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Lead us not into temptation - Part 1

15th June 2018

In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus taught us to say:

Matthew 6v13
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

Some translations of this passage say "deliver us from evil" and some say "deliver us from the evil one". Apparently, it depends on whether you think the noun is neuter or masculine. I don't know which Jesus meant, and the differences in translation suggest that nobody knows. But it doesn't really matter. As Calvin says "the meaning remains nearly the same, that we are in danger from the devil and from sin, if the Lord does not protect and deliver us."

Our fight against temptation and sin will last our whole life. Near the end of his second letter to Timothy, Paul wrote:

2 Timothy 4v7
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Paul expected that he would soon be executed by the Romans, and he says - perhaps with a note of relief in his voice - that he has fought the good fight. He declares that he stood up for the Gospel of grace and for godly values, from the moment he was born again into God's church until the day God was to take him from the earth. He had striven for good all his life, and he had sought to do things the right way. And he didn't give up. May each one of us be able to say the same as we approach the day of our death.

Paul calls it "the good fight" because his captain was the King of Kings. It was the good fight because his goals - all the time - were to build the church and to reach the lost. And it was the good fight because he fought it in a godly way. It's the same for us. It's our fight. Jesus is our captain. All our lives we should strive to build the church and to reach the lost. We, too, should fight the good fight in a godly way.

2 Corinthians 10v3-4
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world...

Paul fought the Christian fight in a Christian way. He strove with all the energy God gave him to get the Good News about Jesus to people who didn't know it, and to hold the churches in his care together in godly love. And he did so with:

Galatians 5v22-23, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Paul sets us an example of how to be a Christian: totally dedicated to the kingdom of God, to God's mission to the world, and to Christian virtue.

There's no contradiction between dedication to the work of the Gospel and dedication to virtue. More than that, Christian virtue causes the Gospel to bear fruit. When a non-Christian sees a church full of gentleness, kindness, forgiveness, hospitality and godliness, it speaks powerfully to him of the nature of God and the desirability of His kingdom. But when a non-Christian sees a church full of resentment, judgementalism, selfishness and party spirit, it says nothing about the nature of God and makes him wish he hadn't come.

If we're to do any spiritual good on this earth, we must fight the good fight. We must seek the kingdom of God, we must share the Good news of Jesus, and we must live godly, gentle, peaceable lives.

Paul fought the good fight. He finished the race. He kept the faith. He did the right things in the right way with the right attitude, all the way to the end. And it's our fight, and our race, too. We too must keep the faith. May God protect us as we live for Him.

It's vitally important that we keep going. A tragically high number of Christian people give up. They won't be able to say "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" because, at some point in their Christian life, they stopped running. They may still have an intellectual faith, and it may give them some emotional comfort, but they've stopped running.

May God grant that we never do that. May God give us perseverance, forgiveness and spiritual health, so we keep going, so we serve God with all our heart, and all our soul and all our strength, all our lives, and we keep our hearts pure.

If we're to keep going, we need to pray lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.