How to Resist Temptation
Welcome on this Valentine’s Day. It is ironic that this is also the First Sunday in Lent. Lent is generally that season of the year when people have chosen a favorite treat or some vice to give up for these six weeks.
One man said his children traditionally gave up something like candy for Lent. Last year, however, he urged them to go beyond that to giving up some habit or sin that they knew was bad for them. About halfway through Lent he asked the children how they were doing with their Lenten promise. His youngest son had promised to give up fighting with his brothers and sisters during Lent.
When his father asked him how it was going, the boy replied, “I’m doing pretty good, Dad--but boy, I can’t wait until Easter!” (1)
Anyone who has given up something they love can empathize with that little boy. A good friend of mine is an ice tea drinker. He gave it up for Lent. He said everywhere he went, it seemed like ice tea was being served. He told me, at Subway, at the church, even in his home, a guest, not knowing his commitment, ask for, you guested it. Iced tea. He said the temptation was almost unbearable. He even said, “I can’t wait for Easter.”
Temptation does have a way of unraveling our lives, unnerving us, and often breaking our will. Maybe that is why the first lesson we are supposed to look at during Lent is Jesus’ Temptation.
This morning I would like for us to look at what temptation is not. Then see what temptation is. Because when we know what is really is, we will be better prepared to face it.
If you would like take out your notes in the worship program, and open your bibles to Luke chapter 4, put a finger in there, and open the Bible also to James Chapter one. I will give you a minute to do this.
First, What Temptation is not.
Temptation is not sin. Too many people go through life feeling guilty because they are tempted. Let me repeat that Temptation is not sin. Some people believe if you are tempted to sin, you have already sinned. No!
Listen to Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.
Temptation is not sin. In our lesson today we read: Luke 4:1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.
Would the Holy Spirit lead Jesus into sin, God forbid. Yes, Jesus was tempted to sin, but he did not. Temptation is not sin.
Listen to how the Apostle James explains it in the book of James chapter one.
James 1:14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.
James 1:15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
In the little church I grew up in at Muncie, Indiana, there was a short, chunky, gray haired lady. Correction, she said she was pleasingly plump. Anyway, at a Bible study we were discussing temptation. I still remember her words that day. She turned her head sideways, the way she did before she spoke, then said, “You may not be able to stop a bird from flying over your head, but you can stop it from building a nest in your hair.”
So temptation comes from desires, desires give birth to sin, when we act on the temptation. Sin left unchecked brings death.
So temptation is not sin.
And temptation is not from God. Some people think that God puts temptation is our way to make us fall. Look again at Luke 4 this time at verse 2 he was tempted by the devil.
What is the source of the temptation, that is right, the devil? Temptation never comes from God. Not so sure about that, are you? Well like it give you another text.
Look this time at James 1:13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;
We talked about temptation this last week following the Ash Wednesday service there we discussed how God does not tempt anyone.
Temptation test our trust in God.
Second temptation is unavoidable. You will always face temptation.
Many of you know the story of Joni Tada. She was paralysed from her neck down in at diving accident, like Charles Krauthammer. This confined her to a wheelchair for the rest of her life.
After her accident, she says, “I was in my late 20’s, single, and unfortunately, had every prospect of remaining so. Sometimes lust or a bit of fantasizing would seem so inviting and so easy to justify. After all, hadn’t I already given up more than most Christians just by being disabled? Didn’t my wheelchair entitle me to a little slack now and then?”
When we are going through a trial or when we are suffering, we often use that as an excuse for giving in to the temptation. Sometimes we use the hard time we are going through to justify a “day off” from standing guard.
Remember temptation to sin is not sin. And temptation is unavoidable. If that is true, and it is, what then is temptation.
What Temptation is
Temptation is Satan’s Worm and Hook.
John Ortberg wrote in his book, The Me I Want to Be. He wrote about a time when he and his wife went fly-fishing. This was their first time at this particular sport. Their guides told them that in order to “to catch a fish you have to think like a fish.” The guides said that, to a fish, life is about the maximum gratification of appetite at the minimum expenditure of energy. To a fish, life is “see a fly, want a fly, eat a fly.”
As Ortberg humorously puts it, “A rainbow trout never really reflects on where his life is headed. The fish are just a collection of appetites. A fish is a stomach, a mouth, and a pair of eyes.”
He says, “While we were on the water, I was struck by how dumb fish are.” I confess that sometime those dumb fish out smart me, and I go home with nothing.
But he said, Imagine a conversation between a fisherman and a fish “Hey fishy, swallow this. It’s not the real thing; it’s just a lure. You’ll think it will feed you, but it won’t. It’ll trap you. If you were to look closely, fish, you would see the hook. You’d know once you were hooked that it’s just a matter of time before the I reel you in.” You’d think fish would wise up and notice the hook or see the line.
Are you smarter than a fish?
Temptation is Satan’s worm and hook.
Temptation test our trust in God.
But, Temptation can also make us stronger. I know you thinking really. How can it make us stronger? As you resist the temptation you get stronger in your faith in God
Listen to Hebrews 2:18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
If Jesus being tempted make him able to understand our temptations, does it not make sense that when we resist temptation we too will be able to help others with the same temptation.
That is the basis for Alcoholic Anonymous, and all the other 12 step and recovery programs. For me to stand up and tell an Alcoholic, “If you really want to, you can quit any time,” would sound preachy, hallow, even condescending. Why, because I have never had that addiction. I have a lot of other problem, believe me, but Alcoholism is not one of them. However, let a man my age who has fought the battle of the bottle most of his life, and now has been without a drink for two years, 24 long hard months. Let him say the same words, “if you really want to, you can quit any time.” Those words ring true, authentic, and trustworthy. Why, he has faced the temptation, and not given in. He knows the pull, but he has pushed away.
What temptation from your past can God use to help others grow strong?
Temptation test our trust in God.
Can you imagine with me a church where every member was committed to let temptation not cause them to sin, but to make them stronger in their faith. And when we do fall, and we all will, this community will gather around us, lovingly, nurturing, careingly. No one would ever need to face temptation alone again. Instead, Christians would gather around, not judging, not condemning, not second guessing. Each person would feel so much love and acceptance, they would open their hearts and lives to each other. I would like to be a part of that church, how about you? Here is a question: Could Grace be that church?