Why do we choose to violate our values, the very things that give our lives meaning and purpose? Why do we voluntarily give into sins that we know are going to be destructive? Part of the answer lies in the fact that we have an enemy who is bigger, stronger, and smarter than we are.
The evil one’s fundamental weapon is temptation. And we easily give into these temptations because we are not equipping ourselves properly to deal with them.
Jesus teaches us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” We will always be tempted. Jesus himself was tempted, so we shouldn’t be surprised when it happens. So we need to pray for strength and prepare ourselves for those opportunities when we need to resist the evil one. This week we will talk about 3 actions that we can integrate into our lives to help us do this.
- I will ruthlessly eliminate hurry from my life.
- I will ask God to help me find those things that fill me with joy.
- I will arrange my life around joy.
- I will pray about finding an accountable relationship.
- I will reveal my temptation to someone I trust.
- I will memorize a verse of Scripture related to my temptation.
I want to start today by asking you to think about this instrument here for a moment. I grew up in Chicago and whenever we would eat outside in the summer we would hear this electric sound — “zzz, zzz, zzz”. It was the sound of bugs flying to their death. || Bugs will fly to this thing voluntarily. They will choose to enter into – to participate in – the very thing that will lead to their death. Why would a bug do that? || Well, their enemy is smart enough to know that you can’t just say to a bug, “Choose death,” and have it choose death. The bug zapper involves deception. It involves the promise of life. A bug looks at the light and is drawn to it. They look at the light and they think, “That’s a very cool looking light. I’d like to get closer to that light. It’s so beautiful.” And then they get zapped. || Now, try to get inside the head of a bug for a moment. Try to think like a bug for just a moment because you would think that after a while bugs would wise up. You would think they would observe that the tray underneath that light is filled with the bodies of impulsive bugs who have gone before them. You would think some thoughtful bug would say, “Whoa! Wait a minute. I’m not going to just blindly follow my desires. I notice all my friends get drawn into this, but they never come back. I’m going to consider just how high a price I’m willing to pay for the experience of a close look at this beautiful light.” But no bug ever does that. Apparently, they say to themselves, “I know what I’m doing. I’m strong enough and I’m smart enough and I’m clever enough to handle this attraction without getting burned.” || And only a bug would be that stupid, right? || Let me show you another deceptive trap of the enemy. Does anyone want to guess what kind of bug that catches? || We don’t know from the Book of Genesis what kind of fruit it was, but we’re told that there was a tree that grew fruit and it was forbidden. Genesis 3:6 says: The woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom. Zap! || You’ve got to wonder — every time we read about another person who falls to temptation and destroys their life — destroys their marriage, destroys their family, destroys their own soul: Why does it happen? Why do we choose to violate our values, the very foundation of our lives? Why do we voluntarily give in to what we know is going to destroy our soul? Why do we fly to the light? Why do intelligent people engage in stupid, dark actions that we know we’ll be ashamed of? Well, the writers of Scripture say, at least part of the answer is, you and I have an enemy. And he’s bigger and stronger and smarter than we are. || Paul writes in Ephesians 6:12-13: For 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. There’s something we all need to understand — the fundamental identity of the evil one is tempter. He is the tempter. His fundamental weapon is simply temptation. || And that’s why Jesus taught us to pray: Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Temptation is what the evil one does. And this really matters. This is extremely important. || So I want to turn to one of the classic passages in the bible on temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:6-13. This is to help us understanding what Jesus is getting at when he teaches us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer — “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” || In 1 Corinthians 10:6, Paul is writing about temptations that the Israelites gave in to during the Exodus that just destroyed them. Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.” We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test the Lord, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. 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. 1 Corinthians 10:6-13 Now this final verse, verse 13, is one of the central statements in Scripture about temptation. And I want to walk you through, in this message, three observations about temptation that flow from this verse. And the first one is from the very first sentence in it. No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. 1 Corinthians 10:13 You can expect temptation. You will be tempted so don’t be surprised. Don’t get caught off guard. Don’t be disappointed. When Jesus teaches us to pray, “Deliver us from the evil one,” he doesn’t mean deliver us from the experience of temptation… because there is no human being on the face of this earth who is delivered from temptation. Jesus himself was tempted. People will sometimes act as if they’re surprised when they get tempted. It’s part of being human. We are to pray for deliverance from giving in to temptation — from being destroyed by temptation. || No one is temptation-free, and this means that your ability to resist the evil one in a moment of temptation is enormously important. To identify the temptation and to resist the evil one is huge. || So a critical question for us all to consider is this — What is my temptation? Where are you most vulnerable to temptation? Maybe it’s a box of donuts. Maybe it’s the letters S-A-L-E. Maybe it’s cheating on a test or an expense account. Maybe it’s lie that will get you what you want. Maybe it’s an adult-site on the Internet. Maybe it’s in a bottle. Maybe it’s the joy of passing judgment on others who struggle. Maybe it’s spreading gossip about people you don’t like. Maybe it has to do with ego and making yourself look better than you really are. Where are you most vulnerable to temptation? || Let me explain something here about the word Jesus uses for temptation… because we tend to restrict the idea of temptation to certain areas. For example, and men be honest on this. Men, when you consider the topic of temptation honestly, how many of you would say that sex is one of the first words you think of? Not that YOU wrestle with it, but someone in your small group does. || We tend to think automatically in terms of certain categories. It’s interesting that the word translated “temptation” is also translated “testing” in Scripture. || Now, the typical story for temptation in the Bible is the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden when the serpent tempted them to eat the forbidden fruit. The typical story of testing in the Bible is when Abraham was commanded by God to sacrifice his son, Isaac. And the core idea of this word is allowing oneself to be torn away from God. In the Bible, temptation is never trivial. In our day, the word is often trivialized, and people will use it for certain foods. In the Bible, it’s not about fatty desserts or petty indulgences. It the Bible, the human soul is at stake. Giving into temptation is allowing myself to be torn away from the God who loves me. That’s what’s at stake. || And the tempter is not stupid. He’s not going to say, “Choose death.” He’s not going to try to tempt you with something that is obviously destructive and repulsive to you. || I’ll tell you, the most dangerous temptation you face is probably not the most dramatic one. It’s the one most likely to subtly lure you away from intimacy with God. || If you look back again at 1 Corinthians 10, you’ll notice Paul begins by giving four temptations. The first is the temptation of worshiping an idol. Second, he talks in verse 7 about the temptation of sexual immorality. Third, in verse 8 is the temptation of testing God — shaking our fist in God’s face and saying, “Give me what I demand or I’ll renounce you.” Now, my guess is if I were to ask for a show of hands here, not many of you would say, “Today I worshiped an idol,” or “I committed adultery,” or “I renounced God.” But there is one more temptation in verse 9: “Do not grumble.” Anyone grumble today? Anyone grumble because your neighbors are too noisy. Because your kids are too squirrelly. Your spouse is too nit-picky. The car in front of you is too slow. The parking is too crowded. The music is too loud. The temperature is too hot. The room is too crowded. || You see, the purpose of the Evil One is to tempt you in order to separate you from God. And whatever is most likely to do the trick, that’s what he’s going to use. Grumbling can be just as effective as idolatry or adultery. In fact, sometimes it can be far more dangerous because it’s so subtle. || And by the way, the evil one doesn’t just tempt you to do what’s wrong. He tempts you to NOT do what’s right. He wants you NOT to go deep with God and NOT to do the things with your life that God created you to do. || And it may be that the most important temptation some of us face today is just busyness. That’s what’s keeping some of us from deep prayer, from deep love for God, from deep trusting faith. || We need to ruthlessly eliminate hurry and busyness from our lives. If the evil one can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy. He will keep you in a hurry so you don’t have time to spend with God. || Or maybe the most important temptation you face isn’t busyness, it’s the couch and a television. You see, the evil one does not have the power to destroy you. He can’t kill you. He can’t wrestle you away from God. The evil one is, by no means, the counterpart of God in terms of power. God is all-powerful and all-knowing and all-present, and the evil one is none of those. Essentially, the single power the evil one has is to tempt you. If any human being’s soul is destroyed, including yours or mine, it will be through temptation. || And the temptation battle is the most important battle you will ever fight. || And some of you are in it right now up to your neck. It’s the most important battle you will ever fight. The evil one will try to make it look as if it were not so, as if giving in to temptation was no big deal. But it is. This is not a petty thing. || Think about this. The truth is, anytime a human being, a human life — what is most valuable to God — any time a human being is destroyed spiritually, it happens through temptation. It’s through giving in to temptation. So expect it. There is no exception to this rule. “No temptation has seized you except what is common to human beings” — men and women, you and me. || || Alright, the second observation is in the second half of verse 13: And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. The second observation is that God knows just how much you can bear, and he will not allow you to be tempted beyond that. || Now, this statement is sometimes misused by Christians to talk about suffering. They’ll sometimes say to a person in bad pain, “God won’t let you suffer beyond what you can bear.” Paul doesn’t say that. People suffer to the point of death every day, all around the world. This is about temptation, and God knows just how much you can bear. I used to work out with a friend who knows a lot about the body and physical conditioning. And there were times when I would be lifting weights and every muscle in my body would be screaming, “Stop! Put it down!” And he would say to me, “You can do two more reps. Come on! You’ve got two more in you.” || In my mind I would cuss at him. But I would do two more. And you know what? He was always right. I don’t know how he knew, but he knew just how much I could bear. || And I’ll tell you something: God knows just how much temptation you can bear. God knows. I don’t know how he knows, but he knows. And he will not allow the Evil One to go beyond that point. He will not. That’s a promise from Scripture. || Now this ought to be very encouraging to everyone in this room — there is no temptation I face that is not filtered through the Father’s eyes and his care and his hand. We can have that hope. But there’s also a kind of sobering implication, and that is: You and I can never rationalize giving in to sin by saying, “I couldn’t help myself. I just couldn’t resist any further.” God doesn’t leave that excuse open to us. He didn’t intend to. || James 4:7 says: Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. He will flee, but it will take some resistance. And we have a very good trainer. And he is with you all the time. And he watches you real close. And he knows just how much you can bear. But that means there are no excuses on this temptation deal. And if you’ve been letting yourself off the hook by just excusing yourself, saying things like, “My circumstances are just so bad,” or “I’m so weak,” or “I don’t have a way out,” that is not the teaching of Scripture. It’s time to face that painful reality. There are no excuses! || || Alright, the third observation is this. Paul says: But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. That’s good news. When you are tempted, God himself will provide a way out so that you can stand up under it — so that you don’t cave in to it. God will make a way. || And in the time that we have left today, I want to talk about three actions you and I need to take to find a way out. I want to talk about the way out — about our part in being delivered from temptation. || Here’s the first one. If I had to name the single greatest emotional resource against temptation in a single word, it would be the word Joy. Nehemiah 8:10 is a classic statement in Scripture on this: The joy of the Lord is your strength. || Now think about what this means — The joy of the Lord is your strength. This is the first way out. If you want to resist the evil one, arrange your life around joy. Arrange your life to experience the joy of the Lord. || I believe experiencing authentic, God-honoring joy may be the single greatest weapon against temptation a human being can have. Conversely, joylessness is always a setup for vulnerability to sin and disobedience. One writer puts it like this. And this is probably the most insightful statement I’ve read all week. Failure to attain a deeply satisfying life always has the effect of making sinful actions seem good. Let me say that again… failure to attain a deeply satisfying life always has the effect of making sinful actions seem good. || I have seen so many people over the years, people who are leaders in churches, people who are pastors, bail on God and give in to some stupid temptation because month after month, year after year, their life was just filled with busyness… and all the joy got choked out of their life. They led hurried, miserable lives for such a long time that the fall was just inevitable. || Here lies the strength in temptation. Our success in overcoming temptation will be easier if we are basically joyful. || For example, when people experience sexual temptation, what’s driving it? What’s prompting it? Very often, underneath it is loneliness, boredom, self-pity, or resentment… maybe at a spouse. || And if that’s going on, then as long as I’m focused only on the sexual issues, trying really hard to resist that temptation, as long as I’m just focused on the surface, I’m not getting to the root. The root is — there is a deep pain in my life that I’m not acknowledging and bringing into the light. || To the extent that you have authentic joy, then temptation, which is always the offer of the illusion of joy — never joy itself; to the extent that you have authentic joy, then the deceptive illusion of joy is not going to be very tempting. It’s just not. || This is very, very important. When it comes to temptation, the joy of the Lord really is strength. || So the question here is what do you need to do to increase the joy factor in your life? What do you need to do? What are the activities and relationships that are God-honoring that bring authentic joy in your life? Maybe it’s being in nature. Maybe there’s music you love to listen to. Maybe it’s time with certain friends. Maybe it’s physical challenges that you love. Maybe it’s competition. Maybe it’s exercise… or driving fast cars… or eating good food… or being near the ocean… or painting… or tinkering in the garden. Maybe as you pray, “God, lead me not into temptation. Deliver me from the Evil One,” this needs to be part of what you pray for. “God, help me be a joyful person. Help me to find those things that will fill me with joy.” || But you are responsible to arrange your life so that the joy of the Lord can be your strength. You must do that. No one is going to do that for you. And if you don’t, you’re a sitting duck. You’re a target for the Evil One. || Okay, that’s one way out. The joy of the Lord is our strength. Arrange your life around joy. || The second way out is you and I need to Develop relationships of accountability. You see, temptation always involves hiddenness and darkness. And I just want to say this as directly as I know how: If you think you can handle sin and temptation on your own, you’re deceiving yourself. You are sadly deceived because you’ve got an enemy and the enemy is stronger and smarter. If you try to handle temptation on your own, you will fall. You need someone else in your life. || Here’s what you need to do. You need to have someone you can go to and say… “I need you to know this about me — this is my temptation. I want you to know where I’m tempted, and I want you to ask me how it’s going in this area of my life on a regular basis. And I want you to feel free to confront me when you’re concerned about my behavior. I give you an open door.” When you’re tempted… you need someone to call. || In 12-step programs, they talk about a sponsor. A sponsor is available to do that anytime, night or day. Everyone needs one. You need someone you can call and say, “This temptation is real strong right now. I need your help.” You need someone who’s going to say to you, “Don’t do it! It will kill you. I’ll come be with you. I’ll pray for you. I’ll talk to you. I’ll do whatever you need me to do for you, but don’t do it.” || Now, this is one of the fundamental differences between genuine community and pseudo community — false community — which so many churches fall into. They are not authentic community, even though they have worship services and programs. Because in pseudo community, everyone pretends like they don’t have a temptation problem — “Yeah, I had a weakness once, but now I’m strong. I’ve passed all that stuff.” In authentic community, people know I’m just one temptation away from a real mess. || In biblical communities, we’re just a bunch of people with temptation problems that want to help each other. || Look at the person next to you. Just literally turn for a second, and take a real good look at that person next to you. They’ve got a temptation problem. They’ve got a serious temptation problem. You offer them the apple, and they’re in deep trouble. And you know what? They’re sitting next to someone with that same problem. || And in churches where people pretend like they don’t have a problem, it’s just death. It’s just death. And in churches where grace and truth break through, and people can be part of little communities, small groups, and families where they get past that junk and are honest, they say, “You know what? I’ve got a problem, and I need help. Will you help me?” And people do that for each other, and we recognize that we are all creatures who are much smaller and slower than the enemy and we’ll need help from God and help from each other. There is so much power in community like that. || Who in your life knows what your temptation is? Who do you call when you’re struggling? And if you don’t know, if you can’t come up with a name right now, then I challenge you to start praying today: “God I need someone like that in my life. Help me think about who that might be. Help me understand what the next step is that I need to take to deepen my relationship with that person until I know them well enough and can trust them deeply enough that I can share that with them.” If you do have someone like that in your life, take some time this week and tell them how it’s going with your temptation. Just let them know. That’s a fundamental way out. || || 1. You need to arrange your life for joy. 2. You need an accountable relationship. And then, the final way out: You need to Immerse your mind in Scripture. Immerse your mind and your life and your heart in Scripture. || In Ephesians 5:25 the Apostle Paul gives a very important picture of the ministry of the Word of God. Paul is talking about the need for husbands to love their wives, but look at how he describes this love. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. We are to be washed by the Word. Now, let me ask you a real simple question: Why do you wash something? Anyone have a guess? Evidently this is a dirty group. Why do you wash something? Because it’s dirty. The soap and water move through the fibers of the dirty fabric and they lift out the impurities — they separate the impurities from the fabric. And this is the picture Paul is using that’s worth reflecting on. || When we come to God’s Word, our minds and hearts may be dirty. They’re cluttered with false beliefs, with wrong attitudes, with impure feelings and unhealthy motives. Now, imagine having a mind that’s cleansed of all that garbage that weighs us down. Imagine when you see someone, even a difficult someone, that your first thought is to think well of them and pray for them. That’s your first thought. Imagine if you find that you’ve got a challenge or a problem, that your first thought is to look to God for strength. Imagine, if you’re a man, imagine what it would be like to look at any woman who is not your wife, and to look at her as if she were your sister or your daughter. Wouldn’t you like to have a mind that works like that? That’s what it would be like to have a mind that has been washed by the Word. That’s what the Scripture is to do in us and to us. That’s the ministry of the Word of God. || || When Jesus was led into the desert to be tempted, how did he resist the evil one? By the way, this is important — we don’t resist temptation. Not once in the Bible does God command us to resist temptation. Not once. He says, resist the tempter, resist the evil one, but not temptation. Why? Because whatever you resist, persists. The harder you push it (“I’m not going to do this”), the harder it pushes back. Instead of resisting, the Bible teaches refocusing. You turn the mental channel in your mind. || If you’re watching something on TV that you shouldn’t be watching, you don’t say, “I’m not going to watch this, I’m not going to watch this.” No, you turn the channel. You refocus off of what you’ve been to what you want to be and to what God wants to do in your life. || This is what Jesus did when he was being tempted — he focused on the word of God and he was able to resist the evil one. || There are over 7,000 promises in the Bible. The most helpful discipline you and I can develop is learning to memorize Scripture. || Luke 4 says — Jesus was tempted by the evil one and Jesus answered, “It is written…” Jesus answered, “It is written…” Jesus answered, “It is written…” Jesus used Scripture that he had memorized against the temptation of the evil one. Jesus’ mind was so washed in the Word, and he lived in its reality so thoroughly that he saw right through the deception of the evil one. He said, “Why would I even consider choosing that?” || || Well, you need to get real clear on what your temptation is. What are you most likely to be tempted with that will pull you away from God? And then, immerse your mind in relevant Scriptures. || Let’s say your temptation is gossip. People who struggle with gossip need to learn that it’s possible to know something and not say it. If your temptation is gossip, you should memorize James 1:19. Be quick to listen and slow to speak. And that will change your life. You will learn it’s possible to know something and not to have to say it. You can learn to be slow to speak. || If your temptation is anger, then memorize verses like Ephesians 4:32: Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. And you say that verse over and over and over again, then you practice it. || If your temptation is fear or lack of trust, then memorize Joshua 1:9: Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. And then everywhere you go, all day long, “The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” || If your temptation is ingratitude, if the grumbling deal is your temptation, memorize 1 Thessalonians 5:18: Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. You should say that all the time and practice it. || And while you’re doing that and washing your mind in God’s word, pray. Talk to God all the time. || I know there is not one of us in this room who doesn’t wrestle with temptation. I know some of you are wrestling with it big time right now. And I want you to remember something. I want you to remember this image of a bug zapper. I want you to remember the next time you face temptation — and it may be in five minutes — I want you to remember the damage it will do to your soul. Temptation can cause you to violate your integrity. Destroy a marriage. Create guilt and despair. Interrupt the possibility of worship for you. Cause you to hide from other people. Lead you into hypocrisy and deception. It’s just messed up! || And some of you are flying right for it. Don’t do it! || God will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. He will make a way out. Maybe you’ve been battling temptation for a long time. Maybe you’re discouraged. Maybe the truth is the battle is not going all that well. Maybe you have not even been making much of an effort. Maybe you’re wondering right now, “Is there enough grace for me? Is there any hope? Will things ever be any better?” There really is a battle going on. You really do have an enemy. But God really will help. || And it doesn’t matter how hard the struggle is, and it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve fallen before, you can get back up. God will help you… and it’s worth the struggle. || We have an enemy, and he is strong, but there is one who is stronger still. And he has won the battle. Whatever your struggle, whatever your temptation, you don’t face it alone. || Alright, let me pray for you… and then we’re going to celebrate baptisms. Blue Oaks Church Pleasanton, CA