If you know the prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray, you know the line: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil…”
I’ve prayed that prayer. I’ve asked God to remove temptation from me. Here’s my problem – it might be yours, too: I like temptation.
What I mean is I have a bent toward certain sins. My temptations are not the same as yours. Jack Daniels is not a temptation for me. Ice cream is (especially in summer). Which is more lethal? The church crowd frowns on Jack Daniels, but I’ve seen sugar kill a lot of Baptists.
When I talk about my temptations, I refer to food because it evokes a smile and a nod. I hate to be honest about my other temptations. They are real and dangerous too.
I’m tempted to always be right. I can’t tell you how many relationships I’ve harmed because I had to prove I was right.
I’m tempted to lust. Lust isn’t noticing someone is a female (or male). It is objectifying a person. Lust is treating someone as an object rather than a soul.
I’m tempted to want approval. I want people to look at my life and say, “What a fine person he is.” Even when I fail, I want them to say, “Isn’t it wonderful that he fails every now and then? Otherwise, he’d be almost as perfect as Jesus.”
I’m tempted to believe rules don’t apply to me. The speed limit is for others, not me (I tried to explain this to a State Trooper once). Calories impact others, not me. Time should slow down when I’m running late because I manage myself poorly.
I struggle with other temptations, but you get the idea.
Here’s my conundrum: I like the first sensation when I give into temptation. I do. I like the taste of ice cream. I like people saying, “I like your preaching.” I like the rush of driving fast.
But I hate the sick feeling of too much sugar. I hate the guilt of objectifying people. I hate feeling like I have to meet someone’s expectations all the time. I hate the shame of letting people down.
I hate the self-destruction I inflict on my own soul.
Let me tell you how dumb I am: I return to the same old temptations time after time, expecting different results. Didn’t Einstein say the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?
To really ask God to deliver me from temptation, I have to accept an uncomfortable reality: My temptations are not good. They never are good. The temptations lead to sin, which leads to soul-erosion, which means I have to do internal repair work. I get tired of re-building the same section of my soul over and over.
I think Jesus is telling me when I pray, “Lead me not into temptation” the worst thing I can do is put myself in an ice cream shop and say, “Lord, help me not want ice cream.”
To pray “lead me not into temptation” means I will start my day by thinking about temptation zones. Some of the temptation zones are physical places. Some of the temptation zones are spiritual places. All the temptation zones have warning signals my soul hears: Danger! My soul is telling me, “Don’t go there. Don’t go there physically. Don’t go there in your head. Nothing good is going to happen there.”
If only I would listen.
It really comes down to this: Whatever tempts me to move away from God is not good for my soul. It’s never good for me. Never.
That’s a harsh reality I would like to deny – but it’s true.
“Lead me not into temptation” means I know no good comes from temptation. Period.
Excuse me now while I go throw out a carton of ice cream.