Fighting Temptation or Fighting God?

When you’re spacing out in class… what do you think about? When you’re laying awake at night and can’t sleep, what are consumes your dreams: video games, music, your friends, a “friend,” good grades, sports, achievements, or some other fantasy?

Those dreams and desires say a lot about who we are and what we desire.

Mark Twain said, “A human being has a natural desire for more than what he needs.” Whether it’s money, food, pleasure, whatever… we want as much of something as we can get.

But when good things becomes obsessions, they begin to control us. They become obsessions. We can even become prisoners to our own desires. We need to learn to say “No!” to ourselves, keeping good desires within healthy boundaries while refusing to entertain our bad desires which can cause us harm.

The Fireplace
If sex is like fire, then marriage is the fireplace. When fire leaves the boundaries of the fireplace, don’t be surprised if you get burned. See other posts from this conversation: Sex, Intimacy, & Healthy Boundaries, and  Secret Struggles & Building an Army (because no one needs to struggle alone). 

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How Temptation Becomes so Tempting

They say one of the best ways to win a battle is to understand your enemy. If you know how your enemy thinks and how they work then you’ll be able to come up with an effective strategy to fight victoriously.

Temptation…

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind? It’s probably something that you find tempting.

The very word brings up thoughts of struggle and indulgence. But what is it that makes temptation so tempting? There are a few things we can learn about temptation by looking in the Bible’s account of the first sin (Genesis 3:1-7).

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The Drama of Redemption: The Fall into Sin

When you hear the word “Temptation,” what comes to mind?  Well, probably the thing that tempts you the most!  It might be gossip, stealing, lying, violence, greed, sex, porn, or any number of other things.  Last week we explored how temptation works and what sin does by looking at the very first sin.

The other week we remembered that God created the world and made us in his image so we would glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.  But something clearly went wrong… except it wasn’t because God messed up.  When Adam and Eve sinned, all creation fell into sin along with them.

Genesis 3 tells us about “The Fall” into sin.  I believe that Gen. 3:6 sets the pattern for how temptation works, check it out:

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”

There are a few things to notice here about how temptation worked on Eve (and how it works on us):

  1. Eve “Saw the fruit of the tree was good for food.”  The fruit would fill a physical need.  How often have we said, “If God didn’t want me to _________, then why would he give me this need/desire?  It can’t be wrong!”
  2. Eve “Saw the fruit of the tree was… pleasing to the eye.”  It simply looked good and pleasurable.  If it makes you happy and feel good, then it can’t be wrong… right?
  3. Eve “Saw the fruit of the tree was… desirable for gaining wisdom.”  There was so much to gain by eating the fruit.  She would learn all sorts of things that she didn’t know.  Afterall, who wants to be naive and simple-minded?!
  4. Eve “Gave some to her husband, who was with her.”  Sin spreads.  It’s contagious.  Eve sinned first, but Adam didn’t step in to protect her.  At some point, he should’ve stepped in and said, “Eve, honey, it’s time to walk away.  Let’s go.”  But he didn’t.  Maybe he “cared too much about their relationship” to risk stepping in, or maybe he was just as intrigued as she was – but either way, Adam didn’t help Eve resist temptation and once she sinned he soon followed her.

What actually happened here and what can we learn about temptation?

  • Doubting God’s Word.  Satan started off, “Did God really say…” (v.1).  How many times do we convince ourselves that something isn’t sinful while we’re being tempted even though we really know it is.  When we doubt God’s Word and lose confidence in what God has said, then we give the enemy an open door to tempt us.
  • Adding to God’s Word.  Eve responded to the serpent that the cannot eat from the tree or touch it or else they will die (v.3).  The problem here is that God never said they couldn’t touch the tree, He simply said not to eat its fruit.  On the surface, this really isn’t a big deal, but I think this points to the importance of remembering what God’s Word actually says.  It’s good to generally know what God has said, but it’s another thing completely to actually have His words memorized.
  • Forgetting who God says you are.  Satan’s promise in v.5 is, “when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  Eve (and Adam, who was with her) obviously forgot that SHE ALREADY WAS LIKE GOD!  God created us “in his image.”  We don’t need to seek additional wisdom and promises from the enemy… we have more than we can even remember through God’s Word!

The rest of Genesis 3:14-21 describes what happened because of the Fall into Sin.  Everything changed because of Adam and Eve’s sin.  When they sinned, we all became sinners.  Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.”  Scripture repeatedly teaches that all people fell into sin when Adam & Eve sinned.

We are all natural born sinners.  We still bear God’s image, but we are like broken mirrors – reflecting God’s image, but not well.  Because of our sin, we have separated ourselves from God and have made ourselves guilty of sin and deserving of his wrath.

Next week, we will examine God’s amazing grace and how He redeems us from sin and judgment.

Final Questions to Consider:

  • What sins are most tempting to you?
  • How are those sins “Good for food, Pleasing to the eye, and Desirable for wisdom” to you?
  • Are you spreading sin to others, or are they sharing their sin with you?
  • How can you grow more confident in God’s Word?  What verse will you commit to memorize (I recommend starting off with Romans 12:1-2)?
  •  Do you see yourself as a sinner, in need of God’s grace and mercy?  Or do you minimize sin so it’s not a big deal?
  • What Christian friend can you commit to be “accountability partners” with, helping each other resist temptation and encouraging each other to pursue God’s grace when you do sin?

Know Your Enemy: Study Culture

When I was a teenager the movie “The Usual Suspects” came out and was one of the more popular movies among my generation.  One of the last lines of the movie is one of those lines you hear, think about, and think “Wow, that is so true!”  Throughout the course of the movie a handicapped accomplice is giving his testimony to a detective about a major crime and is given his freedom in exchange for information about the notorious mob boss.  At the end, the detective figures out he’s been hoodwinked and the handicapped man really was the mob boss himself and he replays their discussion in his head when you hear the line:

“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled is convincing the world he doesn’t exist.”

As a Christian, my enemy is not homosexuality, lust, anger, abortion, murder, lies, gossip, poverty, suffering… my enemy is Satan.  Our enemy is not an idea, agenda, or godlessness in general.  Our enemy is active and wants to take us over.

“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.” (1 Peter 5:8–9)

“Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm” (Ephesians 6:11–13)

I believe there are some Christians who give the devil too much credit and blame him for every sin they’ve ever committed.  But from what I have observed the majority of American Christians treat the devil like he’s not even real, as if he’s a fairy tale that’s useful for scaring us into godliness, but not actually real.  Yet at the same time, many who don’t give the devil a second thought also affirm that the Bible is entirely true and is God’s Word!  Brothers and sister, we must be very careful about this: Know your enemy.

I’ve heard it said that Christians should walk throughout the day with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.  We must study our culture and look at the world around us and discern where God is at work then discern where the devil may be lurking.

Here’s a hypothetical example:  Suppose Bill struggles with anger and when he comes home from work his family is walking on egg shells so they don’t set him off.  But Bill is a Christian, and he really wants to overcome his anger… what should he do?  It’s not as simple as saying “focus on being less angry.”  If Bill focuses on being less angry, he’s stiff focusing on his anger… he’s still focusing on sin.  Some might say, “Bill should focus on patience, since that’s the antidote to anger.”  But I’d say Bill ought to focus his mind and passions on Jesus Christ.  As Hebrews 12:1-2 says,  “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”

Some Christians claim we only need to study Scripture, only study the Truth, in order to live the godly lives we are called to.  Many of us are probably familiar with the anecdote that IRS agents don’t study counterfeits, they study the real thing in order to identify the fake dollar bills.  True enough, and we ought to spend our greatest effort immersed in the Bible.  However, IRS agents study the real thing and then are tested by having to identify a which bills are counterfeit and which are real.  If IRS agents and bank tellers never see a counterfeit in their training I highly doubt they will be able to quickly identify one when it is passed.  We must train ourself and train our children to know the truth and be able to engage the culture around them in order to discern what is true and what is a lie and give them the integrity to choose what is right.

But our enemy is not of flesh and blood… our enemy is active and looking to devour us.  This isn’t a Christian scare-tactic and I’m not saying “Run away, Run away!” from culture and hide out in a monastery.  I don’t believe we should all become Amish and escape from the devil’s schemes.  I simply believe that we need to remember who our enemy really is, and live accordingly.

Know your enemy, learn his war-tactics and how to fight against him…

 

Welcoming Lost Dogs Home

A few months ago I saw something that’s stuck with me: I was driving home from Target and saw a man walking up to his dog on the side of the road and he grabbed it by the collar and dragged it home.  It was a quick thing I saw, since I was only driving by, and I don’t know any context, but as I drove by I found myself getting upset with that man.  As I asked myself why I was getting so upset, it hit me: The man should have been excited to have found his dog and gladly welcomed his lost dog home.

In Luke 15:4-7 Jesus tells this parable,

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

When we go astray and are lost in our sin, we need to remember that we have a good shepherd who hunts us down and welcomes us home.  But, all too often, we feel ashamed of our own lostness and our sin, so we run farther away and hide from God (like Adam and Eve did in the garden).  The trouble with playing Hide & Seek with God is you’ll never win!

God is not like that man I saw on the side of the road, who grabs us angrily by the collar and drags us home to scold us for running away.  Of course, God disciplines those He loves in order to teach us not to run away, but He does so because it’s better to be home than to be lost… and that’s the type of discipline I think we could all use.

So next time you find yourself running away from God and getting lost in sin, obey the Holy Spirit calling you to repent and return to Christ Jesus who has sought you out and paid for your sin already.

Understanding the Lord’s Prayer

Many people can recite the Lord’s Prayer without being able to explain what it means or answer basic questions about it.  I’d like to break it down very simply to help us all better understand what Jesus was teaching about prayer.

It’s a Pattern, Not a Chant. Jesus said, “This, then is HOW (not what) you should pray…”  Jesus gave it as a pattern for his followers to copy.  He did not intend for them to recite it as if they were chanting a magical incantation that would force God to do what they want him to do.  The different parts of the Lord’s Prayer are meant to teach us something about God, prayer, and about our need.

“Our Father in Heaven.” First, we should start our prayers by recognizing that we are praying to God Almighty who is in Heaven.  But at the same time, we approach him as a child approaches his loving father.  God is “in Heaven,” but He is our loving Heavenly Father.  Just as a respectful child approaches his father with humility and love, we also should approach praying to our Heavenly Father with humility and love rather than praying as if God is a “Cosmic Vending-Machine” who is there to give us whatever we ask for.  We should start our prayers by humbly recognizing who we are and who God is.

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What is Cellular Purity?

Below is a great video on the connection between cell phones and pornography, this is a “must watch” for every parent and youth worker!

For more posts on Sexual Purity and Moral Boundaries check these links out:

  • Previous post I’ve written entitled “Struggling against porn
  • Pornography Harms” is the name of a new site devoted to helpful, informative, credible information regarding the harmfulness of pornography.  Great site!
  • Link for Teens: Teens Against Porn – this is a GREAT site that deals with the allure and the effects of pornography while giving you encouragement that you’re not alone and that through Christ you can overcome this temptation!
  • Link for Parents: The Porn Talk – don’t know how to talk to your son or daughter about sex and pornography?  Check this site out for some ideas and resources.