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STUDY 9: THE THIRD CONCERN IN PRAYER - PART THREE: LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION

Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2009

 

This section of the prayer goes hand in hand with the next part ‘but deliver us from evil’. We will look at the meaning of ‘temptation’ in this study, then, in the next study, at the meaning of ‘evil’ from which we are asking God to deliver us.

 

A. THE COMMON UNDERSTANDING OF ‘TEMPTATION’

Temptation is commonly understood to be the desire to do, or contemplation of doing, something that we know to be morally wrong, such as:

This kind of temptation is spoken of in:

Some people would also include here the temptations of Jesus Christ in Matthew 4 and Luke 4.

 

B.1 THE MEANING OF THE GREEK WORD

The Greek word is peirazo - which refers to making proof or trial of, or putting something/one to the test. Here temptation is that which brings out one’s true colours, something that proves where we really stand and what our true commitment is. It is a testing, a trial.

There is both a positive and a negative aspect to it. Positively it proves the worth or integrity of something – like sticking a skewer into a cake to test whether it is cooked or not, or tasting the stew to see if it needs more salt. Negatively, it is destructive and hurtful in its intent, trying to make someone give up or give in. It is something like schoolyard bullies teasing a child to see how much it takes to make him crumble, or provoking a dog until it snarls and bites.

[In this way the Israelites were frequently said to have ‘tempted’ or ‘tested’ God when their persistent disobedience pushed him to the limit of his patience (Exodus 17:2,7; Numbers 14:22; Deut 7:19; Psalm 78:18,56; 95:9). Their actions were shouting ‘We’ll find out if he really means what he says about punishment!’ or ‘Let’s see how far we can go before he does what he says he’ll do!’

 

B.2 OBJECTIVE AND SUBJECTIVE TEMPTATION

It is necessary also to make a distinction between the actual temptation/testing and our response to that temptation/testing. It is inevitable that we will be confronted both by temptations to commit moral sin and by a wide variety of situations that test or prove our claim to believe in the Lord. Indeed even the temptation to commit the ‘smallest’ sin is at the same time a test of the level of our commitment to and trust in the Lord.

This confrontation by temptation is objective – it says nothing about our response, it says nothing about how this situation or possibility is impacting us personally; it is simply there. To be confronted by a temptation/testing is not sin.

When we, confronted by the objective situation or possibility, [1] struggle within ourselves with the possibility of denying God or sinning, [2] feel like doing it, or [3] do it, that is subjective temptation. It has ceased to be objective – outside of us, and is impacting us within ourselves. The struggle is evidence of our acknowledgment of the wrongness of giving in, and is not sin; it is actually our fighting against dishonouring God and against sin. [In some temptations, but definitely not all, the feeling like doing it, or like giving in, is just as much sin as the doing it (lust, for instance).]

We are instructed here by the ultimate example of the Lord Jesus Christ in the garden of Gethsemane: he struggled within himself with the possibility of avoiding the cross, to the extent that he sweat drops of blood; he pleaded with the Father three times that this ‘cup’ of suffering could be taken from him; he felt like avoiding the suffering, yet, because he was totally committed to the will of his Father, he submitted himself to that will, and did not sin (Matthew 26: 36-44; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46; Hebrews 5:7).

C. FROM GOD’S POINT OF VIEW

In God’s hand , testing is with a view to confirming the integrity of our claim to faith, and through this learning process to ‘grow’ and purify our faith. For example:

 

D. FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF THOSE WHO OPPOSE US

In the hands of those who oppose us, including Satan , this testing/temptation is with a view to discrediting us and our faith, or intended to make us deny our faith and/or our calling. This often includes cornering people into an apparent no-win situation, and at deeper levels includes intense pressure, in which one feels so pushed, poked, prodded, persuaded, provoked in either physical, emotional, cognitive, mental, relational or spiritual ways that the option of giving up on Jesus Christ seems desirable, excusable and reasonable. It will often be very subtle.

Study the references in the table below and think deeply about the kinds of ‘temptation’ recorded in each, the perpetrator of the pressure, its purpose and result. Where possible try to relate your own past and current experiences of temptation/pressure to this framework.

Ref

Tempter

Target

Purpose

Result

Gen 3

Satan

A & E

To get A and E to rebel against God

Succeeded

Job 1,2

Satan

Job

To prove that Job’s faith was not genuine

Failed

Matt 4

Satan

Jesus

To divert Jesus from his God ordained path

Failed

Matt 16:1

Pharisees Sadducees

Jesus

To discredit Jesus

Failed

Matt 16:22 ,23

Peter/Satan

Jesus

To turn Jesus aside from the cross

Failed

Matt 19:3

Pharisees

Jesus

To discredit Jesus

Failed

Matt 22:18

Pharisees

Jesus

To discredit Jesus

Failed

Mt 26:41;

Mk 14:38;

Lk 22:31-46

Satan

Peter

To wreck his faith

Short term – succeeded

Long term – failed

Lk 8:13

Unnamed

Superficial

believers

Unspecified

Succeeded

John 8:6

Scribes & Pharisees

Jesus

To discredit Jesus

Failed

Acts 20:19

Jews

Paul

To stop the proclamation of the Gospel

Failed

1Thess 3:5

Satan

Believers

To destroy faith

Failed

Heb 11:37

Unnamed

OT saints

Opposition to God and all who honour him/

To still the voice of God

Physically – succeeded

Spiritually – failed

Ja 1:1-13

Unnamed

Believers

Not identified

Will fail

1 Pet 1:6-9

Unnamed

Believers

Not identified

Failed and will fail

1 Pet 4:12-19

Unnamed

Believers

Opposition to the name of Christ

Will fail

1 Pet 5:8-10

Devil

Believers

To ‘devour’

Will fail

2 Pet 2:1-10

False teachers/ ungodly

Godly

Comes from greed, blasphemy, denial of the Lord

Will fail

Rev 2:10

Devil

Believers

To prove the believers false

Will fail

The temptations that result in our doing something we know we shouldn’t just because we ‘feel like it’, reveal how weak we really are, and how minimal our commitment is. We can learn from the above that ‘temptation’ includes something far deeper even than the temptation to commit an individual moral sin under pressure; it is something that hits us at the very foundation of our faith, at the very centre of our relationship with God, where we are provoked and pressured to commit the ultimate sin, the very essence of sin: the denial of God, the abdication of faith.

 

E. PERSONAL CHALLENGE

In the table below identify situations (objective temptation) in which you struggle with, feel like giving in to, or actually do give in to, the subjective temptation to deny your faith in and/or commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. This will include simple moral sins in which obedience to God’s word/command is the issue, and the foundational sin of giving up on God. This will identify specific areas where you currently need the Lord to rescue you from temptation and from the evil one. A simple example (involving the possibility of moral sin, and also a test of allegiance) is given as a guide.

Objective temptation/pressure

Subjective struggle/feeling

Delivered because

Fell in because

Open bin of roasted cashews in Woolworths

I love cashews; it would be nice to grab a couple of those and eat them

God’s word says that stealing is sin, and I want to obey God.