Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2)

v. 13 “And lead us not into temptation…”


Jesus understands that we fight a spiritual battle on two fronts: inner temptation and external evil. In the first part of verse 13, he addresses the internal threat of temptation. Here, Christ is not implying that God leads us into temptation. Rather, he commands us to pray for the wisdom and strength to avoid compromising situations. James, the half-brother of Jesus, writes:


When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:13-15)


We are tempted when we covet things God has not given us or when we take things he has forbidden us to have. For example, in Eden, the Lord tells Adam that they may eat from any tree in the garden except “…from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:16-17). Just a few verses later:


When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (Genesis 3:6)


The Lord gave Adam and Eve the capacity to choose, gave them a clear rule, and then warned them about the dire consequences of breaking it. The catalyst for their disobedience was not their free will, but a fallen angel, Satan, who charmed them into choosing their way over God’s: “’You will not certainly die’,” the serpent said to the woman. “’For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’” (Genesis 3:4-5).


Satan understands what we think we need. He knew that Eve admired the fruit’s beauty, craved its taste, and coveted the promise of god-like knowledge. Although they could have trusted the Lord to bless them with everything they needed; Adam and Eve chose to take what God had clearly prohibited. When they sinned, their bodies, minds, and spirits were corrupted. They fell and took all of creation—including us–with them. Our free wills are now compromised. Although we know and often do the right thing; we regularly choose ungodliness over righteousness. The Bible calls these the “acts of the sinful nature”:


The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)


The apostle Paul understands that Christ dealt with the eternal penalty of sin on the cross. But he also proclaims that God wants to deal with our present addiction to sin by transforming us into Spirit-filled, Spirit-led, and Spirit-empowered children:


So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (Galatians 5:16-18)


Keeping God’s law by our own power is impossible. Instead, we can resist temptation by living resurrected lives where his Spirit enlightens and empowers us. We learn to recognize what things tempt us so that we might, “Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). We intentionally steer clear of the chaos and destruction that sin can inflict in our lives and in the lives of those we love. As the apostle Paul writes:


So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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 endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:12-13)


When we pray, “lead us not into temptation,” we are actually praying for God’s Holy Spirit to lead us into righteousness for his name’s sake (Psalm 23:3). We are praying for the radical reorientation of our lives under his Lordship:


Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:3-4)


When we pray, “lead us not into temptation,” we are actively cooperating with the Father as his Spirit exposes and annihilates every remnant of our fallen and rebellious nature, remaking us in the image of the Son:


Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. (Colossians 5:3-10)


The best way to destroy temptation’s appeal is to develop a voracious appetite for what the Father serves at his table of grace. The more we eat there, the more we’ll crave his feast and the more we’ll distain the world’s fare.