Good morning, welcome to part four of our series entitled “Hostage”. For the past several weeks we’ve been talking about the power of God to help us overcome temptation. And this is so important, because temptation is a trap from Satan, baited with desires that would entice us, drawing us away from God, until we find ourselves hostage to our own cravings that battle within us. And almost all of us struggle in one way or another with some form of unwanted behavior, many times something that is plagued us for all whole lives, maybe even been in our family for generations, and so the verse we’ve been looking at in 1 Corinthians is so full of hope. The title of today’s message is “You Can Stand” and no matter what you are facing, no matter how tight the claws feel, no matter how embedded the barb is, our God is faithful and he will always give you a way out of temptation.
There was a story of this old fisherman who was sitting on the fishing dock looking out over the water when he was approached by a tourist. The man asked him, “If I were to fall into this water would I drown?” Now that was certainly a strange way of asking how deep the water was, but the fisherman had a good answer. “No,” he said, “Falling into the water doesn’t drown anybody. It’s staying under that does.” And the truth behind that is so applicable for us today. We don’t need to be hostages. We don’t need to remain captive to temptation. We need to remember that temptation is not sin. Temptation is an invitation to sin. We just need to rise above it and learn to say “No” as the apostle Paul reminds us in first Corinthians…
“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 10:13).
You can stand up under it. No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. Your temptations are no different from anyone else’s, including Jesus’ when he lived on this earth. Hebrews chapter 4:15 tells us, Jesus was “tempted in every way just as we are… yet was without sin.” And it brings me such comfort to know that Jesus understands what it feels like to be tempted in the same way that I am tempted. He was taunted by religious leaders trying to lead him into the trap of anger and pride. He understood the pain of loss when his friend Lazarus died. He understood physical pain as he cried out on the cross when those nails were driven into his hands. He was alone and abandoned when his disciples fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was well acquainted with betrayal and lies of those who were close to him. And I am certain that women threw themselves at such a popular, powerful, and exciting man as Jesus, yet he was able to withstand temptation and in doing so offers us his proven strength so that we can stand too.
In John chapter 15:5 Jesus said, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing”. The reality is, that we can be strong, we can withstand some temptation for a little while, but eventually if it keeps coming, wave after wave, and you’re not prepared, you’ll find yourself at a moment of weakness and end up doing something that you don’t want to do. And the reason why we consistently find ourselves at that point of weakness is because we haven’t bonded with that which makes us strong. We’re weak and vulnerable, because we’re not remaining connected to the vine where we get our spiritual strength. Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” and we often find ourselves in this weakened state, because we haven’t bonded with that which makes us strong.
You see, when we connect with Christ, living in him, we can produce fruit that’s not by our own power, but it’s by the power of the Holy Spirit within us. So when we’re bonding with those things that make us healthy, things that make us strong, we’re much more resistant to the temptations that would like to take us down. And so today, I want to talk about becoming spiritually stronger, and specifically about three disciplines, three things that will strengthen your spirit so that you can stand, so that your spirit is connected to that which makes it strong. And though I am sharing three things I’m going to ask you to choose just one area to work on, because what happens so often is that we get overwhelmed and give up. So at the end of our time together I’m going to ask you, “Which is that one area?” And this is important so that you can be strong in Christ and are able to stand in those weaker moments. So here’s the first thing we can stand with prayer.
You see, just like exercise strengthens the body, prayer strengthens the spirit. In Matthew chapter 26:36-44, Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane. It was the night before his crucifixion and his disciples accompanied him to the garden having no idea what was coming in just a few short hours. Jesus said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." He took Peter, James, and John along with him and he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." Or in other words, he asked them to join him in prayer, to be attentive, it wasn’t an invitation to take a nap.
Verse 39 tells us, “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me…” You see, he knew the physical torture he was about to face, he knew the separation from the Father he was about to experience, he knew… that this was a cup of suffering, and then he prayed this great prayer of submission to God the Father, “Yet not as I will, but as you will." But Peter, James, and John never heard those words. By the time Jesus was on his face before the Father they had dozed off.
And so when Jesus returned to the three he found them asleep. Waking them he said, "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?" Then he left them with these unforgettable words, "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." Watch and pray. Watch and pray, he said. You see, he knew what was coming, he felt weak, and he prayed. Verse 42, “He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done." Jesus knew at that moment that he was alone: the men were asleep, the cup would not pass from him.
When Jesus was teaching his disciples to pray he said: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13). He was trying to teach them that prayer is a great weapon against temptation. Prayer strengthens your spirit. Jesus said, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” Be strengthened in prayer, because “The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
Maybe for you this is the one, this is yours, this is your prayer: “Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from the evil one… God, make Christ in me stronger than the temptation in me… God give me a way out… And so you just pray, pray, and pray. God help me, lead me, and empower me. Some of you know this one is yours. You know you need to build your prayer life. Determined to strengthen your spirit in prayer, because you can stand with prayer. And the second thing is, you can stand with God’s word.
So we need to strengthen our spirits with God’s Word. In Psalm 119, David asked the question, “How can a young man keep his way pure?” That’s a great question isn’t it? And notice he didn’t say, “By living according to whatever your friends say is cool or fun, or whatever is acceptable in our community, or by whatever you see online.” No! How can a young person stay on the path of purity? He said, “By living according to your word” (Psalm 119:9).
He said, “God, I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalms 119:9-11).
"I've hidden Your Word..." The Word of God. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been. In Him was life and that life was the light of men... (John 1:1-5). “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). In the beginning was the Word, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
You know, when we talk about the armor of God, in Ephesians 6:11-18, the Word is the only offensive weapon. The helmet is defensive, the shield is defensive, the breastplate is defensive, the belt holds your clothing in place, and that's really important. The shoes are prepared with the Gospel. But the only offensive weapon we have is the Word of God. And that’s exactly how Jesus fought back against the temptations of Satan in Matthew 4:1-11.
“After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" The devil took him to the highest point of the temple and said, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written: ‘The angels will lift you up in their hands.” Jesus said, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" After this, the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and said, "All this I will give you if you will bow down and worship me." And Jesus said to him, "Away from me, for it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'"
It is written. You hide His Word in your heart so you don’t sin against Him. And I know, you’re not good at memorizing… but you know every line of your favorite song, every player on your favorite team, every specification on your favorite car, or maybe even every word of your children’s favorite movie. You see, you’ll memorize what’s important to you and so you just need to feed yourself on the Word of God; and just as food strengthens your body, the Word of God strengthens your spirit. And so when you are tempted, the Bible says, you’re going to be tempted; so if you know God's word, you fire back. “It is written…” (Luke 4:4).
“Greater is he who is in me than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
“I have overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the words of my testimony (Revelation 12:11).
“I am more than a conqueror through him who loved me (Romans 8:37).
“I can do everything through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).
And my “God is faithful; he will not let me be tempted beyond what I can bear, but every time I am tempted, my God will always provide a way out so that I can stand up under it” (1 Cor 10:13).
I can stand, because there is a way out. And for some of you this one is yours. It's feeding on the Word of God. And there’s no excuse, because it’s on your phone, and your phone is with you everywhere you go. Maybe you don’t like to read, but you can still listen to it. You strengthen yourself in God's Word, it’s living bread, it’s the bread of life, and it strengthens you spiritually. It transforms your mind, replacing the trash of this world with the eternal truth of God. It strengthens you spiritually and you need it, because it’s your sword, it’s your weapon to fight back against the attacks of the devil. So you strengthen your spirit with prayer, you strengthen your spirit with God’s Word, and so the third thing we’re going to do is we’re going to strengthen our spirit with the right people. We can stand…
The apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 said point blank, “Do not be misled.” In other words, it’s possible that some of you right now, you’re being misled by believing that the people you’re hanging out with are not negatively impacting your lives. When the reality is, that they're taking you down, and they’ll take you out spiritually. So he says, “Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character." Come back to your senses as you ought and stop sinning…” (1 Cor 15:33-34). He says, “Wake up, cut it out, stop it, don’t go there, stay away from the wrong people so you don’t get caught in that which destroys you.”
You see, it’s really not that complicated, being around the wrong people never helps you to do the right things. And some of you today may need a friendship upgrade; you know they don’t make the cut, and you’ve got to get some different friends. You know, if you’re overcoming an addiction to sweets you probably don’t want to get your coffee at the doughnut shop. We need to change the people we hang out with and this is absolutely critical to walking victoriously in Christ. We need to be around people who sharpen us, who strengthen us, who love us, and care enough about us to tell us the truth. People who will tell it like it is. People who will pray for us. People with whom we can be completely transparent.
And honestly, for many of us, this is the weak link in our lives, this is why so many people get in trouble, because sin grows best in the dark. But if you have somebody to call when you’re facing temptation, somebody you can go to and open up, somebody you can talk honestly to and confess your sins; they could help you make some changes, get you out of there, out of that situation, and out of that place of temptation. So sometimes we just need help to radically deal with the sin and stop it.
In addition, some of us are lacking the strength of a spiritual community. Maybe you’re lacking depth in your relationships and yet the bottom line is that we need each other, because church is not just something we go to, we are the church, we’re the body of Christ. Therefore, we’re vulnerable without each other, but when we come together we’re strengthened as we worship together, we’re strengthened as we open up and care for each other, we’re strengthened as we pour our lives out in community, and we’re strengthened as we do life together.
And so the big question as we close is “Why don’t we? Why do we remain hostage when God has provided a way out, when God has made it possible to stand up under it? And the answer is, because we’re weak, but if we would just do life God’s way, if we would connect with his people, being strengthened in prayer, and with his Word, then whenever we are weak, which is all the time, his strength would be made perfect through us. Our God is faithful and he will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear. Through Christ we can always stand up under it.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
November 22, 2015