Deliver Us From Evil

There was a phrase from the Sermon on the Mount that seemed to hit with particular force on Sunday: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” As Pastor Phil mentioned, for those who have spent their lives in the Church the sheer repetition and familiarity with verses like this can lull us into an unexamined passivity about them that we would do well to shake off.

 The very notions of “sin” and “evil” may seem to some like repressive religious artifacts, out of step with more contemporary views that permeate our culture’s understanding of the way human life works and what prevents it from flourishing. I think this has a way of subtly seeping into the Church, perhaps combining with our proclivity for “cheap grace,” in that we often just don’t see sin as that big of a deal. Perhaps we tend to see it as inevitable and unavoidable, and therefore not something we need to earnestly pray to be led away and delivered from.

This stands in a marked contrast to the way many figures in both the Old and New Testament viewed it. My mind goes to King Josiah who dealt decisively and aggressively with the idolatry that kept luring his people away from God. In 2 Chronicles 34 we read of him, “In the twelfth year he began to purify Judah and Jerusalem, destroying all the pagan shrines, the Asherah poles, and the carved idols and cast images. He ordered that the altars of Baal be demolished and that the incense altars which stood above them be broken down. He also made sure that the Asherah poles, the carved idols, and the cast images were smashed and scattered over the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. He burned the bones of the pagan priests on their own altars, and so he purified Judah and Jerusalem.” That is intense. He destroyed-- literally pulverized-- the idols that tempted those under his span of care into sin.

We see a similar passionate intensity from Paul in 1 Cor 9:26-27 where he both compares and contrasts himself with the athletes of his day and says, “Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” There is a wonderful exposition on this passage by Kenneth Wuest where he notes, “Paul says that he is not like the Greek boxer in these respects [shadowboxing]. In his conflict with evil, he strikes straight and does not spare . . . When we think that the Geek boxer wore a pair of fur-lined gloves covered with cowhide which was loaded with lead and iron, one can imagine the punishment to which the recipient of the blows is subjected. If a Christian would be as energetic and unsparing of evil in his life as the Greek boxer was of his opponent, and would strike with the same devastating force, sin would soon be cleared out of his life and stay out. What 'softies' we Christians are with regards to sin in our lives. How we sometimes cherish it, pamper it, play with it, instead of striking it with the mailed fist of a Holy Spirit inspired hatred of sin and a refusal to allow it to reign as king in our lives.

In a more delicate but still perceptive analysis, Dallas Willard writes in Renovation of the Heart, "Our present American culture boasts of complete freedom in what one sees, says, and hears. Many professing Christians are paralyzed or even destroyed by adopting this 'freedom' as a lifestyle. For they allow images into their minds that eventually overwhelm them. If we allow everything access to our mind, we are simply asking to be kept in a state of mental turmoil or bondage. For nothing enters the mind without having an effect for good or evil . . . If God's eyes are too pure to behold evil, we had better think it might be wise for us to look away as much as feasible - even if it is called entertainment. We are to abhor evil and cleave to that which is good, and the foundation for doing that lies in where we choose to place our minds. . . Those who let God be God get off the conveyer belt of emotion and desire when it first starts to move toward the buzz saw of sin. They do not wait until it is moving so fast they cannot get off it. Their aim is not to avoid sin, but to avoid temptation - the inclination to sin. They plan their path accordingly.”

What step is the Holy Spirit prompting you to take to give actions to your prayer to be led not into temptation but delivered from evil and the evil one? How will you plan your path accordingly?

This struggle against sin and evil in our lives is not an end in itself or a means of promoting our own sense of moral rectitude or displaying our self righteousness, nor do we despair when we fail. Rather we approach it with the humble confidence that in his mercy, though we may fall seven times, we will rise eight (Proverbs 24:16). The fight is itself a Holy Spirit enabled means of grace where we desire God’s love and presence in our lives in the most unencumbered and undiluted way possible. We don’t just turn away from temptation. We turn towards him. We engage in this struggle in thoughtful and intentional ways because “blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” We hunger and thirst for righteousness knowing we will find our deepest longings filled only in Him.

by Steve Lamp
Steve and his wife Melissa began attending Kingsway in 2014. Not normally prone to public displays of emotion, he wept during the first worship service and knew he had found home. As an avid reader, Steve believes the ideas we allow into our minds are critical to our spiritual formation. He enjoys exploring nature, playing and spending time with his two young sons and over-quoting his favorite authors, C.S. Lewis and Dallas Willard.

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