Passing the Temptation Test, Part 2

1 Corinthians 10:13

13 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.

Dear Friends in Christ,

If you were here last Sunday, then hopefully you can recall that in my sermon I dealt with the very timely subject of temptation.  And though I’m not going to do what I’m about to say, I think it would be kind of interesting to go around the church this morning and see what kinds of temptations some of you had to struggle with this past week.  Perhaps it was the opportunity to go to a porn site that inadvertently popped up on your computer screen while you were doing something completely innocent and unrelated on the Internet.  Maybe it occurred when that cute co-worker in the office sent a rather flirtatious comment in your direction.  Or for you children who are in school, perhaps temptation came in the form of cheating on a test.  Or maybe you found yourself in a hurry this week, late for a meeting or a doctor’s appointment, and you were tempted to put the pedal to the metal and drive at a high rate of speed.  That’s the insidious nature of temptation.  It can come at anytime and in so many different forms.

So we need to be ready for it.  We need to be well-equipped and well-prepared for these spiritual battles.  And last week we spent the last part of my sermon looking at steps we can take whereby we can achieve victory over the temptations that come our way.  Let me just briefly review them for you.  Step #1: Refuse to be intimidated by temptation.  Understand that as long as you are a committed follower of Jesus Christ you are on Satan’s hit list and that you will never outgrow temptation.  Step #2: Recognize your weaknesses and compensate for them.  Or, as Eph. 4:27 says: “Do not give the devil a foothold.”  Keep away from situations where you know you are vulnerable and if necessary, flee the temptation.  Put distance between yourself and that which you know can bring you down.  And finally, step #3: Request God’s help.  Understand that Heaven has a 24-hour emergency hot line and that few prayers receive higher priority than those being offered by individuals who need assistance during times of temptation.

Well, this morning we want to continue to look at some good solid biblical and practical advice on how we can achieve victory over the temptations that Satan brings our way.  And the first bit of advice that I want to pass onto you is this: Refocus your attention on something else.  Since temptation always begins with a thought or a desire as we learned last week, the quickest way to neutralize its attraction is to turn your attention to something else.  Think of it as channel surfing with your mind.  I’m sure we have some guys here this morning who are practically professional channel surfers with their TV’s, right, ladies?  They have discovered the incredible power that is contained in that wonderful modern invention known as the remote control.  And so they just go from one channel to another to another and so on.  And it drives their wives crazy!

Well, since the battle for sin is usually won or lost in our mind, we need to train ourselves to change the channel of our mind when temptation arises.  Job understood that when he said in chapter 31, verse 1 of his book: “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl.”  Job understood that we naturally move toward whatever we focus our attention on.

For example, have you ever watched a food commercial or one of these cooking shows on television and suddenly felt hungry?  Have you ever heard someone cough and immediately felt the need to clear your throat?  Or how about this one: have you ever watched someone else yawn and felt the urge to do the same?  The reason for that is because the more you focus on something, the more it takes hold of you.  The more it captures your attention.

So when temptation comes knocking on your door of your heart, don’t answer it.  When it calls you on the cell phone of your mind, don’t even try to argue with it.  Just hang up!  And if it somehow penetrates your defenses, you just might have to physically remove yourself from the situation.  Turn off the computer.  Walk away from a group that is gossiping or telling crude stories.  Get up and leave the theater in the middle of a filthy movie.  Listen, my friends, to avoid being stung by bees what do you need to do?  Stay away from the bees.

Now I know that’s a lot easier said than done because some temptations are so…well…they’re so tempting, right?  But one of the best ways to do it is to fill your mind with God’s Word.  That’s what David was talking about in Ps. 119:11 when he said to God: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”  Understand, my friends, that the best defense, the best buffer we have in the face of temptation is what the Bible calls “the sword of the Spirit,” which is the Word of God.  And the more of that Word we get into our hearts and minds, the more disgusting and distasteful temptation will become to us and the more we will be able to do what the Apostle Paul encourages us to do in Phil. 4:8 when he says: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

Then the 2nd bit of advice I have for you today is this: Reveal your struggle to a godly friend or support group.  You don’t have to broadcast it to the whole world, but it sure is nice if you have at least one trusted Christian friend with whom you can honestly share your spiritual struggles.  Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 puts it this way: “Two are better than one, because…if one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!”

Let me be as clear as I can possibly be here.  If you are losing the battle against a persistent bad habit or addiction or any other type of temptation, and you’re stuck in a repeating cycle where you have good intentions, but then you fail and then you feel this overwhelming burden of guilt weighing you down, in all likelihood you will not get better on your own.  You need the help of other people.  Some temptations can only be overcome with the assistance of a partner whom you know is going to pray for you, encourage you, and hold you accountable.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t always easy because we don’t want anyone else to know about our weaknesses, right?  We like to put on our masks when we go out in public and wear our happy face so that everyone thinks we have it all together.  It’s a pride thing that we all struggle with.  But some problems and sins are just too big, too ingrained, too habitual to overcome on our own.  And if you don’t have a trusted friend in whom you feel you can confide, please don’t hesitate to call me.  I assure you that I won’t judge you or condemn you, but will do whatever I can to help you find deliverance from that which is dragging you down spiritually.   

Then thirdly, resist the devil.  That little bit of advice comes right out of James 4:7 where it says: “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”  Understand that this is a war we’re involved in.  In fact, the New Testament frequently uses war-like terms to describe the Christian life.  For example, in Eph. 6:12-13 we read: “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 in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”  Elsewhere we are encouraged to fight, to conquer, to strive, and to overcome.

But it isn’t until we let Satan know that we mean business, that we take very seriously our daily walk with the Lord, that he will finally flee from us as that James 4:7 passage states.  You see, Satan is like a pesky fly that just keeps buzzing around us, irritating and aggravating us.  And sometimes we need to do with him what I did with one such fly during a visit I made on one of our shut-ins sometime ago.  While we were attempting to have a conversation, this nasty old fly kept buzzing around this poor woman.    And finally in the words of my childhood hero Popeye, I had all I could stand and I couldn’t stand no more. That’s when I decided it was time for Super Pastor to come to her rescue. So when that fly finally landed, I crept up to it, clapped my hands together, and brought a swift end to its annoying ways.

In essence, what I really did there was let that fly know that I meant business and that I wasn’t about to put up with it any longer.  And when we do the same with Satan, my friends, he will get the message and he will flee from you.  Please understand, however, that that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll leave you alone for good.  We saw this with Jesus before in our Gospel reading when he was tempted by the devil in the wilderness and he resisted every temptation that came his way.  Well, Satan finally got the message.  But in Luke 4:13 we find this interesting statement: “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.”  He’ll do the same with us, my friends.  He’ll wait until we’re weak or vulnerable or tired or depressed.  And like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour, he’ll pounce on us and have us for lunch.  Which is why I want to emphasize one more time what I said earlier in this sermon.  That we need to fill our mind with the Word of God.  That was the weapon that Jesus used when Satan tempted him in the wilderness.  For every temptation Satan brought to him, Jesus responded with a quotation from Scripture.  “It is written…It is written…It is written,” is how he began each one of his comebacks.  So I want to throw out a little challenge to you today to memorize one verse of Scripture a week for the rest of your life.  I’m even going to help you out here.  Starting today, I will be including in the bulletin a Memory Verse for the Week because like one author says: “If you don’t have any Bible verses memorized, you’ve got no bullets in your gun.”  And he’s right.  But imagine how much stronger you’ll be when you can look the devil square in the eye, point your arsenal of Scripture verses at him, and say, as Christian singer and songwriter Carmen says in one of his songs, “Satan, bite the dust.”

And that takes us to one more bit of advice that I’d like to pass onto you today to help you in times of temptation: Revel in your redemption.  Remember who you are.  Or maybe I should say, remember whose you are.  You are a redeemed, restored, renewed child of the King of kings and Lord of lords.  You were bought at a price, as Paul tells us in I Cor. 6:20, a price that consisted of no less than the precious and priceless blood of your Savior Jesus Christ.  And he did that not so you could wallow with pigs in this life like the prodigal son ended up doing but so that you could walk with saints and angels in the next life.  So allow the redemptive price that Jesus paid for you on Calvary’s cross to be that which motivates you, that which inspires you, that which gives you courage and strength to stand up to Satan and to say no to him.

So understand, my friends, that temptation is a fact of life.  It’s part of being a Christian.  But as I said in my sermon last week, it doesn’t have to be something bad.  It can be something good.  For every temptation carries with it the opportunity to choose to do the right thing rather than the wrong thing.  I pray that the Holy Spirit will help us to implement the seven R’s that you’ll find on this insert in the bulletin so that when temptation rears its ugly head in our lives, we might experience the incredible and incomparable thrill of victory while our archenemy Satan tastes the dreadful but much deserved agony of defeat.