To live as a Christian in this world is to be involved in spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:10–20). Spiritual warfare doesn’t always look like a Frank Peretti novel. It’s usually far more mundane and earthy than that. Very often, it looks like being led into temptation, but temptation, when succumbed to, can have drastic effects in our war against rulers, authorities, the cosmic powers over this present darkness, and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. And since spiritual warfare is, at root, a clash of kingdoms, temptation succumbed to can have adverse effects on the church’s Great Commission efforts.
When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he began by establishing his Father’s purpose, which should be the church’s purpose: for God’s name to be hallowed across the earth as his kingdom comes. We saw how that purpose affects the petitions for provision and pardon. Today, we will consider how it also affects the petition for power: “And lead us not into temptation” (v. 4b).
Some translations add, “But deliver us from the evil one” (NKJV), which highlights the reality that temptation, when succumbed to, aligns us with Satan’s purpose—and therefore Satan’s kingdom—rather than God’s.
Spiritual warfare means that we live in a sin-cursed will that naturally rebels against God’s authority. Unbelievers naturally defy God’s kingdom and despise his will. It is into this antichrist world that Christians are sent to make disciples so that God’s kingdom will come and his will be done on earth as in heaven. Because we live in a world that opposes Christ, we live in a world that opposes us. The world, the flesh, and the devil oppose our godly desires at every turn and tempt us to evil, which can quickly and easily derail us from fulfilling God’s kingdom purposes.
We saw yesterday how sin and bitterness can thwart our efforts to faithfully live out the gospel commission. Because of this dynamic, we should pray for the ability to live pure lives, which reflect the glory of God. We should pray for the grace to resist temptation. We should pray for the ability to not fall prey to the evil one. We should pray for victory over sin as we strive to conquer the evil of our own hearts. We should pray that those who labour on the front lines will live lives of obedience in cultures that tempt them on every hand.
We will never faithfully disciple others into God’s kingdom if we do not obey our King. We must therefore pray—individually and corporately—for God’s power, which is essential if we will line up with God’s stated purpose.
We must not miss the crucial link between the Great Commission and holiness. The goal of the gospel is not merely to save people from hell. The gospel transforms all of life. God’s intention is, and always has been, to have a people set apart to him. Holiness has always been an intrinsic part of the Great Commission. Josh Buice is correct: “Great Commission Christians go and reach people with a goal that extends far beyond the baptistry. It has a goal of holiness.”
For us to reach people with this message, we must model it. As Ryle says, “We must be holy, because this is one grand end and purpose for which Christ came into the world. Jesus is a complete Saviour. He does not merely take away the guilt of a believer’s sin, he does more—he breaks its power.”
Even in our prayer for the power to overcome sin, therefore, our goal is more than personal holiness. That is a part of it, but it is only one piece of the puzzle. Our personal holiness is critical to the holiness of the church, which is critical to the credibility of the saving message we preach. Our holy God offers freedom from the penalty, power, and (ultimately) presence of sin through his Son, Jesus Christ. We must model that holiness even as we preach it.