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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Does God Lead us into Temptation?

The Lord’s prayer has a line that goes, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” or, as it might be more accurately translated, “from the evil one.” Who is the evil one? The Bible says it is the devil. What is evil? Evil is defined as a force that is destructive and harmful.
Most of the world agrees that what happened on September 11, 2001, was indeed evil.
Pastor Shim asked people if they think that God leads us into temptation, and the people answered, “No.” However, a lot of people think that God doesn’t keep temptation away, either, and that sometimes He fails them because He doesn’t remove the temptation. Is it God’s fault that we “fall into” temptation? Did the devil make us do it? No—it’s a matter of our own personal choice. [Anne’s comment—God didn’t make us puppets that “have” to do what’s wrong or what’s right when our strings are pulled.]
What was God’s instruction? “This is the one tree that you may not eat from—you may eat from any other tree in the garden, just not this one. If you eat this fruit or even touch it, you will die.”
What was the devil’s temptation to Eve? “The fruit is good, pretty to look at, and it will make you like God, deciding for yourself what is good and what is evil. God won’t kill you, because you can decide for yourself what is good and evil.”
Why did Eve—and Adam—choose to believe the devil rather than God? Because they wanted to; because they forgot the all the benefits God gave them. What the devil said sounded more inviting. Give the devil his due—he’s pretty convincing. Especially when it’s something we want to believe.
Take the story of Joseph and Potiphar in Genesis Chapter 39. When Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt, he became Potiphar’s overseer over his house. Potiphar’s wife became enamored of Joseph and kept inviting him to sleep with her. Joseph refused, saying, “Potiphar trusts me with everything he has, refusing me nothing except you. How could I commit this evil and betray God like this?” She caught him alone one time, and insisted that Joseph lie with her. He ran away from her, leaving his cloak behind. She furiously accused him of rape, and Potiphar believe her and threw Joseph into prison. Joseph chose to do the right thing.
Jesus was also tempted, but He also resisted the evil (Matthew Chapter 4).
It is good to question and wonder what the repercussions from our choices are. This is what different religions and philosophies think evil is: a) a mistake made by basically good and decent people; b) a natural response of our deeply sinful basic natures; c) the result of the devil’s seductions of weak people; d) an illusion e) a mistake in our past life; f) nonexistent; f ) Proof that there is no God.
These are the responses to evil from philosophical and religious views: a) evil a test of faith; b) evil is punishment for our sinful natures; c) evil is punishment for our bad choices; d) evil is a way for each one of us emulate the suffering of Christ; e) evil is an illusion; f) evil is proof that there is no moral order in the universe and a challenge to give up the child’s illusions that goodness is rewarded and evil punished.
The Bible says that God won’t allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to resist, but will through the temptation provide a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13). We fall into temptation and fail tests when we love something or someone (including ourselves) more than we love God. Two strategies to help us to resist: self control, submitting ourselves to the guidance of the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 5:8); and standing firm (1st Peter 5:9). God wants us to take responsibility.
Here is a prayer to help you: “Yes, O Lord our God, lead us not into temptation which we are not able to bear, but with the temptation grant also the way out, so that we may be able to remain steadfast; and deliver us from evil.” (5th century eastern liturgy of St. James)

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