September 20, 2023

September 20, 2023

Author: Pastor Mark Bauer
September 20, 2023

“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

Matthew 26:41

Well, in this section of Matthew we’re reminded that this takes place on the night in which Jesus was betrayed and after the Passover meal and after Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, Jesus and the disciples went to the place called Gethsemane. They entered the garden of Gethsemane and here Jesus prepares himself for what will be taking place later that night, his betrayal, his arrest, his trial, his sufferings, his humiliation, and ultimately then the next day his death upon the cross. As he enters the garden he then seeks to go to a separate place, or more private place in the garden where he can then pour out his heart in prayer and as he goes to that separate location he takes with him Peter, James, and John. He opens up his heart to them and shares with them his great burden. He says to them my soul is very sorrowful even to death. Remain here and watch with me. Jesus asked them to watch with him and then he goes off a little distance from them and there he prays knowing that the cup of God’s wrath is before him that he must drink it and so he prays to his Father—my Father if it be possible let this cup pass from me, nevertheless not as I will but as you will. Then he returns to his 3 disciples the ones whom he asked to watch with him and he finds that they are sleeping. Then Jesus speaks directly to Peter and he says these words to him which we read in verse 40. “So, could you not watch with me one hour?” Verse 41 “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

So, what I would like to do this evening as we prepare our hearts is to briefly consider this exhortation to Peter to watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. In these words of Jesus Peter is first exhorted to watch, to be alert, to be on guard, to be watchful for temptations and these temptations may come in various forms. They may come from what I would describe as internal temptations that arise from our own sinful inclinations. James 1:14 says each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. We can be tempted by our own internal desires—desires of the heart. We can be tempted by heart desires that lure and entice us. It’s language that gives us a sense of being drawn as it were into a trap. In Galatians 6:1 it speaks there of a person being caught in temptation. So, we must be watchful, we must be on guard because our hearts and be deceitful and the desires of our hearts can lead us into temptation—temptations that can trap us and ensnare us in sin. As James then warns us, he says then desire when it has conceived could spur us to sin. So we must be watchful of internal temptations, our own hearts’ desires that can lead us and draw us into sin.

But, also we need to be watchful for what I would describe as external temptations—temptations that come upon us as a result of external events or circumstances. In 1Peter 5:8 the church is told to be sober minded and watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Our adversary the devil is seeking to destroy. His schemes and desires are clever and they differ for each person. Think of the example of how he attacked Job and we see that his attacks against Job were designed to tempt Job to curse God and Satan uses external events as he seeks to tempt Job. Satan first destroys all of Job’s possessions and his wealth. He then goes on and destroys all of Job’s children. Satan then is relentless and he continues his attacks and then he goes after Job’s physical health and actually attacks his health. Then Satan even uses a loved one, his wife to tempt him and she tempts him to say curse God and die! Satan uses all these external forces to tempt Job. Although Job was tempted he did not sin! In all of this, Job did not sin or charge God wrongfully! So I say we need to be watchful not only of internal temptations but also of these external events, these things that can tempt us to sin. Well temptations, we know that they will come. Jesus warned his disciples and he warns us in Luke 17:1 saying that trials are sure to come. There is a certainty that trials and temptations will come into our lives. So, knowing that temptations to sin are certain to come, what then shall we do? Well then, going back to Matthew 26:41 Jesus tells Peter and tells us what we must do. We must pray to God for help. First of all I suggest that we need to pray for help to watch, to be alert, to be on guard, to be watchful for those temptations that may lay before us as we go about our daily lives. Also, for temptations that can be hidden as a snare or a trap to cause us to sin. We need to pray to God to see the evil and the sin that is hidden in temptations.

I was looking through a book titled “Into His Presence—Praying with the Puritans”. In that book it gives a number of prayers of the Puritans and I would just like to reference a portion of one of those prayers from Thomas Boston that I think answers this sense of praying for help to watch. Thomas Boston’s prayer says this “Lord God when the devil presents the bait, show us the hook. When the devil presents the golden cup, show the poison hidden inside. When the devil presents the sweet pleasure of sin, show us the misery that will follow. When the devil presents the profit of yielding to sin, show us the wrath that comes from committing it. When Satan promises the soul honor and profit, give us eyes to see the shame and loss he delivers. Strengthen our resolve that we keep the greatest distance from sin and not play with the golden bait held out by Satan. So therefore, I suggest that knowing that the temptations to sin are sure to come and certain that they will come, one thing that we can do as we are exhorted by Jesus is to pray to God for help to watch, to be alert, to see the sin that lies beneath the temptations that we may encounter each day. But also, I would suggest that as we pray to God for help we should pray to God for help to avoid the temptation itself. As in the Lord’s Prayer in given in both Matthew 6 and Luke 11 Jesus teaches us to pray these words in our prayer “…lead us not into temptation…” We’re to pray that we are spared from or kept from temptation. As we pray for God’s help in this and as we are watching and seeking to see the sin that lies within the temptation we should also be praying for wisdom and prudence to avoid the temptations. Also that God would grant us grace to obey the warnings given to us in his word and pray for the Spirit’s help that we might take steps to steer clear of temptation. One man described it in this way. Knowing our patterns and our proclivities to a particular sin we need to avoid unwise contacts. We need to flee youthful passions so we should pray that God would give us wisdom to flee the youthful passions. Likewise in Romans 13:14 it says “Make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires” so we should be praying that we make no provision for the flesh to open up ourselves to temptation whereby we might sin. But also, we see in the Proverbs often times the encouragements and warnings of a father so we should pray that we heed the warnings of God our Father found in his word and seek to obey those warnings. Just as the father warns his son about the forbidden woman and says keep your way far from her and do not go near the door of her house. As we look through God’s word and we see his warnings and we see his law we need to be praying God help me to obey, and avoid these temptations so that I might not sin. So we should be praying that God would not lead us to temptation. Pray for God’s help to have wisdom and help to avoid the temptations that are sure to come.

But then thirdly I’d say, we need to also pray to God if we find ourselves in the midst of temptation. God is wise and knows how to rescue us out of temptation. As Peter reminds us in 2Peter 2:9 he says then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials. God knows how to rescue us. But not only does he know how to rescue us, even more glorious God is merciful that he will rescue us! He provides us a way of escape when we encounter trials. In 1Corinthians 10:13 we’re told no temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape that you may be able to endure it. So then, knowing we will encounter temptations and if we find ourselves in the midst of temptations I would say that we need to heed Jesus’ exhortation and pray that God would show us the way of escape and that he would give us help to flee, to escape from that temptation so that we might not sin. So, knowing that each and every day temptations are sure to come I would suggest that we need to obey this exhortation from Jesus to watch and to pray that we may not enter into temptation. May God even help us to be alert, to be on guard and to watch and to see the hidden sins in temptation. Also, we know our weakness and to acknowledge our great dependence on the Lord and pray to him for help that he might even allow us to avoid temptation that we not be led into temptation. But then, if we find ourselves in the midst of temptation pray to God for help. Pray that he would rescue us and show us that way of escape.