the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (Matthew 6:13).
The final petition in the Lords prayer is a request for increasing maturity apart from hardship. In other words we are instructed to ask our Father in heaven to enable us to progress in Christlikeness without the goad of trial and temptation. This doesn't mean trials are something we should bemoan; the Scripture tells us to count it all joy when we face various trials (James 1:2). Nevertheless, we are instructed to pray for maturity through the instruction of God's word and the illumination of the Holy Spirit apart from temptation. Underlying this request is the principal of progressive development as opposed to starting every day from scratch.
The request for advancing maturity corresponds to the fifth point in the covenant sequence: continuity. Continuity implies maturation and the transfer of inheritance. It tells us to expect progress in the realization of the kingdom as succeeding generations build upon the material and spiritual work of those who have gone before.
Cultural advance is not a natural process. The United States of America is the most prosperous nation on earth because we have been blessed by Almighty God not because we are at the top of the evolutionary ladder. Although we have turned away from our Christian heritage, God is longsuffering and we continue to experience covenant blessings because of the spiritual capital bequeathed us by our forefathers. On the other hand, nations in sub-Saharan Africa languish in perpetual primitivism simply because they have not been sufficiently penetrated by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Thus, the increase of blessings and the transfer of inheritance depends upon an unbroken connection between all parts of the covenant. If the covenant sequence is severed at any point those covenantal features beneath the break fall away. For example, to acknowledge God as the sovereign (in some sense) yet refuse the mediate repre-sentation of Jesus Christ ends the covenant relationship before it starts. The only way a person might enjoy covenant blessing apart from a personal relationship with Jesus is to live in a society where most of the population is laboring to submit their lives and arena of activity to Christ. They would not benefit directly and would have no hope for eternal life but would be blessed as a recipient of common grace.
In the last 150 years it has become common for Christians to deny the need for compliance to God's law. As a result our society grows ever more chaotic and it seems normal for children of Believers to grow up and leave the faith. Many Christians claim this is evidence we live in the “end times” but it is really the outcome of covenantal unfaithfulness.
Once again we are confronted with the fact that the only hope for lasting change in society is the gospel of Jesus Christ. And this is more than simply telling people that Jesus wants to save their soul from hell. Our presentation of the gospel must be covenantally sound. We must tell folks that the Father in heaven is the sovereign ruler of the universe. We must tell them that Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father and that he died for their sins. They must be taught that those who claim Christ as Lord and Savior are required to walk even as Jesus walked. We must tell them that people who live in obedience to God's word will be blessed and those who refuse to do so will be cursed. Finally, it is incumbent upon us to teach them that covenant faithfulness will result in individual maturation and societal advance along with the opportunity to leave a spiritual and material heritage to our children.
These are the lessons we learn from the Lords prayer. May we pray in this way; may we live in this way as well.