Today, Pastor Choi concludes his sermon series on “Rely on God’s Resources.” He gives an overview on the topic of temptation covering the characteristics of temptation. He also identifies two sources of temptation: human heart within and Satan the tempter without. The sermon also provides practical ways to “shun the bait”: flee from the tempting circumstances, resist the devil, and filter out thoughts. Pastor Choi exhorts the congregation to lay up God’s Word in their hearts, to pray, and to ask for help from the Holy Spirit so that they may lead a victorious life in Christ.
Following is a summary of today’s sermon:
Rely on God’s Resources (6): His Help in Temptation
New International Version (NIV)
18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
New International Version (NIV)
9 How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word.
10 I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
- There’s no way to extensively and adequately cover the topic of temptation with one sermon. Today I will give you an overview of temptation.
Temptation is a common human experience:
- You are not alone. When you are tempted, your experiences are not unique. All of us are tempted. Everyone, old and young, male and female, goes through temptations almost every day. No human being is exempt from temptations. Even Jesus was tempted, although He never succumbed to them. He understands what you are going through, because He’s been there.
- Temptations are all over, although they may vary among individuals: drugs (Tim), drinking (Sam), smoking (Kay), eating (Lisa), pornography (Ted), greed (Mitch) (those who want to be rich fall into temptation: 1 Timothy 6:9), gambling (Harry), pride (Paul), vanity (Sue), self-pity (Bea), and so forth. One of the mysteries in life is that God never removes temptations from our lives (this requires another sermon).
- Temptations are unavoidable; however, you don’t have to fall into or succumb to them. “It is better to shun the bait than to struggle in the snare” (Ravi Zacharias).
Understanding of the nature of temptation:
- Some of us wonder where in the world the temptation comes from. The Bible identifies two sources of temptation: the human heart within and Satan without. The heart of man and Satan the Tempter, the ultimate cause of evil. One thing we never do in times of temptation: blame God. Listen to James: “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed” (James 1:13).
- Where does God stand in temptation, then? He sets the boundaries of our temptations—how far we can be tempted. God knows how much each of us can handle temptations and never allows us to be tempted beyond what we can bear. Furthermore, He helps us by providing the way out (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Three Factors in Temptation:
- Imagine you are standing in the middle of Temptation Coliseum. Welcome to the arena of real life temptations. You will see three factors involved in your battle with temptation. First, Circumstances/situations. Look at your surroundings when you are tempted. In our daily lives, often we find ourselves in a situation where it is almost impossible to resist the temptation. E.g. Sam the alcoholic is sitting in a bar with drinking buddies. The best strategy is to flee from those tempting situations (1 Timothy 6:11). E.g.2. Consider two men with sexual/sensual temptations. First, Joseph, in Genesis 39, ran from the master’s wife who seduced him to commit adultery with a perfect circumstance where no one was around them. Next, consider King David who fell into the temptation. Joseph ran away from the temptation. David ran into it. The outcomes were quite different: Joseph became the prime minister of Egypt, while David murdered Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, to cover up his adultery. So, do not put yourself in a situation where you are going to be tempted. Do all you can to flee from the situation where you will be vulnerable to temptations. Flee.
- Next, beware of the tempter—the Devil. He tempts everyone. He tempts you. He tempts me. He even tempted Jesus. Our enemy’s goal is very simple and clear: to destroy us and to nullify God’s work in our life (1 Thessalonians 3:5). E.g. David Wilkerson said, “I believe Satan’s most powerful weapon against God’s people is temptation and lust that leads to sin. His purpose is to engulf believers in guilt, fear, and condemnation—to make them discouraged and downcast (bolded for emphasis). And the more they love Jesus, the hotter and heavier their temptation will be.” By the way, Satan knows exactly which button to push to tempt you. This is how he works: he makes a careful observation of your life pattern (the way you act and react) and knows to push the button which you cannot refuse. E.g. Think of Eve in the Garden of Eden. Before the serpent approached to tempt her, I bet, Eve herself went near to the forbidden tree often looking and admiring the beauty of tree more often than Adam did. And, guess who the tempter approached first and how he did it. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1)
- Guess what: If Harry the gambler frequented a casino in A.C., Satan would push the button in him–the desire to become rich quick. He would assail him by all senses (eyes, ears, nose, tongue) to make him succumb to the temptations.
- The Bible prescribes the best way to handle our enemy: it is to resist the Devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7).
- Third, we need to understand our inner disposition. I don’t have to tell you that our heart and mind are a spiritual battleground. We feel the tug of war constantly—between the desire to have instant gratification and the heart that resists the very same temptation. The Bible commands us to “Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). We need to learn how to discern and filter out thoughts in our hearts and minds, because some of them are from our enemy who puts the thoughts of temptation in our hearts and minds. E.g. John 13:2—the Devil put the thought of betrayal in Judas’s heart. Do not give any chance to our enemy to tempt you through thoughts.
Help is available in times of temptation:
- Finally, we must not forget that help is available. Remember that God never leaves us alone in times of temptation. He provides us with means to resist and overcome the temptations and to lead a triumphant life in Christ. His help comes in three forms: the Word of God— “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11), prayer—“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41), and the Holy Spirit—who constantly offers intercessory prayer on your behalf–“the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans (Romans 8:26). Therefore, surround and gird yourself with this three-way protection. You will lead a victorious life.
- Recap: Flee from temptations. Resist the Tempter. Guard your heart and mind with God’s Word, prayer, and the Holy Spirit.