Today we are in part two of our message series dealing with breaking free from temptation. And I wonder, what’s your story? Will you decide to stop? You see, all of us are tempted in different ways, some big and some small, but all of us in some way are being held “Hostage” by something. So what I want you to do today as you listen to this message is to think of your greatest temptation and apply this teaching to that one thing that is a great struggle for you.
Now some of you, you’ve already sat back, you’ve let out a breath of relief, and you’re thinking, “I’m glad so-and-so is here to hear this message, because they’re just messed up.” And so now you’re thinking the pressure is off, because you don’t have problems like they do, you don’t have those temptations and weaknesses. Well if that’s you, if you have your bulletin outline, would you do me a favor? Just find something to write with and write in big letters P. R. I. D. E. across the top of the outline, because we all have a weakness somewhere. And so what I want you to do is listen to this message through the filter of your greatest temptation.
For some of you, you’re struggling with lust, others it may be some form of substance abuse, or some of you, you might say your weakness is food. Whether it’s over eating or an addiction to sweets, your weakness is food. Others of you, you’re tempted to criticize, you know, we haven’t even read the Scripture yet and you’ve already found 10 things about this church that you don’t like and you’re just getting started.
Now for those of you who think you don’t have a problem, temptations, or weaknesses, let’s revisit our theme text for this series. The apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 10 says, “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” (1 Corinthians 10:12-13, NIV). In other words, if you’re here and you’re human… you’re vulnerable to temptation.
And the reality is, that so many people feel incredibly guilty because they’re tempted, and when they fall to temptation and sin they feel like such a failure, but to be human is to be tempted. This is so important, because coming to faith in Christ doesn’t mean the absence of temptation. Actually, submitting to Christ as Lord, means proclaiming war on the temptation that’s already there. But the good news is what Paul said in verse 13, “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, (not if you are, but when you are tempted) he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). And so what that means for us is this, every single time you’re tempted God will provide a way out. When you’re gripped by something that seems to have more power than your ability to resist… God will provide a way out.
So today I want to talk about “Deciding to Stop”, resisting temptation, and how this really works in our 21st century lives. Pastor Greg Laurie said this, “Temptation is attractive otherwise it wouldn’t be tempting.” But where does temptation come from? Well last week we saw that James answers that question, in chapter 1 at verse 14, “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed” (James 1:14). So temptation comes from our own evil desires; we’re just taking it for a test drive, right? We’re dragged away and enticed; meaning that we don’t want to discourage it completely, because we’re thinking about it, we’re processing it, and we’re seriously considering it. So 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 tells us in verse 15, “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, the hook has been swallowed, the barb sank in, and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The whole process can take a matter of moments or it can take days, weeks, or even years, but it always begins with a thought. So we need to recognize that what happens in those first moments is far more important than we could ever imagine. We need to acknowledge that we will be tempted and therefore we need to decide ahead of time to stop, to resist temptation, so that we don’t do something that breaks the heart of God, that hurts us, and hurts others.
So how do we stop, how do we resist temptation? Well let’s read our Scripture for today in James chapter 4, because this one verse, verse seven, contains the answer. Let’s read it together, all of us out loud, everybody, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7)
So the first thing James says to do to resist temptation is to submit to God. Now that’s interesting, because I always thought that the first thing you needed to do to resist temptation was to resist the devil. But James says, that you need to submit to God and here’s why… because you’re too weak… you don’t have the strength to resist on your own. And it was never intended, you weren’t created to live life alone and so you need the help of Christ. That’s why, as we said last week, every temptation is an invitation to depend on Christ. So the first step to resisting temptation is that we submit to God.
Now submitting to God, can mean a lot of different things to each of us. For some of you to submit to God is to acknowledge that what you’re doing is wrong and sinful. For some of you that’s where you need to start, because we live in a society full of excuses. You know, “Everybody does it,” “It’s just the way God made me,” “If God didn’t want me to have this desire, he wouldn’t have given it to me.” “Anyway, I deserve it… nobody else knows… this is just my one little thing.” So, for some of us, submitting to God, is to admit that God is right and we’re wrong. So if you’re doing anything that is inconsistent with God’s word, anything that God calls sin, to submit is to confess, “God, I have sinned, I’m sorry, I need help; please forgive me!”
And submitting to God, is a daily decision, because if you’re anything like me your very easily distracted. I need it daily and I need it first; so every day when I wake up I open my you-version App on my phone, I start praying, and I start reading my daily Scriptures, and I pray some more, and its putting myself in a place of submission to God. It’s aligning our will to God’s will and once we’ve submitted to God like that, it’s easier to resist temptation.
Remember, temptation is anything that promises satisfaction at the cost of obedience to God. Temptation is anything that promises, if you do this, if you smoke this, if you take this, then you’re going to be satisfied, but it’s inconsistent with God’s truth, because it promises satisfaction at the cost of obedience to God. And so daily you have a choice on what you’re going to rely upon. Are you going to rely upon what’s in a bottle, what medicates you, what helps you to feel good, what tastes good, or are you going to rely upon God? You see, one promises satisfaction, but God gives true satisfaction in this life and into eternity.
But the lies and temptations of this world can be so appealing… So what do we do?
Well first we submit to God, we submit our whole lives to God, and secondly we resist the devil. This is what James says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
You see, with Christ we can resist. Once you have submitted to God your confidence is not in yourself, but it’s in Christ, and so when temptation comes and it will… James tells us that in chapter 1, he says, “When you’re tempted” not “If you’re tempted”. Temptation will come, because Peter tells us that Satan’s out there prowling, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” So you, “Resist him standing firm in the faith…” (1 Peter 5:8-9). When Satan comes at you like a roaring lion, with every bit of faith inside of you, you resist him, you stand firm, and you roar back! You see, you’ve got that inner strength, "The Lion of the tribe of Judah…has triumphed” (Revelation 5:5), “the one who is in you is greater than the one who’s in the world” (1 John 4:4), and just like in the book of Revelation, in chapter 10, a mighty angel came down from heaven “and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion” (Revelation 10:3). It was a victory shout, and so today, you acknowledge and recognize that Christ in you is stronger than the temptations in you and you resist.
You resist in Christ, the Lion of Judah, it’s gotta be in Christ, because the Bible says in Ephesians, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). This battle we’re facing is serious, we’re literally fighting in another realm with weapons that are not of this world. The apostle Paul says in second Corinthians, “We do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4). Those strongholds are those things that have held you hostage for years and God is calling you to resist the devil. Paul says, “Put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground” (Ephesians 6:13). You see, you submit to God and you resist the devil, because the one in you is greater than the one who’s in the world.
And you’ve got these amazing, powerful, divine weapons. We have the power of prayer, the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the sword of the Spirit, the belt of truth, and shoes on our feet ready to go out with the gospel of peace. So whenever temptation comes our way, the Bible says in second Corinthians, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). We roar back and resist the devil, because greater is he that it is in you then he that is in the world. You see, you’ve been prepared, you’ve already sought God, you know his strength is with you, his word is hidden in your heart that you might not sin against him, and you stand your ground.
So how do we resist? We submit to God, we resist the devil, and we eliminate temptation whenever and wherever possible.
In the Proverbs, Solomon with the wisdom of God, writes in chapter 4, “Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way” (Proverbs 4:14-15). And what he’s saying is this, “Don’t even set your foot on the path, don’t do it, stay away from it, avoid it, turn from it, and go the other way.” And so, one of the best ways to resist temptation is to avoid it or eliminate it whenever you can. You know, why plan and prepare to resist temptation if you have the power and ability to eliminate it today?
Here’s how we can see this fleshed out in our own lives. If you find yourself weak and vulnerable to look at the wrong stuff, get rid of the smart phone, install software and protection on your computers like “Covenant Eyes”, eliminate the temptation. If you’re in an emotional affair at work, and the temptation is to take it to the next level, and you’re vulnerable. Transfer to another department, switch jobs, but get yourself out of that place. If you’re overcoming drugs, you don’t hang around with people who pop, smoke, or shoot up. If you’ve got a problem with alcohol you don’t go to the bar. Why resist the temptation if you have the power to eliminate it. Decide ahead of time to stop and distance yourself from the temptation when possible.
But what if… you find yourself face-to-face with your greatest temptation at a moment of weakness. What do you do? Well, we’ll talk about that more in the coming weeks, but right now you can throw it out, you can run away from it, you can start quoting Scripture, and you can call somebody and tell them you’re struggling. You know, sin’s power over us is strengthened through darkness and secrecy. Anything we keep a secret, hidden in the dark, is holding us back from experiencing victory in Christ, but the moment you bring it into the light, suddenly it doesn’t have as much power. It loses its power.
So you need to bring it to Jesus. The moment it becomes a thought, be prepared, and take it to Jesus, make it obedient to Christ. You see, we can take it to Jesus, because the Bible says, “He himself suffered when he was tempted, and he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). You see, Jesus is not sitting at the right hand of God the Father, waiting to condemn you, but he wants to help you, and he’s able to help you. John’s gospel tells us, “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God” (John 3:20-21). So you bring that thought, that temptation, to the light. Because Christ in you is stronger than the temptations. And when you are tempted, our God will always provide a way out. Amen.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
November 08, 2015