It is a great day to have all of you gathered together to worship and to share in God’s word. If you’re just now joining us, we’re actually in Part 3, of a 4 part message series where we’re talking about how to overcome temptation.
There are many of you right now, that are struggling with a recurring temptation that just seems to plague you. No matter what you do, you can’t seem to stop. I want to remind you of our key verse from 1 Corinthians chapter 10 verse 13, which tells us that “God is…” What? Somebody help me out. It says, “God is faithful.” It tells us some incredibly good news. It says that our “God will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” It also tells us that when we are tempted, God will also provide … this is the title of our series, what will our God give us? He will also provide us a way out, so we can endure it.
I pray that you are encouraged by this truth today. That no matter what you’re facing, there is always a way out. You may be tempted to always complain. There’s a way out. You may be tempted to compare. You’re dissatisfied. You’re envying others. You’re jealous. There’s always a way out. You may be tempted to overspend. There is a way out. You may be tempted to worry. There may be a real addiction. You’re addicted to social media. You’re addicted to gambling. You’re addicted to gaming. You’re addicted to smoking something, drinking something, looking at something inappropriate. Whatever it is, our God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. He will always give us, help me again. He will always give us a way out so you can endure it.
The challenge is that so often when we think, “Okay, I don’t want to do this anymore.” And then what we do is we think, “Well, in that case, I need to stop thinking about this. I need to make sure I don’t do that wrong thing. I need to stop focusing on the wrong thing.” Scripture actually teaches us that that is one plan of attack, but it’s even better when, rather than trying not think about the wrong thing, we instead think about good things. When we’re focused on simply not thinking about the wrong things, sometimes we just force ourselves to think about the wrong things even more.
We’re going to learn in Scripture that an even better plan of trying not to think about the wrong thing, or even trying to think of good things, is to actually do the right thing. Today I want to go a little bit deeper, so if you could put on your thinking hats with me we’re going to look at some powerful Scripture. This is what Paul said in Galatians 5:16. He said “So I say…” What? Let’s all say it aloud. Paul said that we should “Live(Walk) by the Spirit.” What does that mean? We’ll talk more about this. He says “Do the right thing. Stay close to God. Live/Walk by the Spirit.” And if we do, what does he say will happen? “You will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
Now, what are the desires of the flesh? The flesh is a picture of our sinful nature. If you’re a follower of Jesus you’ll recognize there’s a war going on between what God’s Spirit wants you to do, and what your sinful nature wants you to do. He said “if you walk by the Spirit you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” If you walk by the Spirit you’re not going to be as tempted to do the wrong thing. Verse 17 he 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 you are not to do simply do whatever you want.
Some of you, you can very much relate to this. You are like the Apostle Paul in Romans 7. Paul said this. He said “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” We can relate to that can’t we? You want to do what’s right, and you don’t.
“I want to read my Bible every day.”
“I want to stop overspending”
“I want to get up and jog in the morning”
“I want to do the right things, and then I don’t want to do the wrong things.”
“I don’t want to get mad at my husband.”
“I don’t want to sleep with my boyfriend again.”
“I don’t want to do these things, but I end up doing these things.”
Why is this such a struggle? Here’s a key thought. If you’re taking notes I’d love for you to write this down. We need to understand that what you feed grows. What you feed grows, and what you starve dies. Whatever you feed grows stronger and bigger. Whatever you starve grows weaker and eventually dies.
For example, if you feed yourself a lot, what’s going to happen? You’re going to grow. If you starve yourself, work with me, what are you going to do? You’re going to die. If you feed your plant at home, what your plant’s going to do? Live and grow. If you starve your plant it’s going to die.
That’s just how it works. If you feed your fleshly nature, what happens? Your desires to sin grow. If you starve your fleshly nature, it starts to die. If you feed your Spirit, your Spirit grows stronger. Your intimacy with God increases, and this power in you to overcome the desires of the flesh increases as well.
What you feed grows, and what you starve dies. So instead of just thinking “No, no, no, no, no.” I also want to feed my Spirit. We’re going to talk next week about how to do that so that we can starve our flesh and enable our spirit to win the war between the spirit and the flesh.
So how do we, with the help of the Holy Spirit, overcome those wrong desires of the flesh? How can we allow the Holy Spirit to empower us to get free from those sinful desires that we end up giving it to?
I want to give you 2 thoughts about allowing the Holy Spirit to help us overcome the temptations that we often get into. The first thing is this: We’re going to learn to depend on the power of the Holy Spirit.
What is the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is the Spirit that Jesus sent us after He ascended to Heaven to help us live for Him. It is actually one of the greatest gifts that we will ever have. Jesus said before he went away, “I’m going to send you something better. I’m going to go away and I’m going to send you the Holy Spirit.” Which is basically God living within you. If you’re a follower of Jesus, the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells within you.
Now, What does this Holy Spirit do? The Holy Spirit does a lot.
One thing the Holy Spirit does is He convicts us of our sin. You do something wrong and you have this thought that says, “Oh, I shouldn’t have done that.” You’re about to do something wrong. There’s this message inside your brain saying, “Warning! Warning! Warning!” That is the Holy Spirit convicting us.
The Holy Spirit also comforts you when you’re hurting. Have you ever been in one of those places where you’re just upset, and you’re praying, and suddenly you just feel at peace? There’s just a peace that surpasses your human ability to understand. That’s not goosebumps or whatever. That is the Holy Spirit comforting you.
The Holy Spirit also counsels you. He’s called a counselor. He will guide you into truth. The Holy Spirit will guide you and say “This is the way you should go.” The Holy Spirit prompts you, or nudges you, to move in the direction that would please God.
The Holy Spirit is not an “it.” The Holy Spirit is a “He.” God, in Spirit form that dwells within you. So when you’re battling temptation, you don’t have to do it on your own if you’re a follower of Christ. You have a Heavenly Father that dwells within you. With the help of God in Spirit form, you can overcome the desires of your flesh.
Paul says again in Romans 8 verses 12 and the beginning of 13, he says this. “You have…” What? He said “You have an obligation.” I love this. We have an obligation, but NOT to the sinful nature! You are NOT obligated whatsoever to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. “For if you live by according to the sinful nature…” What’s going to happen? “You’re going to…” What? “Die.” “Whoa! That’s a little dramatic there Apostle Paul. What do you mean we’re going to die? How dramatic are you going to be. We’re not going to die.” Scripture is calling us to understand something important this morning – we need to understand that sin can be fun for a little while, but then it will mess you up.
“Sin thrills and then it kills.” Someone said “Sin fascinates and then it assassinates.” It can be fun for a little while, then when you live in it too long, it actually kills you.
Sin grows while left in the dark. It seems like it’s not that big of a deal and it may not be when it starts. But sin grows when we don’t confess it, and eventually it kills. It kills marriages. It kills intimacy with your children. It kills intimacy with God. It kills your testimony. It kills your finances. It kills your ability to have credibility. Sin kills. If you live by what your sinful nature dictates, you will die.
Let’s look at the whole verse again, just to internalize this. It says, “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…” here’s the good news, “if by the Spirit…” Notice this isn’t of your own power, but the power of the Spirit. Through God’s divine powerful Spirit that resides within every born again believer, through the power of the Spirit, if “…you put to death…” What’s that mean? You’re starving it. You’re staying away. What you starve dies.
If through the power of the Spirit you put to death “…the misdeeds of the body, you will…” What does it say? Help me out. “You will LIVE.”
There are some of you here today that are going to tap into the power of the Holy Spirit of God, and not by your own strength, but by the strength of God’s Spirit, you’re going to put to death, and starve, that which has been slowly killing you.
I want to read to you a prayer which I think is so powerful. In AA they have a really cool prayer that they pray. I like this a lot. Basically they say, “We admit we are powerless over alcohol, that our lives have become unmanageable. We have come to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore our sanity.”
Now, who is that power greater than ourselves? That is the power of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.
You must admit that you are powerless over something, and you need a power greater than you have – the power of the Holy Spirit – to help you be whole and help you be healed. Here’s my version of the prayer. “I admit that I’m powerless over _____. I believe that the power of the Spirit of God will heal me and make me whole.”
Let me ask you this morning – Are you ready? For some of you, this is it. What goes in the blank?
“I admit I am powerless over food.”
“I admit that I am powerless over materialism.”
“I admit that I am powerless over worry.”
“I am powerless over a sexual addiction.”
Whatever it is for you, you have to call it what it is. You are only as strong as you are honest. Admit it.
“I’m powerless over the lusts that I have.”
“I’m powerless over pot, alcohol, meth, pain medication.”
This is why we come together as a church. Together we can overcome what we can’t by ourselves. We come together with other people in Christian community, confess our sins to one another, pray for each other, and that’s where we find healing.
I’ll tell you my story.
The second thing if you’re taking notes, and this sounds challenging, but it’s really simple, after we learn to depend on the power of the Holy Spirit, we’re going to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:24 and 25 say, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with his passions and desires.” What are they doing? They’re starving it again. They’re putting it to death. They’re staying away so the power becomes weaker. They’re crucifying these sinful desires.
It goes on to say, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Go back to our first verse. If we walk in the Spirit we will not gratify the desires of our flesh. Since we live by the Spirit let us keep in step with the Spirit. What does this mean?
How do we learn to keep in step with the Spirit of God?
We spend time with him.
We get to know him through his word.
We listen to him.
Over time we actually recognize he’s prompting me, he’s leading me, he’s guiding me. The more you mature, the more you recognize he’s telling me to go this way. He’s leading me to say this. He’s prompting me not to do this. He’s telling me to take my mind off of this. He just gave me this verse. He’s leading me to help this person. He’s telling me to pray for this, and literally, you’re keeping in step with the Spirit.
When you’re so close to the Spirit of God, here’s what happens. You will not gratify the desires of your flesh. Why? Because you are so full of what matters, you’re not tempted by the emptiness of what does not matter.
If you are a follower of Jesus and you’ve never tried this, I want to encourage you to keep track and write down every time you feel like the Spirit prompts you. Okay? Take note of every time you sense the Holy Spirit prompting you. Here’s what’s going to happen. Just take note – I don’t know how you’re going to do it. Maybe on your phone, a piece of paper, whatever. Maybe email yourself, whatever. Take note of every time you believe the Holy Spirit is prompting you.
Here’s what’s going to happen.
- You’re going to be driving to work and listening to Christian radio, and you’re going to hear a song. “Oh, that just ministered to me. Ding, ding, ding, ding, God was prompting me.”
- You’re going to be reading in your daily Bible plan, and a verse is going to come alive. You’re going to go, “Oh wow. God just spoke to me.”
- You’re going to be going into your office and there’s that annoying person who’s talking and you’re trying to walk on by. You think, “No. I’m going to stop and listen. Wait a minute. Why? Because the Holy Spirit just prompted me to listen.”
If nothing works for you, just do this sometime. Just say, “God I’m going to give you 15 minutes and pray for people. Show me someone to pray for.” Watch what happens. Boom, boom, boom. Name missiles come out of Heaven into your brain. Suddenly you’re praying for people for 15 minutes and it passes by like that.
You’ll be walking with the Spirit, and suddenly the Spirit says, “Don’t go into that place. Don’t think about this. Go do this instead.” When you’re keeping in step with the Spirit, when you’re walking according to the Spirit, you will not gratify the sinful desires of your flesh.
Here’s the good news. You have no obligation to sin. You have no obligation. You have no obligation to obey the desires of your flesh. You have no obligation to stay addicted to that which is in a bottle. You have no obligation to continue to depend on something that you smoke in order to get through the day. You have no obligation to continue eating to medicate yourself because there is a power that dwells within you that is greater than that desire for sugar. You have no obligation to continue to worry when the Prince of Peace can renew your mind and give you a peace that goes beyond your ability to understand. You have no obligation to do what the sinful nature urges you to do.
Why? Because our God is faithful, and he will never let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but when you are tempted, what will our God do? He will always, always, every time, give you a way out. So how do you get out? Not just don’t think bad, don’t think bad, don’t think bad. Think good. Holy Spirit, lead me. If I walk according to the Spirit I will not gratify the desires of my flesh, therefore I will depend on the power of the Holy Spirit. God I acknowledge that I am powerless over this, and I need the Holy Spirit to make me whole and well, and I will follow the promptings of the Spirit all day long. Documenting, documenting, at the end of the day, look at the times God led me, prompted me. Oh wow. He is a God who speaks. Therefore, tomorrow I’m going to pay even better attention. I will keep in step with the Spirit, and sin will not hold its grip on me. Oh, our God is faithful. He will never let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. Wherever you feel trapped, my God will give you a way out.