Series Title: "Pray Then, Like This ..."
We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one (1 Jn. 5:19).
When Jesus instructs us to pray, Lead us not into temptation, he is pointing inward at the sin that sets up shop within us. When he says Deliver us from the evil one, he is pointing outward at the corruption all around us. The connection between the two is intimate.
When this prayer is prayed with understanding and intentionality, we confront both aspects of evil.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind (Eph. 2:1-3).
Who is this prince of the power of the air? It is the evil one (Satan, the devil, our adversary), and he is the spirit at work in disobedient people. Do you see the connection? He speaks of the evil one and says that the same evil is working now in those who are gratifying the cravings of the flesh. It is an intimate connection.
Here is another example. Pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men [the evil inside]. For not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one [the evil outside]. - 1 Thess 3:1-3
I used to have 3-D baseball cards. You could look at them one way to see a picture, then move the card slightly to see another. Many things work like that in Scripture. In this instance, you see the evil inside and outside, depending on how you look at the picture.
My experience is that most of us are quite happy for the preacher to confront the evil one, but we do not like it when he confronts the evil within. We love it when he preaches against the devil; we stomp on his head and do a victory march around the sanctuary. But when he starts talking about our tendencies toward selfishness, rebellion, and pride, we say, "You have gone from preaching to meddling."
We do not adequately recognize the connection between Satan and the spirit of Satan at work, even in those of us who call on Jesus’ name. We still have the garments of our old man in the wardrobe. And the thing about old garments is they are comfortable. When you want to relax you don't wear a new shirt, you get out that old one because you're comfortable in it.
Though saved by Jesus, from time to time we still find it comfortable to slip into those old garments of doing things our way.
Retreating into my mind and philosophical attitude to life is my defense mechanism. It is the old garment I am comfortable in, it is my inclination towards evil and it must be crucified. When we pray as Jesus instructs us, we ask him to deliver us from this inward inclination to think, speak, and do evil.
Does God tempt us? No. Lead us not into temptation is a biblical way of saying keep us from falling victim to temptations. As James says, 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. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.
James seems to reflect a well-known concept in his Jewish world. Every person is born with two impulses, two inclinations within the heart. One is the desire to do good. The other is selfish desire, which, if left unchanged, can become an absolutely evil compelling desire to do wrong. So with God's help, we must recognize it is our inclination that is being tempted.
Jesus gives us this petition so we will pray against the inclination to do wrong and for the power to do what is right.
How are we tempted? John helps us see the bigger picture. Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world (1 Jn. 2:15-16). These are the temptations that pull us away from loving our Father in order to set up enemy strongholds within us.
John gives three categories of how our inclination is both tempted and tempts us: the desires of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. And each of these characterizes the warfare Satan waged against Jesus. Turn with me now to Luke, chapter 4, where Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days of fasting and facing Satan.
Notice that when confronted by the devil, Jesus does not huff and puff and preach him down. He combatted the evil one with God's Word, which, as Paul reminds us, is the sword of the Spirit. Two Greek words can be used for a sword. In Ephesians 6:17, Paul uses the word for the short sword, the kind used in close combat not the bigger type. Jesus here is quoting the Bible and using it as the short sword (all three of his responses come from Deuteronomy).
Now carefully observe the nature and target of the temptations.
The desires of the flesh: "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread."
The lust of the eyes: "Worship me, and to you I will give all this authority and the glory of the kingdoms of the world."
The pride of life: And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here."
I am suggesting to you that in these temptations, Jesus not only confronted and conquered the evil outside of himself but also the inclination within himself—because the two are inseparable.
Can Jesus have this inclination to evil? Absolutely. That is the witness of Scripture. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin (Hebrews 4:15).
Our Champion goes first through all he asks those who follow him to endure!
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).
Jesus resisted temptation and overcame evil. So must you and I.
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This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.
Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.
Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore over fifty of his audio and video seminars.