Pastor David B. Curtis

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Thwarting Temptation

1 Corinthians 4:7

Delivered 10/28/2001

Have you ever seen the t-shirt that says, "I Can Resist Anything But Temptation"? That just about sums it up for many people. They want to do right, they've got good intentions, but when temptation comes along, they give up without a fight. It's like they have the attitude, "I am going to lose this battle anyway. I'm going to end up feeling guilty and feeling like a failure anyway, so why go through the misery of trying to resist?"

Most people who make an effort to do what is right often find themselves struggling with one specific sin that they just can't seem to shake. It could be lust, or bitterness, or gluttony, or jealousy, or selfishness, or any number of other things, but sometimes it seems that it has such a hold on us that we are powerless in its grip.

I hesitate to tell this story here, but it's a good story, and it makes the point. And besides, the idea of telling it is too tempting to resist.

Three preachers went fishing together one day. The fish weren't biting, so they began to open up and share their hearts. They even started confessing their sins to one another. The first preacher said, "Guys, I have a confession to make. I'm having an affair. If news of this ever got to my wife, she would tear me limb from limb. I know it's wrong, but I can't help myself." The second preacher said, "You're not alone, pal. I've got problems, too. I like to gamble. You know all that money I raised for the mission trip last year? It didn't go to missions. I blew it in Las Vegas. If this ever got out, my church would fire me and run me out of town." The third preacher sat in the boat silently as the other two waited for his confession. Finally he said, "Fellows, maybe I should have gone first, because my big sin is Gossip!"

Temptation is something that we are all familiar with. We have seen the pain and destruction that it causes as people succumb to its deadly lure. Several years ago, a pastor of a large and growing church was in a tanning booth and decided to look over the wall. He saw a naked woman, and she saw him. He was arrested, tried, and sentenced to community service. He had to resign from the church and leave the ministry. In one dark hour of temptation, he fell into the abyss. He ruined his reputation, destroyed his ministry, and left an ugly stain on the testimony of Christ in that community.

Some people just can't resist temptation. In fact, let's not kid ourselves, we all give in to it more often than we should. Maybe not like these preachers, but we do give in to temptation from time to time. The Bible teaches that we don't have to lose the battle again and again, day after day. We can experience victory over temptation. Today, we are going to examine one verse that deals with the subject of temptation.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NKJV) No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

The word "temptation" is from the Greek word, peirasmos, which means: " to test, and prove." It can mean a trial or test or it can be used of a solicitation to evil. A trial can become a solicitation to evil if we respond to it wrongly. If we are not careful, the testing on the outside can become temptations on the inside. A trial becomes a temptation when we seek to solve it through sinful means. For example; a trial may be a financial shortage. We can turn this trial into a temptation if we try to solve our financial troubles by cheating on our taxes, stealing, or getting money by some other unlawful means. A trial may be a difficult marriage. This can become a temptation if we try to come up with a way to get out of the marriage - divorce is sin.

Temptation (a solicitation to evil) will usually present itself in the form of a shortcut to your goals. We can only be tempted in areas of desire.

This single verse is so powerful that if you will remember it during a time of temptation, it will help you win the battle The first thing that I want you to understand is that:

1. IT IS NOT A SIN TO BE TEMPTED.

"No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man...." The Translation, God's Word, puts it this way, "There isn't any temptation that you have experienced which is unusual for humans."

Everyone is tempted! No one is immune. And the temptations you face are not unique; others have faced the very same temptations. You see, the pressures that we experience are shared by everybody. You're not the only one who struggles with these temptations or trials. We're all frail, fallen human beings, prone to fleshly indulgence.

The "trials" we experience in life are common to all. I do not know anything that is harder to believe, when you are in a trial, than that. We all think, "Why is it happening to me? How come they have it so good?" Well, it is just your turn, that is all. Everybody goes through it. You don't see what they go through most of the time, but no one is left out. Trials are common to all. Their time is coming, if it has not already, so don't ever allow yourself to think that what is happening to you is unique. It is not at all. It is very common, and the minute you start inquiring around, you will find a dozen that have gone through it too.

While in a trial, you will most likely be tempted to sin. You will be tempted to do something wrong to alleviate your suffering. Experiencing the desire to do something wrong is temptation; but being tempted is not, in and of itself, a sin. Everyone is tempted...even Jesus. The Bible says:

Hebrews 4:15 (NKJV) For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Jesus experienced temptation just like you experience temptation. The temptation that Jesus faced was real temptation. Luke 4 states that Jesus was in the wilderness fasting for forty days and he had become hungry. So what did Satan do? He tempted him with food, "Tell this stone to become bread." Understand: Jesus was tempted to do it, but he didn't give in. His trial was hunger, but he did not seek to satisfy his hunger by sinful means.

Temptation, solicitation to evil, is inevitable, so when you're tempted to commit sin, don't think that there is something wrong with you. We could put it in the form of a syllogism:

Major Premise: All humans are tempted.

Minor Premise: You are human.

Conclusion: You will be tempted.

Being tempted does not indicate a flaw in your character; it indicates that you are human. Being tempted is not a sin; it is a fact of life. Too many Christians lose the battle to temptation because they think there is something wrong with them for being tempted in the first place. That is not the case. Just because you experience a momentary desire to do something wrong, doesn't mean that you have done something wrong. It is not a sin to be tempted.

Now, someone might say, "Wait a minute. What about what Jesus said in Matthew 5?"

Matthew 5:28 (NKJV) "But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Doesn't that mean that thinking it is a sin? Yes, it does. There is certainly such a thing as sinful thinking. You can be guilty of adultery without ever being in the presence of another person. You can be guilty of murder without ever picking up a weapon. But understand: Jesus is not talking about a momentary impulse. He is referring to prolonged, deliberate lustful thoughts. That is not temptation; it is sin.

Let me explain: Let's say you're at work, and your co-worker is giving you a hard time - this is a trial. And in this trial, you find yourself tempted to say something cruel to your co-worker - you really want to let him have it - but you don't. You bite your tongue, reject the thought, ignore the desire, and go on about your business. You didn't sin. On the other hand, if you spend hours rehearsing in your mind all the things that you would like to say to that person if you ever got the chance - you have crossed the line and are committing a sin with your thoughts.

So, what's the difference between a tempting thought and a sinful thought? Meditation! How long is the thought in your mind before you reject it? Is it just a passing thought or something you meditate on? Martin Luther said, "You cannot prevent birds from flying overhead; you can prevent them from building a nest in your hair."

Remember, being tempted is not a sin. Everyone is tempted. When you're tempted, reject the thought as quickly as possible and it will lose its power. Try reviewing Scripture in your mind. It's pretty hard to think of two things at once, and if you're going over a verse in your head, it will be hard to think about what is wrong. When Jesus was tempted by the Devil, he quoted Scripture.

So, it is not a sin to be tempted. Secondly:

2. NO SIN IS IRRESISTIBLE.

Henry Louis Mencken defined temptation as "an irresistible force at work on a moveable body." Many people feel that way, but that's not the case. Temptation may be inevitable, but giving in to temptation isn't.

How many times have you heard someone say, "I just couldn't help myself. It was more than I could bear. I was pushed to the breaking point. I reached the point of no return." These are all excuses we come up with to try to justify our behavior. Many people think that sin is inevitable, unavoidable, and irresistible, and that we have to cave in. That's just not true. Paul said,

"God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able"

Again, that is hard to believe, is it not? We say, "Well, it has already happened. I am already beyond my strength." No, you're not. You just think you are. God knows your strength better than you do. He knows how much you can handle, and how much you cannot. One of the basic principles of training in an athletic contest is to develop you to do things you do not think you can do right now, to put more pressure on you than you think you can handle - is it not? And you discover you can handle it. This is what God does with us. He puts the pressure on, but it is controlled pressure. It doesn't mean that we'll never be overcome by evil, but it means that our failure will not be the result of having more than we can handle.

The great promise here is that none of us will face anything in this life that can overwhelm us if we turn to the Lord for help and deliverance. The fact is, you are stronger than you realize, when you are dependent upon God's grace.

Many people think that storms such as Hurricane Andrew will inevitably destroy every building in their path. However, that is not the case. For example, the state of Florida has instituted strict building codes in high risk areas. Now, these codes often increase the cost of the building, and many people try to cut corners, but the fact is that more often than not, buildings that are built according to code can withstand the storm. After Hurricane Andrew hit Florida, one man whose house was the only one left standing in his neighborhood was asked why it didn't get destroyed with the others. He said, "I can't speak for them, I can only speak for myself. I built this house according to code. I laid the foundation according to specs. I built the supports like it said to. When it called for a certain type of nail, or a certain type of lumber, I used it. And my house is still standing - isn't that a coincidence?"

In the same way, you don't have to fall every time a little storm of temptation comes your way. If you fortify your spiritual life with prayer, Bible study, fellowship, and service, you will find that temptation doesn't have the power to destroy that it once had. Temptation is not irresistible; you can win the battle.

The third thing to remember is:

3. GOD PROVIDES THE POWER TO RESIST TEMPTATION.

Through the power of God's grace, you can experience victory over temptation. Remember, God has promised to give you the strength to overcome any temptation you face. You can win the battle, but you can't do it on your own. He must look to Him for strength.

"But with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it."

The phrase "the way" is formed by the definite article and a singular noun. In other words, there is only one way. In early Greek use the term "way," ekbasis, had the sense of: a "landing place." It was a nautical term. The idea is not that He will enable us to escape temptation, but that He will enable us to land safely on the other side victoriously. God has not promised to remove the temptation, since we need such experiences to grow in faith and patience, but he guarantees that it will never be too strong for us to bear.

The words "bear it" in the Greek are, "bear up under it" or "bear against it." What is that way of escape? Well, it is - dependence. All through the Old Testament the heroes and heroines of faith have taught us that in the hour of testing, God strips away all human support in order that we may learn that he is enough. God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in time of trouble, and we will never discover that until everything else has been taken away. Then we begin to discover that God can hold us steady. He, himself, is the way of escape, and that is why he puts us through pressures and testings.

For you to say, "I cannot take this any longer, I cannot go on in this trial any longer," is for you to call God a liar and to accuse Him of being unfaithful. He is faithful. He will give you the strength to bear it if you will trust His grace.

We must understand that grace is not only used in the Scripture of God's grace in salvation: "Free and unmerited favor shown to guilty sinners who deserve only judgment," but it is also used in the aspect of: "God's power that enables us to deal with life's circumstances." This is how Paul uses "grace" in:

2 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJV) And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

So, Paul uses "grace" as: "God's power that enables us to deal with life's circumstances."

In Philippians 4:13, Paul said, "I can do all things THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME." He is saying that whatever circumstance he finds himself in, what ever trial or temptation, he can handle it through God's enabling power. The words "by His grace" could be substituted for "through Christ who strengthens me." The idea is the same. Verse 13 could be read, "I can do all things by His grace." "By His grace" and "through Christ who strengthens me" express an identical thought.

Philippians 4:13 must be taken in the context of verses 10-13. What he is saying is, "I have the power of Christ to sustain me in life's difficult circumstances." Paul is saying, "I am strong enough to go through anything because the Lord Jesus Christ makes His power available to me as I trust in Him." Trusting in Christ gives us inner power to deal with any and every situation in life. When we come to the bottom of our human resources, we find an unlimited power in Christ.

I want you to understand this morning that the Bible teaches that believers are to appropriate God's grace for their daily lives.

2 Timothy 2:1 (NKJV) You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

The verb "be strong" is in the imperative mood; that is, it expresses a command. Paul wanted Timothy to do something; he wanted Timothy to appropriate God's grace and be strong in it. Now, the million dollar question is: How do believers appropriate God's grace -- His enabling power?

Let me answer that question in one word and then expound upon that word - humility! We appropriate the grace of God by humility.

What we must understand is that pride stands in direct opposition to grace.

1 Peter 5:5 (NKJV) Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "GOD RESISTS THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE."

Please notice that this verse is both a warning to the proud and a promise to the humble. Pride is an attitude of self-sufficiency toward God. Humility is an acknowledgment that we are weak, unworthy, and inadequate. To the humble, God promises grace. This principle runs all through Scripture - God brings the proud low, but he gives grace to the humble.

Do you understand what humility is? We can't humble ourselves if we don't know what humility is. Biblically, humility is dependence upon God and submission to His will. A humble person realizes that he is dependent upon God for all he is, has, and does.

By "appropriating God's grace," I mean to take possession of the divine strength He has made available to us in Christ. God uses means to bring us His grace. And one of those means is the Bible! It is important for us to spend time in God's Word because the Bible is a means of appropriating God's grace - His enabling power.

Acts 20:32 (NKJV) "So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

The reference here is to the ongoing use of Scripture in our daily lives to build us up in the Christian faith. Paul calls it, "the word of His grace," the word through which we come to understand and appropriate God's grace in our daily lives.

If we are to appropriate the grace of God, then, we must spend time in our Bibles. We must seek to know and understand the great truths of Scripture. The Bible is more than just a book of objective truth; it is actually life-giving and life-sustaining.

If we are to appropriate the grace of God, then, we must regularly expose ourselves directly to the word of God. We don't earn God's blessing by reading His word. But a regular intake of God's word is necessary to sustain a healthy spiritual life and to appropriate His grace.

Another means of appropriating God's grace is through prayer. Prayer is a declaration of our dependence.

Mark was very poor at spelling. On examination day he was stumped by many difficult words. He found himself tempted to look at Jane's paper; she's is an honor student. Mark gave in to the temptation and copied several answers. The teacher noticed his actions and was greatly surprised, for she had always thought of him as an honest boy. When it came time to collect the completed work, she observed that Mark was having an inner struggle. After bowing his head for a moment, he suddenly tore up his paper. Although at first he had yielded to temptation, through prayer he received the grace to take a zero rather than be dishonest. Calling the boy to her desk, the teacher said, "I was watching you, Mark, and I want you to know that I'm very proud of you for what you did just now. Today you really passed a much greater examination than your spelling test!"

It is important to remember that God is not the source of temptation, He is the solution. Listen to what James said:

James 1:13-15 (NKJV) Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

James says, ..."when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin...." There's a crucial window of time when you are first faced with temptation that you have the opportunity to resist. When you first experience its' lure - that's the time to turn to God for help. He has promised a way out. You don't have to fall in head first. By His grace, you can escape every single time. That is his promise to you.

I'm not saying that we can become sinless in this life. But 1 Corinthians 10:13 takes the wind out of our tendency to make excuses for sin. 1 Corinthians 10:13 teaches us that if we sin, we can't blame it on God, or the devil, or circumstances, or another person, or anything else. If we sin, we are responsible for our own actions, because God has promised always to provide a way of escape.

Conclusion:

Temptation is a fact of life. It never goes away. As long as your heart is beating you will face temptation. But remember this: You don't have to lose the battle. God will enable you to escape. He will provide a way out. You can have victory over temptation.

But, what happens when you lose the battle? What then? The Bible says:

1 John 1:9 (NKJV) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

God is faithful; He forgives you and cleanses you from all unrighteousness when you confess your sins.

When it comes to temptation, God's attitude is not, "Prove to me how strong you are." His attitude is, "Let me show you how strong I can help you be."

God's grace is always available. There will always be the counteractive power of God available to us to withstand any trial or temptation to sin. The call is to live in dependence on him and not in dependence on our own resources. Listen to how Eugene Peterson paraphrases verse 13 in The Message:

No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he'll never let you be pushed past your limit; he'll always be there to help you come through it.

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