HEIDELBERG CATECHISM, LORD’S DAYS 52 (QA 127)
HEIDELBERG CATECHISM, LORD’S DAYS 52 (QA 127)
What does the sixth request mean?
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one means,
By ourselves we are too weak to hold our own even for a moment. And our sworn enemies – the devil, the world, and our own flesh – never stop attacking us. And so, Lord, uphold us and make us strong with the strength of your Holy Spirit, so that we may not go down to defeat in this spiritual struggle, but may firmly resist our enemies until we finally win the complete victory.
DEVOTIONAL: DECEMBER 3-9
The good news at the core of the sixth petition of the Lord’s prayer is captured in these words: “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). The Lord rescued Israel from exile and resettled them in Jerusalem, the Holy City. As they were instructed in the Book of Moses, they mourned and wept because of their past sins and failures. The memory of their temptation, sin and exile were met with the words: “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8). The Lord’s joy in His children is Israel’s strength and hope.
The Catechism teaches us to live by sovereign grace alone. The Lord’s joy in His children is also our strength and hope. Therefore, I like to paraphrase the sixth petition this way: “Lord, continue to delight in your children; do not abandon them in temptation, deliver them from the evil one, and equip them to be your holy children.” The Bible teaches that it is the Lord’s joy is to rescue His children (Hebrews 12:1-3), restore them as His holy children (1 Peter 2:4-10), and to sustain them in their sometimes good and sometimes embarrassing journey of faith (Hebrews 4:14-16, James 1:1-18).
We must carefully nuance our interpretation of the phrase, “lead us not into temptation.” God will test us to see if we love him above all. He will also allow us to face severe trial in order to humble our pride. However, He will not and He does not tempt us for our harm. James states: “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone” (James 1:13). Andrew Kuyvenhoven summarizes the meaning of James’ teaching: “We don’t believe…that God leads us to sin. He never does and never will; to suggest that God makes us sin is itself a sin” (Comfort and Joy, 307). When the Lord disciplines us through trials or tests, we are to “consider it pure joy” (James 1:2) since through them He intends to “produce a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11). As a genuine loving Father, He does not indulge our self-interest, but allows pain to enter our lives so that we will be drawn to Him, the God of all good.
Three words effectively summarize the Catechism’s interpretation: reality, resources, and resistance! Let’s explore.
Genuine Christians know their true REALITY. The Bible does not teach a “three-step” approach to overcoming your spiritual giants – size up your reality, know your identity, trust His promises, and, then, like David, your will defeat Goliath. The Catechism is too Biblically committed to sovereign grace to abandon people to that kind of therapeutic, self-help religion. So, it teaches: “By ourselves we are too weak to hold our own even for a moment. And our sworn enemies – the devil, the world, and our own flesh – never stop attacking us.” We are too weak and the enemy is too relentless. We need, therefore, more than a moral example, another religious ted-talk, or a “pray harder” sermon. Only the Lord who joyfully intrudes into the daily fabric of our lives is able to be our strength and hope.
Genuine Christians, therefore, know the true RESOURCES that sustain them in the daily grind of life. They know the Son through the witness of the Holy Spirit according to the teaching of the Word. These resources revolve around one question: “If God is for us who can be against us?” No one because we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us in Christ (Romans 8:37). Jesus, the Father’s gift of grace, resisted temptations (Matthew 4:1-11), bound the “strong man” (Matthew 12:29), and defeated “him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14). The Father and Son have also given us the Holy Spirit so that we are equipped and able to live as He intends. “Through Jesus Christ,” Paul states, “the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). Therefore, Christians are free to grow in the character of Christ, the fruit of the Spirit, rather than be enslaved to the cravings of the sinful nature (Galatians 5:15-15). We know this, finally, through the Word. The Word is the Spirit’s CPR that revives us to life in Christ, restores our sin depleted lives, and makes us living servants of God “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17; cf. Psalm 119:105, Ephesians 6:17, Hebrews 4:12-13). The joy of the Lord is given by His Son, Spirit and Word. His joy is our strength and hope.
Finally, genuine Christians – dwelling in the resources of the Son, the Spirit and the Word (John 15:1-5) – are able to RESIST temptations and live a life of delightful obedience to Jesus Christ. Today, we are able to stand against the devil’s schemes. The accomplishments of Jesus Christ have made us children of God, the life pattern of Jesus Christ teaches us how to live as children of God, and the abiding presence of Jesus Christ assures us we are safe in the journey. The writer of Hebrews speaks of the character of our resistance: “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). Therefore, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16). This gift for today assures us of our bright hope for tomorrow when sin and evil will be no more (Revelation 18-22). This is the joy of the Lord. This is our strength and our hope!
So, pray the words Jesus taught us to pray: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” And pray it with the confidence that it is His joy to be our strength!
Pastor Calvin Hoogendoorn
Sunday, December 3
Prayerfully read James 1:1-18. How have temptations, trials or tests in life helped you grow in maturity in Christ? Are you able to look back at those moments in life and consider them pure joy?
Monday, December 4
Prayerfully read Matthew 4:1-11. How does Jesus’ resistance to temptation encourage you to rest in his sovereign grace through the teachings of God’s Spirit-inspired Word, the Bible?
Tuesday, December 5
Prayerfully read Ephesians 6:10-20. How does Jesus’ finished work of salvation and His life-pattern of obedience equip you to stand against the devil’s schemes?
Wednesday, December 6
Prayerfully read Hebrews 2:5-18. How has the Holy Spirit encouraged you with the teaching that Jesus is not ashamed to call us His brothers and sisters because He has defeated him “who holds the power of death – that is, the devil?”
Thursday, December 7
Prayerfully read Hebrews 4:14-16. Temptations are not themselves sinful. Still, we are sometimes made to feel that there is a faith deficiency in us if we experience them. The text reminds us that Jesus sympathizes with our weakness. How ready, then, are you to admit your temptations and to openly bringing them to Lord? Do you believe that He will help you?
Friday, December 8
Prayerfully read Galatians 5:16-26. Describe the openness of your heart to the ministry of the Holy Spirit. How has He helped you to resist the cravings of the sinful nature and to flourish in the fruit of the Spirit?
Saturday, December 9
Prayerfully read 2 Timothy 3:16-17. How do you submit to God’s Holy Spirit inspired Word so that you will grow in the character and likeness Christ?