First United Methodist Church
Plymouth, Indiana

And Lead Us, Not Into Temptation


First United Methodist Church April 3, 2022
Rev. Dr. Byron Kaiser, Pastor
Lent 5
And Lead Us, Not into Temptation
Matthew 6:13; Psalm 23:3; James 1:13 -15; 1 Peter 5:8-9

Welcome, if you are here for the first time, we are working our way through the Lord’s Prayer. Thank you for being with us today. If you were invited to be here today, I want to thank the person who invited you.

We have talked about the first four utterances of the Lord’s Prayer. “Our Father, who art in heaven, hollowed be they name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…”

Today, we consider the fifth utterance, “and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil…”

The Universality of Temptation

Perhaps one of the most uniting and universal experiences of being human is to experience temptation. Let me confirm for you that there are many things that do not tempt me. Please excuse my humor as I explain. I often have joked when people ask me what I have given up as my Lenten discipline. I tell folks that I gave up smoking marijuana. You see, I don’t use it and I’m not tempted. Hence, the joke.

Temptation only works in our life because a part of us want that which is out of bounds. Here is a true story. Having just obtained my driver’s license and my dad having just purchased a four-wheel drive International Scout II, my dad gave me permission to give my cousin, Richard, a ride in the new family car. We were driving around Elkhart County in autumn after the harvest. Richard wanted me to demonstrate the four-wheel capabilities of the vehicle. I wanted to try out the car’s capabilities, too. We engaged the hubs, and I took off through a freshly cleared corn field. Quickly, the car bottomed out in the muddy field. I revved the engine keeping the car moving until we could regain the road, mud went everywhere. We took the car to a self-serve car wash before returning to my cousin’s home to pick up my parents. I thought for sure that I cleaned up my mistake and no one would be the wiser. So, when dad asked me where we took the car, I lied. The next morning, dad woke me up and asked me to look over the car with him. He asked me to look under the car. I got down on my hands and knees and noticed the bottom of the car was covered with corn stalks and mud. Busted. The temptation to show off for my cousin brought consequences that I would rather not have endured.

Falling to temptation may be a matter of scale.

Last Sunday the Oscar Award show aired on television. The headline from the evening gives a great example of how a person falls to the temptation of violence. Comedian Chris Rock, picked on members of the audience with his humor. Standard fair for an awards show.

Will Smith took offense. Mr. Smith gave in to his darker nature. He was tempted to retaliate for Chris Rock joking about his wife’s hair loss. Mr. Smith stepped to the stage and slapped Chris Rock. It was the slap seen and heard around the world. Reading the apology of Will Smith to Chris Rock, I am aware that any attempt to place what Will Smith did in a positive light fails. Mr. Smith fell to temptation to respond violently. We learn in kindergarten that this behavior is unacceptable.

On the world stage, Putin’s criminal actions in Ukraine reflect the same failure of conscious as demonstrated by Mr. Smith. The fall to temptation is a matter of scale. Putin’s moral failure has killed thousands of people and destroyed cities.

I would like to highlight two examples of a person presented with temptation from the Bible. Remember that temptation to trespass into behaviors that are wrong only exist because we are attracted to what harms.

Think with me about King David who sees Bathsheba. Bathsheba was engaged in a ritual bath purifying herself so that she would be able to go to the temple to worship. King David uses all the power of his office to force her into an affair that leaves her pregnant. To cover up his actions, he calls her husband home from a war. Because the general has integrity, he will not go home to his wife and lay with her while his men are in the field. So, King David has him killed and he marries Bathsheba. It's a terrible story of a fall to temptation.

Think with me about Jesus in the Wilderness of Sin. Jesus was tempted to turn stones into bread, was tempted to do the spectacular to gain acclaim, and was tempted to worship the devil to gain power. Jesus could have justified each of these as a way of advancing his cause.

Yet, he rejected each. He set aside the temptations, the wanting, so that he would remain in God’s will. Following his rejection of the temptations, Jesus fed 5000, Jesus performed healing miracles that brought him acclaim and Jesus arose from the grave to ascend into heaven. Each within the will of God. Each out did what the devil tempted him to do.

What do you want that may be out of bounds? With what are you tempted?

Lead Us

Adam Hamilton notes about this utterance, “When we typically say this prayer, it’s as if we are asking God not to lead us into temptation—as if God might sometimes do that, and we’re asking God not to. But note how the meaning of the petition changes when we place a comma after “Lead us.” Then the prayer becomes: Lead us, not into temptation [the way we might lead ourselves, or the way the tempter might lead us], but deliver us from evil. This petition is asking God to lead us. We lead ourselves into temptation when we deliberately place ourselves in tempting situations, or when we entertain the idea of doing something we know is wrong.”

What are the means by which God leads us? Follow the sign of the fish.

Before the cross became a symbol of Christian faith, the symbol of the fish signaled the presence of a believer. The early church utilized the stories of Jesus’ call of fisherfolk to be disciples and the miracle of multiplication of the fish and loaves. When meeting a stranger in the market, a person may swipe their staff in a small arch in the sand. If the person with whom they were talking completed the sign by swiping their staff in a small arch, each knew the other as a fisher folk, a member of the way of Christ.

The Greek word for fish is ichthus. It is an acrostic – Iesous, Christos, Theou, Uios, Soter. In English, Jesus Christ, Of God, Son, Savior or Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior. These titles are signposts setting the boundaries of our behavior. Think of them like the fence posts for a baseball field. Actions in the boundary being Christian behavior. Actions outside the boundary, though tempting, are out of bounds. Here are the fence posts:

  • Jesus: Jesus, the man on earth, demonstrates for us a human example of Godly living. We study his words and actions as a template for our living.
  • Christ: When we attach the title, Christ, to Jesus, we are saying that Jesus fulfills all the hopes and highest aspirations of scripture. As Jesus fulfills the Law and the Prophets, we aspire to live by the same Law and Prophets.
  • Son of God: If the title Jesus Christ teaches us something about human aspiration and fulfillment, Son of God title teaches us that God does not leave us on our own but brings to us God’s grace.
  • Savior: The title Savior teaches us that as we miss the mark, as we wander out of bounds, as we create debts, God gives us a new target, puts us back in bounds, and cancels our debts. God saves us from ourselves.

What are means by which God leads us? If ICTHUS sets the boundaries like a baseball diamond, we also have coaches and other players who help us. We don’t know how to be Christian. We must be taught. Even players who are at the top of the game, have coaches.

Good coaches keep players focused on the fundaments. Step into your throw. Keep your eye on the ball. Swing through the ball. Keep your glove in the dirt. Good coaches keep you focused on the fundamentals. Pray. Read scripture. Worship. Take communion. Serve people. We tune our hearts to follow God, building faithful habits by which we submit ourselves to God’s leadership in small things and in large things.

What are the means by which God leads us? Trust in the provision of God.

As a young pastor in Geneva, Indiana, I drove the longest car ever to be produced in Detroit, a 1973 Buick Electra. My kids called the Blue Ick. It drove like a Lazy Boy chair. The car was falling apart. I drove up to Decatur on a Tuesday after business hours to look at car lots to see what may be available to replace the Blue Ick. In late November, snow fell. I stopped and looked around a car lot. Returning to the car, the starter for the engine failed. I had little money, so I called a colleague in town. He came over and we towed the car to his house. As Dan drove me home, he told me to return the next day with a starter and he would help me replace it.

Being a busy young pastor, I had meetings in Fort Wayne and in the evening in Geneva the next day. I asked a member of the church who I knew owned an old three speed on the column pick-up truck if I could use it to go to Ft Wayne the next day and back to Decatur in the evening. I drove it around to the meetings and returned after 9:00 PM to Pastor Dan’s home. I dressed to work under the car. I wore navy blue overalls, dark shoes, and a black stocking hat.

I don’t remember why, but by midnight, the car was not finished. Dan said he would finish up and I could pick up the car the next day.

After midnight I drove south to Geneva. About three miles north of Berne, the engine of the pick-up seized up. I slide to the side of the road. Snow was coming on with about 4 inches already on the road. Having walked to a few Amish Houses and not getting a response, I returned to the road and began jogging to Berne.

A lone car approached and stopped; I opened the passenger side door of the old station wagon. A man with a long beard and jug of wine resting on his belly called me to take a set. He shared with me that for six weeks he had been driving up for Portland to Ft Wayne to sit with his dad at Lutheran General Hospital. He said that we was not a church going man or a praying man, but that night, he had prayed that God would take his dad and relieve him from his suffering. He watched his dad through the evening as he face relaxed and slipped into the great beyond. Bob explained that because of what God had done in answer to his prayer, he just wanted to praise God and do something nice for another. Then, he saw me walking along the dark highway and thought I needed help. Bob takes a pull of his wine, turns to me, and says, “so, what do you do for a living?”

Sometimes all we need to do is live our lives and trust that God has us at the exact place God wants us the exact moment God needs us. Trust in God’s providence.

By the way, why did the truck seize up? A piece of rust fell from the inside of the intake manifold abruptly cutting air off. The owner drove the truck home the next day without incident.

Lead us, now. Lead us, always.

Lord, lead us, now. Lord, lead us, always. If we pray for God to lead us, and if we follow the leading of God, we will not fall to temptation. We will not be perpetrators of evil. We shall be delivered. Amen.