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The Lord's Prayer, Part 3The Source of Temptation

The Source of Temptation
Photo of Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Nancy Leigh DeMoss

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss asks, "Who can you blame for your sin?"

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We can’t blame God who sometimes leads us into those situations that Satan uses to tempt us. We can’t blame God, and we can’t blame Satan when we fail to respond in a godly way to the test. So we end up in a testing situation. Satan uses it to tempt us. Then we fall, and then who’s responsible? God for leading us into that situation? Satan for tempting us? No. We are responsible.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, November 16.

The Lord’s Prayer brings questions to a lot of minds. We’re to pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” Does that mean God lets you down when you’re tempted? Nancy explores this question as part of our current series, The Lord’s Prayer, Part 3.

Nancy: I read about a little boy who was trying to save up all the money that he could in order to buy a baseball bat, but he found it wasn’t easy to be disciplined. One night when he was saying his prayers, his mother heard him say fervently, “Oh Lord, please help me save my money for a baseball bat. And, God, don’t let the ice cream man come down this street.” He was saying, in essence, “Lead us not into temptation. I want to do what’s right but it’s hard, so God help me out.”

Well, we’re talking about this matter of temptation. Jesus taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13). We saw in the last session that trials and temptation—whether the temptation to sin or a trial that God is using to test us but that can become an occasion to sin—are an unavoidable part of the Christian life.

Jesus Himself knew what it was to be led into the place of temptation. He knew what it was to be alone, to be hungry, to be humanly vulnerable, as we are. He had just been through that wilderness temptation in Matthew chapter 4, right before he started His earthly ministry, and now He gives us what we call the Lord’s Prayer.

It’s in His first recorded message. It's just the next passage after we read about Him being in temptation in the wilderness for those forty days and forty nights. He endured intense, relentless temptation without letup, I think, from Satan.

Jesus faced the temptation head-on—armed with the Word of God. Praise God, He was victorious over every fiery dart sent His way. We’re going to see that that’s what gives us hope as we face our temptations. Having experienced temptation Himself, Jesus taught us to pray that we might not be led into temptation’s path or snare.

Now we saw in the last session that God tests us:

  • to strengthen us
  • to try our character
  • to show what we’re made of
  • to show where we’re weak
  • to show where we need to have changes in our lives

Satan often uses those very same tests to tempt us to sin. Satan is called twice in the New Testament the tempter. He tempted Jesus, and he tempts us to disobey God, to doubt God, to choose our own way instead of God’s way.

But even though there’s a tempter and even though there’s temptation in this world, we can’t blame God who sometimes leads us into those situations that Satan uses to tempt us. We can’t blame God, and we can’t blame Satan when we fail to respond in a godly way to the test. So we end up in a testing situation. Satan uses it to tempt us. Then we fall, and then who’s responsible? God for leading us into that situation? Satan for tempting us? No. We are responsible.

When we end up falling into sin, when we end up saying "yes" to temptation, when God says don’t taste the fruit and we say, “I will,” who’s responsible? The serpent? God for putting the tree in the Garden? No. We are responsible.

I talked not too long ago with a woman who faced enormous temptation to sin morally. She had made wrong choices. She had almost wrecked her marriage over it. She got into the situation. She made a series of compromises and ended up in an immoral relationship. As she was telling me after the fact about the situation, she described the situation when she was first being tempted and the temptation was so strong.

In her case, she had failed morally in the past many times as a younger woman, but she’d had years of doing great and being victorious morally. Then she ended up in this situation. It was like the perfect storm. The match got lit, and she fell hard. She said when she was first being tempted in this most recent situation, she cried out to God for grace. She had been there before. She didn’t want to go there; she didn’t think. She cried out for grace and she said, “I felt so helpless. I felt like God abandoned me when I was being tempted.”

So she ended up in this immoral relationship. Before God really walked her through a process of dealing with it, she went through a phase of blaming God, of resenting God. “Where was God when I was being tempted, when these lustful thoughts were just overwhelming my mind and my heart and I felt I couldn’t escape them? Where was God?” She ended up feeling like God was somehow responsible for getting her in this immoral relationship.

It’s not the first time I’ve heard that story. Now maybe it’s not a temptation to you, and so you’re not relating to that illustration. You think, “How can somebody do that?” Well, think about where you are tempted. Think about a time when you’ve been in a situation where you knew there was:

  • something you shouldn’t do
  • something you shouldn’t say
  • somewhere you shouldn’t go
  • something you shouldn’t look at
  • something you shouldn’t be involved in

You knew it, but you just felt overwhelmed by the temptation. “I can’t help myself” is the feeling that we’ve all had at times.

So is God responsible in those situations? Or is Satan so powerful that we just can’t win, that we can’t be successful in dealing with those temptations? We need to understand that the source of temptation is not to be found in the situation itself that God may have allowed us to get into or may have even led us into because He wanted to test us. He wanted to prove our faith.

But that’s not where the temptation comes from. The temptation actually has its source in desires that are within our own hearts. The situation we were in, the test, the perfect storm, so to speak, just brought those desires to the surface and exposed them.

We looked in the last session at James chapter 1, and let me ask you to turn back to James 1, beginning at verse 13. You’ll see this stated real clearly. “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. But each person is tempted [tempted to sin] when he is lured and enticed by . . .” what? By God? No, God doesn’t do that. By Satan? Well, Satan’s involved, but what’s the source here? He’s enticed by “his own desire.” His own desire. “Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1:13–15)

John Owen was a Puritan theologian of the 1600s, and he said, “However strong a castle may be, if a treacherous party resides inside, the castle cannot be kept safe from the enemy. Traitors occupy our own hearts ready to side with every temptation and to surrender to them all.” See the castle of our heart has a traitor living inside. It’s called my flesh—my desires that want to do what I want to do.

There are certain situations that when I find myself in them bring forth to the surface those desires. My desire connects with the opportunity. Now there are some things that don’t tempt me. I’ve never been tempted to rob a bank. Something that tempts you may not tempt me at all. Now, I don’t say it never could. But generally, there are areas where I’m tempted that you know you will just stop.

Why is it so hard? Because we have our own desires, which means we are fully responsible for yielding to temptation. That’s the bottom line. No one to blame but our own desires within our own hearts. It’s the traitor, the treacherous party that resides inside the castle of my heart.

Temptation hits us at the point where our internal heart desires are not under God’s control. Now those desires may not be inherently sinful. It may be a desire for something that isn’t bad in and of itself but when it’s not under God’s control, it becomes an idol.

A desire to be loved. That’s not a sinful desire. But when I have a demand, when I let that desire turn into a demand to be loved and I’m willing to satisfy it in ways that are outside the bounds of God’s commands and God’s permission, then that turns into an evil desire. It turns into a lust—something I have to have and I will get at any cost. That’s when we become vulnerable—when we have desires that are not under God’s control.

So first we see that we are fully responsible. Then second, we need to realize that God governs the extent and the intensity of Satan’s tests. Satan cannot push us, prod us, prompt us, move us, stir us, tempt us beyond what God allows him to do.

You remember the story of Job. When you read in Job 1:9, that “Satan answered the LORD and said, ‘Does Job fear God for no reason?’” He’s a paid lover is in essence what he’s saying. So Satan says,

"Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land [of course, he loves You].

But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face." And the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” (vv 10–12)

You remember how with that permission Satan went and stripped Job of everything he had.

Then God extended the permission even further. He said, “You can touch his body. You can take his health.” But you notice Satan never went any further than God said he could go. God governs the extent and the intensity of Satan’s tests.

Jesus said to Simon Peter in Luke 22:31, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith might not fail.” Satan had to go to Jesus and say, “Can I tempt Peter?” Jesus governed and ruled and controlled the extent to which Peter could be tempted or tested by Satan.

So that’s why we have that familiar verse in 1 Corinthians 10 that says, “God will not let you be tempted beyond your ability” (v. 13). He determines the extent and the intensity to which you can be tested. That ought to encourage you when you’re facing temptation to know that Satan can go so far, but only so far. God has put a boundary on how far he can tempt you.

Now having said that, we need to realize that we cannot resist temptation in our own strength. We do not have the strength to say "no" to sin. This petition in the Lord’s Prayer, the fact that it’s in the Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation,” is an acknowledgment that we need help. We cannot protect ourselves from temptation. We cannot keep ourselves from sin and from the evil one.

This is a cry of desperation. It’s a cry of dependence. We are weak, but He is strong. That’s why Paul said to the Ephesians, “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:10–11). We need His help. We need His grace.

Remember that familiar, wonderful hymn of Martin Luther, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," and that stanza that says,

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, 
The Man of God’s own choosing: 
Dost ask who that may be? 
Christ Jesus, it is He, 
And He must win the battle.

We can’t win that battle on our own. Don’t even try, because when we try we’re saying, “Lord, I can manage this without You.” Sometimes I wonder if God doesn’t just say, “You want to try? You think you can win without Me? Go ahead. See how far you get.” We know we can’t get very far without falling.

But here’s the good news: Even though we can’t resist on our own, God is able to keep us from falling into sin. He is able. That alone should be something that encourages and strengthens us when we’re in the midst of temptation, when we’re fighting with those lusts and desires of our own hearts that are so strong.

Sometimes you know God doesn’t want you to say that. He doesn’t want you to go there. He doesn’t want you to eat that. He doesn’t want you to watch that. It’s like you tell your two-year-old, “Don’t,” and that’s exactly what he wants to do. You told him he could touch everything else in the room, but he can’t touch that. Where does he go? His desire is he wants to touch the one thing you said he couldn’t.

We have sometimes these hugely strong, powerful drives and urges to do that which we know we’re not supposed to do. In the midst of that, remember that God is able to keep you from falling. You don’t have to fall. You don’t have to yield to temptation.

I love that verse in Jude. It’s verse 24 toward the end of that chapter where the Scripture says, “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy.” I love that verse because that’s what I want. I want one day to face the Lord Jesus, to be in the presence of His glory with great joy. I know that God is able to do it. He is able to keep me from falling and to present me blameless.

Now, it’s also encouraging to remember that God always makes provision for His children to resist temptation. God always makes provision for His children to resist temptation. “God is faithful,” 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

God always makes a provision. He promises a way of escape. Now that way of escape may be the grace to endure. God has made provision for us to be triumphant over temptation. So we need to recognize our need for His protection, cry out to Him for grace, and cooperate with Him in resisting the evil one and running from sin.

You see, the Lord’s Prayer—and we’ve seen this all through this study—is not just a way of praying. It’s a way of praying that should determine for us a way of living. It’s a way of thinking, a way of engaging in life. We can’t pray this way, and we won’t pray this way if we don’t have a desire to be free from sin.

So the question is not just am I going to pray, “Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil,” but do I really want to be kept free from evil? Do I really want to please God? Do I really want to be pure? This petition implies a commitment to stay clear of sin, not just to pray this way, but to live this way—to do all we can to avoid temptation. It’s foolish and hypocritical to pray this prayer and then knowingly place ourselves in a place where we know we may be tempted.

So are you tempted to overspend? Cut up your credit cards. Don’t give yourself occasion to sin. Now credit cards may not be an issue to you. You can use them. You can be disciplined with them, and you pay each month what you owe on it. Maybe that’s not a temptation for you. So use your credit cards if you need to.

But if it’s a temptation for you to spend money that you don’t have and to dishonor the Lord by your spending habits, then remove whatever it is that’s giving you the occasion. Don’t go to malls if that’s what it takes to get you to be disciplined in that area of your life.

Are you tempted to visit sites that you shouldn’t on your computer? Then don’t put your computer in your bedroom where no one else sees it. Put it in the living room. Have it out where other people can see it. Make sure someone else has your password.

Say to an accountability partner or to your mate or to one of your children, “I give you permission to go and check and see where I’ve been” if that’s a struggle for you, if that’s an area of temptation. Don’t fuel the temptation by putting yourself in a situation where you’re more likely to be tempted and more vulnerable to fail.

Perhaps you’re a single woman and you find yourself tempted to be selfish, to be withdrawn, then get a roommate. Do what you need to do to deal with the temptation. You may be tempted to become emotionally or physically involved with a married man in your workplace. Don’t think it’s not happening among Christian women all the time. We’re hearing from the those people after the fact, or the mates after the fact through Revive Our Hearts over and over again.

So what do you do? This strong feeling, desire for this person rises up. I’ve heard married women say, “I could never have imagined that I would have a desire for somebody other than my husband.” But surveys have been done and even among Christian women that have found out that the majority of women at some point in their married life feel a strong attraction or a drawing to a man who is not their husband.

Now there are lots of reasons this can happen. But the fact is when it does happen, what do you do? Don’t feed it. Don’t fuel it. Don’t send him an email saying, “I was just thinking about you.” Don’t stop by his office unnecessarily. Don’t go out to lunch. Don’t call him up. Don’t fuel your flesh.

If there’s a desire there, you have to say, “You know what, I’m a child of God. I do not want to go where I know that will take me, which is to sin against God. So by God’s grace, I’m going to put some protections in my life, some hedges, some barriers, some accountability.”

If you’re struggling with that kind of desire in your own heart or any other kind of overpowering temptation, call up a friend, a godly, mature woman—don’t call up another married man—and say, “I’m struggling with this. Would you pray for me?” I’ll tell you a lot of times just getting it out into the open.

Now, don’t go tell that man you’re struggling that way. That is foolish. But you should find a mature Christian woman and say, “This is a struggle in my life,” and once you get it out into the light, you’ll be amazed at how the force and power of that temptation will probably recede.

Charles Spurgeon said, “When a man carries a bombshell in his hand, he should mind that he does not go near a candle. And you too, must take care that you enter not into temptation.” As long as we’re in this world, we will face temptation—from the world, the devil, our own fleshly desires that press in on us.

So what do we do? We need to agree with God. “Lord, first of all, I agree I am fully responsible when I yield to temptation. I cannot blame You, God, and I can’t blame Satan. I made the choice.” And I agree with God, “Lord, Satan cannot tempt me beyond what You allow. He can’t go past that border, that boundary that You’ve established.”

Then I confess, “Lord, I am helpless to resist sin and temptation on my own. Unless You protect me and deliver me, I am likely to fall. I need You. I need Your grace. Lord, I realize by faith that You are able to keep me from falling into sin. I thank You that You always make provision for me to resist temptation. You’ve made a way of escape, so help me to see it and help me to take it.”

Then we realize that we have to make practical daily choices to avoid situations where we know we would be tempted to sin. "So Lord, we know our own frailty, and because we don’t want to dishonor You or Your name in any way, we ask, O God, please lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen."

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss, helping us better understand the phrase “lead us not into temptation.” That teaching is part of the series, The Lord’s Prayer, Part 3.

Temptation is real, it’s dangerous, and we need to be prepared for it. I’m thankful for the way God uses Nancy’s teaching to point me to God’s Word. I need to remember the truth in order to run from temptation.

Earlier this year, Nancy challenged listeners to spend time reading at least some of God’s Word every day in 2012. If you have accepted this challenge, would you let us know how the Bible has affected you?

Call a special listener line, record your story, and—you never know—we might use your story to encourage others to dig into God’s Word in the future.

Here’s the listener call-in line: 269-697-6123. You can also find that number on today’s transcript at ReviveOurHearts.com.

You have a real, dangerous enemy, but you don’t have to live in fear. You just need to pray. Nancy will explain on Monday. I hope you have a blessed time worshiping in your church this Sunday. Join us again Monday for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.

Topics: Prayer, Sin

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