Morning. Happy Mother’s Day. David Sorn. Pastor of Renovation Church.
We are starting a brand new series this week called, “Hooks” a series on temptation.
Which, if you’re human, I’m assuming you’ve experienced before.
Whether that be a temptation to lie, to cheat, sexual temptation, to hurt someone, to say something you shouldn’t, you name it, the list goes on…for a LONG time.
We’re calling this series “Hooks,” because temptation reminds me a lot of a fishing hook.
I’m not much of a fisher. I’ve fished maybe 7 times in my entire life. And I usually have no idea what I’m doing.
Most of the time when I have gone I just feel lucky that I didn’t hook myself in the face somehow.
It’s not that I’m not your normal guy. I’m a huge sports fan and all of that stuff, but my dad was not a fisherman, so I just never ever went fishing as a kid.
But my father-in-law is a huge fisher. And a great one. So the times that I have gone fishing in my life, usually have been with him. And if it wasn’t for him, I would have been at a TOTAL loss.
I have no idea how to get the line on the pole ready, wind the pole, and I certainly have no idea which sort of bait to put on the hook.
When I open up a tacklebox…
(SHOW PICTURE OF BRIGHT TACKLEBOX ON SCREEN)
All I see are bright and shiny things, and I think, oh that’s cool.
But really, they’re not just bright and shiny toys right?
Because, hidden or attached to everyone of those, is a deadly hook.
And THAT, is what temptation is like. It all “kind of seems” like a good idea at the beginning. It looks appealing, it looks tasty, but underneath, the end result is not pretty.
This concept reminded me this week of a short scene I saw in the animated movie “A Bug’s Life” years and years ago.
Let me play that for you quick…
PLAY “A BUG’S LIFE” VIDEO
And, that’s sort of how it goes, we feel like “we can’t help it” and we just keep gravitating towards sin.
Our next three talks in this series are called:
“But, It’s So Tasty!”
“But, It’s So Easy!”
And “But, But It’s So Shiny!”
And in those following three weeks, we are going to dive into how to let God help you conquer certain temptations
But TODAY, before we get to how to conquer certain temptations, I want to give you an overview from Scripture of how temptation often works
This is an important first step. In war tactics, “knowing your enemy” / “Knowing what you’re up against” is always a precursor to just going out and fighting.
If you’re going to fight well, you have to know what you’re fighting
You have to know how your enemy works.
So, we’re going to start with THAT today, and we’ll get to fighting tactics more in depth in the weeks to come
WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?
Well, first of all, like any message you listen to in church, start thinking of examples in your life so you can track along
Temptation runs rampant in our lives because sin runs rampant in our lives
We’re incredibly imperfect people. We sin…A LOT. It’s like what we do best.
It should be the tagline of humanity’s business card.
“Really good at sinning.”
And with almost every sin, first comes a temptation.
So often, sin starts right here…in the mind.
Before you start your gossiping rant about the guy at your office who never cleans his dishes, Before you actually carry out your lustful thoughts, before you decide to ignore the person on your street who needs help…
It all starts as a thought, an idea in our heads
SO where does that thought come from? Better yet, WHO does it come from?
Temptation comes generally from three different places: Our own flesh, other people, and from spiritual warfare
The first one is our flesh (also called our sinful nature)…which is a Biblical term for our own weakness.
(Galatians 5:16-17) – NIV
16So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want
Oddly enough, we are often tempted by ourselves. Our “desires” as the Bible puts it often tempt us to evil.
But, it’s not just us. Thankfully we can blame other people. J
The second source of temptation is exactly that: Other people. Good old fashioned peer pressure right? Who knew it lasted past being pressured to go play ding dong ditch on your elderly neighbor?
The Bible speaks of this type of temptation often.
(Proverbs 1:10) – NLT
10 My child, if sinners entice you,
turn your back on them!
One of the main themes of the Old Testament (see this in places like Ex. 34) is that the Israelites were to be careful of who they kept company with, who they made treaties with.
Like the old phrase says (which many don’t know actually came from the Bible)
(1 Corinthians 15:33) – NIV
33Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character."
And those two sources of temptation are decently obvious, right?
Any person, Christian or not, might say that we are tempted to do bad things, by ourselves and by others; but Christianity adds a third category, and that is what many Christians call Spiritual Warfare
It’s the concept that there are evil spiritual beings (demons) that tempt us to walk away from God
Listen, I know that maybe sounds crazy, I remember thinking it was crazy when I became a Christian.
But, most people are willing to accept the existence of angels (even if they’re just slightly spiritual ppl). And if we’re willing to accept there are good spiritual beings, then we might as well be willing to accept there are evil
Especially with all the evil that exists in this world.
In fact, sometimes I’m surprised people don’t actually think it’s harder to believe in angels than demons.
And the Bible speaks OFTEN of this type of temptation:
A place to really study it if you’re interested is Ephesians 6 (armor of God chapter)
(Ephesians 6:11-12) – NLT
11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
(1 Peter 5:8) – NIV
8Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
So, we see that temptation can come from all sorts of different places. However, notice one of the places it doesn’t come from: God.
(James 1:13-15) – NIV
13When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
We are not tempted by God, but by ourselves, and really, a combination of things.
This verse in James also really gives us a good launching pad for the roadmap to how temptation often works.
IF I may, I’d like to take you through what I believe is a common 4-step process for how temptation often works.
STEP ONE: OUR OWN EVIL DESIRES
In 2 Corinthians chapter 2, Paul mentions that we are “not unaware of the devil’s schemes.” Which means that there is some sort of natural progression of how evil often tempts us.
And it tends to often start with our own desires.
Each of us has things that we are weak in, what is unbelievably tempting for one person, is not even a fraction of a temptation for another
Some people would do anything if people dangled money in front of them, and others wouldn’t even flinch
The first step in temptation then is: A desire of yours is pushed. It’s poked.
A desire for being right, or revenge, or feeling good
Desires/emotions aren’t always bad, but if pushed in the wrong way, they certainly can be.
So the 1st question we must ask is: What are our particular weaknesses? Where are you weak? Where do your desires and emotions most often get you into trouble?
Because your enemieS (meaning your flesh, human enemies, and spiritual evil) will, like any good enemy, prey on your weaknesses (your desires, passions, or emotions that most get you into trouble).
The devil isn’t going to attack you where you are strong!
So, where is it in your life that you need to have your guard up a little bit more? To be expecting an attack?
STEP TWO: THOUGHT ENTERS YOUR MIND
If the first step of your enemy is to prey on your desire, the next step is to put a thought in your head.
By the way, if you’ve been trying to feverishly write some of these things down, or write down scripture verses, I do want to let you know that we put all of our outlines online on our website if you ever want to go back and look
Again, sometimes these are our own thoughts, sometimes from other people, and sometimes it’s spiritual warfare
We know the spiritual case exists because sometimes people (and many never admit it), just have terrible thoughts. And I mean terrible thoughts.
And even if they’re not terrible…there just you know…moderately bad…it’s important to point out that Temptation itself is not a sin!
I worked this concept through many times w/ high school boys when I was a youth pastor
We would say: Noticing that someone is attractive is not a sin. That’s natural. You don’t want to mess up your brain and say, “DON’T THINK OF THAT PERSON AS A ATTRACTIVE!!” No, God wired us that way.
BUT, then there can be the temptation…to linger on it..
“I should think about this some more” (and even that temptation…the thought to sin) still isn’t sin.
It’s like, if you’re sitting at your comp. at home, and the thought crosses your mind, I should go look at pornography
Again, that temptation is not sin. It’s a temptation.
I think too many people lose too many battles because they just throw in the towel right there.
Temptation is not a sin, but it can be a sin in a matter of seconds.
You are always, sorry to break it to you, gonna be tempted. It’s just a matter of what you do with it.
It’s like the old saying goes: “You can’t keep birds from flying over your heard, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”
STEP THREE: DOUBTING GOD’S WAY IS BEST
So, it begins with a desire, which turns into a thought, and what comes next is that thought leads to doubt.
Step Three in our enemies temptation plan is to get us to doubt that God’s way is best
We begin to think:
“I’ll feel better if I just do this.”
“It’ll be a whole lot more exciting.”
“I’ve got better things to do than serve, etc.”
“It’s just easier to not do the right thing.”
As I said last week, life really is a series of forks in the roads.
You are presented with innumerable choices every day.
And lots of the choices are to obey God or to not obey God.
And if you’ve been walking with him for a little while, you tend to learn which is way is the right way (His way) and which way is wrong
So why in the world do we still pick the wrong way all the time?!??!?
It’s because we’re tempted to think (often in just a spit second) that God’s way can’t really be best…this way is best
And we will believe the most irrational things sometimes in order to satisfy our internal cravings of lust, greed, and satisfaction.
Let me give you an example. You ever tried to go on a diet?
A diet is a great example because you’re presented with forks in the road non-stop. You have a choice: Eat the grilled check and broccoli or pick up Papa Murphy’s on the way home.
And YOU KNOW what’s right. In fact, you even KNOW WHY the wrong decision is WRONG!
Yet, we still do it! We still get the pizza. We still choose sin.
And I submit to you, and start evaluating yourself on this (a big prayer of ours in this series is that you would start noticing some of these things you’ve maybe just been doing on autopilot)……but starting catching yourself.
Because you have to tell yourself some sort of stupid lie in order to go forward at that wrong fork.
Like, take the pizza for example:
“Well, I’m in a rush, and this is quicker.”
“Well, I do have a coupon.”
“I’ve had a hard week, and I…deserve it!”
If you were on a diet, those are all dumb reasons right.
But it’s no different as a follower of Christ. We tell ourselves innumerable dumb reasons in order to get ourselves to go against what we know is right.
So, let me just boldly ask you: “What sort of stupid stuff are you believing in your life right now that enables you to make the wrong choices?”
What hook do you keep biting into because you keep telling yourself that it looks so beautiful, so it must be okay?
Start identifying those things in your life. Because identifying those things is one of the first steps to beating temptation.
You’re going to keep biting the hook until you can figure out the reasons for why you bit it in the first place!
The tough part about this issue is that it’s not just us and other people telling us lies that force us to go the wrong way, the devil lies to you too
We see this even in the beginning of time. In the garden of eden
(Genesis 3:1-5) – NIV
1 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'?"
2 The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' "
4 "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. 5 "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
In the Gospel of John, Jesus says of the devil, “When he lies, he speaks his native language, for his is a liar and the father of lies.”
Evil is real, and it can lie straight to our minds. Which means I can’t think of a better reason to have a compass of truth in your life. Which means knowing the Bible. Otherwise, how can we even know what to believe in this world? How can we know truth?
STEP FOUR: WE CHOOSE TO SIN
So, at some time, whether it’s our crazy ideas or a temptation from something evil, we buy into a lie, and we make the choice to sin…
Which is the fourth and final step of our enemy’s tactics: To get us to move from desire, to a thought, to buying a lie, to actually carrying it out in sin.
In the coming weeks, we are going to work through some common temptations and give you more Biblical advice on how to actually fight back against those temptations. On how to avoid them, run away from them, or fight back with the strength of God in you.
But this was an important starting point today that too often gets overlooked.
It’s easy to just jump right into certain temptations and talk about fighting back…but we must first know our enemy works in the first place
So I want to challenge you to start praying and start thinking really hard about what are your weak spots, where are you letting thoughts just linger (begin policing your mind for God), and identifying what crazy lies that you keep telling yourself.
These are incredibly important exercises to do as a follower of Christ
Maybe even take some time this week to take some dedicated time to think about that or to write down some lies you keep believing
Make a list of all the types of bait you continually fall for only to bite into a hook.
And most of all, remember this…our Savior, Jesus Christ, was tempted also. He knows how hard it is, and he knows that lots of times, we’re going to take the wrong road.
He wants us to take the right road and serve Him, but we’re imperfect ppl. That’s why he died for us.
So as you try and grow in this area, don’t beat yourself up either. Remember his grace. His forgiveness.
For it’s His grace and forgiveness, more than anything else, that will actually motivate you to want to take the right road and avoid the lies in the first place.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.
MAY 9, 2010