Welcome! We are in week two of a four part message series dealing with temptation. We are calling this sermon series, A Way Out.
What I would love for you today if you would, is just prayerfully listen to this message through the lens of maybe your top one or two greatest temptations. This is really important. I want you to listen to and experience this teaching through the lens of a real struggle for you. I’ll give you a few seconds just to get your minds rolling. For example, some of you would say honestly, I am really vulnerable to overeating or I have an addiction to sugar. Some of you, it would be overspending. For some of you, it may be a substance. Some of you are battling with lust. Some of you are tempted to criticize. Some of you are sitting there thinking, “You know, I’m glad old so and so is hearing this message ’cause they’re jacked up. I don’t have any temptation. I don’t have any weaknesses.” You write down pride right now with a capital P in your notes, because we all are vulnerable somewhere. I really hope that you will listen to this message through the lens of what is perhaps your biggest temptation because I believe these ideas have the power to set you free – to help you find a way out.
I want to revisit our key text again today. We looked at it last week and we will look at it every week in this series. In 1 Corinthians 10 verse 12 says, “If you think you’re standing firm,” for those of you who say, “I don’t have a problem this is easy.” If you think you’re standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.” We all know pride comes before a fall. The Apostle Paul says here that, “No temptation has seized you, except,” what? Let’s all say it out loud, “except what is common to man.” In other words, to be human is to be vulnerable to temptation. Don’t ever think you are above it. The moment you think, “Hey, I couldn’t be tempted here,” is when you often will fall.
The moment you think you are standing firm, is when you are vulnerable to sin. Those who say, I don’t really need this today, you need it the most of all. The reality is, that so many times people become so incredibly guilty when they are tempted. “I’m such a failure as a Christian. I was tempted again.” But you have to understand that to be human is to be tempted. Coming to Christ does not mean the absence of temptation. It means proclaiming war on the temptation that is already there. The good news is that you do not have to fight alone.
This is what Paul said in verse thirteen, “And God is, faithful. He will not let be tempted beyond what you can bear.” This is amazing news. When you are tempted, every single time you are tempted, our God will provide a way out so you can endure it. Many of you are here today have been gripped by something that seems to have more power than your ability to resist. My prayer is that God would minister hope and faith to you today, so you won’t give up. Our God will always give you a way out.
I want to talk today about how we resist temptation. In order to understand how to resist, I want to start with the process of temptation. I read an article that talked about the five steps that happen every single time before someone does the wrong thing. These steps can take days, weeks, months, or even years, or literally, you can go through all five of these steps in a matter of moments. If you are taking notes, and I hope you are, these are the steps toward temptation and sin.
- The first is a thought, it starts with a thought.
- Then it moves into imagination,
- then some form of justification,
- then we make a choice,
- and then we sin.
Thought, imagination, justification, choice, sin.
Maybe for you, buying another outfit would be sin. Obviously buying an outfit is not a sin, but you’ve got eighteen you’ve never worn. You are in debt and you’ve made a promise not to do any more. Thought, I feel kind of alone right now and empty on the inside. Buying an outfit would make me feel so good. Imagination, I can see the Instagram post now. Oh, girl you look so good, smiley face, kissy face, heart, heart, heart, fire. Justification, I haven’t bought one since Wednesday. Choice, let’s go online and see if there are any sales. Oh, there’s one for 25% off. Oh, glory to God, he provided savings for me. Sin.
Thought, I’m bored. I think I’ll see what’s on my phone. Imagination, I saw something last week that got me excited. Justification, no big deal, everybody else looks. What nobody knows is not going to hurt them. Besides, my wife is not meeting my needs the way she should, so… Choice, I’m just going to look. Click, click, click…
Where does it start? It always starts with a thought. We need to recognize that what happens in those first critical moments of temptation, are far more important than you could ever imagine. What we are going to do is that we are going to decide ahead of time, knowing that we will be tempted. We are going to decide ahead of time, how to resist temptation so that we do not fall into something that hurts the heart of God and is destructive to us and to others. How do we fight our way out?
James, chapter four verse seven, basically shows us to do two things. The first thing, if you are taking notes, is this, how are we going to fight. We are first going to fight by submitting to God. The first thing we are going to do is submit to God and that’s exactly what James said. He said, “Submit yourselves, then to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Now, what’s interesting is that I always thought of resisting the devil is the first thing you do. You’ve got to fight against it, fight against it. James says no. The first thing you need to do before you fight against temptation, is you submit to God. Why? Because you don’t have the strength on your own. Your fleshly sinful nature is too weak. You are not designed to live the victorious life alone. You need the help of Christ, that’s why every temptation is an invitation to depend on Christ, so we submit to God.
What does that mean to you? It could mean a lot of different things. How do you submit to God? Some of you would continue to submit to God is you need to acknowledge that what you are doing is wrong and sinful, and that’s where you need to start. We live in a society of masterful justifiers:
- Everybody else does it.
- It’s just the way it is nowadays.
- 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 so God understands.
- I deserve it.
- Nobody else knows.
- This is just my one little thing.
Listen to me carefully. If you are doing anything inconsistent with God’s Word that is sinful behavior you need to start there by acknowledging that it is wrong.
Some of you know it is wrong and you are too proud to get help. Some of you need to submit to God and say, “Yes, I need help.” Others of you, it will be a deeper level of submission and I don’t know what that means to you, but I can tell you what it talks about in Scripture. Submission to God is a daily decision that we must make. Because we are so easily distracted. We can be all into God one minute, but then get so easily distracted. For me it has to be a daily, every single day without exception, decision to submit to God or I’m going to fail.
I want to encourage you to pray each morning something like this: “God, I choose today to submit my whole being to you. I submit my mind to you. Give me the mind of Christ. Help me to only think on things that are excellent, pure and admirable and excellent, God. Give me the power to think on things consistent with your truth. God, I submit to you my ears to you today that I would only let into my soul that which is consistent with your truth. Give me the wisdom to not let lies in but only to believe the truth. God, I submit my eyes to you that they only look on things that are pure.”
“I submit my mouth to you that my words would be pleasing to you, that they would bring you glory in what I say and build others up. I give my heart to you, God, and submit it to you acknowledging that it is deceitful in all ways, so God, give me a pure heart. May my motives be pure to serve you and to bring glory to you in all that I do. God, I submit my hands to you that they would be used to build people and to build your church and to build your Kingdom. God, I submit my feet to you that I would only go to places that are pleasing to you. God, I submit every part of my body to you today, my life is yours. Use it as you see fit.”
That is a daily prayer because honestly, we need it daily. Let me just be real honest with you. When I have submitted to God like that, it is easier to resist temptation. When I am not submitted to God, I am as vulnerable as the worst person you know and can give into temptation just like that. I must daily submit to God.
Here’s is what happens. What is temptation? Remember last week? Temptation is anything that promises satisfaction at the cost of obedience to God. Right? Anything that promises, if you do this, if you smoke this, if you take this then you are going to be satisfied. It is inconsistent with God’s truth. It promises satisfaction at the cost of obedience to God. What happens is that you have a choice regarding what you will rely upon.
You have a choice. I can rely on what is in a bottle, this medicates me, this helps me feel good. Or, I can rely on God. I can rely on something that I smoke because it helps me. Or, I can rely on God. I can rely on food, this tastes so good, it is my reward, or this brings me comfort. Or, I can rely on God. I can take a legitimate sexual need, meet it in an illegitimate way, and rely on it. Or, I can choose to rely on God and his standards. I can rely on that which promises satisfaction or I can rely on the only one that gives true satisfaction and joy and you make that choice. That’s why daily we have to submit ourselves to God because the lies and temptations of this world can be so appealing, therefore we pray, “God, today, I give every part of my being to you.” When I am submitted to God it is easier to resist temptation. When I am not submitted to God, it is near impossible to resist temptation.
What do we do? The first thing we do is submit our whole lives to God. We submit ourselves to God. The second thing we do, if you are taking notes, is obvious. We resist the devil. We submit ourselves to God and resist the devil. How many of you have heard someone say, well I just couldn’t resist, I just couldn’t resist? Listen – With Christ you can resist. Okay? Let me say it again. With Christ you can resist. This is what James says. James said, “Submit yourselves then to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Resist the devil.
I illustrate it like this. For about eight months, Ashley and I lived and worked at a Bed and Breakfast out in the country. It was a working sheep farm, so there were all kinds of animals – chickens, goats, donkeys, cows, and then they had these huge Texas Longhorn cattle. Now the cattle were out in a field where they were fenced in because they could be dangerous. None of the other animals were going to hurt our guests, but the Longhorns were so strong they could accidentally gore someone just by turning their head. Now, you have to appreciate the strength of these animals. They would throw fifteen hundred pound bales of hay 10 feet up in the air like a soccer ball – that’s the kind of strength they had in their neck.
Well, one Sunday morning, I was running around getting ready for church. We had a group of girl scouts there as well as some other guests, so Ashley was preparing breakfast. And suddenly she saw out the kitchen window one of those Longhorns roaming around by everyone’s cars, which also happened to be the path from the guest house to the main house where breakfast was about to be served. So she called for me, and in the rush of getting ready that morning and just a burst of frustration, I hurried outside and just started yelling at the bull. I threw my hands up above my head in crazy fashion so as to look bigger and crazier and I just yelled at that thing to “Get out!” Sure enough, he slowly turned around and walked away from the cars and I went back inside. But as I went inside and realized what I had just done (with the help of Ashley asking me if I was crazy) I began to feel a little sick to my stomach and weak in the knees. “I could’ve just been killed,” I realized!
But my point in telling that story, is that in a very real sense, that is what you have to do when you are attacked by the evil one. You are already submitted to God so your confidence is not in yourself, your confidence is in Christ inside of you. Then, whenever temptation comes at you in the form of a Longhorn, with every bit of faith inside of you, you essentially yell, “Get out!” You quote 1 John 4:4, “Greater is he that is in me than he that is in the world.” You recognize that Christ in you is stronger than the wrong desires in you. You acknowledge and recognize that we are actually in a war. Christianity is not a playground, it is a battleground,
Ephesians 6:12 says, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” What we do literally, is we fight with weapons that are not of this world, Scripture says. Our weapons have divine power to demolish strongholds. What are strongholds? Those things that have held you hostage for years. You have divine, powerful weapons. What kind of weapons do we have? We have the power of prayer. We can petition our good God who hears us. We have the helmet of salvation. The breastplate of righteousness. The shield of faith with which we can quench the fiery darts of the evil one. We have the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. We have the belt of truth. Our shoes are repaired with the Gospel of the readiness of peace. Whenever temptation comes our way, we should say, “I was expecting you.” Greater is he (roar) that is in me than he that is in the world,” and then you fight back. You have been prepared. You already sought God and you know his strength is with you. His word is hidden in your heart that you might not sin against him. You stand your ground.
I’ve already submitted to God. God is with me today. I’ve pre-decided not to give in to God, I know that his strength is with me and then you fight back. Here’s a real powerful thought, if you are taking notes you could jot this down, one of the best ways to resist temptation is to eliminate it whenever you can. It’s really, really good and I’m going to say it again. One of the best ways to resist temptation is to eliminate it whenever you can.
For example, this is what Solomon was saying to his son giving him advice in Proverbs chapter four verses fourteen and fifteen. These verses crack me up because this is a father telling a son this. Here’s what he says, to basically stay out of temptation. He says, “Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers.” What’s he even saying, don’t even set your foot on the path. Don’t even do that. Stay away from it. Now, watch this, Son, in case you aren’t paying attention, I’m going to say it a few different ways. Avoid it. Do not travel on it. Turn from it. Go your own way. Hey, are you listening to me? Listen to me, I’m going to say it again, “You know that path that leads to evil? Avoid it. Don’t travel on it. Turn from it and go your own way.” I got it Dad, I got it.
No, I don’t think you are listening to me, son, I’m going to tell you again. Get out of Dodge. Run, Forest, run. Stay out of the path of the evil. Get away from it, don’t get close to it. One of the best ways to resist temptation is to avoid it and eliminate it whenever you can. Why would I resist temptation in the future if I have the power to eliminate it today? How does that play out in your life.
- If you eat chips, you could eat nine bags of chips. When you are in the grocery story, you skip the chip aisle. You go straight to the toilet paper aisle because you can’t get in no trouble on the toilet paper aisle, that’s what you do.
- You got a problem with alcohol, you don’t go to the bar. When you go to the gas station, you pay outside and you don’t walk in where there’s alcohol.
- If you are overcoming drugs, you don’t go around with people who smoke and shoot stuff. That’s just what you do.
- If every time you go to the gym, you are tempted to go, oh, God, yoga pants, yoga pants. Then listen to me, you don’t go to the gym. You work out at home to an app.
- You are at work and you are about to give in and do something wrong and have an affair with somebody, you know you are vulnerable. You switch departments or, guess what, you switch jobs. You get yourself out of the place.
- If you are a technology freak and you know how to get around the safeguards that I don’t know how to get around, and you are really vulnerable to look at the wrong stuff. Guess what, you don’t have a smart phone. You have a dumb one that flips open. Why? Because why would you resist any temptation you have the power to eliminate.
You decide ahead of time, I am going to distance myself from this. One of the best ways to resist temptation is to eliminate it when possible.
What do you do when you’re surprised by temptation? It just jumps in and you weren’t ready for it? What do you do then? We are going to talk about what to do in the upcoming weeks. A couple of things you can do is to run away or start quoting Scripture, which actually is a really effective tool. We are going to talk about that in week four. Another effective method is to call somebody and tell them. Sin grows best in the dark so I bring it to the light. When it’s in the light, suddenly it doesn’t have as much power. Always take it to Jesus.
The moment it becomes a thought, the moment it becomes a thought, I’m already prepared. My mind is already submitted to Christ today. I’ve already agreed not to look at something, say something wrong, act in some wrong way. The moment it becomes a thought, I immediately go to Jesus because I know, Hebrews 2:18 that, “Jesus himself suffered when he was tempted and because of that, he is able to help those of us who are being tempted.” Jesus is not sitting at the right hand of God the Father saying, “He tripped up again.” He is sitting there saying, “I’m here to help him get out.” Christ in me is stronger than the wrong desires in me. Instead of feeling shame, condemnation or guilt, we should feel hope. Why? Because our God is faithful and he will never let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. When you are tempted, our God will always provide a way out.