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THE ODYSSEY: PROTECTION AGAINST TEMPTATION
According to Greek mythology, sirens (sea nymphs) inhabited certain Mediterranean coastal areas. As ships passed by, the sirens sang such enchanting songs that the sailors, drawn by the music, would jump overboard and drown.
Odysseus was on a ship that had to pass that way. Aware of the powerful allurement of those songs, he ordered that he be bound with ropes to the mast and that the crewmen's ears be sealed with wax to block out the tantalizing music of the sirens. Having taken such precautions, Odysseus and the rest of the crew were able to sail past without yielding to the lure of the sea nymphs.
As Christians, we should be prepared to resist any temptations to evil. We must hate sin and be so serious about not giving in to its allurements that we are determined to deny our desire to participate in it.
Are there recurring sins in your life that have been defeating you? Drastic measures must be taken. You must keep away from any enticements that you know would play into your weakness. The best protection against temptation is to heed the warning Paul gave to Timothy: "Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness" (2 Timothy 2:22). That was good counsel then; it's still good today.
Sermon Central Staff
THE GRADUAL ROAD TO HELL
In C.S. Lewis’ book The Screwtape Letters, we read the story of an older demon counseling a younger demon. At one point in the book, we read these words:
"You will say that these are very small sins, and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy [God]. It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to keep the man away from the Light.… Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts."
(From a sermon by Billy Ricks, Perspective: The Destructive Power of Sin, 8/14/2011)
Joan of Arc said, when she was abandoned by those who should have stood by her, “It is better to be alone with God. His friendship will not fail me nor His counsel nor His love. In His strength I will dare and dare and dare until I die.”
UNSELFISH AND HAPPY
A fascinating study on the principle of the Golden Rule was conducted by Bernard Rimland, director of the Institute for Child Behavior Research. Rimland found that "The happiest people are those who help others."
Each person involved in the study was asked to list ten people he knew best and to label them as happy or not happy. Then they were to go through the list again and label each one as selfish or unselfish, using the following definition of selfishness: a stable tendency to devote one’s time and resources to one’s own interests and welfare--an unwillingness to inconvenience one’s self for others."
In categorizing the results, Rimland found that all of the people labeled happy were also labeled unselfish. He wrote that those "whose activities are devoted to bringing themselves happiness...are far less likely to be happy than those whose effor...
I sat down and looked through some magazines this past week. I discovered that if I want to feel right, I need to get a NordicTrack. I don’t have a NordicTrack, just a membership down at the gym, so I suddenly realized that I didn’t feel as healthy as I thought I did.
I then read that if I wanted to be stylish, I would need to buy a Toyota Camry. Our family van was in the shop, so I had been driving our old Mercury Sable. That felt bad enough. Real men drive SUVs or bright red sports cars. I’ve got four kids, so I don’t have the luxury of driving what real men drive. So I found out that I couldn’t be stylish with the cars I owned.
Then I saw that if I wanted to really feel the spring season, I had to dress for the spring season, and the only place for that was at Dillard’s. I knew I wouldn’t have a chance to go to Dillard’s that week. Suddenly the beautiful weather just didn’t seem that beautiful. I just wasn’t dressed for it.
It didn’t get any better. I learned that I needed to be opening my mail with knife from Oneida. I only had a two-dollar letter opener from Office Depot. Now even my mail was disappointing. On top of that, I discovered that I couldn’t have a good meal if I wasn’t in Texas – at least not a meal that would satisfy me. So much for my Lean Cuisines. Then I read that if I wanted to be a man, at least a manlier man than my neighbor, I had to drive a Yard-Man mower with a Briggs and Stratton engine. At least it was cheaper than a new SUV.
I like my house until I saw the new development’s ad. I thought my family and I were close until I realized we didn’t have season passes to the amusement park. I even thought I loved my wife, but since I hadn’t bought her a diamond necklace from the jewelry store, I was informed that I didn’t. I found out that I can’t even be romantic with my wife unless we use Sylvania light bulbs. Wouldn’t you know, we have GE.
By the time I got finished with those magazines, I wasn’t just depressed – I needed counseling. Ever felt that way? We all have. It’s the sad fruit of living life that covets.
James Emery White, You Can Experience an Authentic Life (Nashville: Word Publishing, 2000), 139-140
Warren Wiersbe, theologian and writer, tells a story as taken from a source. “A miserable looking woman recognized F.B. Meyer (preacher and teacher) on the train and ventured to share her burden with him. For years she had cared for a crippled daughter who brought great joy to her life. She made tea for her each morning, then left for work, knowing that in the evening the daughter would be there when she arrived home. But the daughter had died, and the grieving mother was alone and miserable. Home was not "home" anymore. Meyer gave her wise counsel. "When you get home and put the key in the door, say aloud, ’Jesus, I know You are here!’ and be ready to greet Him directly when you open the door. And as you light the fire tell Him what has happened during the day; if anybody has been kind, tell Him; if anybody has been unkind, tell Him, just as you would have told your daughter. At night stretch out your hand in the darkness and say, ’Jesus, I know You are here!’" Some months later, Meyer was back in that neighborhood and met the woman again, but he did not recognize her. Her face radiated joy instead of announcing misery. "I did as you told me," she said, "and it has made all the difference in my life, and now I feel I know Him."
(IL) Sometimes we’re like the couple who were with some friends and the
subject of marriage counseling came up. Mary said, “Oh, Tom and I
will never need counseling. We have a great relationship. He was a
communications major in college and I majored in drama. He
communicates real well and I just act like I’m listening.”
· I’m a pastor, and theologically, I am not paid for the work I do, I am paid so that I may be free to devote myself to the ministry. It makes a difference.
· My church does not pay me to preach the Gospel. I do that freely.
· My church does not pay me to visit someone in the hospital. I do that freely.
· When someone calls me at 3:00 AM and needs to talk to the pastor, I don’t’ punch a time clock or report my time to someone.
· Visiting a parishioner—how can you put a price tag on that?
· Counseling someone in crisis? I wouldn’t know what to charge.
· My salary is given to me so that I can be free to devote myself completely to ministry, and not be distracted by another full time job.
· I’m reminded of a minister who was sitting with his Board of Elders. An elder said, “I do...
A newspaper columnist named George Crane told once of a woman who was full of hatred toward her husband. Someone counseled the woman to act as if she really loved her husband, to tell him how much he meant to her, to praise him for every decent trait, to be kind, considerate, and generous whenever possible. Then, when she’d fully convinced him of her undying love, she’d make her move and file for divorce. With revenge in her eyes she said, "That’s perfect, I’ll do it." And so she did...but guess what happened...the more she demonstrated sacrificial love toward her husband, the more she began to actually love him, and at the end of a few months divorce was the furthest thing from her mind.
"I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day; I’d rather one would walk with me than merely show the way. The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear; Fine counsel is confusing but example’s always clear. And the best of all the preachers are the ones who live their creeds, For to see good put in action is what everybody needs. I soon can learn to do it if you let me see it done. I can watch your hands in action but your tongue too fast may run. And the sermon you deliver may be very wise and true, But I’d rather get my lesson by observing what you do, For I might misunderstand you and the high advice you give, But there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live."