Sermon: Lead Us Not Into Temptation
God Does Not Tempt
Given 13-Aug-22; 33 minutes 2022-08-13
description: (hide) The context of James 1:13 proclaiming that God tempts no one, and the petition in the model prayer "do not lead us into temptation" (Matthew 6:13) seem to be contradictory. Tests and trials are not synonyms for a temptation, which is actually a satanic, worldly, or carnal pull away from God’s law or a choice of righteousness leading to life (Deuteronomy 30:19). A major part of the rigorous sanctification process consists of tests and trials to determine loyalty to His law as exemplified by the command to gather a double portion of manna on the sixth day to determine the loyalty to the Sabbath commandment (Exodus 16:4-5). It is solely God’s prerogative to test and to prove, while Satan’s function is to tempt, to trip up, and to destroy. God, first having taken a firm measurement of Job’s resolve and steadfastness, allowed Satan to try to tempt Job and also allowed Satan to attempt to entice Jesus Christ away from clinging to God’s law and word. Similarly, God allows trials and tests to come to His chosen ones to see where their loyalties lie. Tests are designed for people who have matured in the faith to prove their loyalty. We have been given a thorough portfolio describing the mistakes of our forebears (I Corinthians 10:6-13), as a warning not to repeat their mistakes. Tests and trials are meant to be a benefit. God desires that all of His people succeed; Satan ardently desires God’s people to fail. Like our original Mom and Dad, we are offered the fruit of the tree of life (available through the gift of the Holy Spirit) or the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (the addictive pulls of Satan, the world, and our own carnal flesh). We must fervidly choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19-20), growing in godly character, mirroring Jesus Christ.
In June of 2015, the Dateline show on NBC ran a series called “My Kid Would Never Do That.” On one of the shows, the host and some of her close friends decided to place their own children, or child, into a specific test to see how their child would respond. Specifically, they had trained their children just like we have trained ours, to not talk to strangers and to avoid suspicious situations. Now, armed with a multitude of cameras pointed at various angles, and audio to boot, the host and her friends left their children alone doing some crafts in a parking lot under one of those large tents with some tables and chairs.
Now, after several minutes of the kids being alone, along came the ice cream truck. The guy jumps out of the ice cream truck, awfully friendly, and says, “Hey you guys, you want to take a look at the inside of the ice cream truck?” The ice cream guy is of course a paid actor doing his best to entice the kids into getting in to the truck. One by one, even with one of them hesitating a little bit, they all pile into the truck. “Wow, this is so cool. Look at this and look at that.” It is not until after the three kids are out of the ice cream truck, and the ice cream man has driven away, that the host of the show's child says, “That wasn't cool. We didn't know that guy. He could have done something bad.” So he had an “aha” moment.
As parents who love their children, we often teach them lessons or allow them to go through certain things, that if they navigate correctly, will help them to live successful lives. Now, most of us do not go out and hire an ice cream truck guy to come by so we can enforce stranger danger. But as much as possible, we use circumstances and life in general as a series of tests to help refine who our children will be when they grow up and mature. And yet there are other forces that we shall see that prefer to tempt and entice us and our children to fail and ultimately miss the mark.
Now, many of us have never been in this exact situation, but we have all invariably been in situations where we have been tested, tried, and tempted to see what we would do in any given situation. In fact, once God has called you, typically the trials begin and are not in short supply as we continue to walk with God. Now, those parents had put their children into a controlled environment to test, to know what their kids would do based on the training that they had given them.
If we were to think about a biblical example of this type of test, we might think of Job. Not every example is 100% precise, but the parents did not have to put their kids through this test, just like God did not have to put Job through the test. The parents actually thought that their children would in fact pass the test and I am pretty sure that God had a high degree of confidence that Job would pass the test or at the very least learn something through it. And of course we know that Job certainly did.
Now, obviously the guy driving the ice cream truck who spoke with the kids and tried to get them into the truck was not Satan, but he was allowed to do his best to tempt the kids to getting into the truck.
Let us take a look at what trials are. When we think about trials, there are probably several books and even more passages that we could go to in order to understand how we are to handle the various tests that we go through. Now, I think of James, and actually the book of James and Matthew is what started me on this study. So if you will please turn with me to James 1 for our first scripture. We will start in verse 2 and read to verse 4.
James 1:2-4 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
James is interesting here in this first chapter because when he writes, he seems to build sentence upon sentence or concept upon concept. It is almost like 1 plus 2 equals 3. We also need to key in on the “testing of your faith produces patience.” So keep that in the back of your mind. I am going to pick this verse apart because it is helpful for us to understand the definitions of certain things as we navigate the rest of this study.
The word trials here in verse 2 is Strong's 3985. It means “a putting to proof.” So basically by experience of good or experience of evil. It is a testing. It is a solicitation to discipline or provocation. By implication it is adversity, temptation, and try. Incidentally Strong's 3984, 3985, and 3986 are all different versions of the words trial, test, and temptation. They all use those words in their definition and that will come into play here in just a bit. So we have trials which we we can equate to temptation.
Now let us take a quick look at the word testing there in verse 3. It is Strong's 1382 and it means, a testing by implication; trustworthiness; trial; or trying. So now we have testing, which also means trial and to try or trying, which we just learned also means temptation. So tests, trials, and temptations have often been synonymous and for good reason since their definitions are so similar.
Let us continue here in James down in chapter 1, verses 12 and 13.
James 1:12-13 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.
Now, I must admit that these verses were the genesis of this study. And boy, did it have me searching for answers. Knowing that tests and trials and even temptations are defined in what seemed like the same category, I was super-curious as to why we cannot say that when we are tempted that we are tempted by God. Because, after all, does God not test us? Does He not try us? This did not quite make sense. And the first scripture that popped into my mind was Matthew 6, verse 8. If you know that set of scriptures, Matthew 6 is the Lord's prayer. So this is the next scripture that I thought about in relation to God not tempting us.
Matthew 6:9-13 [this is Jesus speaking] “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”
Here I was reading James who was telling me that God does not test, try, or tempt us. And I thought, well, why does Jesus tell us in the model prayer to pray that God will not lead us into temptation? If God is not going to do it, why should that be top of mind in our prayers? Incidentally, the word temptation here in verse 13 is the exact same word in James 1:12.
Another pretty strong point that immediately stood out in my mind is found in Deuteronomy 8. If these words test, trial, and temptation are so similar and James is telling me that we cannot say that we are tempted, also aka tested, by God, when we can clearly read in Deuteronomy that we in fact just like the Israelites are? So what should we make of these scriptures? Let us take a look at Deuteronomy 8 and we will read verses 1-5.
Deuteronomy 8:1-5 “Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe, that you may live and multiply and go in and possess the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers. And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your feet swell for these forty years. You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so, the Lord, your God chastens you.”
These are very direct statements that show God did indeed test and provide trials for the Israelites so that He might know their heart, whether they would keep His commandments or not. He even states in verse 5 that as a man chastens or instructs or disciplines his son, so the Lord treats us similarly. As I read through the scriptures, it becomes very clear to me that God does in fact test us and certainly humbles us. Let us see this reinforced in Exodus 16.
Exodus 16:3-5 And the children of Israel said to them, “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not. And it shall be on the sixth day that they shall prepare what they bring in, and it should be twice as much as they gather daily.”
Hold on to verse 3 for a bit later because it is important to remember that when the Israelites were tested, their immediate thought was that God was simply trying to kill them, only in a different way. So instead of dying in Egypt as slaves, you know, perhaps well fed, they would starve out in the desert as free men with no food. That is a pretty bleak outlook.
Focusing on the word test, something is emerging in regards to this word as we read the scriptures. Notice that God said that He would test them to see whether they would walk in His law or not. Now, if we continued reading, we would see that God clearly outlined that the children of Israel should gather food for six days and on the sixth day lay up twice as much so that they could rest and be fed on the seventh day, which, of course, was the Sabbath.
We could go to several other scriptures, but to put it quite plainly, I thought of school. How many of us took a test on the first day of school? The only type of test that I could think of that you take immediately is a placement test, which typically is a test that challenges your existing knowledge to arrive at an appropriate grade or level that you should begin your higher education. Now, a teacher first teaches and informs the students regarding a particular subject. They answer questions, they provide homework. A teacher actually tries to inform and transfer knowledge to the students in regards to the subject. And then, at the appropriate time, the students take a test to test their knowledge. What did they learn?
And so God tested Israel in the same fashion to see if they would in fact listen and do what He had commanded in relation to gathering manna and resting on the Sabbath day, in order to truly know if they would keep His commandments.
So, what I discovered here is that these scriptures and the thought in my mind did not quite support a true answer to my question as to whether we are tempted by God or not. Here we see in the wilderness walk God provided instructions to the Israelites through Moses. And then at the appropriate time He tested them to see if they were paying attention and if they were learning. Again, here in verse 4, He says, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them whether they will walk in My law or not.”
God provided the instructions and the test was one of faith. Would the Israelites listen and do what God had instructed them to do? I do not know about you, but I do not know how many times I have told my children to listen and do. It is very simple. Right?
Let us look at a couple of examples of a trial. Now, I am trying to rationalize what this means. What does James 1:13 mean that God does not tempt us, if He does test us, put us through trials and other temptations, if these words mean all the same thing? Clearly, we have seen at least in these two verses that God does in fact test His people. This, to me at least, is relatively easy to see because as God calls us, He wants to know that we love Him and that we want to be a part of this relationship with Him, and that we will also be faithful to Him.
This was starting to make sense to me, but I hit just a small snag as I was searching Scripture something that I needed to answer. So please turn with me to Genesis 22 and we are going to read verse 1-2.
Genesis 22:1-2 Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall tell you.”
You are probably wondering why this verse threw me a proverbial wrench in my thinking. Now if you have a King James version of the Bible, the word tested there in verse 1 is actually translated as tempt. Taking everything at face value, we have James 1:13 where James said that God does not tempt anyone. And now we have Genesis 22:1 saying in the King James version that God tempted Abraham. So what are we supposed to think and believe? The short answer is obviously the truth. The Bible, God's inspired written Word does not contradict itself, but sometimes we really have to dig for answers and I was going to keep digging.
But first off in the King James version of the Bible, the word tempted or test, as we see here in the New King James, is used 14 times throughout the Bible and 12 of those times it is directly used to show that someone or some people were testing the Lord or testing God. Now that is someone or a group of people who are testing God to see if He would in fact respond. So, Deuteronomy 6, verse 16, if you would turn there, is a really good example of this.
Deuteronomy 6:16-17 “You shall not tempt [and that word there is translated as test] the Lord your God as you tempted [and that word is tested] Him in Massah. You shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, His testimonies, and His statutes which He has commanded you.”
Moses was reminding the people that they ought not test God to see if He would in fact punish them because of their disobedience. Moses knew that 1 plus 2 equals 3, and if Israel attempted, or as it was translated here, tested God, He would punish them. Hopefully that makes sense. (I am sorry, bounced around a little bit there.) Now the other two times that the word tempt is used in the Old Testament is Genesis 22:1 and we just read that in regards to Abraham. And the other is in I Corinthians 7. So let us turn there and see this word tempt being used. As you can see, this one scripture took me on quite a bit of a journey.
I Corinthians 7:3-5 Let the husband render to his wife the affection due to her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourself to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Now, the picture was starting to come together for me. Notice that Paul states here what husbands and wives should do so that Satan does not tempt them because of their lack of self-control. And so enters Satan into the mix. And we see that Paul is warning against Satan tempting us to sin because of our own physical lack of self-control. Now this tempt is different than what Abraham went through. And personally, I think that the New King James version has it right. God tested Abraham to know his heart, would he listen and do what God had instructed. We know the story. Of course he did and when he did, God blessed him.
In stark contrast, when Satan tempts someone, his goal is to get that person to fall into temptation and sin, and ultimately death. But let us not get too far ahead of ourselves because there is more to uncover.
James states that God Himself does not tempt anyone. So who does tempt us? Well, we just learned from Paul that it is Satan. So let us go to I Thessalonians 3 for our next scripture. We will read verse 1 and we will see this in plain English. Paul is speaking.
I Thessalonians 3:1-5 Therefore, when we could no longer endure it, we thought it good to be left in Athens alone, and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith, that no one should be shaken by these afflictions [afflictions here means pressure, persecution, and tribulation]; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know. For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain.
Now the picture is becoming more and more clear to me that God does not tempt and we could say tempt us with evil. He tests us, and in its most broadest terms, He test us to know where our loyalties lie. Where do we place our trust and faith, and certainly to refine our character. Will we listen and do what He has told us to do? Well, here in I Thessalonians 3:5, a seemingly not so new character was introduced to my study—the Tempter. And clearly this was not God or Jesus Christ. No, this was the well known Serpent and Devil, Satan, the accuser of the brethren. And let us back this up by turning to Matthew 4. These are some really well known scriptures. Probably wondered when I would get here. We are jumping into the part where Satan tempts Jesus.
Matthew 4:1-4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. [That is pretty clear.] And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered him, “It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'”
Here we see that it is in fact Satan who is called the tempter and the one that specifically tempted Jesus. Now, a couple of really interesting things that we can glean from these scriptures. First of all, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted. God allowed that to happen. So God allowed the test and Satan the tempter came to do the tempting. I think for those who understand, similar to the events in Job, Satan can do nothing to God's people unless God allows it. And so God allows the tempter, aka Satan, to tempt Jesus after He had fasted 40 days and 40 nights.
Now, let us see the second temptation that Satan tries to snare Jesus with in verse 5. So dropping down to verse 5 and we will read through verse 7.
Matthew 4:5-7 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written, 'He shall give His angels charge over you,' and, 'In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.'” Jesus said to him, “It is written, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'”
It is interesting that Jesus' response here blasts Satan as he is literally tempting Jesus as God in the flesh. Here, Jesus is saying that we should not test God to see if He will do this or that. Rather we should keep His commandments and statutes and not intentionally put ourselves in harm's way, testing Him to see if He will protect us or not.
On the other hand, the tempter does not really care about God's law and His commandments and His statutes because he has already broken them several times. He cares about causing us to fall, causing us to slip, to sin, and ultimately miss the mark because that was the path that he chose. James was right. God does not tempt, that is, to draw someone towards sin. Rather, similar to Job and Jesus, as we have seen, God does allow His hedge to be drawn back and for Satan to move in and tempt us in certain ways. However, God has told us that He provides a way out of temptation that we might escape.
So, let us really button this up a bit. First, in Matthew 6, verse 13, the answer was basically right there in plain sight. “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Many commentators actually state that since James 1, verse 13 states that God tempts no one that what Jesus is saying here in Matthew 6, verse 13 is simply, pray that God preserves us from going into temptation. That He keeps us from being influenced by Satan. And He finishes the sentence there with, “deliver us from the evil one,” the tempter.
It was now becoming more and more clear in my mind. In fact, it helped me understand Matthew 26:41 a bit better, where Jesus tells the disciples, “Watch and pray lest you enter into temptation. The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.” You see the spirit wants to do what is right, but it is our own fleshly weakness that draws us into temptation.
Back to James 1, verse 13 and I finally came full circle in the study. So if you will please turn with me to James 1 again. Verse 14 makes it very clear who was tempted and who owns what, so to speak.
James 1:13-15 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death.
Now, remember the progression that I mentioned that James takes in these verses. First, we are drawn away by our own desires and were are enticed. That is the hook that grabs our attention. I kind of feel like I might want to give in to this or to that. It is at that point that I believe that God offers us a way out, if we are truly seeking Him and want to avoid sinning at all costs. And so I want to touch off on this. If you will please turn with me to I Corinthians 10 (Dr. Maas was all around Corinthians today) and we will read verses 6 through 13. I do want to mention that in I Corinthians 10, verses 1-5, Paul is reminding the Corinthians about our forefathers and the example that they set for for all of us.
I Corinthians 10:6-13 Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained and were destroyed by the destroyer.
Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the end of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape that you might be able to bear it.
Here Paul reminds the Corinthians of the tests and the trials that happened to the Israelites and that they are examples and admonitions for us today. Remember that James called out that each one is drawn away by his own desires. And here in Corinthians we see Paul list all the things that the Israelites gave into: idolatry, sexual immorality, and even complaining (which I really thought was interesting), resulting in thousands upon thousands of Israelites dying in the wilderness. God indeed did put the children of Israel through trials and tests. We have already seen Scripture that supports this statement. He did not lead them into temptation. That they did on their own, giving in to their own carnal human nature.
Now similar to the Israelites, God will test us and we will go through many trials as He works to refine our character and test our hearts and faithfulness to Him. However, God does not tempt us with sin. God does not know how to sin, nor could He, that is simply how perfect He is. Temptation starts in the flesh of each one of us and we can either give in to it or run away. As James says, temptation is a progression that conceives desire. It gives birth to sin, and when sin is full grown, it brings forth death. Temptation starts with us and our minds and Satan the tempter is right there, ready and willing, just like he was with Adam and Eve, Job, and Jesus, and so many more actually, to fuel the flames of desire that, if possible, he might cause them and us to fail.
Remember, brethren, God tells us in II Peter 3:9, I will just read it. It is a memory scripture. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Once again, James was right. God does not tempt us. God does send trials our way and in those trials He tests us for our own good, our own benefit, that we might grow in the stature and the fullness of our Savior. In all of this, God's ultimate goal is that you and I are successful in overcoming and growing.
Now, on the other hand, Satan, when he is allowed to tempt and provide or enhance temptation, wants you to fail. His desire is that you fall short, that you give up, that you give in so that he can bring you down with him. Tests and trials are given by God for our benefit that we might grow in the image of our Savior. They are given in love by our loving God with the desired outcome for us to pass. Temptation is of the flesh and exacerbated by Satan the tempter and this world to entice us away from God and get us to give in to our carnal desires, to rebel against our Creator.
Let us begin to wrap this up. If you would please turn with me to Deuteronomy 30 for our last scripture. As I was thinking through all of this these two verses kept popping into my mind.
Deuteronomy 30:19-20 “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”
God obviously tests each and every one of us. From Adam and Eve until now He has constantly put before us this precise choice—life or death. We would do well to walk through life consciously thinking about this each and every day. Every temptation, every test, every trial is literally a choice between life and death. Do we eat of the forbidden fruit or do we do what God has told us to do and choose life? God allows Satan to tempt us in various ways, as we see in the account of both Job and Jesus.
The difference between Satan's temptations and God's tests is that God tests us with the things that will help us to grow, things that will help us in the overall conversion process. Satan, on the other hand, has no good intentions in mind. His temptations are not to help us but to destroy us.
Now I know that this was probably a rather long journey about something that I wanted to truly understand. But I certainly hope that it was helpful for all of us to understand the depth and the length that our God and Father and Savior, Jesus Christ, are going to in order to help us become part of Their spiritual Family. God wants us to be there. He wants us to be successful. And so it is important for us to understand what He is and is not doing as a part of this entire process.