A Christianity That Works Part IV

Preached by Rev. Ed Brouwer at The Gathering Place,
Pulpit Series Volume 18, Issue 07, March 2, 2008

“How To Handle Temptation”

Temptation: Man's oldest problem; we all eventually face it.

There are two different kinds of testing; Trials and Temptations.
1. Trials are situations designed by God to help us grow.
2. Temptations are designed by the devil to cause us to sin.

Today’s question is, “How do you handle temptation?” James, being the practical writer that he is, gives us five principles.

1. Be Realistic: You will be tempted. When tempted ... not "if” tempted. Everybody's tempted. You're tempted. I'm tempted. Every day we're tempted. You never get too old for it. You never spiritual enough. Everybody's tempted. The more you grow in the Lord, the more you’ll be tempted. It's a fact of life.

I Corinthians 10:13 "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man." Circle "common to man" -- that means we're all in the same boat.

It is not a sin to be tempted. It is a sin to give in to temptation. Hebrew 4:15 Jesus was tempted in all points like as we are yet he sinned not.

Temptation proves you're human, not that you're evil.

2. Be responsible Accept responsibility. Don't blame others for your problems. We love to blame people, even God. v13 When tempted, no one should say, `God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.

Some people say, "It must be God's will or He wouldn't have let it happen." That's called blaming God.

God does not tempt. He never contradicts His word. God isn’t going to tell you one thing and have the Bible say something different.

If the Bible says something and you say something different, you're wrong.

The fact is I bring most of my problems on myself. I need to quit making excuses.

3. Be ready Peter says, "Be on your guard." Jesus said, Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation. Paul said, Put on the whole armor of God.

Be ready. Be prepared. Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desires, he is dragged away and enticed. Don't be deceived dear brothers. Circle "deceived"

· How do you prepare for temptation?
· How do you get ready for it?

II Corinthians 2:11 In order that Satan might not outwit us, we are aware of his schemes.

God wants you to know the devil’s method of operations. He's been using the same old bag of tricks for 2000 years and longer.

Temptation is a process, not a one-time act.

James outlines four steps the devil uses in order to tempt you.

DESIRE: v14 "Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desires..." It's an inside job. Any desire out of control becomes destructive. Satan loves to take routine desires and turn them into runaway desires. You become consumed, obsessed by it.

Legitimate desires when out of control become a problem.

If it wasn't for the inward desire you wouldn't be tempted.

DECEPTION: v14 "He is dragged away and enticed ..."

Literally - "snared in a trap". Enticed is a fisherman’s term, "lured by bait". The secret of great fishing is in the bait. The right kind of bait for the right kind of fish.

What kind of bait does the devil use for you?
He knows your hot button, your weakness. He knows you inside and out. He knows what turns you on. He knows what you will fall for. He hides his hook in his bait and the bait appeals to your weakness.

Crazy thing - even if we see the hook and know it's a temptation we keep right on nibbling.

Temptation always looks better than it really is. Desire turns to deception and deception turns to disobedience.

DISOBEDIENCE: v14 "Then after desire has conceived it gives birth to sin."

The battle starts with your thoughts. It moves from your thoughts into actions. If the devil gets your attention he’ll eventually get you to commit the action.

People say, "What's wrong in a harmless fantasy?"

What starts in your mind eventually comes out in your life. What you flirt with, you will fall for. That's the whole purpose behind television advertising. What starts in your mind eventually comes out in your lifestyle. Desire leads to deception, deception leads to disobedience. Disobedience leads to death.

If you overcome temptation you get the crown of life, but the wages of sin are death -- spiritual separation from God.
James says we are free to choose any way we want to live. God gives you and I freedom of choice. We however are not free to choose the consequences of those choices.

In order to overcome temptation, I've got to be realistic and admit I have a problem. Then I've got to be responsible, not blaming anybody else and quit making excuses. Then I get ready by understanding what happens during temptation so I can learn how to avoid it.

All of a sudden in verse 17, James switches gears. First he's talking about something negative then he's talking about something positive. He's refocusing our attention on something else. Why? Because that's the next step in overcoming temptation. Be realistic, be responsible, be ready, then be refocused.

REFOCUS v17: If temptation begins with our inner thoughts then changing what we think about is the key to overcoming it. The key to overcoming temptation is not to fight temptation but simply refocus your thoughts. Change your attention.

Instead of looking at what you're being tempted by, look somewhere else. Philippians 4:8 says "Think on these things, things that are good, positive, just, honest."

Focus your mind on the goodness of God. Why? Whatever gets your attention, gets you.

Focus on God’s goodness, "This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad." It's a choice.

"I will bless the Lord at all times ... His praise will continually be in my mouth ... I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

When temptation calls, drop the receiver. When you refocus, it may mean physically removing yourself from the situation. If you don't want to get stung, get away from the bees. Maybe you need to change the channel on the TV, or walk out of that movie. Maybe you need to change friendships or jobs. Maybe you need to stay off of the internet.

I Corinthians 15:33 "Bad company corrupts good character."

The single most important principle in getting control of your life is to let God have control of it. Get Him in your life so He can start changing your character.

Being born again gives you a new capacity to resist temptation. Begin a relationship with Christ. Trust Him to help you make the changes.

You will not be able to say no to temptation until you first say yes to God. You need His power in your life.

· Where are you most vulnerable?
· What is your weak spot?
Is it your temper? Your appetite? Your spending? Your words, or lustful thoughts?

What is your hot button? Figure it out and then admit it to God. Get free of the past. Get forgiveness.

I Corinthians 10:13 God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so you can stand up under it. What a great promise!

God says, "I will make a way out if you trust Me."

Don’t bother praying "Lord, lead us not into temptation" if, at the same time, you're flirting with
temptation. You've got to co-operate.
Martin Luther said, "We cannot keep the birds from flying over us, but we can keep them from making a nest in our hair."

Resources you need in order to fight temptation:
1. Fellowship with other Christians.
2. Get into God's word.