1 Corinthians 10:13 13 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.
Let’s talk about temptation. What I Corinthians 10:13 tells me is that we are not alone in our struggle to triumph over temptation. No temptation has seized us except what is common to all of us. Each of us will be tempted to lust, tempted to covet what isn’t ours, tempted to gossip, tempted to try to manipulate, lie, dominate, or control. Each of us will be tempted to make an idol out of money and material possessions. I don’t have time to list the ways temptation has come and will come to each of us. Temptation is a common experience for us all.
Temptation isn’t a sin. Jesus was tempted. Satan came at Jesus with everything he had in his arsenal to try to get Him to sin, to try to derail Jesus from doing the Father’s will, and Jesus triumphed over Satan. Jesus never sinned. Even though He was physically weak and tired, even though He was isolated and alone, He didn’t cave.
So I Corinthians 10:13 tells us that temptation is a common experience. It also tells us God will always provide a way out for us. I know there is cultural pressure and pressure from peers to experiment with all kinds of things. I know there is pressure to conform in order to be included in a group or to be liked by others. I know there is pressure to keep up with the Kardashians or whoever lives across the street from you. I get it. Pressure makes the pull of temptation harder to resist. But as believers, we aren’t left to handle the pressure on our own. God is faithful. He will be with us, and He will help us find a way out of the situation if we look to Him for help.
Perhaps the reason so many believers get caught up in sin, the reason they fall for the temptation and trap is because we aren’t yet sure that we believe sin is all that dangerous. We justify that something isn’t “all that bad” or that it isn’t as bad as the kinds of things that some people do and we don’t trust the seriousness of sin. Look at what James says:
James 1:13-15 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
What is the end result of giving into temptation? What is the end result of caving to unholy desires? It is death. It is spiritual death. It is emotional death. It is relational death. It is the death of our reputation. So much life is stolen from us when we don’t take temptation seriously. To justify behaviors by saying, “It’s just what people my age do,” or “It is just the way club members relate with one another,” or “It is just part of being on the team” is to downplay the dangers of sin. To excuse sin by saying, “I had no other choice” is simply not true. You always have a choice whether you will do the right thing or the wrong thing, but the first choice you need to make is to choose to believe that sin is dangerous. Once you make that decision, you can take the steps to avoid going down a path that leads to danger.
If acting on the wrong desire leads to death, what do we do with desire when it comes our way because all of us deal with it. Desire is normal. The normal desires of life have been given to us by God, so desire in and of itself isn’t sinful. We have to have desire. If you were never hungry or never thirsty, you wouldn’t ever eat or drink anything, and if you didn’t eat or drink anything you would die. If you never got tired and never had a desire to sleep, your body would wear out in a hurry. Sexual desire is normal, and without it, the human race wouldn’t continue. Desires aren’t bad, but it is when we try to satisfy these desires in ways that are outside of God’s will that we get into trouble. We cannot simply subdue our desires or pretend they don’t exist, but we must submit them to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and get His help to deal with them.
We’ve established that temptation is common. God will provide a way out for those who want it. Sin is dangerous and desire is normal. Now, James 1:14, we are warned that temptation comes to us through our natural desires. He says, Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.
James actually used two illustrations from the world of sports here. He used the phrase, “dragged away” and the word “enticed.” “Dragged away” carries with it the idea of baiting a trap. Hunters bait traps to lure animals in. “Enticed” in the original Greek means “to bait a hook.” Fishermen appeal to the natural desires of the fish they are trying to catch. No animal is deliberately going to step into a trap, right? Think about the way an Eskimo kills a wolf. The Eskimo hunter will use a knife, but the hunter doesn’t just try to throw a knife at a wolf or stab him with it. He tries to hide the knife by coating his knife blade with animal blood and allowing it to freeze. Then he adds another layer of blood, and another until the blade is completely concealed by blood. Wolves are attracted to blood, so next the hunter fixes his knife in the ground with the blade up. When the wolf discovers the bait he licks it, tasting the fresh frozen blood. Then he begins to lick faster and more vigorously until the keen edge is bare. In his craving for the blood the wolf does not realize that his thirst is being satisfied by his own warm blood until the dawn finds him dead in the snow. (Paul Harvey, “Sin’s Peril,” Leadership magazine, Winter 1987).
So, hunters try to hide the knife, the trap. No fish will bite at a naked hook, right, so fisherman try to hide the hook with bait that is appealing. That is what Satan does with temptation. He hides a trap or a hook by baiting it with something that appeals to us, with something that is alluring because of a natural desire. But when he does, he is trying to hide that what is underneath will cause us pain, regret, sorrow, and even death. And Satan isn’t a “catch and release” fisherman, friends. He is going to try to catch and keep everyone he catches and make them slaves to the sin that becomes their master.
And it is the bait that keeps us from seeing the consequence. We can’t be so focused on the desire that we are oblivious to the consequence. When David looked on his neighbor’s wife and lusted after he because she was so beautiful desire was the result. If he would have thought through the consequences of an unwanted pregnancy that would lead to a desperate cover up and the murder of her husband and then the untimely death of their baby that had been conceived, I don’t think he would have taken the bait. What James wants us to understand is that we cannot elevate the desire over the consequence because we will be sorry if we do. I think we want to pursue the desire and often think we will deal with the consequence later or that it won’t be as bad as God says it is, or that we will escape it altogether somehow, but James warns us that it isn’t so. Don’t let the bait keep you from seeing the consequence of sin.
You see, giving in to temptation involves an element of deception that I don’t think we are always fully willing to admit. I think we want to think we know what we are doing, that we are in charge of our lives, that we can do as we please, but when you are giving in to desire without understanding that consequences are inevitable you are only deceiving yourself. You are naive to the devil’s schemes.
James moved from hunting and fishing illustrations to the birth of a baby. Look again at verse 15: Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
Something new is born in us when we sin, and it isn’t good. And guess what? It grows.
That is what babies do. They grow. And babies are demanding, aren’t they? James says, “When we sin, we are giving birth to something that is going to demand more and more and more from us.” Young parents who are caring for babies at home, do you ever feel trapped? Yes, children are a blessing from the Lord, but what they demand from us in those early years is almost all-consuming. James wants us to understand that giving in to our desires will lead us into a relationship with sin that is demanding and often all-consuming.
Alright, now that the introduction is out of the way, let me try to help us with a strategy for what to do when we are tempted. Allow me to give you three words to remember. They are:
Let’s talk first about faith. James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
I believe there are people here today who need to settle some stuff. I know we often say that people need to learn some things the hard way or learn some things for themselves by making the wrong choices. Here is what I want to say to that: No they don’t. They don’t have to. They don’t have to give in to desires and fall into traps and find out that the consequences are real. Young people, you don’t have to make the same mistakes people before you have made in order to test this stuff out. You don’t. You can absolutely exercise faith that what God says is the way it is. God knows what is up! I am telling you as sure as I am standing here and hope that every adult over 25 who is walking with the Lord today will “amen” the fact that what God has said about the consequences of sin IS the way it is. (Amen!)
You have to exercise faith in the moment of temptation that even though you are feeling pulled in a direction, even though it sounds like fun, even though the risk of being caught seems minimal, even though everybody else is doing it, even though you think you might be labeled if you don’t do it, even if you think you will be missing out by opting out, you have to exercise faith that God isn’t lying to you, that God loves you, and that God’s way is best for you. And if you don’t stop and exercise faith when you are being tempted, if you don’t start to pray immediately, “God, help me. God, show me the way out of this,” you will be escorted by Satan to go behind the curtain and eventually…sometimes immediately…you will wish you hadn’t.
James tells us here in chapter 4 and verse 7 that when we submit to God’s authority, to God’s Word, to God’s ways, the devil WILL flee from us. If we are walking towards God, we have turned our back on the devil because God’s ways are diametrically opposed to the devil’s ways. We will have turned our back on the bait. We won’t be fueling our desire by staring at the bait because we will be turned away from it and walking in the opposite direction. When you walk toward the bait, eventually you will get close enough to touch it and that is when resisting becomes almost impossible. Put some distance between you and the bait by turning to and walking toward the Lord!
When the devil no longer has our attention because our gaze is turned towards God and away from the bait, the devil doesn’t have the same influence in our lives. He will flee from us. He will know he is beaten. But the devil doesn’t give up easily, does he? Temptation is an ongoing struggle for us because Satan likes to keep sneaking around and looking for ways to gain access into our lives. He likes to wait for an opportune time, maybe a time when we are discouraged or depressed, a time when we have gotten our feelings hurt or are disappointed by something, a time of transition into our lives like from Middle School to High School or High School to college or when we are newly married or are changing jobs or maybe it is when we have lost a loved one. He likes to emerge during times of stress and strain.
So, not only do we need to exercise faith in the face of temptation, but we need to flee from it.
We are told to flee from idolatry-I Corinthians 10:14. If your boat is more important than God, you need to flee. If that boyfriend or girlfriend is more important than God, you need to flee. If your work or your status in some club is more important than God, you need to flee.
We are told to flee from sexual immorality. I Corinthians 6:18. Set boundaries that will maintain moral purity in your relationships up front and don’t put yourself in situations where lines can be crossed. The backseat of a car in a dark alley isn’t the place to go if you are trying to keep lines from being crossed! Flee.
We are told to flee from youthful passions II Timothy 2:22. There are lots of crazy things that may seem like just having fun, but they aren’t fun to others around you or they aren’t a joke to the law. Flee.
We are told to flee from the love of money. I Timothy 6:11 The love of money will create a jerk out of the nicest individual. It will keep you self-focused and self-dependent until the flow of money in your life is disrupted. Flee.
But sometimes, we don’t flee. Sometimes we flirt with temptation, don’t we?
What do you mean, Pastor Melissa? We say things like, “I can go to that party where I know people will be drinking, but I can stay strong. I won’t give in.” We think we can put ourselves in an unholy atmosphere but still be the light. That might be the case a time or two, but when we repeatedly flirt with the darkness and put ourselves in situations that appeal to our desires, eventually the strongest person in this room can be worn down. To put ourselves in the middle of places and spaces where people are giving in to temptation and aren’t worried about what God thinks or the consequences that will result is like standing in the middle of a pig pen where dozens of pigs are wallowing in the dirt and thinking we won’t get mud on ourselves. That’s crazy.
That guy or girl that notices us at the office, but we are married. Are we glancing their way more often? Does our smile have something more than a friendly “hello” behind it? Are we spending a little more time on our hair and makeup before long? Are we looking for a new outfit to wear just to see if we can keep the “innocent” flirting going? Are we constantly updating our FB profile pic with some winsome look to see if they notice? Y’all know what I am talking about.
We need to quit flirting with sin. It’s like the story of the father who told his son not to swim in the canal. He said, “OK, Dad,” but he came home carrying a wet bathing suit that night. “Where have you been?” his dad demanded. “Swimming in the canal,” he replied. “Didn’t I tell you not to swim there?” asked the father. “Yes, Sir,” answered the boy. “Well, why did you?” he asked. “Well, Dad,” he explained, “I had my bathing suit with me and I couldn’t resist the temptation.” “Why did you take your bathing suit with you?” his dad questioned. “So I’d be prepared to swim in case I was tempted,” he replied. How many of you know the boy was flirting with sin? We need to quit carrying our swim suit around in case the opportunity to not resist sin presents itself!
Let’s take it to the next step because you know sin progresses. You never stay on step one with sin. You always move to step two. Maybe in your flirtation with sin you have actually fantasized going all the way, you have fantasized with diving into some sin. You have dreamed about how wonderful you think you would feel and how awesome it would be if you gave in. You are delusional. Satan wants you to fantasize about sin. Listen, if the devil can get you to fantasize about sin, he doesn’t have to get you to do much else, because at that point, moving from fantasy to sin is one small step.
David’s sin with Bathsheba started with a look. The look lingered and went to lust. The lust went to “Let’s do this” and before you know it, David was captured by the very desire he thought would bring him great pleasure. His momentary pleasure led to intense pain, personal agony and at a steep price. I am sure he asked himself 100 times, “Why didn’t I just look away?” If we dwell on temptation, we are not fleeing from it. If we move closer to temptation, we are not fleeing from it. If we are flirting with sin and fantasizing about it, we aren’t fleeing from it. If we are taking our swim suit “just in case” we aren’t fleeing from it.
Don’t flirt with sin. Don’t fantasize about acting on your desires. Flee. Now I want to show you something. Pretend God is on this side of the platform and that Satan is on the other side of the platform. Now, when temptation comes, I have two options. I can flee to God or I can flee to Satan, right? What I want you to see is that it takes the same effort to flee one way as it does to flee the other way, at least symbolically, physically speaking. It doesn’t take any more physical effort to run to this side of the platform than it does to run to the other side. If I run towards temptation I am fleeing from God and towards Satan. If I flee temptation, I am fleeing from Satan and am going towards God. Do we all see that?
Both God and Satan have their arms outstretched to me. Can you picture that? Both want to welcome me. Now, if I flee towards Satan, there would an embrace followed by a choke hold, a strangling. I would be on my knees in a hurry, begging for relief. The devil won’t let me go, and the sin that I am trapped in will now make me a slave to my desires.
However, if I flee to God, I am embraced by Him, and I am able to link up with Him or team up with Him and His power at work in me will enable me to say “No” to and avoid the traps Satan sets for me. Which direction are you fleeing in this morning?
So, not only do we need to exercise faith and flee when we are dealing with temptation, but there are times when we are going to need to resolve to FIGHT. Too many believers are living with a victim mentality. They have given up. They have given in. Listen, while salvation comes to us as a gift, taking the ground that we are supposed to claim as believers isn’t going to come without a fight. You don’t take the Promised Land and overcome the giants in your life without effort.
Ephesians 6:10-11 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
Put your dukes up, man. Put your dukes up, lady. Dig in your heels and resolve that you aren’t going to be swayed and enticed by desire. Do some studying about how to battle the enemy through prayer, through pleading the blood of Jesus over your life, by having your mind renewed and transformed, by allowing the Holy Spirit to baptize you and have full access to your life and by strengthening yourself in the Holy Word of God. If you gain power by reading the Word and you never read it, how will you have strength to defeat the enemy? If you gain power by praying and you never pray, in the moment of temptation you will be overpowered? And let me just say there is safety in numbers. Get here as much as you can and get to know some of these other warriors who are on the same team. They will help you fight! You are not powerless. You are not being bullied by a force greater than the One that resides in you if you are a Christian. It is time to stand up and use what is ours so that we can send the devil packing. It is your right as a Christian. Start using it.
Believers, let’s go from temptation to triumph. We can do it in the authority and name of Jesus Christ!