7. And Lead Us Not Into Temptation

Let no one being tempted say, I am tempted from God. For God is not tempted by evil, and He tempts no one. But each one is tempted by his own lusts, being drawn out and being seduced by them. Then having conceived lust brings forth sin. And sin being fully formed brings forth death. Do not go astray, my beloved brothers, every act of good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom is no change or shadow of turning. Having purposed, He brought us forth by the Word of truth, for us to be a certain firstfruit of His creatures. So that, my beloved brothers, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath. For the wrath of man does not work out the righteousness of God. On account of this, putting away all filthiness and overflowing of evil, in meekness receive the implanted Word being able to save your souls. But become doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. Because if anyone is a hearer of the Word, and not a doer, this one is like a man studying his natural face in a mirror; for he studied himself, and has gone away, and immediately he forgot of what kind he was. But the one looking into the perfect Law of liberty, and continuing in it, this one not having become a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:13-25)

No temptation has taken you except what is human; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able. But with the temptation, He will also make the way out, so that you may be able to bear it. (1Corinthians 10:13)

And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil… (Matthew 6:13)

We come now to one of the most difficult passages in the Lord’s Prayer which states in its literal sense, ..and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil… Its difficulty lies in the implication, if it is taken literally, that the Lord is somehow involved in leading people into temptation, which is an idea in direct conflict with other statements in the Bible which state that God tempts no one. How are we to reconcile these seemingly opposed ideas concerning the Lord and His activity in states of temptation? To do this we need to look beyond the mere literal meaning of the words of Scripture towards its inner or spiritual sense and to do so from our understanding of the Lord, of who He is and His nature, which we are given insight into from doctrines for Spiritual Christianity. Now it is certainly true that the Lord governs all things by means of His Divine providence and given that this is the case, it must be also true that He allows or permits temptation, but as we shall see it is not the case that He is the initiator or instigator of it.

When we say He allows us to be tempted we need to take care what it is we understand by the Lord allowing or permitting temptation. When we allow something it implies that if we choose to, we could have just as easily not allow it. Permission where that Lord is concerned isn’t like this. Everything permitted by the Lord that is not of the Lord, that is evil, must occur for the sake of the end in view that the Lord holds, which is the salvation of the human race. In fact, such permission is absolutely vital given the state of the human race and the Lord’s desire for the best possible outcome for each and every member of it. If the Lord were to prevent us acting out everything that was from a self-centred approach to life because it was against His will, we would feel like we were slaves to the will of another without a will of our own. So whilst we might we comply with the laws of life externally our obedience would be forced, for within we would still desire what was not in keeping with the Lord’s will.

Having the freedom to act from our desires, even when those desires are evil and opposed to a genuine spiritual life, is permitted because this freedom to act is vital to maintaining our sense of being an independent autonomous self. For the Lord to step in and prevent anyone from exercising their freedom would be to undermine their ability to freely choose their life path. Our salvation rests on this freedom for from it we can freely choose good over evil and truth over falsity both of which are acts of love. So whilst evils are permitted by the Lord they are not willed by Him, rather they are permitted for the sake of maintaining our ability to exercise our will in free choices, which is essential if the way for our salvation is to be kept open.

Temptation, with its struggles and suffering, is not something willed by the Lord. The Lord desires all to be happy, fulfilled and joyful. The doctrines for Spiritual Christianity teach that He desires all to be in the highest heaven. But for this to happen we have to exercise our freedom to bring our faculties into obedience to the Lord’s Word. And this involves having to make choices that our natural man is opposed to and resists. But they are choices freely made and one of the outcomes of this process of separation from what is lower in us in order to pursue what is higher, is the onset of temptations which are accompanied by anxieties and doubts of the mind.

Undergoing temptation is the experience of moving from being natural to becoming spiritual. It is not something the Lord brings upon us but rather is the simply result of our attachments to self and the world being weakened. This is why the Lord permits it. If He didn’t allow temptations we wouldn’t be able to become spiritual and so would remain in our evils. Temptation arises because we are attached to states of life which separate us from the Lord. So if anyone wants to be regenerated or saved then they must be prepared for the fact that the spiritual life involves confronting things within ourselves that are painful. And that if we are to follow the Lord we do so by choosing to resist those states of life that are rooted in destructive selfish attitudes so that more loving states might have the opportunity to fill our minds. This choice is a continued life long commitment.

So given all of this, why does this statement seem to imply that the Lord leads us into temptation? The Word is written so that it can convey an understanding or awareness of spiritual things to all people, whatever their level of ability to receive and work with spiritual ideas and concepts. So when we are in more external states of understanding concerning spiritual things and cannot, for whatever reason, think too much more deeply about spiritual matters than what the Word says on the surface, the statement as it stands in its literal meaning is perfectly accommodated to preserving a sense of the Lord’s authority and governance over all things in our life.

And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil…

When someone reads reads this on a more external surface level and prays this part of the Lord’s Prayer from this perspective, they are affirmed in the truth that the Lord is the one who is in control and governs all things in relation to their life and spiritual walk. The statement taken at face value affirms the important truth that the Lord leads and directs all things. It also teaches us that we are to turn to the Lord when difficulties in life arise, that we are to look to Him as our saviour, as the one who can deliver us from temptation and evil. This is important for people who hold to a simple trust in the Lord, for in turning their thoughts towards the Lord in times of difficulty, the way is opened for heavenly influences to penetrate their minds and to strengthen their will in the face of the doubts that are arising. In this way, a person is held in hope and through their understanding that the Lord’s power governs all things, is able to find comfort knowing that He will deliver them from whatever difficulties they face.

The apparent contradictory statements in Scripture regarding the Lord’s role in temptation can be confronting but the principles of Spiritual Christianity remind us that the Lord tempts no one and that idea that He leads people into temptation is an appearance which people hold to when they lack the understanding that temptation is the by-product of the process of regeneration. It is not the Lord who leads us into temptation, but every person is tempted when their own evils are stirred up in opposition to the truths they have taken into their life from the Lord’s Word. It appears as if it is the Lord who causes temptation because spiritual temptations become more acute as more truths are received into a person’s life. Truths give us the ability not only to see our evils, but to also feel when our selfish tendencies are becoming more active within us. Such feelings most often manifest as forms of anxiety and fear when we incline toward some selfish affections or unloving thoughts towards ourselves or others whilst knowing that such attitudes are opposed to what the Lord wants for us and others.

Before we set ourselves the spiritual aim of working on our inner life many of these selfish elements in us went unnoticed. But as we become more committed to the spiritual path through a willingness to examine ourselves and take the truths the Lord offers us, it seems as if He is leading us into greater and greater difficulties. However, what’s really happening is that we are coming to see more and more clearly those things that exist within us that are in opposed to the Lord’s love and that until now, we have been asleep to. For it is not until we begin the work of examining ourselves and from that work, engage in repentance, do we come to see how much in the dark we have been. Due to a lack of willingness to work with truths from the Word we have been oblivious to the operation of the hellish influences that tied into our self interest. So, it is truths from the Word, which is the Lord, that are now able to shine their light on the true state of our life and show us what we are when we live without acknowledging the Lord as the only real authority.

So while the Lord never leads anyone into temptation, He is certainly the one who leads and guides people through it. As selfish loves and false thoughts get stirred up within us and seek to draw us away from the principles of love to the Lord and our neighbour, our ability to recognise this occurring and the power to resist and fight against these comes from Lord as the Word alone. It feels as if we are doing the fighting, but this too is an appearance that the Lord grants to us so that we maintain our sense of self in it all. But it is as we acknowledge the Lord in the struggle that we are strengthened by heavenly influences which flow into those truths of the Word that we have made part of our lives. These truths are the Lord’s presence with us and it is from these that we are able to resist our own evils and selfish tendencies and are able to be guided by the Lord through the process of dealing with the particular issues that have come to the fore in our life.

These issues that need dealing with and that hold us back spiritually are always grounded in valuing the delights of the love of self and the world over love to the Lord and our neighbour. And they only come into view at a point in our spiritual development or regeneration when we have acquired enough good and truth from the Word to resist them and so have their hold over us weakened or broken, which is our salvation being outworked in our life. This is a very useful principle to get hold of; evils and falsities only come into focus when the Lord has built into us what is needed for our regeneration to progress into its next phase of development. Thus, despite how things may appear we are never, ever abandoned in the temptation, the Lord is fully present with us urging things on toward their fulfilment so we can be more complete as an expression of His image and likeness.

So when in a state of temptation it is useful to hold onto the idea that it must run its course to its completion if we are to enter into the next state or phase of our spiritual development. The Lord won’t extract us prematurely once this process begins. Hence the statement, lead us not into temptation… is immediately qualified with ..but deliver us from evil. This captures the desire of all who are committed to a path of spiritual growth and development. Once we have a better understanding of the use of temptation we are better able to accept the process and all that it brings with it. The same attitude is represented in the words of Jesus is the garden of Gethsemane where He uttered…

If it be possible take this cup from me, however not my will but thine be done…(Luke 22:42)

It is only natural to want deliverance from the unpleasantness and hardships of the struggles involved in living a spiritual life. But as we have seen, there can be no deliverance from our evils or self interest without temptations. That temptations are the only means by which the Lord can break our attachments to these lower destructive elements within us. If we are able to truly see this then we will also be better able to accept the truth that temptations don’t arise from the Lord but are a product of our own evils, and they are permitted for the sake of our salvation.

I was allowed to see the angelic ideas surrounding these words in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil’. Good spirits nearest to me began to remove ‘temptation’ and ‘evil’ by a certain idea that was perceptible within me, and this they continued to do until that which was purely angelic, that is, good, remained, and no idea of temptation or evil was there – the literal sense thereby perishing altogether. Of that good countless ideas were being formed when that removal first began – ideas of how good may come out of a person’s affliction when yet the affliction originates in that person and in his evil, which holds punishment within it. And coupled with these ideas there was a kind of indignation that people should suppose that temptation and the evil going with it should come from any other source, and that there should be any thought of evil when they thought about the Lord. These ideas were being purified every time they rose up higher. These risings were represented by removals, also described in 1393, which were carried out with a rapidity and in a manner that were indescribable, until they passed into the shadowy side of my thought. At that point they were in heaven where angelic ideas beyond words exist regarding that good which is the Lord’s. (Arcana Coelestia 1875)

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