A question has come in from a listener who asks this: “Pastor John, Jesus tells us to pray this line in the Lord’s Prayer: ‘Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’ How are we delivered from evil, and how does he save us from temptation?”
First, I think when it says “deliver us from evil,” it probably does mean “the evil one,” but it works either way because he is behind every temptation. The primary strategy of the devil is to deceive us. He is primarily a deceiver. Revelation 12:9 says, “The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world.” John 8:44 says, “When he lies, he speaks out of his own nature.” So the strategy of the devil in bringing about temptation and evil is to deceive us, to put thoughts in your mind or feelings in your soul that are false. He lies to us about where happiness is best to be found.
So how does Jesus ask the Father to deliver us? And we have another prayer, interestingly enough, besides the Lord’s prayer. And Jesus prays the same thing, only he expands it and answers the question. Compare John 17 to the Lord’s prayer. And here is what Jesus prays in John 17:15: “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” And then verse 17 says, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” Now that should not be a surprise to us that he says to the Father, “There is an evil one out there. His primary strategy is deceit. Please, guard them from that evil one. And here is the way I think you should do it.” Like the Son could tell the Father how to do it; namely, in the truth. “Make them holy in the truth; your word is truth.”
So sanctify means “help them be holy and conquer temptation by being holy.” How? In your truth. By truth. More specifically, your word — not just vague truth, any old truth — but your word is truth, meaning those promises that God had made to us and those facts about life and about his way and his being.
So, “by your word,” what is that? Well, the antidote to every falsehood are the truths of Scripture. In fact, I would say there is no remedy — none for falsehood other than truth, none. So if falsehood is the modus operandi of the evil one, by which he tempts and destroys us, there is only one remedy and that is the opposite of falsehood and that is truth. So when the word is proclaimed, Matthew 13:19 says, “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand, the evil one comes and snatches away the word.” What else would he do, right? So we have to be so vigilant. I am not going to let Satan take the word in my heart. I am going to believe it and hold on to it. I am going to say it over and over again. I am going to nullify his deceit in my life.
So how does God deliver us from evil and from temptation? I will just give you three verses from the Bible that show how he does it. Number one: Hebrews 3:13 says, “Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” How we are delivered? We are delivered by the church. “Exhort one another every day, lest you be deceived.”
Number two: Put off your old self. This is Ephesians 4:22: “Put off your old self which belongs to your former manner of life which is corrupt through deceitful desires.” So desires lie to you. You have got to tell the truth about your desires and so put on the new man. And what is he? “Renewed in the spirit of your mind” (verse 23). Minds filled with what? Verse 24 says, “Put on the new self created after the likeness of God in righteousness and holiness in the truth.” We conquer the old self with its deceitful desires by filling our minds with the truth — the precious, infinitely valuable, Christ-exalting truth of Scripture.
And the last one, number three, is 1 Peter 1:14: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance.” Where did your passions come from? You were stupid. You didn’t have any eyes to see Christ as beautiful and superior over all the temptations. So kill that ignorance. With what? You can only kill ignorance with one thing. Knowledge and truth.
So when Jesus prayed, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” he clarified in John 17, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” God delivers me and you from evil by saturating us with the word, and we ought to join him in it.