1 Corinthian 6:6-13
Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
Toad baked some cookies. “These cookies smell very good,” said Toad. He ate one. “And they taste even better,” he said. Toad ran to Frog’s house. “Frog, Frog,” cried Toad, “taste these cookies that I have made.”
Frog ate one of the cookies, “These are the best cookies I have ever eaten!” said Frog.
Frog and Toad ate many cookies, one after another. “You know, Toad,” said Frog, with his mouth full, “I think we should stop eating. We will soon be sick.”
“You are right,” said Toad. “Let us eat one last cookie, and then we will stop.” Frog and Toad ate one last cookie. There were many cookies left in the bowl.
“Frog,” said Toad, “let us eat one very last cookie, and then we will stop.” Frog and Toad ate one very last cookie.
“We must stop eating!” cried Toad as he ate another.
“Yes,” said Frog, reaching for a cookie, “we need willpower.”
“What is willpower?” asked Toad.
“Willpower is trying hard not to do something you really want to do,” said Frog.
“You mean like trying hard not to eat all these cookies?” asked Toad.
“Right,” said Frog.
Frog put the cookies in a box. “There,” he said. “Now we will not eat any more cookies.”
“But we can open the box,” said Toad.
“That is true,” said Frog.
Frog tied some string around the box. “There,” he said. “Now we will not eat any more cookies.”
“But we can cut the string and open the box.” said Toad.
“That is true,” said Frog. Frog got a ladder. He put the box up on a high shelf.
“There,” said Frog. “Now we will not eat any more cookies.”
“But we can climb the ladder and take the box down from the shelf and cut the string and open the box,” said Toad.
“That is true,” said Frog.
Frog climbed the ladder and took the box down from the shelf. He cut the string and opened the box. Frog took the box outside. He shouted in a loud voice. “Hey, birds, here are cookies!” Birds came from everywhere. They picked up all the cookies in their beaks and flew away.
“Now we have no more cookies to eat,” said Toad sadly.
“Not even one.”
“Yes,” said Frog, “but we have lots and lots of willpower.”
“You may keep it all, Frog,” said Toad. “I am going home now to bake a cake.”
(Sermonillustrations.com –Ray & Anne Ortlund, Renewal, Navpress, 1989, p. 73-74.)
Does that story strike a cord with you? Do you find it difficult to resist temptation?
In the Epistle of James we read, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1: 13-15, NIV).
This Summer we have been examining areas that trouble Christians on a regular basis. There are the issues of Total Commitment, of Complete Trust in God, of Shame from our past experiences, and so much more. But the one thing every Christian has to deal with is Temptation. We all are tempted. Even Jesus was tempted: “ For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15, NIV).
If temptation is so prevalent, then we need to recognize it and know how to resist it.
I. WHAT IS TEMPTATION?
a. Temptation is an enticement to sin, plain and simple. We can make all kinds of excuses, talk about our human condition, blame self-will or lack thereof, but when all is said and done, temptation is an enticement to sin.
b. Someone made this distinction between “trials” and “temptations”: What is temptation? Seduction to evil, solicitation to wrong. It stands distinguished from trial thus: trial tests, seeks to discover the man’s moral qualities or character; but temptation persuades to evil, deludes, that it may ruin. The one means to undeceive, the other to deceive. The one aims at the man’s good, making him conscious of his true moral self; but the other at his evil, leading him more or less unconsciously into sin. God tries; Satan tempts. (Fairbain, quoted in The Words and Works of Jesus Christ, J.D. Pentecost, p. 99.)
c. In order to fully understand what “temptation to sin” means, one has to know what sin is. Sin is disobedience to God. It means doing something that is contrary to God’s Will, God’s Law, God’s Character. It stands in contrast to the very nature of God.
d. And while it does not at first seem to be so terrible, sin is an affront to God. In Hebrews 6: 6 describes sin as “…crucifying the son of God …and subjecting him to public disgrace.”
II. WHAT IS TEMPTATION’S APPEAL?
a. Of course, temptation never seems to be that bad. It comes disguised as something we want or that we think we need. It is presented in a way that sounds innocent until a person takes time to consider the full implications. 2 Corinthians 11:14 tells us that Satan disguises himself as an Angel of Light in order to deceive us.
John Piper says that sin (lust for example) “gets its power by persuading me to believe that I will be more happy if I follow it. The power of all temptation is the prospect that it will make me happier.” (E. Lutzer, Putting Your Past Behind You, Here’s Life, 1990, p.54.)
b. Most of you know that I have a continual battle with weight and am almost always on a diet of some kind. If I were to be in a situation where I was told not to eat anything for a period of time and someone placed a bowl of cooked green beans on the table in front of me, I would not be tempted at all. But, on the other hand, if someone placed a freshly baked cinnamon roll in front of me, that would be a different story! I hate green beans, but I really love cinnamon rolls. And Satan won’t tempt me to do things I really don’t want to do. I have no desire to rob a bank or to murder someone. Satan would try to get me to do things that are more appealing—like keep that $10 bill I found in the parking lot, or eat that cinnamon roll! Or, it may be that he would tempt me to hold a grudge and plot to get even with someone who has wronged me—because I would feel a sense of justice for doing that!
c. Remember when Jesus was arrested and Peter followed him to the courtyard where he was being held. Three times he was accused of being a follower of Jesus, but Peter said no. Why did he do that? The reason Peter yielded to the temptation to deny Jesus was because he feared for his own safety. Temptation came because of his own desire to not be arrested!
d. Temptation is usually subtle. It appeals to our own desires and leads us into traps. I read this story this week: In the Australian bush country grows a little plant called the “sundew.” It has a slender stem and tiny, round leaves fringed with hairs that glisten with bright drops of liquid as delicate as fine dew. Woe to the insect, however, that dares to dance on it. Although its attractive clusters of red, white, and pink blossoms are harmless, the leaves are deadly. The shiny moisture on each leaf is sticky and will imprison any bug that touches it. As an insect struggles to free itself, the vibration causes the leaves to close tightly around it. This innocent-looking plant then feeds on its victim. (Our Daily Bread, December 11, 1992.)
e. If temptation looked bad we would have no problem avoiding it or resisting it. But it always tries to appeal to something within us that is to our liking!
III. HOW CAN WE RESIST TEMPTATION?
a. Mark Twain is quoted as saying, “There are several good protections against temptation, but the surest is cowardice. “
b. God’s Word says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Peter 5: 8-9).
c. And again in James 4: 7, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
d. In Sermonillustrations.com there was this article: : A recent survey of Discipleship Journal readers ranked areas of greatest spiritual challenge to them:
5. (Tie) Anger/Bitterness.
5. (Tie) Sexual lust.
Survey respondents noted temptations were more potent when they had neglected their time with God (81 percent) and when they were physically tired (57 percent). Resisting temptation was accomplished by prayer (84 percent), avoiding compromising situations (76 percent), Bible study (66 percent), and being accountable to someone (52 percent).
e. Charles Spurgeon wrote, “What settings are you in when you fall? Avoid them. What props do you have that support your sin? Eliminate them. What people are you usually with? Avoid them. There are two equally damning lies Satan wants us to believe: 1) Just once won’t hurt. 2) Now that you have ruined your life, you are beyond God’s use, and might as well enjoy sinning.”Learn to say no. It will be of more use to you than to be able to read Latin.”
f. How do you resist temptation? Live close to God. Cultivate that sensitivity to His promptings. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Strive always to do what is pleasing to Him. In all situations “Pray without ceasing.” Consider the consequences before you act. The old saying that used to be popular isn’t bad: Ask, “What would Jesus do?”
>As I was thinking about temptation and preparing this message, I thought to myself: I don’t believe that any of you are being tempted to steal from someone or to murder someone. None of you are deliberately planning to do something that you know will dishonor God. At least I hope that is true!
>But I know that temptations are much more subtle than that. We may not be planning to hurt someone else’s reputation, but we may be thinking of how to make ourselves look good to others. We may be tempted to substitute something good instead of the best. God may be calling us to go on a Mission trip, but we think that we can just pay someone else’s expenses so they can go in our place. I’ve known of people who testified that they felt called into the ministry, but they decided they would work hard and gives lots of money to the church instead. They thought that would pacify their conscious and atone for their disobedience. Too often that is the way we think.
>And there are some things we need to understand. Temptation is not sin, but yielding to temptation is. Too often temptation causes us to feel guilty, but that is false guilt unless we are seriously considering giving in to the temptation.
>And another thing: What may be a temptation for you is not necessarily a temptation for me. Satan appeals to our individual desires or weaknesses. You may really like green beans!
>And when we see someone who has yielded to temptation, we need to be careful in our own attitude. It was F.B. Meyer, I believe, who once said that when we see a brother or sister in sin, there are two things we do not know: First, we do not know how hard he or she tried not to sin. And second, we do not know the power of the forces that assailed him or her. We also do not know what we would have done in the same circumstances. (Stephen Brown, Christianity Today, April 5, 1993, p. 17.)
Galatians 6: 1-2 says, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.”
>And I have learned that it is not just in those areas where we know that we are weak that we need to guard against temptation. Sometimes we think we are strong in certain areas and we let down our guard and Satan takes advantage.
> And often temptation comes on the very heels of victory. I was told by a college counselor that after a great revival meeting on campus, there were students so caught up in the emotions of the moment that they let down their guards and yielded to their passions in the heat of the moment.
>Are you battling temptation? That’s great because it means you haven’t yielded to it. And if you weren’t trying to live for God, Satan wouldn’t even bother with you. He is busy trying to cause Christians to fall. He doesn’t need to bother with those who have already fallen!
>The message God has for you today is this: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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 endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Helen Lemmel penned this chorus to an old familiar hymn:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
God will give you victory if you will just flee to Him…