Summary: When we find ourselves facing temptation we have a Saviour who will bring us through, even when we fall into temptation.
Congregation in the Lord,
What is it about temptation which makes us so vulnerable? Think about it for a moment. We are not that far away from Christmas. Christmas time is a wonderful and joyful time of the year; a time to be enjoyed. But it is also a time which is full of temptations. There is the temptation to spend too much money. There is the temptation to drink to much alcohol. There is the temptation to be so focussed on holidaying that we put God on hold. In fact, if we were to stop and think about it for a while I’m sure all of us could come up with a series of temptations which are generally attached to the Christmas season.
And we don’t just have to focus on Christmas. Christmas only comes once a year. Temptation is a seven-day-a-week, 365-days-a-year event. Temptation is a serious problem which has serious and eternal consequences. You know that. I know that. God knows it even more. And because temptation is such a serious problem God has written to us to tell us how to deal with it. That is what our text is all about … how to seriously deal with temptation.
The first truth we need to know about temptation is that temptation is not an irresistible force. “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man”. Paul is addressing a situation where members of the church were continually making excuses for the fact that they were constantly falling into sin. Part of the excuse which was being offered was that God was making the temptation too difficult to resist … so of course they were going to fall.
But Paul does not want to have anything to do with that sort of thinking. And he makes that clear in verses 1-12. We could summarise the things that Paul is teaching in this way:-
“Look at the examples of our fore-fathers. They had the same promises we have. They had the same blessings we have. Yet they failed because they opened themselves up to idolatry. They turned temptation into a game. You members of the Corinthian church, you will become like them if you continue to insist that you have a right to attend the pagan idol feasts. You will perish if you continue to flaunt with the devil. But, it does not have to be this way. No temptation has come upon you except that which is common to all Christians who live in a worldly and pagan society”.
Temptation is not an irresistible force:- it is not something which has absolute power and complete control. Temptation is able to be stood against and defeated.
When Jesus was suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane He told His disciples to keep watch while He prayed. We then read these words in Matthew 26:40-41:-
Then He returned to His disciples and found them sleeping. ‘‘Could you men not keep watch with Me for one hour?” he asked Peter. ‘‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
Yes it is true that it had been a very long night, but it is clear that the disciples could have resisted the temptations to drop their guard. The temptation was not an irresistible force.
In the book of Ephesians Paul talks about the need to put on the full armour of God. For what purpose? Ephesians 6:13 gives us the answer.
So that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
What this means is that we, with the help and strength of the Spirit, are able to stand against evil and temptation. We don’t have to be drawn into it.
The same truth can be found in 1 Peter 5:8-9. In fact the ability to resist is explicitly stated there.
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
When we put all these passages together the truth is clear. Temptation is not an irresistible force. When it comes to standing firm we are not thrust into a loosing battle. That’s a truth which raises some significant questions:-
• If temptation can be resisted why does it always seem to take hold of us?
• Why do we constantly find ourselves falling?
• Why is it that we, who love the Lord and love to do His will, often find our life-style contradicts the Word of God?
Part of the answer can be found in verse 12 “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”. Temptation is not an irresistible force but we fall because we overestimate our ability to fight sin and we underestimate the cunning of Satan.