1. What is the source of temptation?
a. Satan not God
b. Our willingness to give an audience (foothold)
2. What is the appearance of temptation?
a. Close to the truth
b. Good, pleasant, desirable
3. What is the result of temptation?
i. Putting our desires ahead of God’s will
ii. Spreading it around
iii. Open eyes
b. Resisting (1 Corinthians 10:13)
i. You’re not alone
ii. God is faithful
iii. You have a way of escape
When we lived overseas, pigeon was a game bird. They roosted on the cliffs of the eastern side of the island in the morning and would fly across to the western cliffs around the middle of the day. When I hunted them, I knew their pattern. The problem was, they flew so high and fast, they were nearly impossible to hit. The hardest thing was to get the first one. You’d have to be almost a perfect shot to get the first one. But once you got one, it was easier to get the second one. See, once you got one, you’d leave it laying in the field like a decoy. Then the next one flying by would slow down, bank, and fly a little bit lower to see what his buddy in the field was doing. And then he got to join him. Once there were four or five in the field, it was so easy it almost wasn’t sporting anymore. The unsuspecting birds would look down, see the bait and take it. They were tempted, succumbed to the temptation and my 12-gauge made sure they paid the price. That is the basics of temptation, isn’t it? And it’s really no different than the way we’re tempted every day. See, the basics of temptation have never changed. Our passage tonight tells the history of the first time man was tempted. Since the basics have never changed, by looking at how Satan tempted Eve, we can learn to recognize his tactics. Tonight, I want each of us to be able to recognize the pattern of temptation. And by recognizing it, I want us to be better equipped to resist it. To do that, we’re going to look at the answers to three questions about temptation. The first question is: What is the source of temptation?
If you’ve been in church more than five minutes, you know that temptation doesn’t come from God. James 1:13 says, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.” God does not tempt us. But He does test us. The Bible is full of examples of God testing man. As you go through Genesis, the bitter water of Mara was a test. The Manna was a test. Even the giving of the Law was a test. In the New Testament when you look at Jesus’ temptation, how did that begin? It began by the Holy Spirit leading Him into the wilderness where He would be tempted by the devil. God does not tempt—He tests. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a test. God placed the tree in the midst of the Garden and told Adam not to eat of it. He placed it there as a test of Adam’s obedience. Now the interesting thing is that in the original language, tempt and test is the exact same word. So what is the distinction? When God placed a tree in the Garden and made a rule for the sole purpose of seeing whether or not Adam obeyed it… what makes that a test and not temptation? Because even though the original word is the same, the intent is different. That’s how translators came up with two different English words. The intent behind a test is that God wants us to obey His will. The intent behind temptation is that Satan wants us to rebel against God’s will. God placed the tree in the Garden seeking Adam’s obedience to His command. Satan took God’s command and twisted it seeking Adam and Eve’s rebellion and destruction. God’s tests seek obedience. Satan’s temptations seek rebellion. That’s the difference. You can look at it like this, God sets the rules to remind us that He is God and we’re not. Satan tempts us to break God’s rules so that in essence we elevate ourselves above God like he did. But it’s one thing to recognize Satan as the source of all temptation. It’s another thing to blame it all on him. Remember the old Flip Wilson comedy sketches? He used to always talk about how the devil made him do it. We tend to give the devil way too much credit. I heard a John MacArthur tape the other day where he talked about a new couple in his church that had come from a Charismatic background. They said that they had never been taught that God was sovereign. They had always been taught that Satan was sovereign. Well, that really confused opened my ears up. I knew that Charismatics were doctrinally confused, but I didn’t think they taught that. What they were saying was that they had always believed that everything was Satan’s fault. That he caused everything. If the baby got sick—Satan did it. If they lost their job—Satan did it. If they wrecked the car—Satan did it. If they didn’t get a good parking place—Satan did it. Their beliefs made Satan the one in control of everything. Well, he’s not. As a matter of fact, he’s not in control of anything. He can only do what God allows him to do. Because God is sovereign. He’s the One that is in control. God is in control, and He has given us the power to resist temptation. James 4:7 says: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” If you are saved, God has given you the power to resist temptation. But you give up that power when you give the devil and audience. Look at what Eve did in verse 2 of our passage. She answered the devil’s question. She allowed herself to enter into conversation with Satan. If you do that, you will lose. In Ephesians 4:26-27, when Paul talks about not letting the sun go down on your anger, he says we’re not to do that because it will give the devil and opportunity. Literally that means a foothold. I saw a church sign the other day that said, “If you give the devil an inch, he’ll be your ruler.” That is so true. That’s what happened to Eve. She gave him an opportunity—a foothold. All she did was engage him in conversation. She dignified his question with a response. Temptation is that subtle. God gives a test because He loves us and wants us to demonstrate our love in obedience. Satan distorts that test and turns it into temptation because he wants us to elevate ourselves above God in rebellion. God gives us the power to resist the temptation and follow Him in obedience. But how many times do we give up that power by giving the devil a foothold in our lives? How many times do we engage the devil in conversation by trying to justify sin or blame it on others? So, the first question is: What is the source of temptation? Its source is Satan and our willingness to give him a foothold. The second question is: What is the appearance of temptation?
What does temptation look like? All too often, we can’t answer that question until after we’ve succumbed to it. Then we look back and say, “Why didn’t I see that coming?” Well, the truth is, most of the time we can see it coming. And if we can’t we should be able to. Because Satan hasn’t changed his tactics in over 6000 years. Why should he? They seem to work awfully well. His first tactic is to question God. Look up in verse 1. He said, “Hath God said ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” Hey Eve, didn’t God say it’s OK to eat anything you want? What are some of the ways Satan questions God today? That waiting until marriage stuff is outdated. How else will you know if you’re compatible? Jesus is all about love—go ahead and do what you want, He’ll forgive you. It’s not really pride when you’re always right. When God had that love stuff in mind, He didn’t take the people you know into account. He just meant to love those who are easy to love—those who are like me. Did God really want you to tithe? Surely He meant you should just give when you have a little something extra. Temptation always starts with a question. Notice also that temptation always starts with twisting the Word of God. What was Satan’s question to Eve? He asked, “Hath God said ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” Well, that obviously twisted the truth. God said they could eat of every tree of the garden. Except one. They had all of the bounty of God’s creation before them. And they were only told not to eat from one single solitary tree. Didn’t that mean old God say you couldn’t eat from any of the trees? Satan has attacked God’s Word from the beginning. And most of the problems we get ourselves into are because we don’t really know His Word. And when we do know His Word, we want to change it. And even when we change it, we don’t want to obey it. Look at Eve’s response in verses 2-3. She said, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden.” That’s true. “But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, ye shall not eat of it, lest ye die.” That’s true too. But then she added something. She said, “neither shall ye touch it.” God didn’t say that. First, Satan twisted God’s Word and then Eve did. And the interesting thing is, both of them made God’s Word more legalistic than it really was. That ought to tell us something about adding legalism to God’s Word. Where God’s Word doesn’t have a law, we don’t need to add one. That twists His truth and is a factor in temptation. Temptation questions God, it twists the Truth, and it is appealing. If temptation wasn’t appealing, nobody would fall for it. In verse 6, Scripture tells us that the tree was good for food. It appealed to her flesh. It was pleasant to the eyes. It appealed to her senses. It was desired to make one wise. It appealed to her pride. Back up in verse 5, Satan told her that if she ate of the fruit, it would make her like God. The King James says “ye shall be as gods.” But he really told her she would be God. He appealed to her desire to be her own master. Nobody likes to be told what to do. That’s because we all have a desire to be in control. We all have a desire to be sovereign. When he tempts us, Satan appeals to that desire to be sovereign. But only God is sovereign. Satan dresses it up. He makes sin appeal to our flesh. He makes it appeal to our senses. He makes it appeal to our pride. But the bottom line is, temptation is his attempt to get us to see ourselves standing in God’s place. So, what is the appearance of temptation? Temptation questions God, it twists His Word, and it appeals to our desire to be in control. That brings us to our third question about temptation. What is the result of temptation?
The result of temptation depends on how we respond. We know how Adam and Eve responded. They gave in. They succumbed to the temptation. Of course, when they succumbed to the temptation, sin entered the world. Now, a lot of times, Eve gets a bad rap. Yes, Eve sinned. Yes, she succumbed to temptation. But look with me in Romans 5:12:
And 1 Corinthians 15:22 says, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” So, yes, Eve was responsible for her own sin. But Adam was responsible for Eve. And instead of him leading her down the path of righteousness, she led him down the path of sin. And he willingly followed. Since he was responsible he not only sinned himself, he passed that sin nature on to all his posterity. We see three things in this passage that happen when we succumb to temptation. The first thing that happens is that we put our desires above God’s will. The tree was good for HER food. It was pleasant to HER eyes. It was desirable to make HER wise. HER eyes would be opened and she would be God. All of those things that Satan’s temptation appealed to were placed above God’s will. Isn’t that what happens every time we sin? If I say a harsh word to somebody, I’m placing my desire to “get it off my chest” above God’s will for me to show love to them. If I insist on getting my way, I’m placing my pride above God’s will that I selflessly give up my way for the sake of my brothers and sisters. Essentially, giving in to temptation is the same as shaking our fist at God and saying, “I will not have that man rule over me.” “I’m going to get my way, no matter what.” But not only do we put our desires above God’s will, we aren’t satisfied to rebel alone. What was the first thing Eve did after she ate the fruit? She took it to Adam so he could join her in sin. Sin is not a solo act. I can’t think of many times that I sinned in complete isolation. Can you imagine what the world would be like if we were as effective in spreading the Gospel as we are in spreading sin? People don’t want to cheat by themselves. Gossip certainly wouldn’t work by ourselves. Lies almost always spread. The Bible describes strife and discord as seeds that are spread. Bitterness is described as a bitter root that grows and spreads. Succumbing to temptation is a malignant cancer that spreads through the entire body. It’s not satisfied with a finger or a toe. It won’t stop until it has affected the whole body. Think about it. When Eve succumbed to temptation it didn’t stop with just her. It moved on to Adam. And then it affected all of creation. And it affected all of humankind after Adam. Succumbing to temptation puts our desires ahead of Him and it affects everybody around us. It also opens our eyes. Now, wait a minute—that sounds like a good thing. We want to have our eyes open to the world around us. We don’t want to be naïve, do we? Have you ever seen a child who has been abused? A child who has been exposed to things they never should have been? When that happens, we say that they have lost their innocence. They are no longer naïve, because Satan has jumped up and pried open their eyes to the cruelty of sin. Child abuse is an extreme example. But the fact is that all sin works that way. Every willing act of sin serves to sear our conscience a little more. Every time we give in to temptation, we quiet the voice of God in our spirit just a little more until eventually we can reach the point where we can’t even hear it anymore. Isn’t it ironic that when our eyes are opened to sin, they are at the same time closed to God? When we succumb to temptation, we put our desires ahead of God’s will, we spread it around, and our eyes are opened in a bad way. But there is good news! Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 10:13:
1 CORINTHIANS 10:13
Temptation is inevitable. You can’t get away from it. But how we respond is up to us. God either causes the test or allows the temptation. Either way, Satan turns it into a temptation. We can resist the temptation and pass the test simply by being obedient to God’s Word and His will. The passage in 1 Corinthians that we just read shows us three things that can encourage us as we seek to resist temptation. First, you’re not alone. Every temptation that you ever have or ever will experience has been shared by your Christian brothers and sisters. That’s one of the reasons God gave us the church. So we can help each other through those times of temptation. So we can encourage each other. So we can hold each other accountable. So we can help each other find a way of escape. Not only are you not alone, God is faithful. He promises that you will not be tempted above what you can handle. You can rest assured that God isn’t surprised by any trial you’re going through or temptation you’re facing. Any trial or temptation has already passed through His sovereign hands. And He only allows the ones to get to you that by His grace you can handle. You’re not alone, God is faithful, and you have a way of escape. When the trial or temptation passes through God’s hands and gets to you, He sends along something else with it. He sends a way of escape. It might not be the way you would choose or that you would come up with. But it is the best way. It’s God’s way that He provides for you to escape. Joseph would have preferred not to go to prison as he fled the temptation of Potifer’s wife. But that was the way of escape God provided. And rather than sin against his God, Joseph took it. Each of us here tonight is facing trials. And because we’re facing trials, we’re also facing temptations. We know where temptation comes from. It comes from our enemy. It comes from Satan. Are you providing him an opportunity? Are you giving him a foothold? We know what temptation looks like. It questions God. It twists His Word. And it is appealing to our desire for control. Are you trying to be in control of your life? Or are you submitting your wants and desires to God’s control? Finally, we know what temptation results it. It either results in our succumbing to it or resisting it. Are you resisting the temptations that have been coming your way? Or have you been giving in to them? A calloused spirit is a hard thing to overcome, but you can overcome it tonight by simply confessing your sins before a loving and merciful Jesus. Confess your sins and turn from them in repentance. Turning from your sin and turning toward Jesus in faith believing. He has provided a way of escape. Take that way tonight.