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“Deliver Us From Evil”
Matthew 6:13


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Midweek Vespers—February 18, 2009

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Next week the season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday.  So, this evening we are concluding our Midweek Vespers sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

Martin Luther explains that this final petition summarizes all that we have prayed in the Lord’s Prayer: “We pray in this petition, as the sum of all, that our Father in heaven would deliver us from every evil of body and soul, property and honor, and finally, when our last hour has come, grant us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this vale of tears to himself in heaven.”

Peter says, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  The devil is after you, like a hungry lion, and BY YOURSELF you are helpless, defenseless.  For, the devil has on his side not only the wicked world, which conspires with him to constantly confront you with temptations, but he has another co-conspirator, on the inside: your own sinful self.

If left to defend yourself, you haven’t got a prayer against the devil.  But, you are not left to yourself, you have God on your side, and you DO have a prayer against the devil, the last petition of the Lord’s Prayer: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

Is it possible that God HIMSELF would lead you into temptation?  That’s a strange thought.  Is THAT what Jesus meant?  James settles that question: “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.”

But, if God does not tempt anyone, why does Jesus teach us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation”?  Luther explains in the Small Catechism: “God indeed tempts no one; but we pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us, so that the devil, the world, and our flesh may not deceive us nor seduce us into misbelief, despair, and other great shame and vice; and though we be assailed by them, that still we may finally overcome and obtain the victory.” 

You could paraphrase it this way, “Let us not fall into temptation;” “Save us in the time of temptation.”  Jesus is inculcating an attitude.  We humans like to think that we’re self-reliant.  Jesus is teaching us that when it comes to fighting temptation, our only hope is to be God-reliant.

Paul says in Romans, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. . .  When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.”

You have that same spiritual war going on inside you, every day.  Because, on the one hand, you have been born again as a child of God, but, on the other hand, as long as you live in this world your old sinful self still clings to you and struggles against you.

The cross is the number one symbol of the Christian faith because it was on a cross that God’s Son, Jesus Christ, sacrificed himself to pay for your sins and make you right with God.  Paul describes this in Colossians, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.  Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.  But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” 

Your sins are forgiven on his account.  Because of Christ’s sacrifice for you, you are “without blemish and free from accusation.”  Paul puts it this way in 2 Corinthians: “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not counting men’s sins against them.”  Your sins are not counted against you, on account of Jesus Christ. 

That Good News changes your attitude—you WANT to serve God, you want to do his will, you want to live a holy, God-pleasing life.  But, as long as you live in this world, your old sinful self still clings to you and struggles against you.  As Paul says in Galatians, “The sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.”

That is why you need power from on high, and that is what you are praying for when you pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  You are praying for power from on high to fight the devil.

But, when you pray “Give us this day our daily bread,” you do not then just sit back and wait for it to fall from the sky, but you go out and work for it, using the means God provides.  In the same way, when you pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” you will then actively struggle against temptation, using the means God provides. 

Fight temptation by putting on your spiritual armor. Paul says in Ephesians, “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. Put on the full armor of God that you may be able to take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”

The devil rejoices to see a Christian who is neglecting his spiritual armor, by not attending worship, not reading and hearing and studying God’s Word, not receiving Holy Communion, not speaking to God in prayer.  That makes you easy prey for the devil.  “Resist him, standing firm in the faith.”

Fight temptation by avoiding tempting situations.  Paul says in Ephesians, “Do not give the devil a foothold.”  That means you must consciously, deliberately avoid situations where you will be confronted with temptations, especially temptations that you are susceptible to.

Fight temptation by turning your thoughts.  Sinful thoughts are not to be taken lightly.  They are really are sins, in themselves, and they are also dangerous because of the domino effect.  If left unchecked, sinful thoughts often lead to sinful actions, as James says, “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin.”

Instead, turn your thoughts to that which is pleasing to the Lord.  As Paul says in Philippians, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Fight temptation by hearing, reading, studying, and memorizing Scripture.  In this evening’s reading, when Jesus is tempted by the devil he fights back with the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, “It is written!”  The Word of God is the most powerful weapon for you to fight temptation.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians, “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”  If left to defend yourself, you haven’t got a prayer against the devil.  But, you are not left to yourself, you have God on your side, and you DO have a prayer against the devil, the last petition of the Lord’s Prayer: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

Amen.

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