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"Lead Us Not?"




“Lead Us Not?”

Psalm 32

Matthew 4:1-11


Every week... during our worship service, we pray together, the words of Jesus - the Lord’s Prayer. And in that prayer, Jesus teaches us to pray (asking God to)... “Lead us not into temptation.” Many of us pray those words in our personal prayers, too.


Of course, on the surface, that sounds counter-intuitive. I mean, don’t we want (and need) Jesus to lead us in times of temptation? Jesus is the over-comer! In fact, that’s what our scripture reading today is all about. Jesus was actually tempted by the Devil himself - and he overcame - he resisted - without sinning.


I think, most of us probably understand that when Jesus taught us to pray regarding temptation... he meant for us ask God to help us avoid temptations. But, in everyday life, avoiding temptation is one of the hardest things we do.


We’re constantly tempted to be less than what God has called us to be.


Most of the time (truth be told) it’s our own fault. We place ourselves in situations where we’re tempted... and other times... sometimes... the world itself presents us with temptations that seem to seek us out. And the truth is that we’re weak at times... and we all give in at some point.


So it stands to reason that you and I should look to Jesus... and how Jesus faced temptations... and follow his lead.


And the wonderful thing to know when it comes to temptations, is that Jesus faced the very same things that tempt us. He was never isolated our insulated from the ways of this world.


While fasting, for 40-days, preparing for his years of ministry as God’s Messiah... Jesus was hungry. Now, listen, there’s nothing in the world wrong with being hungry. Hunger is a natural physiological response to our need for food... for sustenance.


But... the devil’s temptation; urging Jesus to turn stones into bread to satisfy his immediate need... was more than a simple prod to satiate hunger pains. It was an attempt to sway Jesus... to pull Jesus’ focus off of his mission, his purpose, his calling. And Jesus, refused to bite (pun intended).


He was in the desert to prepare himself, spiritually and emotionally, for the battles ahead. He was there to fast and pray so that he could live-out his calling to go and reveal the coming of the Kingdom of God... knowing all the while, what awaited him... was a cross. Jesus knew his future would be difficult.


Of course, we face the same basic temptation ourselves. It’s the temptation to satisfy our hungers and appetites with worldly substitutes. Jesus knew that he wouldn’t starve to death. He had made a choice, to fast for a while, for a specific time and reason... he wasn’t being deprived of anything... Jesus hungered and thirsted for something this world couldn’t offer... he hungered for righteousness. And the best the devil could offer, was temporary substitute.


Isn't that how the Devil tempts us? With easy substitutes?


Jesus’ response to this temptation is enlightening. He doesn’t say, “not now” or “maybe later” or “let me think about it.” Jesus instead addressed the real issue. “Humans don't live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Jesus never disregard or pretended that physical appetites aren’t important. They’re a part of us. But... they’re not a substitute for our fundamental need for God. Physical food keeps our bodies alive, but we need God to truly live. If we can really learn that lesson then we can overcome the temptation to accept substitutes for God.


Of course, the devil’s second temptation of Jesus is also one you and I can relate to... because who among us has never questioned God’s care... God’s love... God’s protective providence... in our life?


“Just jump Jesus... let’s see if God really loves you enough to catch you before you hit rock bottom!”


Think about that for a minute. Imagine all the questions and doubts that could’ve been erased in an instant... if Jesus had only jumped off the Highest Point of the Temple... and was, miraculously, unharmed.


Jesus’ response was direct, “Do not tempt God.” Pride is a strong motivator. We all want to be noticed for the brilliant, creative and beautiful people that we are. And we’re tempted to say, “Look at me and what I can do.” When our boys were little, they liked to show me what they can do they say “Look at me Daddy, look at me.” And that’s a good thing... I looked and applauded when they accomplished something because it built their self esteem. But we need to recognize where self esteem ends and pride begins.


Satan’s temptation was a gross display of power. And such a display was never part of Jesus’ mission. His mission was to suffer... the prophets of old had declared the Word of God, that included a suffering servant who’d bear the sins of the world upon his shoulders. God’s plan was set... and the easy way out wasn’t part of the plan.


The third temptation was to worship and seek after earthly power, I imagine, was the easiest for Jesus to overcome. The Devil actually had the arrogance to offer Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world” IF Jesus would bow down and worship Satan.


Of course, what was surely and easy dismissal for Jesus... isn’t always so easy for us. Many times we’re tempted to worship the created more than the Creator. Not outwardly... maybe not even intentionally... but in a defacto kind of way.


We put our hope, our trust, our security... in our jobs and careers. We rely on our wealth... and dedicate our lives to storing up treasures on earth, instead of storing up treasures in heaven.


We’re called to learn from Jesus’ response to this temptation. First of all, Jesus dismissed the Devil - “go away!” Sometimes we forget (if it’s ever even dawned on us) that we can do the same. We think, “Well, of course, Jesus could tell the devil where to go... Jesus is the Son of God. No problem." But we fail to realize Jesus lives in every believer's heart and through him we have the power to say to the Temper, “Away. Begone. Go away!”


We’re called to “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”


Lead us not into temptation.


We should pray that our journey will not go through temptation, but at some point it will.


And when it does... and we’re tempted, let us remember Jesus' response to it.


Let us recognize when we are being offered substitutes for what we really need. Let us realize that we live by God's word and not only bread alone. Let us realize when our pride is being fed. And let us keep in mind that all our actions should serve to glorify God, as we worship him... and him alone.


Amen.

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