Luke Lesson 59 - Living on the Edge of Disaster
Do you have enough willpower to not be tempted? Of course not. How about resisting temptation, do you have enough strength to resist all the temptations to sin that come your way? Every believer knows that they do not. That’s why, as Jesus continues giving us an example of how to pray, He reminds us that temptation is inevitable—it will come—and He reminds us that only through God’s strength can we overcome.
According to news reports, around 12 tourists a year – on average – slip and fall to their death from somewhere along the rim of the Grand Canyon.
Recently, a man hopped up on a low stone wall for his daughter to take a picture; he had noticed that there was a narrow ledge behind that low wall and after she snapped the picture, he hopped off backwards, pretending to fall to scare his daughter. But he slipped on that narrow ledge and fell 400 feet to his death.
From what I have read the majority of tourists who fall off the rim are young men – hopping from one rock to another, or posing for pictures, they get too close to the edge.
I have read that Park rangers have one piece of advice – it’s almost so simple it’s easy to ignore – here it is: stick to the path.
One article reported that Rangers are often heard reminding more than a million visitors a year, “Remember this is not an amusement park – this is dangerous – it’s easier than you think to lose your balance in a moment and fall.”
In many ways, the Christian life does not rescue you from danger, it introduces you to it. The false advertising of the average gospel narrative today is that when you come to Jesus, He leads you into an amusement park where it’s nothing more fun and games for the rest of your life.
The truth is, following Jesus is more like hiking along a canyon rim; with steep cliffs and narrow paths. He introduces you to a life where the enemy is seeking to lead you off the path and over the edge.
“Living on the edge” is a very real motto for the disciples of Jesus Christ. We are literally walking along the edge of disaster.
And it that sounds a little too dramatic, then you’ve got something to learn from the Apostle Paul who said his great fear, after having preached to others, would be to sin in such a way that he would be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27).
He wasn’t afraid of losing his salvation. He was afraid of losing his testimony before others. He didn’t want to discredit the gospel and discourage other believers and disappoint the Lord by wandering off the path into sin.
So Paul lived then with that kind of potential disaster; that kind of potential disqualification; that kind of potential discrediting of the gospel; that kind of fear of disappointing the Lord who loved him, and certainly that kind of discouragement to so many other believers.
He recognized that in a very real way, he was living on the edge of disaster.
And for the believer today, that happens to be the best way to life. Take heed, Paul would write, take heed – be careful while you stand lest you, what? – fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12)
The proud believer is convinced he will never fall; the humble believer is convinced he will never stand – apart from the leading and protection of God.
With that in mind, it should be no surprise to us that Jeus will teach us to pray that way.
If you go back to Luke’s gospel account at chapter 11, the Lord is teaching His disciples to pray, and He now introduces a simple phrase that says it all:
- He doesn’t skirt the issue –
- He doesn’t play it down –
- He doesn’t sugar coat it –
- He pulls it out of the shadows where it wants to remain hidden,
- and the Lord calls it what it is.
We’re now at verse 5, the last phrase – and we’ll combine it with Matthew’s account as well.
And lead us not into temptation (Luke 11:5)
but deliver us from evil (Matthew 6:13).
That’s a good phrase to consider as well – deliver us from evil.
Or as one little girl who was being taught to pray this prayer came to this point and prayed, “Lead us not into temptation, and deliver us from email.”
Jesus is about to teach them – and us – how to face the danger of temptation and evil – and you face the danger not by ignoring it – but by recognizing it, every single day.
Recognizing that you are living, as a Christian, on the edge of disaster – every morning when you get outta bed – you are moving into the realm of danger.
This is the final prayer request recorded in this pattern prayer. It began with delight in our Father in Heaven and it now ends with the danger of evil on earth.
And the Christian, one author said, “lives in between those two truths.”
This prayer ends, with a final phrase that is nothing less than a cry for help from believers who want to stay safely on the path:
- they don’t want to lose their spiritual balance –
- they don’t want to fall off the edge of the canyon, so to speak, in their Christian experience.
And that’s possible, as you pray this request.
The Lord's Prayer makes us aware of four truths that will protect the believer:
let me show you how:
First of all;
This prayer leads you to realize that the danger of temptation will never go away.
Lead us not into temptation . . .
Now you might initially be confused by this phrase, because it sounds like God might tempt the believer to sin – or lead the believer into some kind of tempting situation.
From other passages of scripture, we know that God won’t do that.
James writes in his letter:
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one.
Some have tried to explain this by pointing out that the Greek word for temptation is the same word for testing. And that would be true.
But no where is the believer told to ask God to keep him from being tested – in fact, James says that testing produces endurance. So God definitely leads us into times of testing, in order to strengthen our faith and walk in Him.
Testing is intended to develop us.
But temptation is intended to destroy us – and God never has that intention.
You could understand this phrase in Luke’s gospel to read, “Protect us from the tempting power of sin.” (David E. Garland, Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Luke (Zondervan 2011), p. 419)
This prayer request – “Lead us not into temptation” could be understood to mean, as Chuck Swindoll paraphrased it in his commentary, “Cause us not to yield to temptation.” (Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Luke (Zondervan, 2012), p. 291)
By the way, Jesus prayed to the Father and used this same terminology when he prayed in John 17: I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from evil/the evil one (John 17:15).
Satan, the original tempter, working in concert with our fallen flesh, constantly advertises to us through a fallen and sinful world – and he never lets up.
If you’re 35 years old, his network of fallen angels has had 35 years to study you – to watch you – to keep a file on you; if your 55 years old, all that means is they’ve had 20 more years to figure you out.
In the Bible Satan is called among other names:
- the tempter (Matthew 4:3)
- the serpent (2 Corinthians 11:3)
- a dragon (Revelation 12:13)
- and a lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8) – to swallow whole, so to speak.
He can’t steal your soul from Heaven, but he’ll try to destroy your life on earth. Peter says, he’s always hungry.
You don’t play around with a hungry lion. You don’t have a conversation with a hungry lion – you avoid him.
I remember being in east Africa for a series of meetings, and one afternoon my host took me in his jeep out on a day safari. At one point we came to a large tree where several lionesses were lying in the shade. He pulled up nearby; one of the lionesses got up and walked over to the jeep – my side of the jeep. Her back was tall enough to reach the bottom portion of my window – which I had rolled up tightly. As she stood there looking in at me, her purring was so loud it sounded like an engine. I wasn’t about to roll my window down and pat her on the head and say, “Nice kitty cat – nice kitty cat.” For one thing, there’s no such thing – doesn’t matter what size they are – even the little ones would kill you and eat you if they could get away with it. Why do you think they’re staring at you all the time?
I’m not about to get outta that jeep and have a conversation.
Peter evidently had seen them too – because he compared Satan to a hungry one prowling around seeking someone to devour.
Jesus wants to remind us in this prayer that temptation is a dangerous and daily threat. (Adapted from R. Albert Mohler, Jr. The Prayer that Turns the World Upside Down (Nelson Books, 2018), p. 146)
And it isn’t gonna go away until that day when we are glorified in complete holiness in the presence of Christ.
So here’s the first truth to understand about this prayer request: it leads you to realize that the danger of temptation will never go away.
This prayer leads you to recognize that your sinful heart gladly gets in the way.
The reason temptation is tempting is because it’s something we’re interested in.
One man wrote, tongue in cheek, “Why would I resist temptation – it might go away!”
Temptation is dangerous because something is tempting.
We too quickly blame the devil and the world for what we’re capable of doing all by ourselves.
J.I. Packer quotes the Anglican Prayer Book in his commentary on this text. Deliver us from “Sin … from all blindness of heart; from pride, vain-glory and hypocrisy; from envy, hatred, and malice … from fornication, and all other deadly sin; from hardness of heart, and contempt of Thy Word and commandments – Good Lord, deliver us!” (J.I. Packer, Praying the Lord’s Prayer (Crossway, 2007), p. 93)
This prayer is an admission that our hearts are the problem: they are like little manufacturing plants where temptation is invited to apply for work – and then given a private office.
Deliver us from temptation is an admission that we need delivering from ourselves.
As Jesus told His disciples, Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation (Matthew 26:41).
The word for watch is a word for a soldier on guard, looking for enemy attack. (Adapted from Packer, 88)
And you’re looking, not because you don’t expect it to show up, but because you do.
- So, what might knock on your door? Lock it.
- What might call you? Change your number.
- What might entice you? Delete it.
- What might be around the corner to tempt you? Avoid that corner!
One author wrote, “Find out what for you is fire, and then don’t play with it.” (Ibid )
You can’t decide to get rid of temptation – but you can decide not to go along with it – to hide it – to plan for it – to make room for it.
That’s the point Martin Luther, the Reformer once made this point – he originated this saying 500 years ago when he wrote: “You can’t keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” (Ibid)
- This prayer leads you to realize that the danger of temptation will never go away.
- Secondly, this prayer leads you to recognize that your sinful heart gladly gets in the way.
This prayer leads you to admit you don’t have the willpower to resist the wrong way.
You might notice here that Jesus does not teach us to pray, “Lord, give me more willpower in the fight against temptation.” No, this is a prayer of surrender and desperation. (Adapted from Mohler, p. 147)
Jesus isn’t telling us to ask for more strength – He’s teaching us to admit we’ll never have enough.
“Deliver us from evil” means we can’t deliver ourselves. “Keep us from temptation” means we can’t overcome it ourselves.
You see, this is a prayer that will only be prayed by people who recognize they are powerless and hopeless without their Father’s guidance.
I remember when our twin sons were around 4 or 5 years old, we were praying at the breakfast table before school and, as was our custom, we took turns. It was one of my sons turn and he just announced rather matter of fact that he wasn’t gonna pray that morning. I thought, well here it is; total spiritual rebellion in the pastor’s home and he’s only 4. I kept my cool and asked him, “Well why aren’t you gonna pray this morning?” and he said, “Because I really don’t need to.” I’ve got everything under control. I’ve got kindergarten figured out; I know where my colored pencils are; life’s good.
The truth is – he verbalized what you and I might feel. We wouldn’t necessarily say it out loud, but life’s under control . . . are we praying about temptation today? No? Why not?
Because we don’t think we need to.” This is not a new danger.
This was Peter the disciple, in the upper room. The Lord is warning his disciples recorded in Matthew's gospel at Chapter 26 that one of them would betray him. They began to say, Surely not I Lord? Surely that won’t be me!
None of them said, “Lord, we’d better start a prayer meeting, because it could be me.”
Then Jesus informed them that they were all going to deny him – flee from him.
Peter said in verse 33, “Lord, even though everyone else falls away . . . I will never fall away.”
Remember, self-confident Christians don’t think they can fall; humble Christians don’t think they can stand – apart from Christ.
Peter says, “I’m strong. I’m not gonna fall off the edge into disaster – I can’t fall.” Jesus says to him in verse 34. “Truly, I say to you – in other words, mark my words as true, Peter – this very night before a rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”
How specific can you get?? Here's the Lord specifically telling him you're going to deny Him three times, and then a rooster is going to crow to remind him of this warning.
And Peter still didn’t respond, “Lord, now that I know the specifics, I’m obviously gonna face some temptation that I can’t handle, so do you mind if I go somewhere and pray?”
“No, that isn’t gonna happen to me . . . there’s no chicken coop around here – there’s no rooster in my future.”
Now you might think that Peter still would have taken some notes. If I were Peter, I would have at least avoided chickens that night . . . I would’ve been on the lookout for a rooster hanging around.”
But not Peter . . . he wasn’t praying because he didn’t need to.
Many Bible students will focus on Peter’s denial because of the pressure out there in the courtyard by that servant girl who cornered him as one of the Lord’s disciples.
Peter didn’t fall off the edge into the canyon of spiritual disaster in that courtyard, he started to free fall in the upper room – hours before he ended up at that campfire.
And the Lord had warned him – temptation was coming.
Jesus is teaching us to pray here, not because temptation might show up, but because it will; we’re to pray, as it were every single day, “Temptation is coming . . . and I can’t handle it on my own.”
And with that, we’re ready for the fourth truth in this prayer request;
This prayer leads you to rest in the promise that God will guide you in the right way.
Having admitted our powerlessness, we are given the implicit promise of His powerfulness.
He can guide us around it, and oftentimes, through it!
Deliver us from evil – literally, don’t permit evil to catch us in its net. (Fritz Rienecker and Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament (Regency, 1976), p. 172)
Phillip Keller wrote in his book on the Lord’s Prayer:
The Lord would not teach us to ask our heavenly Father for deliverance from evil if deliverance wasn’t available.
He would not instruct us to pray to be delivered from temptation if our Father had no interest in doing so.
But He does . . . and He will. This is yet another measure of His grace and His love, for us, His children.
––Phillip Keller (Phillip Keller, A Layman Looks at the Lord’s Prayer (Moody Press, 1976), p. 138)
The issue then isn’t so much about temptation, it’s about trusting Him to lead us in the right way. It’s really about our desire – the desire of our heart to walk His way.
Temptation is looking for something in our lives that is not under the management of God’s Spirit – something we’re keeping from His control. And it targets those areas that are not surrendered.
This prayer request is about more than temptation and sin – this is about surrender and satisfaction in Him, more than attempting to be satisfied in what that temptation offers.
Peter Forsyth put it this way, when he wrote 100 years ago, “The first duty of every soul, is not to find its freedom, but its Master.” (Quoted in Warren W. Wiersbe, On Earth as It Is in Heaven (Baker Books, 2010), p. 117)
The first duty – what he means is – the primary duty – the primary delight – I would add this is the primary sin-crushing, temptation-overpowering, God-delighting duty of every soul, every day, is not to find its freedom, but its Master.
And when your Heavenly Father is your master – guess what – He gives you the freedom to avoid falling over the edge of disaster and keep your balance and stay on the path and live a life worth living.
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