July 2, 2023

The Truth About Temptation


A Precious Promise for Careful Christians

1 Corinthians 10:13 is one of the most beloved and oft-quoted verses in all of Scripture. It is packed with comfort and encouragement for Christians who live in the midst of a world that is filled with all sorts of temptation. This verse can stand on its own, but when it is examined within its context there is even more to glean that will help us overcome temptation-not just one truth, but a handful of them.

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Sermon Transcript

Turn in your Bibles to First Corinthians, chapter 10 as we resume our study. We’re going verse by verse through this passage, and this morning we’re actually just looking at one particular verse. If this is your first time here, don’t worry. When we say verse by verse, we don’t always mean that we only take one verse at a time. That would take an eternity! We usually take a handful of verses, but today we’re going look at just one particular verse. 

You know, when I was starting out in ministry–I was a youth pastor for many years–and when I first started, I was the typical, young, twenty-something pastor who wasn’t very far along in my own life and experience. I was kind of a parent’s worst nightmare. More than that, I didn’t really even know what a youth pastor did because I didn’t really grow up in the church necessarily. And, I just thought, well, you know, from what I’ve seen from going to church and things here and there, it looks like you hang out with kids and teach them the Bible. I mean, that sounds like what a youth pastor does. And so, the combination of those two weaknesses meant that I learned along the way. And sometimes I would do things that were sort of off the books. And very early on in my ministry, when I was very early in my 20s, I picked up some boys from the youth group and I went out driving in the hills in my truck just to explore and see what kind of things we could find–hopefully some abandoned mines, maybe. And of course, we did pass by an old abandoned mine and I have this strange addiction to old, abandoned mines. It’s just weird. When I see one, something just sort of comes over me and it’s like it gets me in its tractor beam and I’m drawn to it. And so, I parked the truck, and I told the boys to get out and come with me, and after a short protest from a couple of the boys about how dangerous this was and whatever, I left them behind and to the rest, I said if you’re going, let’s go. And we went into this mine, and we started down the tunnel, and it just kept going and going until the light from the tunnel faded and it was pitch black. I did have a flashlight, okay, so I wasn’t completely irresponsible. Well, we kept going and there was actually water in the in the tunnel. There must have been a spring that was feeding it or something, and the water kept getting deeper and deeper until we were up to our waist and water. And I said, let’s keep going, let’s keep going. And we went, and we went. We must have gone, I’d say maybe 3/4 of a mile or something, into the heart of this mountain. And we obviously made it back out. We only had to leave one boy behind. I’ll never forget that. Not really. We all made it out. But I’ve often reflected on that occasion with fondness, for sure. It was really cool. And no regret necessarily, since we all made it out, but also with some shuddering soberness, on the other hand, because I’ve thought about the fact that I was so excited that we didn’t pay very close attention to where we were going. And there’s a lot of twists and turns, there’s different tunnels and so forth and didn’t put any markers out or anything. And also, I know quite a bit about mining, and I know that miners will oftentimes just follow the vein. And if they’re going this way, sometimes they’ll go that way and they’ll sink a shaft right down. And when you’re walking along in the water that’s up to your waist, you won’t really know when that’s coming. And so, you could take a step and plunge down. Now, you’d be buoyed up by the water, of course, but imagine losing your flashlight, becoming disoriented, forgetting which direction you were going. That could be very scary indeed. 

Well, only by the sovereign hand of God upon a foolish young man and those foolish enough to follow him did we make it out unscathed with a great story to tell. And you may wonder, why are you telling us this story this morning? Well, the reason why is because when I think of that story, I think about temptation. I think about temptation, because just as everyone knows that abandoned mines are wrought with all sorts of perilous dangers, and that’s usually why people don’t go into them, we as Christians know that there are all sorts of temptations around us that spell perilous spiritual trouble. In First Corinthians 10:13, we find one of the most beloved and oft-quoted verses in the Bible, and for good reason. Because it’s a wonderful promise, a wonderful assurance for believers who are making their way like spiritual soldiers along the path that’s filled with landmines. And I want to read that verse for you. Follow along there, First Corinthians, 10:13. You may have it memorized:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape. That you may be able to endure it. 

Now, this verse could really stand alone, because it serves as a sort of parentheses in the flow of Chapter 10, as we’re going to see. It’s that word of hope and assurance in the midst of a very sobering passage, a very sobering warning. And therefore, given its weight and subject matter that’s really applicable to our Christian lives–this is where we live–it behooves us to pause this morning and give our full attention to just this one verse. And yet, no verse should ever be divorced from its context. And so, we’re going examine it in the flow of its context. And as we do that, we’re going find a handful of truths this morning, truths about temptation that will help us understand it and overcome it. 

And the first one that I want you to see in this verse is the fact that when it comes to temptation. You are always responsible. You are always responsible. That is, you’re always responsible for your reaction to whatever temptation you may encounter. The word temptation is peirasmos, and it has the basic meaning of testing–a testing. It refers to something external that tests our resolve. And the Bible says that God often tests us in order that we may grow in our faith, that we may be refined, and that we also may be encouraged by the fact that we’ve come through a period of testing and we see that God has been faithful in that. But God never tempts us to evil. We have to get that straight. James chapter one and verse 13 makes that very clear. Temptations to evil are always the handiwork of our adversary, the devil and the world around us. And yet even in those cases, although God doesn’t tempt us, we find that he does permit those temptations to come into our lives. And a very good example of that is the case of Job, where Satan goes to God and the Lord points out Job, and Satan says, well, let me tempt him. And the Lord says, okay, but there’s parameters on that in which we’ll see. However, temptation, ultimately, no matter where it comes from, only has power over us because of our sinful desires. That’s what we have to get this morning. Look again at verse six of this chapter that that we’ve noted in past studies. Paul is talking about the Israelites of that first generation in the wilderness and he says now these things took place as examples for us that we might not desire evil as they did. We saw in that first part of the chapter that the Israelites were tested and tempted in all sorts of ways, but at the root of their indulgence and idolatry and immorality and insolence and ingratitude–and, you know, Paul could have just kept listing the sins of the Israelites–their ultimate problem was a heart that desired evil. And that was the same for the Corinthians, which is why Paul can make a direct application to them, even though they’re living much later, in a different time, in a different culture, in a different place. And this has application directly for us this morning as well. Because we all are fallen human beings, and the root of our problem is our sinful hearts that are rebellious to the core. Even those of us who’ve been born again by the Spirit of God still carry about that indwelling sin and those inklings to follow after those former things about which we lusted. The fact is, is that in our flesh dwells no good. And we need the Lord to change us, because the fact is we want what we want. Remember the words of our Lord Jesus in Mark 21: From within, out of the heart of man come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, and so forth, he says. All of these things come. From within and they defile the person. 

Turn over to James chapter one with me for just a moment. I want you to see this for yourselves, James chapter one and verse 14. Temptation may indeed be external to us, but note what James says. But each person is tempted when he is lured, and enticed by his own desire. It’s interesting that the original words here, lured and enticed, were technical terms for the fishing trade. James is intentionally using imagery that would have been familiar about fishing to illustrate how temptation operates. It’s a simple truth. The reason why a fish bites your lure is because he desires it. He craves it. He’s hungry. And he thinks that your lure is food and so, he bites it. As I’ve said, at least when you go fishing–not me, I never get a bite, and my son can attest to that! But anyways, typically that’s what happened. And in the same way, the reason we give into temptation is because we desire what it appears to offer us. And remember, temptation always just gives the appearance of something pleasurable, right? It may be pleasurable for a season, but in the end, it works destruction. And so, it dangles in front of us, and the temptation has no power over us apart from our own evil desires. And therefore, you can’t ever say the devil made me do it. He may have put that temptation out there, but the only reason that temptation had any power over you is because you wanted it. And heaven forbid that you would ever blame God for permitting the temptation. That’s what verse 13 says, right? Let no one say when he’s tempted, I’m being tempted by God. You’re responsible for how you respond to temptation. We need to get that straight and begin there. 

Here’s a second truth that we find in verse 13–back to First Corinthians 10:13. Here’s the fact–and in the context we find this truth–that temptations are often avoidable. You’re always responsible, and the fact is, is that many temptations are often avoidable. Note the word in that verse: overtaken. No temptation has overtaken you. It has the idea of grabbing hold of you, and in the context here, it indicates that there’s something that just comes upon you unexpectedly. It sort of ambushes you and overtakes you. Now just to remind us of the context here, remember, we’ve seen in the larger context of this letter to the Corinthians that they were a proud bunch of people. And their initial question about meat sacrificed to idols, which, you know, kind of launched this whole discussion in chapters 8 through 10, was not a humble teachable question like, Hey, Paul, is it okay for us to eat that food that’s been sacrificed to idols? We’re not sure about this. That’s not the innocent question. Oftentimes it’s preached that way; that’s totally not the case in this passage. Their question was more like this: Why can’t we eat it, Paul? And Paul, let us give you biblical reasons why we can. It’s that haughty, arrogant sort of attitude that Paul was taking to task. We saw that back in Chapter 8. And so, after Paul gives his initial instruction about how our choices concerning matters of conscience, or gray matters, affect others, in Chapter 9, verse 24, Paul turns the corner and he begins to issue a warning about how headstrong, arrogant, overconfidence when it comes to gray matters or matters of conscience can actually affect us–that we are in danger ourselves–that we think that we’re so fine. Actually, danger awaits. And he said that Christians must be vigilant to exercise self-control like an athlete, in contrast to the sort of self-indulgence that those kind of people have, those who are arrogant and overconfident and play fast and loose with sin. And he says you better watch out or you’ll be disqualified, because he says, I’m the Apostle Paul and here’s how I live in order that I won’t be disqualified. And as I’ve said before, if the Apostle Paul was worried about something, you’d better be too. And so should I. And then he sets forth Old Testament Israel, that first generation of Israelites who came out of Egypt with Moses during the Exodus, as this example of smug overconfidence. And he relates four lessons. Remember we called them the lessons from losers. And they were just those that I enumerated. They were idolatry and immorality and insolence and ingratitude. And basically, what Paul says is that they entered the race because they followed Moses, and they participated in the race because they ate the manna from heaven and they drank the water from the rock and they kept following in the wilderness. And yet with most of them, God was not pleased. And actually, what he did was kill a whole bunch of them, right? Their corpses were strewn out in the wilderness as we saw in verse 5. And again, Paul says look, the warning here–these things took place as examples for us that we might not desire evil as they did. Their evil desires led them into all those sorts of sin, and so the warning climaxes in verse 12, the verse right before our verse. He says, Therefore, with all of this in mind, let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed, lest he fall. And so, the point is that the warning is meant to tell us we have no hope of withstanding any temptation if we are arrogant and smug and overconfident about matters of conscience. And again, a matter of conscience–we’re talking about something that isn’t necessarily spelled out in the word of God as sin. It’s something that’s not black and white. It’s kind of gray. And it’s something that God calls us to think deeply about, to take the consciences of others into account, but also to remind ourselves that, look, if we’re going to walk around arrogant and smug and just do whatever we want without caution, watch out! If we approach the Christian life as a license to indulge ourselves with the things of this world, just as long as we don’t take things too far; if we’re dabbling as close to the edge as we can get without going off; we may have already gone too far. In fact, in most cases, that’s what happened. You think about these pastors that, you know, you hear about and that fall into scandalous sorts of sin. As I’ve said before, they didn’t just fall into something overnight, okay? They made choices a long time ago that led up to that fall. They had already fallen a long time ago; they were just keeping it secret. And as we’ve noted at the outset, verse 13 is really a parenthesis. It’s a parenthetical statement inserted in the midst of this dire warning, which relays the fact that the mature Christian will endeavor to live as separate from sin as possible. He’s going to be the one up there in verses 24 through 27 of Chapter 9. It’s like an athlete that’s just using self-control and beating his body and doing everything he can to stay away from sin as far as possible. And that’s going require him to give up a lot of those things that he might otherwise dabble with if he’s trying to play fast and loose and close to the edge. And so, listen, brothers and sisters: verse 13–the assurance in verse 13–this wonderful promise is not intended for the person who professes Christ and yet plays close to the edge. You have no right to claim this verse if you go headlong into temptation because of your foolishness. Don’t think that God is going to spare you, because he won’t. You’re going to crash and burn. That’s the warning. And so, the point of verse 13 is, look, brothers and sisters, a lot of these temptations are avoidable. They’re avoidable. There are all sorts of temptations out there that are going catch you by surprise, and there’s a wonderful promise about those. But avoid the rest. Don’t go out there dabbling with sin or you’re going to crash. 

Here’s a third truth about temptation that we learn in this verse: it’s that temptation is never unusual. Temptations are never unusual. You’re always responsible. Some of them are avoidable. None of them are ever unusual. Look at that. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. That is to say that there’s no temptation that’s unusual or unfamiliar to humanity in general. Nothing you face is anything that someone else has never faced before in one form or another. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that our Lord Jesus Christ was tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. This is a wonderful source of encouragement and comfort, isn’t it? You’re not in this alone. Others have been tempted in the same way, even if you don’t think they have. They have. You’re not unique. And others, listen, have succeeded. Others have overcome. And Jesus–if you’ve placed your trust in Jesus–has overcome perfectly for you. And therefore, he can sympathize with you because he’s walked that road with you, he’s been in your shoes, and he’s done it perfectly. 

Now there’s an extremely important practical truth underneath this that is going to be so helpful for us in the battle with temptation. Turn over again to James, chapter one. Sorry to make you do that again, but I want you to see this. The flow of thought is, you know, don’t let anyone say when he’s tempted that you know this is God’s fault. And then in verse 14: But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. So, the emphasis is on the fact that, look, it’s your own responsibility, it’s your own fault. But it’s interesting also that that little word idios, also–the word that’s translated “own”–your own desire. That little word also means something that’s unique to you. So, he’s talking about each individual person who has his own unique individual lusts. And so, as we read here in First Corinthians 10:13, we find that there’s nothing that’s not common to man, and yet there are some lusts that are more unique than others. Now you think of some that are very common right–lust, anger, greed–those kinds of desires and the temptations that entice them. But there are some desires that are less common. And you know, you think about my infatuation with abandoned minds. I don’t know if God looks at that as a particular sin, but I will say that I looked it up, and there’s actually a psychological name for it. It’s ruinophelia. It means a love of ruins, right? So, there’s other people like me out there. I know there are. But on a more realistic and sobering note, we’ve recently seen a rise in the visibility of homosexuality, haven’t we? And I firmly believe that much of what we see in our culture with this huge rise and flood of this is really a psychological fad. And I know in my heart that there are so many young people that are being so duped and led astray and mutilated, and one day they’re going wake up, and they’re going to think, what in the world happened to me? It kills me to see what’s going on in our culture. So, there’s so much of this that’s just sort of pushed on to people and it’s a fad and young people feel the pressure that, hey, this is cool to do this, so I’m going to dabble with this and so forth. But I do know as well that same-sex attraction has always been there since the Fall. And I know that it’s not as common as other sins. And yet it is not uncommon to man. Certainly not. In fact, I’ve counseled young people who have dealt with this, and it can be overcome. And we praise God for that. But what we need to learn is that just as the key to defending a nation is to identify the particular threats to its security, so the key for us to defend ourselves from temptations is to identify our particular lusts. What is it that I crave in my heart? That’s going cause you to have to do some serious soul searching. That’s going to cause you to have to be very serious and honest with yourself and just own it and identify it so that you can begin to battle it. But at the end of the day, brothers and sisters, you’re not in this alone. There’s no temptation that’s not common to man. 

Here’s a fourth truth about temptation we learn, and this one is my favorite. In this verse, God is always faithful. God is always faithful–read that–God is faithful. Isn’t that a wonderful statement? It’s wonderful because we are so prone to be unfaithful, aren’t we? And yet God is always faithful. Second Timothy 2:13 says, If we are faithless, he remains faithful. We have that wonderful promise from God. He’s semper fidelis, right, for you Marines out there? He’s always faithful. He will never leave us or forsake us. He never wavers even a little bit. Never. And if you’ve placed your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, you’re safe in him. He’s not only for you, but he’s with you every step of the way. Look at verse nine of chapter one of this this letter, just to remind ourselves what he says there. That verse says that God will sustain you to the end, until the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. First Thessalonians, 5, verses 23 through 24, says, Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful. He will surely do it. Mark it down. When we say that God is with us in the midst of temptation, we’re not just mouthing some quaint Christian platitude. No, He really is with us. His spirit lives within us, and God has made a promise and he intends to keep it. And Paul tells us a couple of the ways that he does this in this very verse. 

He tells us this, that his sovereignty will guard you. How is God going to be faithful? Well, his sovereignty is going to guard you. He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability. And this reminds us that God is in control of all things. His sovereignty rules overall (Psalm 103, verse 19). He is allowing tests and even temptations into your life, and he’s using all of those things to conform you to the image of Christ. But he’s in control every moment, and he won’t let it go any further than what you’re able to handle at any given point. He knows you intimately, he knows how far your faith has been stretched, and he’s not going stretch it any further so that you break. You know, I often think about teaching a child to ride a bike in this regard. You teach them, you train them how to operate the bike, and you put some training wheels on there, and you’ve got your hands on there, right? And pretty soon you take the training wheels off and you keep your hand on the bike. And then pretty soon you let them start going themselves. But you’re running alongside them, right? You’re making sure they don’t fall and you grab them before they fall, right? Well, this is sort of what God is doing with us, except there comes a point where we actually let go of the bike and the kid’s doing it on his own. God never lets go. He’s always holding us fast. He’s always right there. That’s the promise that we have in an infinitely greater way. God is always with us. One of my favorite verses is Philippians 1:6. Paul says, I am sure of this. I’m confident of this. Mark this down. That he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. God is faithful to bring you all the way home. 

But God’s faithfulness is also seen in the fact that he’s going give you the grace to enable you to endure whatever comes your way. Notice that. With the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. God always makes it possible for us to resist whatever temptation comes our way. There’s always a way through, he says. It’s a way of escape, and yet you’re going to have to endure it. There’s a sense here in which sometimes you can just be pulled right out of that, and sometimes you’re going to have to go through it. But whatever the case, God is going to help you escape. That temptation is going to end. You’re not going have to face it for the rest of your life. It may come again, but when it comes, God is still there with you. And that’s not only comforting, but it’s encouraging because it’s part of God being with us and growing us through those trials we face. He only allows us to go to a certain point and then he provides the way out so we can never say, I can’t take it anymore. I gotta give in. We can never say that. We can never say that. I just guess I can’t overcome this. I can’t have victory over this. You cannot say that. 

In fact, the 5th and final truth I want you to see is just this: that victory is always possible. Victory is always possible. That’s what he says. He’s going provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. You’re able. It’s possible. You have the power to do this by the grace of God. God’s unwavering faithfulness makes it possible. It’s interesting again that that way of escape that God provides is what makes you able to endure it. You’re going to have to go through it, possibly. And yet God is going to provide that way. And it’s the way, by the way, in the original, it’s not a way. It’s the way. It’s the way God provides. You know, much of the reason so many Christians feel defeated is the fact that they’ve been taught bad theology. They’ve been told that in order to overcome temptation, you have to simply let go and let God. Let go and let God, stop trying so hard. Just give it to God. That’s what we’re told, right? Give it over to God. You can’t do it on your own. Let God take it. Well, just like almost all bad theology, that statement has a grain of truth contained in it, right? It is indeed true that you can’t do it on your own. The only thing standing between you and giving into temptation is your own willpower, which is sorely weak and pathetic. And even if you did stand against some sort of temptation, your motives are going be wrong. I’ve met plenty of unbelieving people who have overcome bad habits solely because of the temporal benefits of improving their health, or because they don’t want to lose their spouse, or because they don’t want to go to jail again, or whatever. But for the Christian, our motivation must be the glory of God, to please him in all respects, and we can only do that with his power. That is indeed true. But the problem with this idea of letting go and letting God is that it’s entirely passive. It’s like I just sit back and I just give this over to God. And so, the only thing I know to do like that is to just pray more. So you have Christians praying that God’s going deliver them from this thing and being totally passive. Well, listen, that’s totally contrary to what God says to do about your temptation and your sin. It’s very clearly spelled out in scripture all over the place and succinctly in Philippians 2, verses12 through 13, where Paul says, therefore my beloved as you have always obeyed–and that’s an active word, right?–obeying–so now not only as in my presence, but much more in my absence, workout your own salvation. With fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. In other words, the Christian life is not passive at all. You don’t just give it over to God and sit back and twiddle your thumbs and wait for him to act and think that you’re going to be just fine. That’s foolishness. The Christian life is active. The Christian life calls us to renew our minds with the truth of God’s Word, to identify the areas in our lives that need to change, and then by faith in God’s Word and in the power of His Spirit who lives within us, to put those old habits of the unredeemed self off. And to put on the habits of the new self, which Colossians 3:10 says is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Ephesians 6:10 through 11 and we know well in this context, tells us to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Yes, we’re strong in him, and it’s in His might. And then it says so put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. It’s his strength, so put it on. That’s what the Bible says. Don’t just sit back and let go and let God. No, in the power of God you make use of the means he has provided. 

As we wrap up here, what does this mean for us practically? Well, number one, it means that we must embrace the truth that our response to temptation is indeed our responsibility. You are responsible for whatever temptation that comes your way. We need to stop blaming our circumstances. Isn’t that what the world tells us to do? You go to a psychologist, and they start blaming everybody in your life and your circumstances. Stop blaming other people. Stop blaming the devil. Take personal responsibility. And know that the problem is not out there; the problem is in here. I love what one of my favorite books says–a book called Changed Into His Image by Jim Berg–he says we need to be brutally honest with ourselves and lift the lid off the trash can of our hearts. You can’t put it any more blunt than that, can you? Lift the lid off the trash can of your heart. Be brutally honest. What is it that you want in your heart? You may not want to face that. But you’ve got to do it. Just like looking in the mirror in the morning, you may not want to do it, but you’ve got to face that thing. 

Second, we have to embrace the truth that the more serious about holiness we become, the more temptation we are able to avoid. The more serious about holiness you are, the more temptation you will be able to just avoid completely. Like we said, if you’re playing with fire, you’re going to get burned. Our Lord Jesus said that we must get radical about righteousness, especially when it comes to sins that can become life-dominating. With lust, here’s what Jesus said in Matthew chapter 5: If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. That’s radical. It’s better for you to lose one of your members than your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It’s better that you lose one of your members and that your whole body go to hell. Now what does Jesus literally mean? That you need to pluck your eye out or cut your hand off? If that were the case, we’d need to have a whole lot of one-eyed, one-armed men in our church. Obviously, he doesn’t mean that. But he does mean this mean you might need to take a different route to work in the morning. I counseled a man one time and he’d say, every time I go to work I just pass this place and I know that place. It’s a bad place. I’d say then stop going that way to work. Why do you go that way? Because you want that place, that’s why, right? And the whole point is, stop doing that. Go a different way. Get a new job if you have to. You say, oh, I can’t do that. I’ve worked so hard at this job. Well, are you worried about the things of this world and your money, or are you worried about being holy before the Lord who could return at any moment? Maybe you need to stop going to the grocery store alone if you tend to buy things there that you shouldn’t have. Maybe you need to take someone along with you. Maybe you need to install some accountability software on your phone or get a flip phone. Or maybe you need to change the destination of your vacation. I mean, you could just think through, there’s a lot of things that are gray areas, you know. The Bible doesn’t say that you shouldn’t have a cell phone. The Bible doesn’t say you can’t go to vacation there. The Bible doesn’t say which way to go to work, right? These are just a few examples of things that we have to think about seriously and be willing to say I’m going to get radical. I’m going to go the long way to work because I avoid that place. The reason the Corinthians were in such danger is because they were trying to justify their right to do certain things that put temptation before them. So don’t be fools like them. And you know what it was. As we’re going to explore in more depth the next Lord’s Day, the fact that they would go to these temples and participate in idolatry is because they didn’t want to give up the relationships in their lives. Because if Johnny has a birthday party, an invitation comes. Come join us for Johnny’s birthday party at the table of the Lord Serapis, who was a false god. Paul says there’s demon worship going on behind that, and you’re participating in it, so flee from that. What’s that’s going cost you? Well, it’s going to cost you a relationship with the family. Do you see where this happens? As we’re going to delve in and there are things that you’re going have to tell your family. I can’t participate in that and I won’t go to that. They’re not going to like it. They may cut you off. Well, Jesus says, Hey, look, cut it off then. Get radical. 

Third, we have to embrace the truth that temptation is never unusual. We remind ourselves that we’re not alone in this. Others have struggled with this. Others are struggling with this. Others have struggled with it and overcome this. And Jesus overcame every temptation perfectly. Here’s a wonderful verse to keep in mind. Second, Timothy 2:22: flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. What’s the application here? The application is the fact that the Christian life was never meant to be lived in isolation. And especially when you’re struggling with a particular temptation, the temptation then comes to isolate yourself. To hide. I don’t want anybody to know about this. And so you hide. Or you maybe come to church, but you float in, right before the service starts, and you float right out because you don’t want anybody talking to you about what’s going on in your life. You were there, you showed your face, everybody thinks you’re fine, and then you’re gone. No, the Christian life was never meant to be lived that way. So what’s the application? It’s to make use of the means of grace that God has provided for your growth. Be faithful in corporate worship. Be here every Sunday and come half an hour early. And leave half an hour late and then go to flocks when they open back up. And get to know some people in a personal way and allow them to ask you questions about your life and find someone within that circle. Maybe it’ll have to be a pastor, and if it is, I’m more than happy to sit down with you. And believe me, after 20 years of ministry, I’ve heard just about everything and what I haven’t bring it on, we’ll deal with it. And let’s sit down and talk about it. But maybe it’s going be someone in that trusted group that you have, someone who you just have a bond with and you feel like, you know what? I feel like I can talk to this person and you could be open and honest with them about your struggles and ask them to help hold you accountable to that. And you know what? When you do that, that person might say, man, I struggle with the same thing. I’ve just been waiting for someone to do this; I was too afraid to do it myself. Or you know what, man? I struggle with this. Will you help me with that? And it’s a reciprocal relationship. That’s exactly the way God’s designed it to be. So let’s stop being these isolationists with this American mentality that I could do this on my own like John Wayne. No, you can’t. Ultimately, we need to remind ourselves that our Lord Jesus Christ sympathizes with our weakness. And again, he lived a perfect life in our place. 

And that brings me to that final truth. We have to embrace what we looked at, which is the fact that God is always faithful and if we’re committed to trust him and do battle with sin, He’s going to see us through it. His sovereign will won’t permit us to go any further. Then we can take it and he’s going to give us the grace to find a way of escape and to endure. And the more you endure and the more you overcome, the more you grow stronger in him. And you can overcome whatever temptation befalls you. Whatever your bent to sin is, I don’t care what it is. I don’t care if it’s something really ugly. I don’t care if it’s life-dominating. I don’t care if it’s substance abuse. Whatever it is, you can overcome it. And to say otherwise is to call God a liar. Romans 6:14 says sin will not have dominion over you since you are not under law but under grace. You see, if you’re a Christian, the power of sin has been broken. And you have new desires. And if you stop feeding those old desires and you feed those new ones, God says you’re going grow. And you’re going overcome. And the warning that underlies this entire wonderful promise, by the way–that surrounds it–this is just one little assurance packed right in the middle of this big warning that we’re going to come back to you next Lord’s Day–is the fact that if you don’t heed this, this morning, and if you want to just walk out of here and say, that pastor is kind of extreme, you know, I’m okay. I’m not dabbling with anything that’s going get me into that much trouble. I’m fine. I know where the line is. You’re already falling. And you are going to crash and burn. And you may come and stand before the throne of the Lord, and Jesus may say, Who are you? I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work lawlessness. You see that’s how serious this is, so this morning, would you heed this warning with me? What is it that your evil heart craves? And what is it that you need to turn away from this morning by the power of God’s grace? And who is it that you need to contact to help you do that? I’m right here. And if you don’t want to talk to me today, well, my card is on the back welcome table and it has my cell number on it so take that card. And don’t delay. And let’s talk. And let’s do business with the Lord. Let’s take the trash can lid off and be brutally honest with ourselves. Let’s bow together.

Father, what glorious promise this is, what assurance we have that we can indeed overcome temptation. You’re a faithful God, and that’s why, it’s not because of us. You’re faithful. And if you’ve called us and we’ve responded by faith, we can be confident in that very thing–that you who began a good work in us will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ. And Lord, even though we walked through this world that’s filled with temptation, I pray that we would heed the truths that we learned about it this morning. That we’d remember that it has no power over us apart from our own evil desires. I pray that we would work hard to avoid those things that draw us in. That we would identify those things that are unique to us. That we would find people that would help hold us accountable and that we would remember that you’re faithful. You’re good and kind, sovereign and gracious, and we can overcome. We leave here with resolve and with a new sense of excitement about growing in our Lord Jesus Christ and being used by you. All the wonderful things that you want to do with our lives, Lord, would we be excited about living for you? Instead of dabbling in sin. We asked this by your grace in the name of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.