Tuesday, February 14, 2012

February 15, 2012

"And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen." Matthew 6:13

This phrase "do not lead us into temptation"  may be a bit confusing when used in this context of praying to God. How can a holy God lead us into temptation?

Since a basic understanding of the definition of temptation is the key to making sense of this part of Jesus' teaching, let's see if we can arrive at some clarity here.

In the New Testament, words translated as "temptation" can mean "an enticement to sin" or it can mean a "test" or sometimes it means a "trial".

While those three concepts are closely related and sometimes interchanged, there are subtle and distinct differences in them.

Let me try to clarify the differences using a very relevant example. The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition came out recently. This annual publication features photos of beautiful young models that show a lot more model than swimsuit. The purpose of this issue is not to sell swim wear it is to sell magazines to men who enjoy staring at the shapely young beauties.

When I heard that the swimsuit edition had hit the newstands and the internet that was a test. Would I find a copy of the magazine or go to the SI website and take a look? I had decided I would not. I passed that test.

But over the last several days several of the photos show up on the msn home page so that when my home page popped up there were two of them prominently posted center page. That was a temptation. I couldn't help the first look but I could decide not to take a second (or third) look. I resisted that temptation.

Later in the evening I was watching Fox News on TV and up popped a story on one of the SI Swimsuit models and there she was on the TV screen. Again, it was a temptation - would I stare or would I look away? I looked away.

So, there has been a test and there has been temptation. Let me make it clear that neither a test nor a temptation is sin. The Bible makes it plain that Jesus was "tempted in every way like man, but without sin". Everyone knows that Jesus lived a  sinless life but He did not live a temptation free life.

Suppose I did decide to pull up the SI website and look at the models, or I went to the news stand and bought a copy of SI Magazine and while I was staring at the scantily clad young beauties in their "barely" bikinis Barbara walked in and saw me. Let's say that upset her and she becomes hurt and angry toward me. Let's say that it shakes her trust in me and negatively affects our relationship. If that lasts several days or if those days stretch into weeks that would become a trial.

Tests confront me with temptation. The temptation reveals my true commitment to Christ and my moral character. If I yield to the temptation and sin against God that could open the door to a trial - a prolonged period of dealing with the consquences of my sin.

While that is generally the pattern of the relationship between tests, temptations and trials, let me point out that Jesus went through some trials that were not caused by failing a temptation. For Him it was a prolonged period of testing.

I also think of Joseph in the Old Testament who suffered some trials even though he was righteous and resisted temptation. There were others as well.

As a student in school and college, I passed a lot of tests. There were chapter tests and semester tests and final exams. Those tests were scheduled ahead of time and announced so I made sure I was prepared to take the tests and pass them. But I lived in fear of those moments when the teacher would begin class saying something like this, "Students, put your texts books under your desk and get out a clean sheet of paper and a number two pencil."

"Oh, no! A dreaded pop quiz!"

There were times when I got caught unprepared by a pop quiz.

Because I know that life brings "pop quizzes" I must live prepared each day for the tests that day could bring. "Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil" is praying, "Father, make sure I am prepared for any "pop quizzes" life may surprise me with so that I won't be overcome by the temptation and flunk the test."

Rarley do I get though a day without some sort of a test to my faith. Hardly a day passes that I don't have to face temptation. So knowing that, why would I not want to make sure I prayed for God's help to prepare me for whatever that day brings.

Does that make sense?

What do you need to do about it?

That decision is a test in itself!