The last prayer
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
James 4:7 ESV
Today we’re wrapping up the “Our Father”. On Monday we saw that in teaching us the “Our Father”, Jesus was teaching us the importance of life in the “now”. Today I want us to look at the last verse, verse 13:
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.
For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours forever. Amen.
Earlier in this series we touched on this paranoia that we Christians sometimes have about God’s motives. We know he calls us to a life of faith, obedience and trust in him, but we see these things as taking away rather than life giving. Even when we agree that yes, God is good, yes, he is wise; even when we see God’s love and care in our day-to-day lives, we generally balk at the idea of living truly faithful lives (or at least I do: it straight up scares me!) Why? I think the answer to this is rooted in the fact that, at heart, we don’t really think sin is all that bad.
We like putting sin on a spectrum; we like to think that there are degrees of sinfulness. Calling someone a name is never going to be as bad as butchering someone with an axe. That’s just common sense, right? Right! Except that, to Jesus, these two things were synonymous with each other. In Matthew 5:21-22 MSG Jesus tells his audience:
You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.
Sin is not a matter of degree; it is a binary, either/or. You either sin, or you do not. You either keep the whole of the law, as James wrote in his epistle, or you become liable for all of it:
For if a person could keep all of the laws and yet break just one; it would be like breaking them all. The same God who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also says, “Do not murder.” If you break either of these commands, you’re a lawbreaker, no matter how you look at it. (James 2:10-11 VOICE)
This tells us that, to God, sin really is that bad. Not because he is joyless and he wants us to be, too; not because he is petty or mean or spiteful. God hates sin because he knows the end game. God hates sin because he knows the repercussions sin has on our own lives and the lives of the people around us. God hates sin because it is a wedge in a door that, once it’s in there, won’t shut properly; and once it’s open, it’s open for all kinds of things to come sneaking in. God hates sin because the result of sin is always the same: death. God hates sin because he created us for life.
Old Nick loves this idea we have hidden away in our hearts that God is ambiguous; nice when you’re nice, not nice when you aren’t. He has masterminded a magnificent scheme: on the one hand he tempts us to sin, telling us it’s not so bad, it doesn’t matter; and on the other, if we give in to that sin, he shames us with it, calling us unworthy, unlovable, incorrigible – all to the purpose of trying to get us to turn our faces away from God, because our human frailties do not stand up to him. But Old Nick is a liar. God is not ambiguous: he is constant, he is good, he is just. He never turns us away, no matter how sin-splattered we are. It is exactly because he knows our human frailties that he yearns for us to live sinlessly, because it’s only then that we don’t have this uncertainty weighing us down like so many rocks. Living close to God shuts a door that our enemy really, really wants us to leave open just a smidge.
I think this is why Jesus ends this prayer the way he does: And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. God doesn’t bring us tribulation – the world does, sin does, Old Nick certainly tries his best to. But remember the whole prayer. Remember that God is our Father, our Daddy, through the Sonship of Jesus Christ. Remember that he is close and powerful. Remember that the world as we know it has been ending since the moment Jesus picked up a piece of bread and said, This is my body. Remember that the world as we know it has been ending since the moment Jesus died for our sins, wrestled death for three days, and rose from it victorious. When we pray to be rescued from the lies of the adversary, we pray it from a place of when, not if. We pray it from a place of victory: For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours forever. Amen.
In ending, let’s pray the whole “Our Father”.
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. (KJV)