Friday, March 15, 2013

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

As a mom, I know that I have two ways of teaching my children to make good choices.  I teach them by what I say and by what I do.  I also know that my kids follow my example more than they follow my words.  I think that is one reason that Jesus came to earth.   He knew we needed a perfect example we could follow, someone who would not say, "Do as I say, not as I do."  Jesus taught as he lived, and we can often find examples of his teachings that were exemplified in his life.  The question I have always wondered is, "How was he able to be perfect?"

Undoubtedly, part of the reason is that he was fully divine, but that can't be whole story.  The Hebrews writer tells us Christ was tempted in all things (4:15). In order to be tempted, there has to be at least a chance of sinning.  Jesus was vulnerable and could have given in, but He didn't.  There must be a reason outside of his divinity to explain it.  

Matthew, Mark, and Luke describe Jesus's temptation in the wilderness after his baptism but before his public ministry.  Most of us are probably aware that a major tool Jesus used to avoid temptation was the Word of God.  While I don't want to diminish the role Scripture played in Christ's triumph over Satan, it was not the only tool he used.  Jesus fasted forty days in the desert before the temptation began.  Because prayer is mentioned as accompanying fasting many times in the Bible (Ezra 8:23; Nehemiah 1:4; Jeremiah 14:12; Daniel 9:23; Joel 1:14; Matthew 17:21; Mark 9:29; Luke 2:37; Acts 10:30; 13:3; 14:23), my assumption is that Jesus was also praying for forty days.  Prayer, coupled with Scripture, helped Jesus to avoid giving into temptation.  

Armed with this example, Jesus taught us to pray about our temptations.  In both Matthew and Luke's version of the "Lord's prayer," Jesus teaches his disciples to pray "lead us not into temptation" (Matthew 6:13; Luke 11:4); Matthew's version adds "but deliver us from evil."

I don't know about you, but my daily prayers don't often include a plea to help me avoid and overcome temptation.  I don't like to admit the sins I am tempted by, even to my God who knows already. It's almost as if admitting my particular temptations out loud in prayer will make them harder to bear.  In this, I am wrong.  Following Jesus in prayer must also include prayers about my temptations.  

One of the most moving passages about Jesus's life couples our Savior's example and teaching in a beautiful way.  Jesus took three of his closest disciples with him to Gethsemane before his betrayal.  Here, Jesus may have faced his toughest temptation.  He prayed earnestly to avoid the cross, but in the end submitted to the will of the Father.  In the middle of his prayers, he had an interesting message for his followers. They had fallen asleep, and he told them, "Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41).  Jesus knew that the flesh was weak, and he knew what fleshly temptation was like because he was battling it with prayer at that very time. He was sharing that battle with his followers by the command he gave to them.  They would soon face the same battle.  

Jesus triumphed against temptation.  At their first skirmish, the disciples lost.  They feared for their lives, so they abandoned their Lord.  Notice, though, that they did not continue to lose out to the temptation to seek safety.  While seeing the resurrected Christ certainly gave them courage, they also prayed specifically for boldness in teaching his word, and their prayer was answered (Acts 4:29-31).

Jesus promises the same escape for us, but I have to stop being a squeamish pray-er.  It's time for me to admit to myself and to my Savior what my temptations are and pray that I can overcome them.  Each victory I have through prayer and the work of the Spirit leads me a little closer to being like Jesus, to being the example my children need.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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