When I became a Christian, I thought I would automatically stop sinning. I would stop hurting people with my words, and I would stop making bad decisions. I would stop all my bad habits and live for God perfectly from that point forward.
What I didn’t know was that when I became a Christian, I entered into a spiritual war. I don’t know if you know this or not, but Satan is not excited about your decision to follow Jesus. Jesus said this of Satan. He said,
The thief (Satan) comes to steal, kill, and destroy. John 10:10 That is not good news.
1 Peter 5:8 Peter writes these words, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
Let me bottom line this one for us. Satan wants you and me to play the part of the fool, and he will try to tempt us over and over again to play the role of a fool. The bad news is he already knows our weakness and will attack us at our weakest point over and over again. It reminds me of a story I heard the other day.
In the 1920s, a wealthy industrialist purchased a zoo. It wasn't a public zoo but his own personal zoo, located on his estate, for the pleasure of this one man and his family. His zoo was one of the most complete collections of animals the world had ever known.
One day, he heard about a rare and beautiful type of gazelle from Africa that wasn't in any zoo in the world. He became obsessed with the idea of becoming the first to have one of these animals, so he mounted an expedition to Africa to learn about the animal. Over and over, he was told, "You'll never catch one. They're too fast and too strong. You can shoot and kill them from a distance - but you'll never get close enough to take one alive."
He told a reporter who was on the safari with him, "Don't listen to them; I'll get as many of them as I want! And it won't be a problem."
When his men located a herd, he poured a blend of oats and barley rolled in molasses on the ground in an open area in the middle of the night and left. The next night, he scattered the feed again. For two weeks, he spread the feed, night after night.
The animals came in and ate it. On the first night of the third week, he scattered the feed and sank an eight-foot post into the ground twenty feet away. The next night, he scattered the feed and sank another post into the ground, twenty feed in the opposite direction. Every night, he added a post. Then he started putting boards between the posts while scattering the feed.
Six weeks rolled by. He continued adding posts and boards until he had a corral built around his feed. Every night these animals found the gaps between the posts until, finally, he watched the entire herd squeeze through the final gap. He moved in behind them and nailed the last board into place. The animals were trapped inside.
He chose the ones he wanted for his zoo and let the others go.
When he was asked how he knew how to catch them, he said something that chills me to the bone:
"I treat animals the same way I treat people: I give them what they want. I give them food and shelter. In exchange, they give me their beauty and their freedom.”
That’s a perfect description of temptation. We get what we want, but the cost is our freedom.
Every one of us has at least one weakness. Every one of us has some area of our life that is a little bit out of control. What is your weakness? If Satan could get you to play the part of a fool, what would he use to do that?
What is it for you? What is the one area of your life that is a bit out of control, and how do you allow God control of that area of your life? How does a person defeat temptation?
The first step to defeating temptation is to stop permitting yourself to be in a position to be tempted and to compromise. If we stay away from the people or the places that we know will lead us astray, we have a better chance of not going back down the same road we were once traveling on.
James chapter 1:14 says, “…but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. James 1:14-15
The bottom line is we get ourselves in trouble because we want to play with the sin. We want to find out many times how close we can get to the fire without being burned. And that is a strategy that will get you and me in a world of trouble.
And the reason we want to get as close to sin as possible is because sin is fun, at least for a little while. And that is the problem. We don’t think about the long-term consequences of what we are doing. We are only thinking about immediate pleasure.
Sin has a kick to it. There is an adrenaline rush when we are doing the wrong thing. In fact, at the moment, we might even enjoy what we are doing. We might be thinking this is a blast. I am having the time of my life. But as soon as the deed is done, you realize that sin also has a kickback, and the kickback always costs us more than we want to pay.
When we are tempted to blow it, we need to MINIMIZE THE PAYOFF AND MAXIMIZE THE PAYMENT.
Sin is fun for a season, and then the fun ends, and all that is left is the damage done by what you decided to do. The damage was done to you, your spouse, your kids, and your reputation. And the guilt over what you have done is overwhelming, and that closeness you once experienced with God will feel like a distant memory until you come clean with God over what you have done. Our sin will haunt us day after day after day until we make things right with God and others.
Whatever line you are standing next to that you are considering to cross, think it through. Ask yourself, is this worth it?
I want you to understand that temptation is a constant battle, so when the weakness comes, you need to take that thought and refocus that thought on something better.
We can control what we chose to think about. When that thought comes into our mind to disobey God, the first thing we should do is pray. “God help me. Get that out of my head. Give me the strength to walk away”. And then, as you walk away, place another thought in your mind to counteract that thought.
1. If all that doesn’t work, look for the exit that God is flashing at you and run Forrest run to that exit. Get as far away from that sin as you can.
Corinthians 10:13. Paul writes, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand under it.”
There are two things I want you to see in this passage.
1. Every temptation you and I have faced has been faced by others.
You are not alone in your struggle. Don’t let Satan make you believe that no one on the whole earth understands what you are going through because that isn’t true. Share your weakness with others. Confide in a friend to pray with you and for you and to hold you accountable. And as they share their weakness to you, you pray for them and hold them accountable. Fight the good fight together.
2. You and I have never been tempted by something that we don’t have the power to resist.
“He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.”
Imagine you are over at your girlfriend’s house. Her parents have gone out to eat, and things begin to get a little bit heated between the two of you, and neither one of you thinks you can stop when suddenly you hear the garage door go up and you hear your girlfriend’s dad say to his wife, “Honey, I’m sorry you don’t feel well. Let’s go inside and get you some Tylenol.” Here is my question. Are you able to stop?
If you are walking with the Lord, and you are listening to the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit can communicate to you just as clearly as any car door slamming. God will give you the strength you never knew you had to say no to sin and yes to a better life, but you have to want it.
This is serious stuff so let me leave you today with this scary thought.
The Bible describes those who follow Jesus as sheep, and the Bible describes Satan as a lion. I don’t know if you know this or not, but a sheep is no match for a lion. A little lamb will lose that fight every single time.
If we try to take on temptation on our own, we will be devoured but take heart, little lamb. We have a good shepherd in Jesus who watches over his flock. Run to him. He can handle that lion. He has tangled with him before, and He has won the battle, so stay as close to Him as you can.
©2022 Sagebrush Church