“Deliver us from Evil…” It doesn’t mean what you might think.

In the prayer Jesus gave to us to follow, he includes the line “and deliver us from evil.” I think many times we assume that this deliverance is going to passively come to us in the form of divine intervention – or at least that’s what we hope. I believe, however, that while that may be the case at part of the time, Jesus had something else in mind.

When we see evil addressed in Scripture, it is often in the context of some sort of battle. There’s a war between good and evil happening all around us. If you need evidence of this, simply turn on the evening news. Ultimately Jesus defeated evil on the cross. There will be a day when Jesus will return and set things right – goodness and peace will reign. In the meantime, however, we are living in a time when evil is thriving. I believe that when Jesus tells us to pray “deliver us from evil,” he is saying that he will be with us in this evil time, but we are not to sit idly by – we are to act.

In Matthew 16:18 (ESV), Jesus says, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

The gates of any wall are meant to be a defensive advantage. You don’t charge the enemy with gates leading the way. That means that when Jesus is saying that the gates of hell shall not prevail, he is envisioning a charge let by His Church, against the gates of hell – against evil. The church is not supposed to lock our doors, hide behind our gates, and simply wait for Jesus to return. Quite the contrary! We are to be out in the world attacking and denouncing evil and injustice everywhere we see it. When Jesus says to pray that God will deliver us from evil, he’s telling us that in our forward-moving attack positions, we ask God to give us the victory over oppression, tyranny, bigotry, and evil in all forms.

As the Church we are God’s agents of love and grace in the world. As such we cannot simply wait for Jesus to return and do nothing in the meantime – we must act. We must have compassion for the sick, the widows, the orphans, the persecuted, the marginalized, the weary. But compassion is more than a feeling. Compassion without action is only pity.

Pity is a feeling that one has about the plight of someone else. But God calls us to have more than a feeling – he calls us to act. Micah 6:8 (NLT) say that we are “to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with (our) God.” Those are ACTION words!

Following Christ is not only about believing the right things, it is also about doing the right things. The right things are not always easy to do, and they often require sacrifice. But as we attack the gates of hell by doing the right things, we pray that the Father will deliver us to victory in battle. Christianity is not a spectator sport – it requires action. Look around your world, see where evil seems to have the upper hand, and then pray that God will give you the strength to conquer it in the name of Jesus.

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Just Do It. Faith Requires Action

When asked about my favorite Bible verses, many come to mind. For a long while my favorite passage was Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

That passage sums up well how I have faced difficult decisions in my life. I have trusted that God will see me through the decisions and that He has a plan for me and my family. I look back and see myself trusting God, however imperfectly, through every turn.

Over the past several years, however, a new verse has caught my heart: James 1:22: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

Throughout my life I have studied the Bible. I have a bachelor’s degree in Bible. I have a 3-year Master of Divinity degree. The Bible was the main focus of all my higher education. Yet that knowledge is meaningless if I don’t do something with it.

You can have earned degree upon degree, done study after study, gained more Trivial Pursuit knowledge than a Biblical scholar, but James says that if you don’t actually do something with it, you’re deceiving yourself. Without putting your faith in action, without being obedient to Christ, you have tricked yourself into believing that because you have the right knowledge your relationship with God is good. In reality, however, that is not the case.

In chapter 2, James says: “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

He doesn’t just say that faith without action is not so great – he actually says that it is “dead.” The Greek word translated dead comes from the word for corpse. There is no mistaking the meaning James has here. If you’re not putting your faith into action – being obedient to all God has called you to – then your faith is dead as a doornail. In other words, what good does a head full of knowledge do if you aren’t living differently because of it?

Do you want to know what God’s will for your life is? Then start doing what you know you’re supposed to be doing! Don’t sit around twiddling your thumbs just wondering what his plan is – do something! God has called all of us to do certain things as followers of Christ. We are to love others, take care of the poor, worship, pray, study Scripture, etc. If you’re trying to determine next steps, then do what you already know you’re supposed to be doing, demonstrating your real, life-altering faith. That faith which is lived out, is the only true, saving faith there is. By being obedient to what we already know we are to do, we are proving ourselves to be good and faithful stewards of that which God has entrusted us.

If we truly believe that the two greatest commands are to love God and love your neighbor, then we can’t do that only in our heads. We have to put legs to the gospel. We have to live and act differently. We have to allow God’s Spirit to transform not only our mind, but also our actions and who we are as individuals.

Do not merely listen to the word, do what it says!