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Lebanon, Missouri
I am Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church (LC-MS) in Lebanon, MO for 12 years. I'm married to Cheryl and have been blessed with 5 children.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Lord's Prayer:

Learning the Heart & Mind of the Father

Part VII of VII

A teacher in the early church was amazed at how so much of what the prophets, apostles, and Jesus Himself taught is wrapped up in the few words of the Lord’s Prayer.

He writes, “We honor God in ‘Father,’ witness to the faith in ‘name,’ offer obedience in ‘will,’ remember our hope in ‘kingdom,’ seek life in ‘bread,’ confess our debts in ‘pardon,’ show concern for temptation in the request for safekeeping.”

He concludes, “Why wonder at this? God alone could teach us the manner in which He would have us pray” (Popular Patristics Series, Tertullian, Cyprian, and Origen On the Lord’s Prayer, p.49).

In teaching us this prayer, Jesus is not only encompassing much of the Holy Scripture, but He is also revealing to us the heart and mind of the heavenly Father. This series wraps up with the sixth and seventh petitions, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the Evil One.”

We cannot pray this final petition with any hope of God answering it if we have not already grasped by faith the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer.

Luther is correct when he teaches us, “If we are to be preserved and delivered from all evil, God’s name must first be hallowed in us, His kingdom must be with us, and His will must be done in us” (Paul McCain, Concordia, Readers Edition, Large Catechism, p. 448.118).

If anyone will not hallow God, does not desire the kingdom, nor love God’s will, then that person is already overcome by the Evil One. This does not describe you dear believer, for you are the child of God and do not despise God’s name, His kingdom, nor His will.

You have already been delivered from the Evil One through the crucifixion of Christ. God will continue to keep you as the Holy Spirit does His work in you by means of the Word and Sacrament. Let’s plunge into the last petitions.

In the previous petition we prayed, “Forgive us our trespass as we forgive those who trespass against us.” There were two thoughts that went together, “forgive us” and “as we forgive others.”

So also the sixth and seventh petitions belong together. Though they are two petitions they make one unit, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the Evil One.”

Some Christians might feel uncomfortable with that first part, “lead us not into temptation.” The Christian may ask, “What does that mean?” “Why would we pray that God not lead us into temptation?” “Do I have to fear God might tempt me?” God is not tempted by evil, James tells us, nor does He tempt anyone (James 1:13).

Let me flesh out what this petition is doing by looking at Psalm 51:11-12. King David wrote this penitential Psalm after Nathan convicted him over the Bathsheba incident.

In verse 11, David pleads to God saying, “Do not cast me away…nor take your Holy Spirit from me.” That’s the negative. On the positive side David cries out in verse 12, “Restore to me the joy of my salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.”

David is simply saying, “Don’t curse me God but please do restore me.” The negative statement is what God could do and what He indeed will do if He were to “act in judgment according to the Law” (Concordia Commentary, Matthew Vol 1, Gibbs, p.340).

David did not deserve forgiveness for he sinned grievously and could not atone for his sin. God’s justice could cast David away into eternal fire, but God didn’t do that because God does not cast off His children who truly believe and repent of their sins.

So the emphasis on these verses is on the positive, that God would restore him to salvation. The negative “do not cast me away” serves to highlight the positive “restore to me the joy of my salvation.”

Now, let’s apply this to the Lord’s Prayer. We have the negative statement, “Lead us not into temptation.” And then the positive statement, “But deliver us from the Evil One.”

God does not tempt anyone, but he could very well lead the sinner to temptation. He could pick us up and drop us in front of temptation. You see God judge’s sin with more sin. So God says to those who love promiscuity, for instance, “I give you into it all the more that your sin would utterly condemn you.”

In Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul is warning about what will happen before the advent of Christ. He tells us that people will reject the truth. Instead of being saved they will cling to deception.

Listen to how God replies, “For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false” (II Thessalonians 2:11 NASB). The ungodly rejected the truth. They wanted a lie, and so God sends them delusion. It is as if God is saying, “If you want a lie then I give you over to an even greater lie.”

God does not tempt anyone, but if God were going to treat us according to the Law that condemns us He could give us over to temptation and all sorts of depravity. Yet, God won’t do that to those who call upon Him in faith saying, “Our Father, who art in heaven.”

God loves you. He doesn’t want you to be overcome by the evil but rather rescued you from the Evil One. The negative statement in the prayer serves all the more to emphasize the positive plea, “deliver us oh Lord!”

The sixth and seventh petitions reveal to us the heart and mind of the heavenly Father. I conclude with these two thoughts that flow out of these petitions.

First, God teaches us that temptation is nothing to be toyed with. Temptation is a beautiful thing. After all, if temptation revealed itself as something overtly dangerous and devilish, it wouldn’t be temptation to most people.

Temptation is so beautiful, pleasing, and it promises great reward. The world sees temptation as a wonderful invitation to satiate whatever the flesh hungers after.

Brethren this is plain foolishness. If we give ourselves over to temptation then we give ourselves to the Evil One and destroy our relationship with God. If we choose to love temptation the “Our Father” will be on our lips but not in our hearts.

Perhaps some of you have been to the Grand Canyon. You will know then that there are plenty of places where there is no wall or fence separating a person from the edge of chasm. In some places, it is a long drop if you were to fall over the edge.

There are a lot of people that don’t like being near the edge, instead they will make sure they are a comfortable distance away from it. Our heavenly Father so loves us that He doesn’t want us to get close to the edge of temptation that leads down to the pit of Hell.

The second point is this, Luther tells us that, “every hour that we are in this vile life, we are attacked on all sides” (Op. cit. McCain, p. 447.105)

We feel temptation constantly. For one person it is simple lust. For another it is greed. For yet another, envy is the burden. The temptations from the world, our flesh, and the Evil One, are not only constant but quite varied. Yet, just as surely as our sins beset us, God’s grace is more pervasive. God will not lead you into temptation. He delivers you from the Evil One.

Several years ago there was a mom and a dad who was devastated because of one of their three sons fell into drug abuse and other illegal activity. The parents not only hurt for their son, but the issue was public and embarrassing.

You can imagine that going to church on Sunday morning was so very difficult. How hard it must be at times to raise your head when you are so hurt. The difficulty was only compounded when one the pillars of the church told them, “Well, I guess you only have two sons now.”

A mentally handicapped child ran up to the parents before they left. He called out, “Is it true? Is it true what I heard?” What parent would want to answer that question? It would be so much easier to get in the car, drive away, and never come back. But then the child opened up his shirt, took off his cross and gave it to them saying, “Here give this to your son and tell him Jesus loves him and so do I.”

I hope that young man turned back to God in repentance. You see, it is never God’s first will to judge our sin with sin. God is the great deliverer. In love He reaches out with His Son to all people. God hands us the cross of forgiveness. And He doesn’t do it just once, but again and again.

That forgiveness is constantly with us in the Gospel and given to us as we receive the Lord’s Body and blood in faith. It is through the Gospel, that is through the grace of Christ, that God delivers us from the Evil One.

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