinging to His sure promises in the midst of this war.

 

Our full assurance in Christ does, however, not make our spiritual war less serious.   Neither does our assurance in Christ make our spiritual struggle less real.  The wounds and the scars that we receive in this battle remain painful.   It is not without much tears and trouble.   It remains a battle and a wrestling that requires all our strength.   Yes, our spiritual life remains truly a war in which we cannot survive one moment without the help of our Father in heaven.

We are in great spiritual need and therefore in need to pray this petition.

The normal Christian life is a daily battle against our own sin to put to death the desires of our flesh and to flee from the temptations of this world.  It is a daily struggle not to become polluted with the filth of this world. 

And because we know our own weakness, that we have no strength in ourselves to remain standing, we pray: Our Father in heaven, help us, keep us, deliver us from Satan’s attacks.

 

I proclaim God’s Word to You with the theme…

Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one

 

We note…

1.                  Our three sworn enemies

2.                  The importance of this petition

3.                  Our comfort and assurance in the struggle

 

In the first place we note…

Our three sworn enemies

 

We are called saints, saints in Christ, and yet we are still sometimes drawn into serious sins.  

By such sins we offend God, grieve the Holy Spirit, and severely wound our consciences.  

It may even happen that a believer, when he sins, looses the sense of God’s favour.   And this will remain so until he returns to the Lord with sincere repentance.  

We confess this for example in the Canons of Dort, chapter 5, art. 5.

 

Therefore we need to watch and pray constantly, asking our Father that we may not be led into temptation.  

If we do not watch and pray, then we will not maybe fall, but surely fall, and be drawn away by our sinful flesh, the world, and the devil.

 

These are our three sworn enemies.  

One is within ourselves: our own flesh.   That is our sinful nature from which all our sinful desires continually flows forth as from a poisoned well.

We confess in art. 29 of the BC that true believers “crucify their flesh and its works”.   Daily we have to put to death our own sinful desires.   It is an ongoing struggle even within ourselves.

 

The second enemy is the sinful and unbelieving world in which we live – a world that tempts us in different ways, a hostile world that also mocks and persecutes us.

These attacks do not only come from outside the church, but also from inside the church when false brethren, hypocrites, persecute those who fear the Lord.

 

The third enemy is one that we cannot see, and yet we are well aware of him and know his character.  He is the father of lies, and a murderer. 

He attacks mainly through deception.   Right from the beginning this was his method when he spoke through the serpent deceiving Eve with his lies.   And still today he remains the father of lies, attacking the Church with heresies and slander.  

The great dragon misleads the multitudes with his lies and deception.

 

Now, these three enemies form a coalition.  They work together. 

A well known example of how these enemies attack us is to be found in the sad fall of the apostle Peter when he denied Christ three times, saying that he does not know Jesus.

 

This fall of Peter was well planned and organized by Satan.  

The apostle Paul speaks about the schemes and plans of Satan.

We are not ignorant of Satan’s devices, says Paul in 2 Cor. 2: 11.

 

“Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” – Eph. 6: 11

 

Devices and wiles, schemes and plans!  

Yes, Satan’s attacks are well planned with strategy.

And driven by fierce wrath:

 

“…your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5: 8)

 

Let us illustrate this with the example of Peter’s fall.  

We see that our Lord Jesus knew the devil’s plans beforehand.

Our Lord Jesus warned Peter beforehand that it is going to happen.   He even told Peter when it will happen: this very night before the rooster crows.

 

“Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.   But I have prayed for you that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren”

 

But Peter answered and said:

 

“Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death”

 

Christ answered him:

 

“I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me” (Luke 22: 31 – 34).

 

Satan is the one who organized the attack.  The first thing he did was to ask permission from God to put Peter to the test.  

That reminds us of Job.  

And the Lord gave permission.  

 

And then, when the actual attack takes place, we see how the devil uses his allies: the world and Peter’s own flesh.

 

“The world” comes into action: men came to arrest Jesus.   But who were these men?   They were covenant children!    False brethren!   With Judas, one of the apostles!  

Who else?  The chief priests and the elders of God’s covenant people!   They were the allies of Satan.  

Today such men will be called the ministers and elders of the false church, or hypocrites in a true church. 

 

Can we then group them together with “the world”? 

If we work with the three categories in which the Catechism places our enemies – our own flesh, the world and the devil – then all the attacks of ungodly men must fall under “the world”.

 

We see this also in Psalm 2.   The raging heathen nations of Psalm 2 are described in Acts 4: 27 as: Herod, Pilate, the gentiles and Israel!   Unbelieving Israel is grouped together with “the nations” who rose up against the Anointed of the LORD.   In the fulfilment of Psalm 2 we find that many of God’s covenant children are grouped with the hostile nations as enemies of Christ!

Such men are in the church, but not of the church.

 

When David complains in the Psalms about the persecution of ungodly men, he is often referring to covenant people, false brethren.

 

Even in this we see the strategy of Satan, for this enemy, “the world”, often seems to be very religious.  

Yes, in all of church history the fiercest persecution came from false brethren and from false churches.  

 

We see it also in the history of Israel.   The prophets suffered from the hand of covenant people!  

Christ Himself has been crucified by church leaders!

 

So then, the apostle Peter was attacked by the world, but in this case “the world” was children of Israel.

In this case “the world” is very religious, and operated under the supervision of church leaders.

Now then, they took Jesus into the high priest’s house, and Peter follows at a distance. 

He is afraid of this enemy. 

Things are not going the way Peter expected.  

And Peter is not well prepared.  He trusted in his own strength.  And indeed he did not hesitate at all to draw his sword and hit the enemy!   He was indeed a brave man.

But Christ told him to put his sword away. 

The warfare is spiritual and not to be fought with carnal weapons.

A sword of steel could not protect the apostle in this warfare.

 

And then, as the battle proves to be spiritual, we find that the brave Peter was that night no match in the combat that followed.

The same night the Lord warned him over and over again:

 

“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.  The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mt. 26: 41).

 

And again:

 

“Why do you sleep?  Rise, and pray, lest you enter into temptation”.

 

But Peter was too tired and he slept.   And now the hour has come.   Peter sits amongst the people who came to arrest Jesus.  The mob gathered outside the house of the high priest.  The night is cold and Peter joins them at the fire to warm himself.   And we know what followed. 

The second enemy, the world, launched its attack.   But, in this final attack, “the world” was not a mighty crowd; only a servant girl and a few chatting men warming themselves at a fire. 

Peter failed miserably, and afterwards he went out into the night and wept bitterly.

 

Brothers and sisters, this was all written down for us as an example.   For we too are quick to answer:  “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death!”

 

And afterwards we weep bitterly.  

When we trust in our own strength we fail time and again.  

When we fail to watch and pray, when we forget that we are daily in the midst of a spiritual war, the enemy snatches at the opportunity to catch us unprepared.

 

Dear congregation, as the apostle Paul says, we are not ignorant of the Satan’s devices (2 Cor. 2:11).   And, of course, we should not be.   We may study the examples of the past, firstly as recorded in Scripture, but also in church history, and be prepared.

 

Years later, after this happened to the apostle Peter, he wrote a letter to strengthen his brothers and he cautions us:

 

Be sober, be alert, because your enemy the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” – 1 Peter 5: 8, 9.

 

We must know that we, and also all our brothers and sisters in the faith, are engaged in the same spiritual war.  We must know that the devil, our enemy, prowls around looking for someone to devour, in order that we may pray this petition with fervour: Our Father in heaven, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one!

 

The way in which our enemies launch their attack may vary.  Most of the time we are not really tempted in a dramatic way.   A temptation may even be a situation that carries on for years: poverty, ill health, difficult circumstances at work, all sorts of trails.

 

We may think in this regard of the epistle of James.  The believers were suffering under poverty.   They were ill paid and exploited by the rich.  They were suffering under all sorts of trails.   And then he tells them that those trials – although it may not be good things in themselves – are used by God for their good.  

 

The Greek word which is translated as trials, in James 1: 2, is the same word that is translated “temptations” a few verses further in James 1: 12, 13.  The trials and the temptations of which he speaks, are one and the same thing.  James 1: 2 may be translated just as accurately:

 

“…count it all joy when you fall into various temptations”.

 

How can the apostle say this?   How can we count it pure joy when we fall into temptation, and at the same time pray: “Do not lead us into temptation”?

 

When you experience poverty, or a hard situation at work where you are being misused, or whatever hardship, this is in itself a temptation.   Your faith is tested by it.  And that is what a temptation is: it is a testing of your faith and obedience.  While these trials and hardships may be bad things in themselves, God uses them for our good.   The apostle James explains this statement by saying that the testing of our faith develops perseverance and that perseverance must finish its work so that we may be mature and complete, not lacking anything in our faith.

 

When we experience hardships and trials, the devil and the world have no good intentions with these attacks.   But we may know that our Father in heaven uses even the attacks of our sworn enemies to test and purify our faith. 

 

That does, however, not mean that we should go looking for temptations!  

Knowing our own weakness, we pray: do not lead us into temptation.   We pray, and we should pray, that God keep us from falling into sin, and we should flee from all temptations that may cause us to stumble.

 

At the same time we may know that even when God does allow temptations to test our faith, that this also is used by God to purify and strengthen our faith. 

 

It does not mean that we will have the victory time and again.  Often we end up weeping like Peter did.  But through this struggle, though we may fall many times, and fill the jar of tears, we do grow in faith and learn more and more to be watchful and to seek our strength in the Lord alone.

 

We note that in the second place…

The importance of this petition

 

How often do we think: “Lord, I am ready to go with You to prison and to death!”, and how often do we then end up weeping bitterly!

 

It is not a sign of mature faith to be confident in yourself.  Instead, self-confidence speaks of spiritual infancy.  The more we become experienced in this spiritual war, the less we trust ourselves.  

As the scars and the wounds increase we become humble before the Lord and pray: help me!

 

And that is what this petition is about: asking God to strengthen us so that we may not go down to defeat.   We come to know and to experience that in ourselves we are really so weak that we cannot stand even for one moment!

 

“As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me … without Me you can do nothing”, Christ said.  

It applies also to our fight against sin.  

 

To grow in faith is then not to become more confident in yourself, or to trust that everything will be just fine.  

Faith is not the same as “Positive Thinking”.

Everything won’t be just fine.   And your positive mind won’t keep you!

We may expect to fall, and to stumble often.   We may expect the attacks to be fierce and deadly.   And we may expect nothing but to fail desperately, unless we watch and pray – constantly seeking the help of our Father in heaven.

 

The prophet Jeremiah says:

 

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD”.  

 

And then, over against this trust in the LORD, he puts the untrustworthiness of our own heart, saying:

 

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” – Jer. 17: 7, 9.

 

We are tested and tempted for this very reason, that we may come to know our own depravity all the more, as we go through the training school of faith, that we may learn to put our trust fully and only in God, praying to Him through Jesus Christ our Lord, that He may save, and keep, and protect us. 

In this way we become small before God, and the honour for the victories won are reserved for His glory alone.

 

As we grow in the knowledge of our own weakness, we start to pray more fervently.   As we experience the painful wounds and scars caused by our sloth and carelessness, we start to watch and pray with much more soberness and alertness.   Knowing our own weakness, and knowing our deadly enemies, it is only a fool that will continue his life without prayer.  

A life in which one does not plead for God’s mercy and protection, testify of pride and ignorance.

 

If anyone trusts in himself, then he won’t pray much; neither will he pray fervently.    But what happens then?   God does not leave it at that.   When we take on such an attitude of self-confidence the Lord allows our enemies to prove their power. 

And when we are overcome by them, it is not God’s fault, but our own sluggishness and reluctance to fight the good fight of faith.  

 

Falling into sin we greatly offend God, incur the guilt of death, grieve the Holy Spirit and severely wound our conscience.   Yes, we may even lose for a while the sense of God’s favour and go through much anguish, until eventually we are brought back to our knees to plead for God’s mercy on us.

 

But why, why would you wait for this to happen?   Would you not rather spare yourself the shame and pain, and pray this petition?    

 

Yes, if we know the slyness and the power of the enemy, and if we know our own weakness, then we cannot but start praying – praying to our almighty and faithful Father in heaven who has promised to help us. 

 

We note that in the third place…

Our comfort and assurance in the struggle

 

We are assured that God will hear our prayer, for this petition is according to His revealed will.   We are assured that He will hear us in Christ, for we ask of Him that which He has promised us.

 

When we pray: “Lead us not into temptation”, then we are not asking for an easy life.   We do not ask:  “Keep all trails and tests far from us”, for that would not be according to God’s promise.   He did not promise us an easy life without trials or hardships.   Instead, He made it clear that we may expect just that, even a spiritual war!

 

Now then, what do we ask when we pray “Lead us not into temptation”?  

First of all we have to understand that God will never tempt us to sin. 

 

“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.   But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” – James 1: 13, 14. 

 

The same event, the same hardship or affliction, can be at the same time a trial from God and a temptation from the devil.   Think of Job.   He was at the same time tested by the Lord and tempted by Satan.   God turned it for Job’s good, but the devil intended it for Job’s destruction.   

Look at any temptation – it is at the same time a trial which God allows to put our faith to the test; and at the same time a temptation from the devil which Satan intents for our destruction.  

 

Our prayer is not that God will not allow any trials in our life, but that He will deliver us from the evil one and his temptations.  

And this our Father has indeed promised to do!

 

We ask our Father to protect us from the temptations of the devil.   We pray our Father to help us to put to death the sinful desires of our flesh and to overcome sin.    We pray Him to keep and protect us in this ungodly and sinful world with all its lust and temptations.

And He has promised to do so, if we ask Him.

 

So then, we ask what He has promised us in Christ His Son.   Therefore we are assured that He will hear us.

We don’t ask what He has not promised.   We don’t ask that our enemies will not attack us.   We don’t ask that no trial will ever come our way.   We ask our Father in heaven to protect us and to preserve us in the midst of this spiritual war.  

 

Keep us, Father, so that we may not sin against You.

Help us to flee from the temptations and defilement of this world.

Keep us, according to Your promise, that we may not go down to defeat and be lost.  

Keep us for Your Name’s sake, for Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.

 

We acknowledge our own sin and stubbornness, and we pray: Please, don’t give us over to our own sinfulness and corruption.   Be gracious to us through Christ Your Son and grant us the victory which You have promised us in Him.  

Yes, help us firmly to resist our enemies and to fight the good fight of faith until that glorious day when we will finally obtain the complete victory on the day of Christ’s coming.

 

Dear congregation, our trust in the Lord is not a trust which we acquire just by acknowledging with our minds the truth of God’s promises.  Our trust is indeed founded only on the sure promises of God, and surely we need first of all to understand these promises, but our trust in God as our mighty Saviour also grows through experience. 

It is in the heat of the battle that this trust is cultured and established when we pray to our Father in heaven and receive His help in response to our prayers.  

When we see and experience that He hears our prayers, when we see His mighty arm active in our own life, we pray all the more, and with growing assurance.

 

We also take courage when we see the example of others who have gone before us.  

We read for example in the Psalms how David was wrestling and praying in the midst of many hardships and trials and temptations.   When his faith was about to fail he often reminded Himself of God’s deliverance in the past, how the LORD has always proven His faithfulness, keeping His promise, and then he took courage again, so that he could sing of God’s deliverance while surrounded by fierce enemies.   In the midst of his struggles he often breaks forth into thanksgiving, as he clings to God’s sure promises.

Yes, we see him wrestle, we see him weeping, we see his wounds and sorrows, but we also see how he grew through this all into an experienced warrior of Christ.

 

Dear congregation, the more we grow in the bitter knowledge of our own weakness and failure, the more we cling to our Father in prayer, and the more we learn to pray this petition.  

 

In this regard we may also think of the apostle Paul and his “thorn in the flesh”.    Whatever it was, it was no small trial to him.  He says it is a messenger of Satan who torments him with this.  Paul asked the Lord three times that this thorn in the flesh may be taken away from him.  And the Lord answered him:

 

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” – 2 Cor. 12: 9.  

 

And then the apostle says:

 

“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong”.

 

Yes, when we come to know our own weakness then God reveals His power in our life.   When we know our own weakness and weep under its burden, crying to God, then we are strong – strong in the Lord!

 

Brothers and sisters, let us confess our depravity and know our total dependence on the Lord so that we do not trust ourselves, but seek the face of our Father in prayer, trusting His mercy, seeking the fulfilment of His sure promise to keep and preserve.  

 

Let us in the midst of our spiritual war call on Him for help, and He will reveal His power as our almighty God and faithful Father through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Amen.

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Mendel Retief

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