The Problem of Temptation Pt. 1

INTRODUCTION: I think it can be shown that the people of any church will fit one of four basic situations in relation to moral failure.
A. There are Christians like Joseph of the Old Testament, and Mary the mother of Jesus, who have been free from major conflicts and hang-ups in their lives. They aren't perfect; they still need the redeeming grace of God, but because of the protection and training of a Christian home, they have avoided a lot of sin. Thus their continuing sin may be pride and hypocrisy.


B. On the other hand, there are Christians who have had tremendous failures in the past and are still struggling with sinful habits, forces, and actions that leave them defeated.


C. There are also those who don't know Christ, and don't know or care that they are slaves to sin.


D. Finally, there are Christians who have experienced moral failures, and through a process such as we'll discuss here, they are now experiencing freedom.


Finally, there are Christians who have experienced moral failures, and through a process such as we'll discuss here, they are now experiencing freedom.

This study is designed to be a special help to all those who fit into the second and third situations. It is also designed to give those who are experiencing present freedom and victory, a way to help those who are living a life-style of failure and defeat--see James 5:19-20.

For purposes of continuity, we will use illustrations from the area of moral failure (sexual sin), but keep in mind, the principles apply to all areas that are in need of restoration and rehabilitation.

What do you do when you have fallen into a trap of sin and you desire a way of getting out, but your failures have been long-term and your attempts to free yourself have failed? Or how can you help someone who wants help, but has been living a life-style of failure and defeat? As Christians, we can look at the problems of failure and defeat, and see wonderful help available.


As we look at the problems of failure and defeat, we will see that:
I. There are five basic ways in which freedom is achieved.


A. The first is to recognize that freedom comes from the Lord. John 8:36--"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." This is obvious, but essential understanding. If freedom is to be achieved, FREEDOM MUST COME FROM JESUS CHRIST.


1. It is important to see how Jesus "relates" to a person who is in sin.


a. On one hand, you will find Him advocating unparalleled moral purity in His teachings--Matt. 5:27-28. It strikes to the heart of how a person thinks.


b. On the other hand, He is a friend/restorer to the one who has fallen--John 8:1-11. v. 11--"Neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared, "go now and leave your life of sin." Here we see that Jesus didn't let the woman's sin stand in the way of restoration.


Therefore, remember:
2. It is the Lord who wants to help you - freedom comes from Him! Understand, His work in us is often a process, not an instantaneous cure.

Charles Durham reflects on that in the following quote: "There will not be a single day in our lives when we do not need the redeeming grace of God in Jesus Christ. From this it follows that FAIL is what all humans do; CONTINUE TO TRY is what all Christians do; and ACCEPT ERRING CHRISTIANS is what God does. He continues: "Christians are not perfect - just forgiven." So says one bumper sticker that is wiser than most. This is not to say that we make no progress and do not become more like Christ. We do. But can you think of a single person in either the Old or New Testaments, other than Jesus Himself, whose life was an unbroken line of growth? I think not. In fact, if we could know in detail the lives of the biblical characters, we would probably see that many of them advanced in the same way we do, by taking three steps forward and two steps back."--Temptation, Charles Durham, IVP, p. 150.

So understand, His work in us is often a process, not an instantaneous cure. How then does this freedom from sin come from the Lord?


a. First, "recognize" what He has already done. Rom. 5:6-8--"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." The only way freedom from sin can be realized is because Christ died for us on the cross.


This is a well known fact, but how does it apply to our sin?
b. Second, "remember" His death and "realize" that His death was our death too. Rom. 6:1-4--"What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we to may live a new life."

The declaration of freedom from sin is found in Rom. 5-8. So read it often, and pray through it, claiming its principles and promises! If you don't know these passages, you are missing a great deal of insight and help. Meditate on these chapters often.


Looking back to Rom. 6, we see that:
1) Jesus' death for sin was our death to sin and His resurrection was our resurrection. Verses 5-7--"If we have been united with him in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin - because anyone who has died has been freed from sin."


2) Jesus' death and our death means then, that sin does not reign in us, it is rendered powerless. We are no longer slaves to sin.
a) We don't need to struggle with sin any more than a person physically dead has to. WE ARE NOW NO LONGER SLAVES TO SIN--Rom. 6:11-13.
b) The trick of Satan is to get us to say to ourselves and others: "I can't get over this thing. I try, but I can't ever win." What we have done, when we make a statement like that, is to give testimony to the strength of the flesh - the old man. However, that isn't where our present strength lies.


3) We are no longer slaves - we are free. So, when a thought of defeat ("I can't help myself...") is formed in your mind, substitute in its place, the truth... "In Christ I'm free..."


4) Jesus' death and resurrection says to us then, we now have the option to offer ourselves as "instruments of wickedness" or "instruments of righteousness"--verse 13. Rom. 6:11-13--"In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness."
Definition of count: View it, consider it, as dead.


a) As a child of God, we can keep sin dead or we can let it live. It's our decision. WE NOW HAVE AN ALTERNATIVE.
b) So picture your sins as being nailed to the cross with Jesus, and that they no longer have power over you.
c) Then as a substitution, offer yourselves as instruments of righteousness.
d) This is the first way freedom is achieved.

The first way freedom is achieved then is to recognize that freedom comes from the Lord. He accomplished that for us by His death and resurrection.



B. The second way is to place yourself under the Lord's therapy.


1. This is like salvation. Phil.2:12-13--"Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence-- continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13] for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose."


a. The Lord saves us, but we must understand--working out our salvation is complex.


b. We long for the simple answer, the shortcut, but there's more to it than that.

C.S. Lewis writes: "If Christianity was something we were making up, of course we would make it easier, but it is not. We cannot compete, in simplicity, with people who are inventing religions. How could we? We are dealing with fact. Of course anyone can be simple if he has no facts to bother about"--Mere Christianity, MacMillan, p. 145.

Charles Dunham also reflects on this truth. He writes: "'I'm quitting! God must do it all!' is the wrong attitude. Renewing the mind is DIVINE work, but it does not take place apart from HUMAN effort. We tend to confuse the gift of salvation, which is of grace and unearned by works, with sanctification. Sanctification is not substitutionary. It requires effort. Notice the beautiful balance of Scripture as it addresses this question: 'Work out your own salvation...for God is at work in you' --Phil. 2:12-13. You work because God is at work!--Temptation, IVP, p. 62.


1) Our part is obedience. Phil 2:12--"...continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling..."


a) That doesn't mean we're working to get salvation; that is settled.
b) But it means there is a cooperative element we play in respect to our salvation, and that element is OBEDIENCE.

Paul affirms this in I Cor. 9:24-27--"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown of laurel that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore, I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight light a man shadow boxing. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."

Summary: I offer Him my will, and by faith walk in the way He's calling with reverent fear and dependency. How can I do that?


2) The Lord's part is to enable us to continue, by working in us. v. 13--". . .for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." We obey. He says, "I'll help you."


3) The Lord's part is His blood, His strength, His wisdom, and His Spirit working in me enabling, convicting, inspiring, encouraging, directing, reminding, etc.


4) Summary: The part we play is obedience. I offer Him my will and walk in the way He's calling by faith, and He enables me to continue! What if that isn't working like it should? What if I'm still living in defeat? The Lord has special therapy in those cases. What is His therapy? What will give you and me victory over habitual sin?


2. This is the Lord's therapy--it's radical and effective.


a. If you are having continuing failure in any area, such as the area of lust, "...pluck out your eye and cut off your hand." That's the therapy for a person in need of a way out of a temptation. Matt. 5:29-30--"If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, but it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell."

This is an awesome statement. Why would Jesus say such a thing?


1) This is what is called a "hyperbole."
2) This is a figure of speech which comes from the Greek Hyper, "over" and Ballein, "to throw." So, it's an overthrow, an over-shooting, excess. It's a planned exaggeration to get an effect. It emphasizes a fact by over-statement. It's designed to draw attention and to make a person think about what is being said.
3) This is a manner of speaking used in every culture, to some extent.


Examples in our culture would be:
a) It's raining cats and dogs. (Really?)
b) I got so mad I just blew up! (How did you get back together again?)
c) That's it! That's the straw that broke the camel's back. (Heavy straw!)


4) This form of speech was totally understood by the disciples. They knew He wasn't advocating a literal course of action.


a) If they believed it as literal, the message of Christ would have been proclaimed by one-eyed amputees! They knew He wasn't advocating that they rush to the chopping block to get their hands cut off or their eyes gouged out.
b) It is so sad when some have not understood this and taken Christ literally. (See Appendix)
c) It is a manner of speaking Jesus used often. For instance, Jesus said: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God"--Mark 10:25.
d) Many strange interpretations have developed over this passage because of failure to see the hyperbole that the Master was using.


This sponsors an important question, however. Even though Jesus used a hyperbole, He is communicating something to us we need to hear. Why would Jesus use a hand and an eye in this context?
b. If we think about it, we see there are two strong gateways to sin.
1) In the context of verses 27-28, two of our five senses have a very strong pull in the area of sexual response.
a) One is the power of sight, which is related to the eye.
b) One is the power of touch, which is related to the hand. Therefore,
2) In those two areas, remove that which is leading to sin, i.e., lust, verse 28.
SPECIAL NOTE: If you or someone you know is unmarried and is in a relationship that is out of control, I have written a few specific words that may be of help. (See the Appendix II for some comments in the area of sexual failure.)


c. In a general way, let's view each of these two gateways to sin.


1) If you have a problem in relationship to the eye (literature, media), or if being in certain environments causes you to sin, then you have to cut out that activity or exposure completely--Luke 11:34-36.

Here's an idea. Because the eye is such a powerful gateway to sin, here's a practical application: make an eye covenant--Job 31:1; Psalm 119:37.
*   Job, in 31:1, made a covenant with his eyes not to look upon a woman with an adulterous thought. He recognized that the thought is the father to the deed.
*   In Psalm 119:37, David asks the Lord to turn his eyes away from beholding vanity.
If you haven't already done so, make a covenant with your eyes so that you will have victory over this area of temptation. Why? I Tim. 2:22.


2) If your problem is in the area of touch, then you'll have to discipline yourself to cut off any possible expression. The power of the eye is that it is the lamp of the body. Luke 11:34-36--"Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be completely lighted, as when the light of a lamp shins on you."
 Once we are in bondage to something, we can't just slowly ease out of it. We will have to stop it completely if we want to recover. It's impossible to go from excess to moderation when it comes to sin. It must come to an abrupt stop.
 For instance, the main principle of A.A. is, that you don't ease out of alcoholism, you cut it off. You stop giving yourself a chance to fail and you replace that urge with something else.


3) Summary: Whatever sense causes us to sin, we cut if off, whether it be the ear, the tongue, the eye, or the nose.


Why is it necessary to be so radical?
3. This will save us from ultimate judgment. Matt. 5:29b and 30b--"It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell."


a. Weigh the cost and be obedient; the inconvenience and pain is worth it in comparison to the ultimate consequences, falling under God's wrath. The cost of sin is too great.
NOTE: It makes no difference what our theology is...if this is not eternal judgment, then it is certainly judgment in this life. Whatever the case, the cost is too high! So nothing is too precious to eliminate from our life if it's going to cause our heart to lust, and ultimately, affect our eternity.


b. In simple terms, it's better to lose a part than the whole.


c. Therefore, weigh the cost and see what's best, slavery and death, or taking up your cross and dying to whatever it is that seeks to keep you in sin and slavery.
1) This, again, is a great deterrent to those of us who are not always motivated by our love for God and others. The judgment of God will be felt if we don't heed this instruction.
2) We need to answer this question: Do we want a deathlike existence or life? If we choose life, it will not be easy, especially if we enjoy what we're getting out of this activity, but we must weigh the cost and be obedient. But remember, God has something to put in its place that will far exceed our expectations. We must trust Him!


The Lord's therapy is radical and effective, but trust God that He has something to put in its place that will far exceed our expectations. God has more for us.
C. The third way freedom is achieved involves a new input and mindset for the mind. By necessity, this is tied to the second way of freedom.


1. This is the middle step, in-between what is called " the great put off and put on"--Eph. 4:22-24--"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23] to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24] and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."

-- What is needed is to have our brains washed and new attitudes put in our minds.

-- We can't exist with the old attitudes.

-- Before positive action can be lasting, new attitudes must replace the old ones--v. 23.

-- So if we want to put on the new self--v. 24, then we must first replace negative and sinful attitudes.


a. For instance, what is your attitude about your own personal sins?
Here are a few examples of incorrect attitudes:
1) Your body. Is it a tool for self-gratification--your servant, to give you any kind of joy you want?
2) Women or men. Are they objects or necessary evils to be exploited and manipulated to get what you want?
3) Artificial substances (drugs, alcohol, etc.). Are they a way to get happy--to deal with loneliness?
4) Wealth, possessions. Are they necessary for fulfillment and contentment?
5) Your enemy. Is he or she someone to hurt in order to get revenge?
6) Stealing. Do you long to get something for nothing, even if you have to cheat or rip someone off?
7) Church. Do you see it as a place to get something, but where you feel no obligation to contribute anything?


b. For complete deliverance to take place, you will need to change your attitude. Only a change of mindset will allow you to substitute something better for your sin. Why? Because our attitudes determine what we do and say.
For instance, your attitude towards:
1) Your body. It must change from a tool of self-gratification to a temple of the Holy Spirit, where your desire is to glorify God. I Cor. 6:19--"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own..."
2) Women and men. They aren't objects to manipulate or exploit; they are made in the image of God, and if believers, are your brothers and sisters in Christ. If not believers, then they are ones for whom Christ died. They aren't your slaves or someone to be manipulated, you are to be their servants. Gal. 5:13--"You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love."
3) Artificial substances. Your joy and happiness comes as a by-product of a proper relationship with God--Ps. 19:8; Ps.1. Your calling is not to be drunk with wine, that only leads to further sin, but instead, be filled with the Spirit.
·   Ps. 19:8--"The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes."
·  Eph. 5:18--"Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit."
4) Wealth, possessions. Our fulfillment cannot be from the acquiring of things. Scripture indicates our attitude should not be arrogance, but it should be that of a servant, who is rich in good deeds.
·   I Tim. 6:6--"But godliness with contentment is great gain."
·   I Tim. 6:17-18--"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18] Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share."
5) Your enemy. Our attitude should not be of revenge, but of goodness towards them. Rom. 12:21--"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
6) Stealing. Our attitude of coveting must be replaced with an attitude of sharing with those in need. Eph. 4:28--"He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need."
7) Church. The church is not a government handout, it's a community of people we are to be devoted to in love and service. Rom. 12:10-13--"Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11] Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12] Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction faithful in prayer. 13] Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality."

Summary: These are just a representative sampling of attitude changes that are needed. Whatever the area of sin you are struggling with, seek to expose the lie and replace it with a positive attitude.


What should our minds be set on? Generally speaking:
2. The new mindset is to be on what the Spirit desires. Rom. 8:5--"Those who live according to the sinful nature, have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit, have their minds set on what the Spirit desires."


a. We now focus away from our own desires to what the Spirit desires.

In the area of moral failure:

b. We recognize our main sex organ is our mind, so we need to constantly ask to have the Lord's desire for this area of our life. "Lord, my thoughts are evil. What do you think about this person"?


More specifically, how do we fill our minds with the right input?
3. The new input is that which comes from the therapy of God's Word. God's Word will provide us with needed therapy.


a. We need to change our attitude by thinking God's thoughts.

How do we begin to think God's thoughts?

b. We do that by memorizing and meditating on God's Word.
·   Ps. 1:1-3--"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers."
·   Ps. 119:9,11--"How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. 11] I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you."
1) I've seen some minds begin to be quickly and totally transformed when people memorize and meditate on Scripture.
2) When Scripture becomes a focus of our thinking through memorization and meditation, it will have a tremendous impact on changing our attitudes. We cannot emphasize enough the importance of biblical meditation and memorization.
So we need to A. First, recognize that freedom comes from the Lord. We need to B. Second, place ourselves under the Lord's therapy. C. Third, we need to involve ourselves in new input and a new mindset for the mind. But there is still more help available: