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[This sermon is one of a series entitled “Sermon on the Mount, Concentrating on the Beatitudes,” which is being preached on Sunday mornings by Pastor Tim Senter.]

God gives His people strength to defeat their foes and overtake them in pursuit.

God gives His people strength to defeat their foes and overtake them in pursuit.

We talked quite a bit concerning forgiveness last week. We certainly did not do an all encompassing study. We will need to in the future. What we did discover is that the first forgiveness is provided by God. Without His forgiveness in our lives, we have no concept or ability to forgive. An amazing understanding considering that everyone wants to say, “I’m sorry” when they do something wrong. This sets up a fight between the person who retains all control in saying, “I’m sorry” and the person who perceives that they are not apologetic because they retain control. There is seldom peace in “I’m sorry.” We get a wholly different picture in scripture. This picture, as usual, is opposite the normal operations in the world. Forgiveness in the world is asked for and normally received in the form of the apology, “I’m sorry.” In fact, many do not feel forgiveness needs be given unless requested. Forgiveness in God’s kingdom is not requested but given unconditionally. If it is requested, it is given just as unconditionally. To the Christian, issuing this forgiveness means they retain their relationship with God. That is their paramount concern. How others may view them is only secondary.

Folks, forgiveness is nothing to fool with. I have had to eat some crow in my time. Having sinned against others that did not even know, I felt like David commanding Joab to murder Uriah for him. Joab was simply ordered to put Uriah into the heaviest fighting and withdraw all support from him. Joab did not know why, just that Uriah would die that day and it would be intentional. I have felt as if I unwittingly encouraged strife between people at times with my words. That was never the intent, but it felt that way. Forgiveness provides our soul relief.

This is the relief we see in God – that we ask and He has already forgiven because His Son died for us already. It is already done, all you need to do is ask of Him. This same situation can take place in your life. If you pray to God and forgive sins committed against you, then later an individual comes to you and asks for forgiveness, you can say, “Your sins were already forgiven you.” What a peaceful and loving thing to hear from someone. That your sins against them have already been forgiven! That is the forgiveness in Mark 11:25. That is the forgiveness in Matthew 6:12 (sermon on this text here). That is the forgiveness in Luke 17:3. What a gracious and loving way to live (you should note I did not say easy).

With our forgiveness complete in Christ, we now turn our attention to the next petition. There are some questions concerning this specific petition. Is the first sentence really two different petitions? Is there only one petition with two different angles?[1] What of the second sentence? We go from petitions to adoration again. The prayer does not seem to flow.

Turn with me to Matthew 6:13. By now, with our reciting this in church and having read it every week for the past four weeks, I pray you have been able to memorize this prayer. This one verse should be no problem for us to recite. Please try to do so without your Bible.

This is one of those scriptures for which it is hard to provide an illustration. What we see here is somewhat what we see in man’s desire to be led by others. That is hard to illustrate, but we should try.

In society today–and this is exhibited throughout time– we find many charismatic leaders. We could cite the names of Hitler, even Churchill or Washington. I know, many might bristle at the thought that the likes of Hitler as being mentioned along side Churchill and Washington. Placing two men of tremendous leadership ability and character next to a psychotic mass murderer seems horrid. Nevertheless, we are simply indicating charismatic leadership. All three of these men displayed an attitude of having the answers. People flock to that. They led their respective countries at times of great peril or challenge and through sheer will and charisma were able to have people follow them. To what end? Well, two of them led countries to prosperity. One led their country into temptation (to be the singular world power). When I think of this verse, I think of these things. First, man wants to be led, he desires solid leadership even if he bristles at it in his naturally rebellious nature. Second, he wants this leader to guide the followers to solidly recognizable achievements. Third, when trouble develops during these processes, people want to know that they will be protected; the leader will safely guide them out of the tribulation. What results from individuals that are able to believe in this type of leadership is that they will dedicate themselves, give themselves and serve wholeheartedly for this leader’s cause. We covet loyalty as leaders. What many leaders do not understand is that people actually want to be able to give loyalty. They want to be able to trust. Many cannot bring themselves to it, but they have a desire to be able to trust in, be loyal to and depend upon leadership. It is a security blanket. This is one reason, as I have said on a few occasions, I strive to be predictable. Predictability provides a comfort in knowing what a leader will or will not condone. All those who know me, and know my dedication to this country, our God and my family, know certain things about my attitudes concerning these subjects. I am predictably a patriot. I do not know that I could be considered anywhere near the level of patriot as our founding fathers, or even of some who have served our country in recent history. I will stand my ground for our nation. I am equally predictable in that when asked if we can do something at the church, we will look at scripture for our guide. Everything we need is in there; it is up to us to find it. There are other things that are predictable about me as well. For me to name them may cause me to appear to be a braggart; nevertheless, in all these things, people need not ask what I will do, for they should know.

Our great and glorious God is far more predictable than any man, or even our great leaders (like Churchill and Washington). This type of predictability, the dependence upon the promises of God is what we see here. Read Psalm 23. Here we find many of these very promises kept and rejoiced in by the psalmist. God promises He will not lead us into a temptation (Jas 1:13) or test that we will not be able to handle or escape (1 Cor 10:13). God equally promises He will deliver us from evil (2 Tim 4:8). We find the Lord leaned upon these promises and He was tested and delivered like no other.

I. Leadership (Verse 13a)

When we consider the demand for God to not lead us into temptation, we naturally ask the question, Does God really do that? Again, the answer is inherent in the scripture’s demand. James 1:13 is clear – God never tempts us to do evil, as He could never be tempted with evil and He can never do evil. Tempting one to do evil is evil in itself. As with “give us this day our daily bread,” the phrase “lead us not into temptation” is looking forward to something He promised. This is something He has already committed to, and we exercise faith that He continues in His vow. He will never tempt us. This has to be the joy of the Christian, knowing that they would never be tempted of God. Additionally, there are many verses that tell us of God’s great leadership and His guidance through trials and tribulation. God tests His own, Satan tempts all.

Exodus 15:6 through 18 tells us of God’s great strength and His power to shatter the enemy and overthrow our adversaries. His great power moved the waters of the Red Sea to provide dry ground for the Israelites to cross. God gives His people strength to defeat their foes and overtake them in pursuit. He provides for us to prevail against the tests and temptations in our lives. God’s leadership in verse 13 is described as steadfast, loving and redeeming. Not only does God provide for deliverance from these tests and temptations, He prepares the way to victory. In verse 16 scripture tells us that the thought of this great and faithful God puts fear in the hearts of the enemies of His people. We serve the great God of the universe.

We opened with an illustration of leadership. No leadership provided by man can come close to that of God. No man can actually promise to deliver us from a test, for man is not in control of all the aspects or possibilities of the testing. God, in His sovereignty, controls all tests, and controls them completely. He controls both the circumstances leading into the testing as well as the outcome of the testing. Therefore, only God can set up the perfect experiment (or test in this case) with a truly controlled environment. We can be used to test others, or we can be placed into positions to be tested ourselves. We can be stricken with an illness to provide an avenue for others to depend more upon God than upon us. Our loved ones can respond with adoration to God, or with anger against God. We can equally see others suffer and look to God either in worship or in anger for testing us.

All of these types of incidents can test our faith in a number of ways. Regardless, we are being tested just as Abraham and Isaac were tested. Did you ever consider the test of Isaac? Isaac was fully a grown man at the time of his sacrifice. Yet, all he did was ask his father where the sacrifice was. There is no evidence of a struggle. Abraham submitted to God’s requirement and God provided a way for his escape in the ram caught in the thicket. Isaac submitted to his father because he knew Abraham trusted God implicitly. What a tremendous story of faith, trust and leadership. Consider the thought that for Isaac to completely comply he would have to know that his father did not do this irrationally. He did things out of faith in God, but they were always things Isaac saw. Isaac had to see this faith in action frequently to be able to submit to his father’s request. This was a predictable thing in Abraham.

We also see other examples of this great leadership in our Lord. Matthew 26:41 tells of Christ’s admonition to His disciples not to fall asleep, but to pray. The disciple’s flesh was tempted to sleep because of weariness, but the Lord told them to “watch and pray.” When they were no longer vigilant as instructed, the weakness of their bodies took over and they succumbed to their flesh’s temptation to sleep. They had a way out of the test of obedience – to be vigilant (1 Pet 5:8). This may have meant to stand and post watches around the garden. Whatever it took, talking one to another, praying with one another, reciting scripture one to another – either way they were to be vigilant as the Lord commanded. Jesus did not lead them into temptation and require that they not succumb to it callously. He tested their obedience and did so properly, providing a way to escape the temptation He knew would come from another quarter. This is a prayer that looks at the promises of God and demands that we not be led into temptation. It says that we will not be tested without an exit clearly marked. God promised there would always be an escape and we are praying for that very escape, for His promise to be evident in or lives. Further, we are seeking His leadership in the escape. If this scripture were a question it may ask, “When the temptation comes, where is your promised escape from this testing?” We are faithfully asking that God give us a sacrifice. The issue is that we are doing so with a certainty in our hearts. We have determined God will fulfill His promises and not lead us into temptation. He will (and has) provide that sacrifice.

What a blessing we also find verses such as 2 Timothy 4:16. Paul writes to Timothy about all those who turned against him. Everyone shunned this Pharisee. Christians did not trust him because he was persecuting them. Jews did not trust him because he had fallen pray to this cult called “The Way.”[2] Romans did not like him because he was a Roman citizen and had freedoms above the normal Jew, therefore he could not be prosecuted like a slave Jew. Everyone was against him. Then we read this passage.

17 Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. 18 And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (2 Tim 4:17-18).

In this leadership, in this superintendence of our spiritual growth we see this is a prayer asking God deliver Paul from any evil being perpetrated against him. Paul is confident He would not abandon him to temptation. Just as God stayed with Abraham and Isaac and the Israelites, He will be right there with Paul and with you. Take comfort Christian, God is always with you even through the most severe trials and tribulations.

When you think everyone is out to get you, think about Jesus and think about Paul. Both were ostracized because they believed in God. God always provides a way to safety. Whatever His will, it will be done on earth and in Heaven. We are to be joyous in our temptations for God because our testing strengthens us (Jas 1:2).

Now we look at deliverance from evil. The question is, is this a new petition, or a clarification of the first?

II. Deliverance (Verse 13b)

It is arguable whether this is a fourth petition or an extension of the first part of this verse. There is no real definitive evidence either way. However, we will consider this a clarification or amplification of the first petition mainly based on the first word. The connection word “alla,” is translated into our conjunction which leads to a contrast “but.” We speak in these terms when we say, “This could be great, but…” The first word then is actually a word that indicates, “rather than” or, “on the contrary.” It has a sense that a preference will follow. The issue is still temptation and the demand (deliver is the imperative) is for a rescue from danger. The word for danger says that it is an acute temptation or danger, a very life threatening evil. Therefore, we might render this section, “rather rescue me from wickedness.”

Carson makes the point that we can view this as either “protect me against” or “deliver us out of” depending upon how we view the previous statement.[3] In this use there is a slightly different connotation. The words are saying, rather than undergo the temptation or testing, rescue me from any wickedness I might have to endure during, or perpetrate in attempting to escape the testing. This leads to strong evidence that the word translated “evil” indicates simply “evil” or “wickedness.” However, there is contention concerning most of the translations. Every conservative translation seems to simply indicate “evil;” however both conservative and liberal commentators are split concerning the translations. Some hold that the more literal translation, “the evil one,” which identifies the actual person as Satan, is the proper translation. Others indicate simply “evil.” The Kingdom saint is either calling to be delivered from “evil” or from the actual person attacking or tempting them if you will. Truthfully, there is strong evidence for both. In either case, the call is a deliverance from evil as a whole: whether the evil is personified in Satan, or literally against the tested individual.

Custer notes that the Christian should never look for trouble, trials, tribulation, temptation or testing. However, the Christian knows they live in a fallen world that is never without these things.[4] This is a cry, then, to deliver us from evil. The believer is pleading with God to deliver them from evil completely. The beginning cry was to the Father in Heaven who is hallowed – for His Kingdom to come and His will to be done. The petition calls for God to take the believer to God’s Kingdom which is free from sin. Alternatively, it is a call to bring God’s Kingdom here, such that the world would be free from such evil. Either way, the believer would be free from wickedness because neither Satan nor the evil he perpetrates would exist any longer. This is the plea of the Kingdom saint:  “Dear God, deliver me from evil.”

Christian, we should be pleading with God to remove us from evil. We should be seeking purity, hungering and thirsting after righteousness. In our plea, we should be calling to God aloud to be the salt and light of the world. Ladies and gentlemen, are you holding back anything from your testimony? Are you afraid of taking these bold steps to call upon God’s Kingdom? Hold nothing back. Christ gave His all. Be not afraid, but be of good courage.  Your Savior did just that as He went to the cross for you.

There is a reason we seek this purity. There are reasons for our searching for the righteousness of God. The believer recognizes God for who He is.

III. Adoration (Verse 13c)

There is overwhelming evidence that the last phrase, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever” is not included in the original texts. However, the last word ending the prayer (Amen) seems to have a great amount of evidence to support it.[5] This is one of the instances in which we have to face two issues up front. First, it is likely that the phrase was not included in Matthew’s original writings, and we should want to know what the original manuscripts contain as the purist form of the Word of God. Equally, this section is a beautiful rendition of honor, grace and glory in and to our God and Father in Heaven. Therefore, on one hand, you have text that is spurious at best, and on the other hand it does not detract, but instead seems to worship God. We could quickly and easily see our Lord, as He so often did, call out in just such a fashion to the Father.

Carson notes that,

“…the doxology itself is theologically profound and contextually suitable and was no doubt judged especially suitable by those who saw in the last three petitions a veiled allusion to the Trinity: the Father’s creation and providence provides for our bread, the Son’s atonement secures our forgiveness, and the spirit’s indwelling power assures our safety in triumph.”[6]

In this case, we would find the Savior doing something He does often, quoting scripture to us or paraphrasing it for our encouragement and assurance. This assures us that the scriptures are true in what they say; and encourages us to abide by them. 1 Chronicles 29:11-12 reads,

11 Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all.  12 Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all.”

The beauty and majesty of this proclamation is amazing and wonderful. We want to know God like this. We want to understand and experience salvation at this deep level. We want to be like Christ in our worship and we want to experience God the Father as Christ experienced Him. We want a personal, spiritual and emotional connection with the Father. The Kingdom saint wants to be in the Father’s presence as Christ was before He came to earth, and is now that He has ascended on high. We want to be able to say with the most intimate knowledge and faith, “for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.” We want to be in His kingdom for eternity. We want to be delivered from the evil and wicked temptations of this earth for all eternity, not just a season. The Christian desperately desires in their deepest soul a release from the entrapment of temptation forever. Therefore, whether this section of scripture is contained in the actual manuscripts or not, the Christian wants desperately to be able to say these words with the full faith and veracity of Christ in their very soul.

The Christian heart yearns for this truth. He wants this in his life and in his every day existence. The Christian soul seeks desperately for deliverance from temptation and to be removed from the presence of evil. We should yearn for purity in every minute, every hour, every day and every year of our lives. Every fiber of our being should feel the sting of evil that surrounds us. We should feel it crowding our space, attempting to invade the holiness living within us, seeking to corrupt our very soul. Christian your plea to be kept from temptation, is a plea for a normal life in Heaven for the heavenly pilgrim. It is a plea to be in the Kingdom that you are already a member of, already a resident. You recognize that you are temporarily relocated. It is a plea to occupy the mansion or that very place Christ Himself is building for each of you (Jn 14:2). The deliverance from evil we seek is a freedom from the evil that surrounds us. It is so alluring, so inviting, so tempting; we do not want any part of it because we know our flesh is weak. We see, therefore, a dependence upon God to deliver us from these things because we know we fail. There are those who put money into locations where they know they cannot get to it without severe penalty in order to save.  In the same way, we recognize the temptation to succumb to sin and wickedness in our flesh on this earth – we know we are incapable of sustaining the perfect sinlessness we so greatly desire in the presence of God. “God, help me be with you; in your Kingdom, in your Heaven, in your power, in your glory forever.” Amen?

Christian, are you seeking that deliverance and relocation? We are here to do His will, but we know full well that without His power, we will fail. Are you regularly seeking Him to free you from the temptations of evil on this Earth? Further, do others see Him in you as you refuse the things of the world for His glory, for His honor, in His power and for His kingdom?

[1] Lloyd-Jones, D Martyn, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, One-volume edition (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976),  341.

[2] This was a disparaging term used to identify Christians in the early centuries. It was taken from a variety of philosophies and mystic cult references of the day.

[3] D. A. Carson, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, with the New International Version, Matthew, vol 8. Frank E. Gæbelein, gen. ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervon, 1984, 174.

[4] Stewart Custer, The Gospel of the King: A Commentary on Matthew (Greenville: BJU Press, 2005), 97.

[5] Broadus and Jamison, Fausset and Brown document these issues well. It is a matter concerning the absence of manuscript evidence. The earliest and latest manuscripts do not contain the phrase, yet the preponderance (including most all Latin) do include the phrase. There are clear textual critic evidences that it was a scribal marginal note later included in the text.

[6] Carson, 174.