October 8, 2017
“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness — they have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means — the only complete realist.” C.S. Lewis
We are all tempted to sin; that is the job of the enemy! Even Jesus was tempted. It is not the fact that we are tempted, but rather how we respond to the temptation that is the focus of today’s sermon
Today I want to look at three separate stories in the bible highlighting different ways in which we can respond to temptation; ……yet, with one common thread through all three stories.
1) Genesis 3:1-7 – The Fall (the first temptation and the first sin)
= OUR ‘INHERENT’ RESPONSE
- After creation, Adam and Eve lived in ‘paradise’, in perfect harmony where God had given them everything they needed….. except for one thing!!
- When we get to Chapter 3, we read that Eve was well aware that to eat of the forbidden fruit, would result in death.
- BUT Satan began to sow the seed of doubt about:
- what God said; => “Did God really say” (vs 1)
- the seriousness of the crime, => “You will not certainly die” (vs 4)
- God’s intentions; => “your eyes will be opened and you will be like God” (vs 5)
I don’t know exactly how long Eve and the serpent were conversing, but in the very next verse we read that Eve and Adam gave into the temptation and committed the first sin (read vs 6).
It’s so easy to prematurely judge Adam and Eve for their lack of self-control, but there was a build up to giving into the temptation:
- Eve “saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food” – yummy!!
- And that it was “pleasing to the eye” – as she stared continuously at the fruit!!
- And “also desirable for gaining wisdom” – more than just fulfilling her appetite!!
And then, finally, “she took some and ate it”.
As it says in James 1:15
once conceived, desire gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
I’m sure that most of us can relate……. at some point in our lives!
In the rest of Chpt 3, we read of the painful and dire consequences from this one action!!
Q. What was the sin?
Was it taking a bite from a piece of fruit? Is that deserving of eternal punishment? (e.g. my kids).
No!! It was disobedience to God. From that moment on, the intimate relationship between US and GOD was broken (vs 23). From that moment, the importance and necessity of a Savior was evident!
(NOTE: God tended to their needs after the fall. God provided garments of skin and clothed them).
2) Genesis 39:1-12 – Joseph flees Potiphar’s wife! = the “FLIGHT” from SIN response
- Following on from Chpt 37, Joseph had just been betrayed and sold into slavery by his brothers.
(Compare to Eve who lived in a Garden of Perfection with the Lord close by; yet still succumbed to the temptation of sin.)
- Whilst in Potiphar’s house, it rapidly became evident that “the Lord was with Joseph” and “gave him success in all that he did”.
Even Potiphar “saw” that the Lord was with Joseph.
Potiphar left “everything he had to Joseph” ….. except one forbidden ‘fruit’; Potiphar’s wife.
(Make comparison with Adam and Eve; all was given them except one thing!!)
Joseph repeatedly and persistently resisted the temptation that was the propositions from Potiphars wife (even though her favor could certainly have helped advance him).
Was Joseph tempted? I would suspect that Potiphar’s wife would have likely been of exquisite beauty. So yes, I do believe that the temptation was real and present.
BUT…. Joseph was an honorable man.
In vs 8-9 we read that Potiphar has put Joseph in charge of everything, that Potiphar has elevated Joseph above everyone. He owes a lot to Potiphar!
Yet it is not Potiphar first that Joseph desperately wanted to avoid offending, it was God:
“How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (vs 9)
BUT… Satan is persistent and looks for the opportune moment!!! Ultimately, Potiphar’s wife accosts Joseph (vs 12).
Now, Joseph is in the dangerous position left alone with Potiphar’s wife, no one around, she can negotiate, and convince Joseph that, really, it’s not that bad. i.e. begin to sow seeds of doubt!!!
His response? Flee!! Run!! Run!! Get out!!! And he fled, “as escaping for his life”
Joseph does not try to rationalize the temptation, does not try to downplay the seriousness of the temptation, does not try to justify the temptation, does not dwell on the temptation!
HE RUNS and flees from the temptation, as if escaping with his life!!!!!
e.g. responding to a fire alarm at work; immediately stop whatever you are doing and flee from the building; you do not wait around to try and assess how serious the fire is, you GET OUT!
Despite Josephs fleeing of the ‘temptation’ (e.g. doing the right thing), he still ended up in prison!!
He was falsely accused, imprisoned and had lost everything!!!…..
BUT…….. “The Lord was with Joseph” “The Lord showed him kindness” (vs 21).
Fleeing the temptations of sin is never easy (that’s why it’s called a temptation) and, unfortunately, it does not result in an instant “reward” (as is so typical for Hollywood movies)
But….. God is with us; just like God was with Joseph
What if fleeing from a sin is simply not feasible or possible?!
3) Matthew 4:1-11 – Jesus is tempted in the Wilderness – the FIGHT of temptation
In Chpt 3 we read that Jesus was baptized, and commissioned into His ministry. And God the Father was with him (vs 16).
Then comes the temptation. (compare to C.S. Lewis’ quote).
Jesus was hungry and, I suspect, weakened by the 40 days and nights of fasting!
And perhaps the devil thought the timing could not have been any better!!
1) Jesus was tempted to change stones into bread. He was tempted with individual need. Of course, we can say he was hungry. Breaking the fast prematurely was the temptation.
Jesus responds to the enemy by quoting from Deut 8:
Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. 3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord
Jesus used the Word of God to rebuke the temptation from the devil!
2) Interestingly, for the second temptation the devil uses Scripture.
This can be a dangerous position to be in if you are not familiar with the Word of God.
Perhaps this resonates with Eve, because the devil can take something that God has said and skew it slightly to trip you up and sow that seed of doubt!
And what the devil says to Jesus actually has an element of truth associated with it!
“Jesus, you are so important God would never let anything happen to you, so throw yourself off of here. God won’t let you die”.
Yet, Jesus sees the traps. The scripture is taken out of context and goes against the nature of God!!
Jesus sees the temptations and, once again rebukes the temptations of the devil with Scripture knowing the true nature of God the Father.
3) Finally, Jesus was tempted with worldly power. He was offered kingdoms, riches, and control over everything in the world.
For many of us, this may be the greatest temptation. The pressure of this world to ‘succeed’ and ‘excel’ is never-ending. And success is based on what worldly possessions you have obtained!
Jesus, = “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36).
Once again, Jesus uses Scripture to directly rebuke the devil himself “Away from me, Satan!
For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only” (vs 10).
Following the epic in the wildness, Jesus is comforted and tended to by angels.
i.e. Like the previous two stories, God cared and was with Him!
We are, and will frequently be, tempted to sin; no matter how small the sin.
How do you respond to that temptation?
Do you entertain the idea of the temptation, that ultimately manifests as sin, or do you have an inherent reflex “flight or fight” response to temptation.
When we read the stories of Joseph and Jesus, their strength to resist the temptation was from an intimate relationship with God.
As you develop your relationship with Christ, through time in the Word, prayer, fellowship etc, and strength from the Holy Spirit, you begin to see things through the eyes of God, and the subtleties of temptation become magnified like a particle under a microscope!!
As C.S. Lewis said, if the temptation feels tough, it means you are resisting gallantly. If you don’t sense the difficulty in the temptation, perhaps it’s because you are not resisting it.
Finally, be encouraged that God cares!
He will always provide a means of resisting or escaping the temptation!
And when, in a moment of weakness, you give in to temptation (and you will!!), remember that God is a loving and caring God and that He is still there calling you, waiting to embrace you as you repent and “come out of hiding” and back to Him.
- God did not abandon Adam and Eve after the fall.
- God was with Joseph in jail.
- God tended to Jesus’ needs after his epic in the wilderness
He cares for His people; so much so that He ultimately allowed His precious perfect Son, Jesus, to take the punishment for our sins, so that we can be restored to the Father, just as it was in the beginning!