We have covered many things in our look at the Lord’s Prayer, but the last few days we were discussing the third clause, “deliver us from evil,” and I realized the I have only discussed the first part of the request, “deliver us . . .” But I never touched on what we are requesting to be delivered from!
Our Father in heaven,
let Your name remain holy.
Bring about Your kingdom.
Manifest Your will here on earth,
as it is manifest in heaven.
Give us each day that day’s bread—no more, no less—
And forgive us our debts
as we forgive those who owe us something.
Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil (Matthew 6:9-13)
There are several things we could mention regarding evil. One thing it that it is a reality. I mention this because too many times we pretend that there is no such thing. This mindset isn’t just with Christian Scientists and Hindu mystics. No, no. It is being propagated in our Universities every day! They want you to think evil away as a mere illusion; others think of it as good in the making, or good misunderstood — “It’s not real, just an illusion that your mind has created.” Ah but in the Scriptures evil is as real as good, and the distinction between them is absolute!
Since evil is real, it is an irrational and meaningless reality; it makes no sense and only definable as good perverted. I am trying not to be too philosophical, but I am almost trying to define an undefinable. But we can say that God is handling it. At the cost of Calvary, he took responsibility for bringing good out of it. He has already triumphed over it, and will eventually eliminate it.
The Christian who is thinking about evil is not being a pessimist because he knows that one day (presumedly soon) this mad and meaningless reality which destroys good will itself be destroyed! Christ ensured this by conquering cosmic evil on the cross. Paul emphatically wrote, “He [our Father] stripped the rulers and authorities of their power and made a public spectacle of them as he celebrated his victory in Christ!” (Colossians 2:15). On His return, He will finally snuff it out!
Allow me to quote a man of some standing; a man who I believe to have a pretty good idea of the operation of our physical universe:
“Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God’s love present in his heart. It’s like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light.”
The man who spoke those words was Albert Einstein.
Maybe an easier way to think about all of this is when we can envision that evil is everything that God does not command or instruct. It is the opposite of what God calls good. Allow me to draw an admittedly imperfect (but I think reasonable) analogy for you—expanding on Professor Einstein’s thought. When you enter a room and turn on a light; you flip a switch, electricity flows to a filament in a light bulb, and suddenly, wonder of wonders, it glows! Presto you just added light to the room! However, when we turn the switch off, and the light goes off, the room goes dark. Did we add darkness to the room? Did the current in the light bulb reverse, and somehow sucked the light out of the room? Or, was the darkness manufactured just like the light was manufactured? No, because darkness is simply the opposite of light. If light is not present, then the result is its opposite — darkness. Darkness is not something that is made, per se; it is simply the absence of light. In the same way, evil is simply the absence of good.
So, we could say that in most simplistic words, evil means badness. Pretty simple, huh? I always thought of creating a bumper sticker that reads: “God Good. Satan Bad.” That is the summation of the reality we live in. As Woody Allen says, “Reality is a rough place to live, but it is the only place to find a good steak.” Jesus said, “Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy.” Now, that is simplistic, don’t you think?
I love what Tom Terry wrote in his article, “Misunderstanding Spiritual Warfare“:
Satan’s objective is not to steal, kill, or destroy. This is because these three things are not objectives. Stealing, killing, and destroying are tactics. Frankly, Satan is perfectly happy to let you live, and prosper, and remain whole and in good health as long as you give him what he wants. What does Satan want? What is his objective as opposed to his tactics? We find Satan’s objective in Isaiah 14:13-14. “You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to Heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of the assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’”
Satan’s objective is to become like God, to literally replace God on his throne. Not convinced? Look what Satan said to Jesus in Matthew 4:9, “All these things will I give you if you fall down and worship me.” Imagine, Satan commanding God to worship him.
So, we see that Satan’s objective is to become like God. In order to accomplish his objective he has many strategies and tactics. As an example, have you ever wondered why Satan has created so many false religious systems in the world that believe so many different and contradictory things? It’s really rather simple. As long as we stay away from Jesus, as long as we ignore his word, we enthrone Satan. “The whole world lies under the power of the Evil One” (I John 5:19). When we disobey God we essentially obey Satan, just as Eve did when she took her first bite.
Satan has objectives, strategies, and tactics. Satan devises strategies to help him attain his goal and he implements tactics to fulfill his strategies. For instance, Satan sometimes uses prosperity to distract God’s people and keep others trapped in materialism instead of sacrificial service to Christ. And yes, he tries to steal, kill, and destroy—but not always. In fact, I dare say that when it gets right down to it, Satan does not have the ability to permanently steal, kill, or destroy where it comes to God’s people. Are you a Christian, truly a Christian? Satan cannot steal you away from God. “No one shall snatch them [Christians] out of the Father’s hands” (John 10:28).
When it comes to eternal life, Satan cannot kill you. Jesus said about this, “I give them eternal life and they shall never perish” (John 10:28). He also said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28). Nor can Satan destroy the church, God’s covenant community. “I will build my church and the gates of Hell shall not overpower it” (Matthew 16:18). In fact, we might go so far as to say that we are the ones who are charged with stealing and destroying. We are tasked to steal from Satan the souls he has trapped in sin (Jude 1:23; Matthew 12:29). We are to destroy spiritual strongholds (II Corinthians 10:4).
So, who was Jesus talking about in John 10:10? . . .
- Who does Satan want to kill? He comes to attack the shepherd in hopes of getting a sheep. Who is the shepherd? Jesus! In this passage, Satan comes to kill Jesus.
- What does Satan want to destroy? Look carefully at passage. “The wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.” Who is the flock? The flock is made up of sheep. The sheep belong to Jesus. Therefore, who comprises the flock? The disciples!
As I stated, evil means badness, which has the effect of ruining, or wasting, or ruling out, goodness — that is, achieving a life that is upright, worthwhile, and joyful. So, since evil is badness (is that a word? Or something I used to make a point?) is seen in our lives in two ways. First, there is external badness. I am referring to bad circumstances, “trouble, sorrow, need, sickness, or any other adversity.” Circumstances become evil when they inflict more pain and frustration than we can turn into good by the way that we take them. Do you understand what I mean? Our reaction to our circumstance makes the difference. In fact, circumstances are not often that bad. Beethoven was able to turn the frustration of deafness and the pain of loneliness into the music of heroism; countless invalids have been able to achieve dignity and peace despite chronic pain; and the psalmist could say, “It was good that I had to suffer . . .’ HUH? “in order to learn your laws.” Go figure that one. Yeah but, a man can only scream until he faints from exhaustion, that is most certainly evil!
There is also an “evil” within us. This is the evil of corruption. This is the badness of evil men and fallen angels, the evil that is expressed in moral failure and perversity, the evil which is from one point a lack of good and from another good gone wrong: as we see in the devil, in Adam, and in you and me. How and why good corrupts is more than Scripture explains or than we can understand, but the fact is there. But then, in relation to the first sort of evil we are passive, suffering it. In relations to the second sort, we are active, actually doing it. “I don’t do the good I want to do. Instead, I do the evil that I don’t want to do,” says Paul (Romans 7:19); to which every honest man’s reply must be, “Yep, and so do I.”
Oh thank God, He didn’t leave us there! Although Christians cannot disregard the evil around and within them, their calling is to face evil and overcome it with good (Romans 12:21). However, that presumes that evil does not overcome them, and here the Lord’s Prayer comes in again.
Jesus tells us to ask His Father to deliver us “from the evil.” Whether this Greek phrase means “evil” in general or “the evil one” doesn’t matter. The first would mean “deliver us from all the evil in the world, in ourselves, in other men, in Satan and his hosts“; the second rendering would mean “deliver us from Satan, who seeks our ruin, and from all that he exploits to achieve that purpose — all the godlessness of the world, all the sinfulness of our flesh, all spiritual evil of every sort“; both come to the same thing.
The greatest point is that Jesus giving us this prayer is an implicit promise that if we see deliverance from evil, we will find it! The moment you cry out “deliver me,” your Father’s rescue mission begins! Help is on the way to deal with whatever form of evil is threatening you!
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