Summary: Lent 2: A continuing sermon series this part focusing on temptation. This sermon is focused on the sources of temptation: the devil; the world and our own sinful nature. Our help comes from only one place - Jesus - our Lord who has already conquered sin
Last week we began a sermon series entitled, “Breaking the Chain.” The message series deals with how to handle temptation in our own lives. Last week we talked about two different topics: First - Why do we need to deal with the subject of temptation? – There are basically two reasons: a. Our eternal destiny is at stake, and b. Our very freedom is at stake. The second topic that we covered was: How does the Bible talk about temptation? – And we said that the scriptures talk about temptation in two basic ways: a. as a testing of our faith and, b. As an enticement or allurement to get us to abandon our relationship with God by disobeying him and falling into sin.
We still need to work with parts three and four. Part III answers the question - What are the sources of sin? And Part IV talks about - How do we break the chain of temptation? There is really wonderful and profound thought in the Scriptures that deals with these areas.
Now, before we go any further, I need to give you a caveat: There are many things that we do – all of us – that we don’t even realize are sins. I’m not so sure that many of us even deal with temptation when we do these things because they’ve become – sort of normal to us. When we sin without us knowing – it still offends God. This can happen because we haven’t ever heard that the behavior is sinful. It might happen because the conscience has been seared and the culpability for that sin no longer registers. Or it could be that we simply don’t care. How do we deal with sin of that type? Well – that’s the caveat that I’m bringing up – that’s a different sermon than this one. This sermon is about dealing with temptation as we face that struggle to either do the right thing – or not.
So here we go - point three of this sermon series: What are the sources of sin. According to Scripture, there are three basic places from which we are tempted. The first is the enemy, that old serpent, the devil. If you lived during the 1970s, you probably saw a character named Geraldine – a creation of the comedian Flip Wilson – entertain millions with the quip that made her famous: “The devil made me do it.” That isn’t far from the truth. Saint Peter writes: …Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5.8b) We also have the warning that Saint Paul gives to the believers in Ephesus: “[O]ur 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.” (Eph 6.12) There is no doubt that the Word of God warns us that there is a real spiritual enemy out there. The enemy is formidable and has years of experience tempting the faithful.
Now we need to be careful not to make more of this than is warranted. Satan and his minions are a defeated enemy. They are like a dog on a leash and we have to come within the length of the leash to be hurt. (More about this later.) It is clear from Scripture how things will end up for the devil and his minions – they are the reason that hell exists. Now, think about this: satan failed miserably as he tried to tempt Jesus to abandon the trek to the Cross. The devil knew that the Cross would also mean that his judgment would be completed. And because satan failed to stop Jesus from completing his mission of salvation, we find the devil lashing out at humanity – trying to get the individual objects of Jesus saving grace to fall into sin and to fall away from Jesus. There are specific examples of this in the Bible. Jesus says to Peter, “Simon, Simon – satan has asked to sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” (Luke 22.31-32) Later we read how satan entered Judas and moved him to betray Jesus. (John 13.2) In the same way, satan continues to attack and to try to sift and to get believers to abandon Jesus today.
Let’s move on… The second source of temptation for us comes from the world around us. Jesus taught: “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!” (Mat 18.17) Jesus was teaching and warning people about sin. The point – temptation to sin is all around. We live in a world that is fallen. There are myriad sources of temptation within the world. Hey – anybody here a fan of going to South Padre for spring break or to New Orleans for Mardi Gras? If so, why? Is it because of the opportunities for Bible study? Now I’m being facetious with those questions, but the point is that many people go to those places in order to engage in the kind of sinful behaviors in which the world system revels. The world around us can lead us away from Christ. The writer of Proverbs writes: “My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them.” (Proverbs 1.10) Saint Paul tells us: “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15.33) Don’t minimize the challenge that this type of temptation presents. Many have fallen from Christ because they did not take this type of temptation seriously.