Wednesday, March 21, 2012

lucky 13

Last week, we concluded out PROTOTYPE series on The Lord's Prayer. Jesus wraps up His model prayer with the petition: "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil" [Matthew 6:13]. Temptation is the enemy's evil agenda to undermine the spiritual work God wants to accomplish in the Christian's life. Coincidentally, this verse is one of four New Testament "lucky 13" verses that help us understand the danger of temptation:

MATTHEW 6:13--We pray "Lead us not into temptation," but, truth is, God never leads His people into temptation [see James 1:13]. This request [expressed in a curious figure of speech called a litotes; to affirm something by negating the opposite (i.e., "This is no small matter" means "This is a big matter")], highlights the importance of coming to God for spiritual protection. None of us can win the war against temptation by ourselves. We depend on God's spiritual resources to gain spiritual victory.

JAMES 1:13--This verse, and those following, remind us the anatomy of temptation. Each person is tempted the same way: Capitalizing on our internal, evil desires, the devil lures us with attractive bait. None of us has been tempted by something repulsive. The enemy presents us with an opportunity for immediate gain, instant gratification, on-the-spot glory. Once hooked, however, temptation spirals downward into sin, which ultimately leads to death. One writer states, "Sin will take you further than you want to go. It will keep you longer than you want to stay, and it will cost you more than you want to pay."

LUKE 4:13 --This passage concludes Jesus' temptation during His 40 days in the wilderness before the inauguration of His earthly ministry [Luke 4:1-13, also in Matthew 4:1-11]. Luke writes, "When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left [Jesus] until an opportune time." The phrase translated "opportune time" is a special Greek word. It more accurately translates "season." In other words, the devil came to Jesus [and would return to temp Jesus], not at fixed times on a clock, but at strategic seasons of his life. In the wilderness, the devil made use of the fact that Jesus was hungry, alone and about to launch a great work. Each one of us have specific seasons of our life where we are particularly susceptible to attack: just before a family vacation, when we are tired, when we have just "won" a great advancement at work or school. We must be on guard during these seasons of temptation [1 Peter 5:8].

1 CORINTHIANS 10:13--As we wrestle in the snare of temptation, we gain encouragement from this verse: "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And 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." Paul assures me that my temptation isn't special to me, but sympathetically endured by many others. I'm not alone. Moreover, when tempted, God will prove His faithfulness to me and Himself by providing a "way of escape" [NASB]. As I mentioned in my message, God's means of escape are found in prayer [Matthew 26:41], His Word [John 17:15, 17], His promises [2 Peter 1:3-4], biblical community [Ecclesiastes 4:9-12] and, Himself [Psalm 73:25].

I've lost track of the author, but have never forgotten the good proverb "You can't keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can sure keep them from building a nest in your hair!" Temptation is a sure nuisance of the spiritual life. But, remembering the "lucky 13," we can "Submit [ourselves] to God, resist the Devil, and he will flee!" [James 4:7]

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