Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
The God Who Delivers Us From Sin
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world– our faith.
1 John 5:4NKJV
This morning we continue to study Westminster Larger Catechism Question 195, which asks, “What do we pray for in the sixth petition?” The fourth part of the answer states: “In the sixth petition (which is, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,)… we pray, that God would so overrule the world and all in it, subdue the flesh, and restrain Satan, order all things, bestow and bless all means of grace, and quicken us to watchfulness in the use of them, that we and all his people may by his providence be kept from being tempted to sin….” Last time we saw how even as born again Christians there is nothing in us that would move God to lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil. In fact for the last three articles we have focused on what needs to be in our minds and hearts in order to rightly make this petition to God. Today we begin to look at what it is that we are actually asking for when we say the words, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
God is sovereign. God rules over all. God is good. God is for all those who trust in Jesus Christ. Because of these truths we can pray to God that we would not be led into temptation but delivered from evil. God is all-powerful, all-good, and He is on our side. You might be tempted to ask at this point, why do we need to pray at all? Since God is for us, who can be against us, right? So why do we need to pray this prayer? First of all we need to pray because the all-powerful, all-good God who is for us commands us to pray! That alone should be enough for us regardless of whether or not we ever understand why He commands us to. But God does more than merely command without explanation, He tells us precisely why we need to pray. The answer is simple: we need to pray because God has decreed to accomplish His good plans for us through our prayers, words, and actions. Therefore, if I am a Christian, and if I would like to see myself not be given over to temptations or evils, then I must trust God by asking Him to deliver me from them.
As we saw last time, our three enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil are all too powerful for us to withstand or overcome. However God is infinitely greater, stronger, wiser, and more powerful than all of them put together. Therefore, if we are in Christ and if we ask God out of real faith to deliver us from these things we can know and expect that He will. Now God does not and will not deliver us entirely from these things and neither should we ask Him to. So long as we live in this sinful world we will have to continue to battle the world, the flesh, and the devil. But we can expect more and more victory over them if we faithfully pray this prayer to God. And we should know and believe that in all of our struggles with them God is working for our good.
So how does God deliver us from them, seeing that He does not entirely remove them from us? The Catechism says that God “overrules” the world and all that is in it. That means that even all of the efforts of sinful man against one believer will be turned back. We see this often in Scripture, supremely in the crucifixion of Jesus by His enemies resulting in His victory over them. Likewise, God “subdues” the flesh. That is, God will cause our sinful desires to weaken. Also, God “restrains” the devil. Here God will not allow the devil to come at us more than we can bear. Thus, we see God limit Satan’s access to Job. The more we pray for these things in real faith, the more we should see God overruling, subduing, and restraining.
The other side of this prayer is that God not only comes against our enemies for us, but He gives us more strength to fight them. Thus the Catechism says that part of our request in this prayer is that God would “bestow and bless all means of grace, and quicken us to watchfulness in the use of them.” As we saw earlier (Q 154), God gives us real weapons to fight our spiritual enemies and we are to take up those weapons and become more skilled in our use of them. May God move in all of our hearts to ever more pray for our deliverance from our enemies!