Today we are starting a brand new message series called “Hostage” and we're going to build week upon week on this passage of Scripture in first Corinthians. We’re going to discover that our God is faithful no matter what has held you hostage, no matter whether it’s something big that you’ve never told anybody about, no matter whether it’s something that everybody knows, no matter whether it’s something that’s just annoying to you, but whatever, God will always provide a way out.
God will provide, and I believe that there are those of you here who will be significantly different 4 weeks from now. You will be free from things that have held you bondage for years and years. And I believe that everybody here has something in their life that should not be there and that something has controlled you and kept you captive.
I don’t know what this would be for you, but let’s just call it what it is… let’s put a name on it… For many people alcohol is the problem, for others it’s a substance problem, some of you just lie for no reason at all. For some of us it may be an eating issue, for some it’s a sexual addiction, for some it’s spending, or gambling, and for some as innocent as it seems, it’s your phone, games, or social media.
I don’t know what it is for you, but I think that every one of us has something that shouldn't be there. And so, I want to let God's words speak directly to this and we're going to look at first Corinthians chapter 10, verse 12 and 13. This is what Paul wrote and it’s so powerful. He said, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
This passage of Scripture has three words that contain such good news for us today. And that is this, “God is faithful." The Bible says in 2 Timothy 2:13 that even “if we are faithless, he will remain faithful.” And so what I hope to impress upon you is that every time there is a temptation there is always a way out. Every single time you are tempted to do something that would be harmful to you, harmful to others or hurt the heart of God, there is always a way out. And so this morning I want you to prepare to break free.
Let me tell you where we’re going to go in this series. Today is going to be simple because I'm just laying the groundwork, the foundation for this series. But over the next weeks, we're going to look at God’s word and let his power set us free, because whenever you’re tempted God is faithful. He will always give you a way out and so I believe that God is going to set some Hostages free. I absolutely believe with all of my heart that many people will be changed because of the power of God’s word and his presence.
And so the first thing I want to do this morning is to give you a definition of temptation. Now the Miriam-Webster Dictionary tells us its “something that causes a strong urge or desire; to have or do something and especially something that is bad, wrong, or unwise.” Now for us here in church this morning, our working, practical, applicable definition comes from Pastor Craig Groeschel who said, “Temptation is anything that promises satisfaction at the cost of obedience to God.” So temptation is anything that whispers “you’re going to like this”… it promises that “you’re going to feel good”… and it leads you to think that it’s going to make your life more meaningful. But it promises that satisfaction at the cost of obedience to God.
Now we all know that temptation has great power, so secondly I want to discuss the chemistry of temptation. Darlene Kvist, Certified Nutrition Specialist says, “Sadly, we all have the chemistry of temptation, some of us more than others. The chemistry of temptation is found in the area of the brain called the pleasure center. And high-sugar, processed carbohydrate foods; drugs, alcohol, nicotine, shopping, and sex can activate the pleasure center.”
Researchers have found that dopamine, a chemical in the brain, can get us hooked on anything by creating this neuro-cocktail which teaches your brain what you want and drives you to get it, regardless of whether it’s good for you are not. So what scientists tell us, is that when you give in to whatever that temptation is, your brain releases this chemical and gives you a thrill, like an adrenaline rush, and so you buy it, you look at it, you touch it, you say it, and your brain immediately rewards you with a hit of dopamine. And for a moment there’s satisfaction, immediately followed by the guilt, the regret, or the shame of knowing that you shouldn’t have done that.
And many of you know that cycle, you want it, you get it, but you know you shouldn’t have done it. You know it promised you satisfaction, that you’ll like this, that you need this, that it’s going to feel great, but it’s at the cost of obedience to God. And so temptation is anything that promises satisfaction at a price. So as we build the foundation for this series we are going to look at 4 truths about temptation.
It is actually not a sin to be tempted. The Bible says in Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin.” In other words, Jesus was tempted, but he didn’t sin, he was without sin. And so our being tempted is not the same as sinning. Yet the devil will point his finger, he’ll blame us, and call us guilty, making us feel guilty when we shouldn’t feel guilty.
So if you’re trying to eat healthy and lose some weight, but on Monday you walk into work and there’s a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts sitting beside the coffeepot; to look at them is not a sin, to pick one up and smell it, maybe or maybe not, might be sin for you. To lick the chocolate off the top… that definitely crosses the line. Technically that would be a sin. You know, James wrote in chapter 4, “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins” (James 4:17). And the opposite is just as true. If we do what we know we shouldn’t do we sin.
But if you are tempted without acting on that temptation you don’t sin. To be tempted is not the same as to sin. What the devil wants us to do is to feel guilty; to feel like we’ve done wrong, because when we feel guilty what do we do? We medicate ourselves with sin. We have another Krispy Kreme right? So we do it some more. But instead of feeling bad, celebrate your victory; maybe it was just a narrow victory, but it was a victory nonetheless. Don’t let false guilt take you somewhere that you don’t want to go. It’s not a sin to be tempted.
You need to understand that you are never above temptation. I don’t care who you are, or how devout you are, you’re still not above temptation. If Jesus was tempted in every way, you will be too, and verse 12 says, "If you think you're standing firm, be careful that you do not fall." So if you’re sitting there thinking, “I’m so glad ‘so and so’ is hearing this” or “I wish my spouse, my boss, or my neighbor could hear this” be careful. Your enemy will come at you in your weakness and he’ll come at you in your strengths.
For example, on July 25, 1911, Bobby Leach became the first man to go over the Niagara Falls; breaking his jaw and both kneecaps. 6 months later he began to tour the world with his barrel. He toured the United States, Canada, and England, telling people about his amazing feat, posing for pictures, and getting all the glory that he could. That was until 1926, when with great irony, tragedy struck as Bobby slipped on an orange peel while on a publicity tour in New Zealand. That 4 foot fall caused him to break his leg, which then became infected, gangrene set in, and amputation was required. Despite the efforts to save his life, Bobby Leach died 2 months later due to the resulting infection.
It seems so strange that a man who can survive going over the Niagara Falls and falling a 170 feet in a barrel couldn’t survive slipping on orange peel and falling to the floor. Yet more often than not it is those little things that beat us and catch us off guard because we think we’ve got it all under control. However, that’s when we’re most likely to slip and that’s why Paul said, “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! (1 Corinthians 10:12). Never think that you are above temptation.
I once saw a T-shirt that said, “I can resist anything but temptation.” And that just about sums it up for many people, but there are also those who would say, “I would never do that” and they’re the very people that fall the hardest and the fastest. We need to be careful, because we don’t know when we’re going to be most vulnerable, we don’t know what we’re capable of, and any single one of us is capable of the grossest sin given the right environment.
We need to understand that temptation is not of God. God will test you, but he will not tempt you. You see, because God tests you to move you forward and Satan tempts you to move you backward and there’s a big, big difference. And so God will never tempt you to sin, but he may test you and see if you’re going to be obedient, if you’re going to be faithful, but that’s a test and not a temptation.
You see, God wants to promote you. God wants to move you forward. And so God will never tempt you. In fact James said it this way in chapter 1, "When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone” (James 1:13). So where does temptation come from? Well James answers that in verse 14, “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed” (James 1:14). Temptation comes from our own evil desires.
Now you may think that you’re a pretty good person, but you’re wrong, you’re a bad, sinful, person just like I am. As a matter of fact the Bible says in 1 John 1:8, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” You see we’re born with a sin nature, an inclination to sin, and to wander away from God. How many of you know that you never have to teach a 2-year-old to be selfish?
Temptation comes from our own evil desires as we’re dragged away and enticed. These desires deep within us give birth to sinful actions. It starts as a desire, it’s born into a sinful action, and when sin is allowed to grow it gives birth to death. That’s what James chapter 1 tells us, “After desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:15).
You see, sin never makes life better; it always destroys. Sin promises satisfaction; that this is going to be fun, this is going to help, it’s going to help me relax, and make me feel better; and the rush comes for a moment and then it starts to unravel, because sin leads to death every single time. Yet today, there’s a generation of people giving in saying, “This is just the way I am. I can’t overcome this. God made me this way. It’s just how I am and God understands.” And God does understand, the Bible says, “He’s been tempted in every way, just as we are, yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15). And God will never tempt you to sin, but every temptation is an invitation to depend on Christ, to allow him to lead you into righteousness, because he is faithful.
Verse 13 tells us, “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear…” And so every temptation is an invitation to depend on Christ, because “when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). That brings us to number 4…
No matter what you’re facing, no matter what sin has you hostage, no matter what annoying thing has you in its grip, there’s always a way out. God is faithful when you’re tempted to provide a way out so that you can endure it. It’s not like getting the bad case of poison ivy and you just can’t find any satisfaction. “He will provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
And maybe this morning, you recognize that you’ve been held hostage, you’ve been captive to your sin, but God has a way out for you and maybe it’s bringing that sin into the light. It may be confessing it and exposing it, because the Bible says in Proverbs, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). So we confess our sins to experience God’s forgiveness. We confess our sins because the Bible promises in 1 John, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
And we confess our sins to one another and pray for each other… James chapter 5, verse 16 says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (NIV). That’s one of the many reasons we come together, and this is so powerful, because we're not wrestling with sin alone. We're in community with other brothers and sisters, we’re praying for each other, we're available, and in a few minutes the altar is going to be open. We’re going to give you that opportunity to confess and to put a name on that sin.
And so this morning if you’re ready to break free from that thing that’s held you hostage… It might be that you need to take that risk. It may be big, it may be something that you never told anybody before, but you’ve got to choose to break free.
For some of you it's so deep and you’ve tried and tried, and you're not getting there on your own and you need some deep healing, you need distance, and you need time.
For some of you it's going to be accountability. You need someone that can kick your butt. You might need 2 men who can kick your butt. Men that are going to get in your face and love you enough to ask the hard questions and not let a day go by without being in your life.
For some it may be true repentance. I'm not talking about being sorry you got caught. I’m talking about true repentance where you’re ready to cry out to God and tell him, "God, I'm really sorry. I need your help. I need your grace."
Whatever it is for you this morning listen to me. God will provide… there’s a way out… our God is faithful… and there is always a way out.
It's like back in the old days when video games were really good. You know, back in the day of Pac-Man, Frogger, Donkey Kong, and Asteroids. Anybody remember Asteroids? You shoot down these shapes, missiles, and UFO’s with these little bullets. And so you’ve got these shapes that’ll come toward you, some of them are shooting, I guess you got to read the directions to know what they are. And then you have thrust which you can hit thrust and propel your ship forward, but whenever you're in big trouble, you know like when you have 2 asteroids coming at you, you’ve got this button called Hyperspace. And so as you're playing, you hit hyperspace, and your spaceship disappears and comes back in another place.
This is what you need to know. In the kingdom of God there’s another button. It’s not called hyperspace. This one is called hyper grace. And when you’re tempted and when you’re in trouble you hit the button.
You know, the donuts are in the office… you hit the button and walk out of the office. You’re driving by that jogger and you hit the button and look the other way. You’re in the car with your boyfriend and you hit the button… maybe hit it twice… maybe a third time. You hit the button and get out of there. There’s always a way out. God will provide. Not a hyperspace, but hyper grace. Our God is so good. He always give you a way out.
Here's what you need to hear today. Christ in you is stronger than the temptation. Christ in you is stronger than that thing you desire. When you’re vulnerable, when you’re weak, the good news is that Christ’s strength is made perfect in you. That’s why every temptation is an invitation to depend on Christ. Christ in you is more powerful than any wrong desire in you. Every time you’re tempted, God is inviting you to trust in Jesus who will set you free. Our God is faithful and he’ll provide you a way out. The way out is through his son Jesus Christ and by the grace of Jesus we can break free.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
November 01, 2015