Welcome to part 3 of our message series entitled Hostage. We’re continuing in our conversation about how we overcome the addictions and temptations that have held us hostage. You know, we all have a story that we face on a daily basis and each one of us has a story that you’re probably not very proud to tell. You might’ve made some decisions that you regret and there may be a whole chapter of your life where you really don’t want to tell that story. Well last week we talked about deciding to stop, resisting that temptation, and fighting your way out. So today, were going to talk about living by the Spirit, making a move in the right direction, and starting new habits, new disciplines that will help you be victorious.
In his book, “The Principle of the Path” Andy Stanley says, “Direction not intention determines destination.” Isn’t that so true? I love that, because so many times we find ourselves in a place where we wonder how we ever got there. You know it was never our intention, but the choices and the path that we took brought us to that destination. It wasn’t what you intended to say, it wasn’t what you intended to do, but the direction that you were heading determined your destination, not your intention. Therefore the way that we’re living and the choices we make ultimately determines the story that we have to tell.
Last week, we looked at the process of resisting temptation and 3 steps for victory. Number one was to submit to God, number 2 was to resist the devil, and number 3 was to eliminate the temptation. But so sometimes, so many times, we’ll say things like, “I just had to.” Or, “I just can’t stop.” Or, “I tried everything and I just can’t quit.” and so we have resigned ourselves to this reoccurring temptation where no matter what you do you just can’t seem to stop doing that one thing. So I want to remind you of our theme verse from 1 Corinthians, chapter 10, verse 13, “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 morning you need to know that no matter what you’re facing God will always provide a way out. You may be tempted to grumble and complain, but there’s a way out. You may be tempted to worry, but there’s a way out. You may be tempted by an addiction; maybe sweets, social media, gambling, gaming, or smoking something. Maybe it’s looking at something inappropriate, but the good news is that there’s a way out. Our God is faithful and he will provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
The problem is that we often tell ourselves, “No, I need to stop thinking about this, no, I need to stop doing that, or no… I need to start doing this” and so we beat ourselves up and it’s like there’s no way out. But the Bible tells us to refocus, to stop dwelling on the negative and focus on the positive, to stop trying not to think about the wrong thing, but to actually do the right thing. And so here is what the apostle Paul said in Galatians chapter 5 at verse 16. He said "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” What he’s saying is, “Do the right thing, stay close to God, and live by the Spirit so that you don’t fall into temptation.
Now if you’ve been following Jesus for long at all, you know that there’s a war going on between what God’s Spirit wants you to do and what your sinful nature want you to do. And so there is hope, because the Bible said, if you live by the Spirit you won’t gratify the desires of the sinful nature. If you live moment by moment by the Spirit you’re not going to be as tempted to do the wrong thing. And so then in verse 17 the apostle says, “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want” (Galatians 5:17). And I am sure that there are those of you who can relate to this much like Paul in Romans chapter 7, when he cried out in verse 15, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." So the difficulty is that you want to do what’s right and you don’t. You want to read your Bible, you want to stop overeating, you want to get up early and jog, you want to do the right things but you don’t. And then you don’t want to do the wrong things. You don’t want to get so angry with the children, you don’t want to sleep with your boyfriend again, you don’t want to look at that again, you don’t want to do these things, but you end up doing these things anyway. The right things you want to do you end up not doing and so life has become this daily struggle of wanting to do the right things and not wanting to do the wrong things. So what Paul says in Galatians 5:16 is the key to our struggle…
He says, “Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” In a spiritual sense it is tipping the scales in the favor of a godly victorious life in Christ Jesus. It’s loving and obeying God as Jesus said in John 14:15-16, "If you love me, you will obey what I command.” So love and obedience go hand-in-hand with following Christ, with living by the Spirit, and resisting temptation. Remember, “Temptation is anything that promises satisfaction at the cost of obedience to God.” Jesus said again, in verses 23-24, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching…”
So we are deciding to stop, submitting to God, and resisting the devil. It’s direction not intention that determines destination. So as followers of Christ in our Christian walk we want to encourage the positive things and discourage the negative things. We want to do the right things and don’t want to do the wrong things. And therefore, we want to feed the Spirit and starve the sinful nature, because if you feed and encourage your Spirit, your Spirit grows stronger, your intimacy with God grows, and His power in you to overcome temptation increases as well.
So instead of having his ongoing battle in your mind, where you are continually thinking, “no, no, no”. You encourage the things of the Spirit, you feed the Spirit, so that your Spirit grows stronger overcoming the sinful nature and the temptations that are common to us all. You outweigh the negative with the positive and with the help of the Holy Spirit you overcome those wrong desires. So it is the Holy Spirit that can empower us to break free from temptation.
Jesus said in John chapter 16, “It is for your good that I am going away.” It’s for your good, because something much better is coming. “Unless I go away, the Counselor (the Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). He says, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you…the Spirit of truth, whom you know, because he lives with you and will be in you. And so Jesus promises in verse 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you”. He tells us, that for all those who receive him as Lord and Savior, the same Spirit that raised him from the dead will also live in those of us who believe. And his Spirit does, it teaches us, convicts us, comforts us, and counsels us; giving us that peace that surpasses all human understanding.
Today, you and I with the help of God the Holy Spirit can overcome the desires of our sinful nature as we learn to depend upon him. The Bible says in Romans chapter 8, “We have an obligation — but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Romans 8:12-14). You see, we have been redeemed, we have been bought at a great price, with the precious blood of Christ, and therefore we have an obligation to live by the Spirit; but number two: we also have an obligation to “put to death the misdeeds of the body”.
Now Paul tells us this in verse 13 “If you live according to the sinful nature, you will die…” and that sounds pretty dramatic but it’s true. It’s been said that, “Sin thrills and then it kills.” “Sin fascinates and then it assassinates.” And that’s the reality, because sin can be fun for a little while, that’s what the Bible says. Hebrews chapter 11 tells us, that Moses “chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time” (Hebrews 11:25). You see, Moses knew that the fleeting, passing, momentary pleasures of sin were not worth the consequences tomorrow. He knew that sin would grow, it would increase in power, and it would kill. And it does. It kills marriages. It kills relationships. It kills your health. It kills your intimacy with God, and it kills your testimony for God. Sin kills!
The prophet Isaiah said, "Woe to the obstinate children," declares the Lord, "to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin…” (Isaiah 30:1). But here’s the good news, “If by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body you will live” (Romans 8:13). Paul says, “If by the Spirit” meaning as God said, “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the Lord Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6). You see, it’s not in our strength, but by God’s powerful Spirit that lives within every born-again believer. It’s by the Spirit. And if by the Spirit you kill the deeds of your sinful nature; if by the Spirit you put to death, you starve, and stay away from that thing which has been strangling you and holding you hostage… “You’ll live”.
And I’m believing that there are those of you here today that are going to tap into the power of God, the Spirit of God, and not by your own strength, but by God’s mighty power you’re going to starve and kill the sinful nature. This is your moment, this is the beginning of your healing, you’re going to rise up victorious, because if by the Spirit you put to death, you kill those misdeeds, you’re admitting your weakness to God, and you’re relying upon the power of the Holy Spirit. So you call it what it is, you give it a name, because you’re only as strong as you are honest. You confess it and you bring it into the light, because sin grows best in the dark. James tells us that as we come together as believers we confess our sins to one another and we pray for each other, because that’s where we find healing (James 5:16). And so before we move on, I want you to get the most of this moment, and I want you to put a name on the deed. Just between you and God, right now, put a name on that deed. Admit that you are weak, that you need the help of God, and rely upon the Spirit of God to strengthen you, comfort you, and guide you into the truth. You see, if by the Spirit you are living in the power of the Holy Spirit, and number two you are killing the misdeeds of the body, then number three keep in step with the Spirit.
That’s what Paul says in Galatians chapter 5, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires” (those who belong to Christ, those who live by the Spirit have crucified the sinful nature, they’ve killed it and so Paul says) “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:24-25).
But how do we keep in step with the Spirit of God? What does that mean? Well, it’s about learning to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. We’re going to spend time with him, we’re going to get to know him better, we’re going to learn to recognize when he’s leading and guiding us. And so then we will know when he’s leading us to say this, prompting us not to do this, telling us to take our mind off of this, leading us to help this person, or telling us to pray for this, and so literally we’re keeping in step with what God the Spirit is doing.
And so Galatians chapter 5 says, “Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Galatians 5:16). “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). Which really brings us back to the promise that the resurrected Jesus gave to his disciples in Matthew 28:19-20: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Surely I am with you always! “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). Because when you’re close to the Spirit of God, you won’t gratify the desires of the sinful nature, and therefore because you’re so full of the presence of God, so full of what really matters, you’re not easily tempted by the empty, vain, meaningless things of this world. Now that doesn’t mean that your not still tempted to sin, but as you are filled with the Spirit you are distracted by heavenly things, you are focused on eternal things, and so as your intimacy with God grows the temptations will diminish.
So what we want to do is to be very purposeful about our relationship with God. That’s what it means to keep in step with the Spirit. It’s like being in a marching band. Have any of you ever played in the high school marching band? If you did, you know what I’m talking about when I say that you need to keep in step with the Spirit. Could you imagine a marching band on the football field or in a parade if everybody’s not keeping in step? Imagine the confusion, the mayhem as trombones, tubas, and trumpets collide. Or imagine if everybody were playing to a different drummer. But as you are attentive to the Spirit, as you keep in step with the Spirit, you’ll be different, you’ll be orderly, efficient, effective, and victorious.
The Bible tells us that …“No one serving as a soldier…” Like “Archippus our fellow soldier” in Philemon verse 2, or “Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier” in Philippians 2:25, or you or I, as soldiers of Jesus Christ… “No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs – we want to please (our) commanding officer” (2 Timothy 2:4). So we’re very purposeful about our relationship with God, about feeding the Spirit, doing things that was stir up the Spirit in us, and so when you hear that song on Christian radio it will minister to your soul. You’ll be reading your Bible and suddenly a verse is going to come alive and speak to you. You’ll be carrying out the normal duties of your day when suddenly God puts a name in your mind to pray for.
As you’re walking in the Spirit, suddenly the Spirit says, “Don’t do that, but instead do this.” And when you keep in step with the Spirit, when you’re living according to the Spirit, you won’t gratify the desires of the sinful nature. Because you have no obligation to sin, to obey the desires of your sinful nature, to stay addicted, dependent, distracted, or indulging in that whatever. You see, the Spirit of God living inside of you is greater than that desire, he’s renewing your mind, and giving you a peace which goes beyond our understanding. Our God is faithful and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but when you are tempted, he will always give you a way out.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
November 15, 2015