If you are like me you are concerned with what you see and hear when you turn on the news, or even look at what goes on around you in everyday life. While it's debatable whether we are in the end times (i think we are) or not it is beyond doubt that the world we live in is growing more and more alien to those who seek to know God. This week we will examine temptation and ways to deal with it.
Solomon said; whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun. Ecclesiastes 2:10,11 Now if you have ever studied the life of Solomon you would know that he was someone who had it all, money, fame, companionship, power. He himself said that whatever he wanted he got yet at the end of his life he said all was vanity. If a person could be satisfied with things like money, sex, fame, or power, he would have been satisfied. We live in a world that is in a headlong pursuit for these things and that is becoming increasingly aware that they are not satisfied. Many of them will choose to follow this path to the end and those that do will become more dangerous the further they go. We'll talk about the solution for this another day, to make it simple it's getting Jesus in your heart and His word in your head, but for now lets discuss what we can do with the person we have the most control of, ourselves.
Solomon also said; Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23 In my life i have noticed that when i don't let the stuff that goes on around me get inside me, i do much better in everything i do, especially when it come to worshipping and hearing God. For those of you with ears to hear and eyes to see, you can discern the hand of satan in much of what goes on around you. For me, i've noticed that every time i make a commitment to God about something, satan isn't far away to test it. I've also noticed that if i resist his temptations and keep my commitment his temptations will end, for a season. Lets establish something here that bugged me for a long time. Being tempted is not sin. For the longest time i thought that it was, that every thought that passed through my mind was mine and that being tempted was a sign of spiritual weakness. Here is an example of temptation; Luke 4:1-13 And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered. And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee: And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season. Lets point out a few things in this passage. First, it says that Jesus was tempted 40 days of the devil we just get the dialog of the last three attempts the devil made. Second, if being tempted were sin, Jesus was a sinner because He was tempted. Third, in the dialog we do get the devil attacked the flesh at the weakest point first. Jesus was hungry and the devil tried to get Him to make bread. Jesus would later multiply bread so it would not have been sin for Him to make bread, it would have been sin to do it in obedience to the devil. Next the devil tried to get Jesus to bow to him and offered the kingdoms of the world if He would do it. In Revelations 11:15 it says And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. so the kingdoms of the world would become Jesus' in time, but in God's way, not satan's. There is an interesting truth about the devils statement for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. Here is the Strong's definition of delivered [ to surrender, i.e yield up, intrust, transmit:] God never gave satan rule over this planet, He gave it to US and we give it to satan by obeying him instead of God. Jesus had used scripture in both the two attempts above to defeat the devil so the devil attempts to use scripture to deceive Jesus into doing his will instead of God's in the last. Has he ever tried that with you? Me to, know the word and the will of God, many more know the former than the latter, it takes both. The last point i want to make here is that after Jesus had utterly defeated the devil, he left Him alone for a season.
Here is another example of satan's attempt to make Jesus fall that happened later in His ministry. Mark 8:31-38 And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. This is basically the same temptation as above (do it my way not God's) from a different angle. Peter had just proclaimed that Jesus was the Son of God and in the account in Matthew 16 Jesus told him that the Father had revealed it to him, yet the next sentence out of Peter's mouth belonged to satan. Jesus recognized the source right away and addressed the source not the instrument. This man who would become the keeper of the keys was in this instance a mouthpiece for satan. Do you still think satan cannot use those around you to tempt you? When he does, however you deal with it, remember that they are a tool, not the source. DEAL WITH THE SOURCE and let God use you as a tool to try and save. Look at it this way, if there is an arsonist setting fires all over, you can put out fires from now on OR you can deal with the arsonist and cut off the source of the fires. The more you understand the spiritual realm the more you realize what pawns we can be at times, yet God wants us to be kings, learn to be a king, study the word, meditate on the word, and realize that God does not change, nor discriminate.
We have seen examples of Jesus being tempted at the beginning of His ministry and somewhere in the middle, lets look at the end of His ministry at one more instance. John 14:28-30 Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe. Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me. Here Jesus is again talking about obeying the Father's will and going to the cross, this time however Jesus tells us that satan was coming to tempt him again but had nothing in Him. At some time in your walk, you will realize that when you make a commitment to obey God, satan will attempt to keep you from doing it, repeatedly. If the devil didn't give up trying to tempt Jesus, well Jesus put it this way in another context; The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. Matthew 10:24, i don't think it twists the scripture to say it would apply here.
Now that we have established that temptation will be a part of your life (this side of heaven) as long as you are following god, here are some of the things God has taught me about overcoming it, some you will no doubt know, some you may not.
Limit satan's ability. Remember that Jesus said Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil. Matthew 5:33-37 When you swear to do or not do something, if you then do the opposite it becomes sin. Don't make promises you cannot keep. If you are in trouble in some way, ask God to help but don't promise anything in return. If you believe God, He will help you because He loves you and because He said He would, though He may not help in the way you expect. If you promise him something you are complicating the situation unnecessarily, example. God, if you do ____ i will be a missionary to China. What if God's perfect will for you was to be a music minister to Cleveland? What is God to do, if he does ____ you have bound yourself to go to China. An example of the other side of it. God, i promise i'll never ___ again. Every time you ____ again, you have committed two sins instead of one. let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil. Don't give the devil extra stuff to work with, he has enough already. If you intend to do something for God, do it, God will see and how do you know if what you intend is His will anyway. Paul tried to go to Asia and ended up in Macedonia. Good thing he didn't promise God or anyone in Asia that he was on the way. There are many other ways that we give satan things to use against us, learn to recognize them and don't give them place in your heart
Crucify the flesh. This is a process that is not pleasant and will be going on all your life. Jesus lived in a crucified state all His life, that's why He could willingly hang on the cross when the time came. From the temptation in the wilderness to the temptation in the garden of Gethsemane Jesus was able to say "not my will but thine". If you will read the gospels, you will be amazed at how much Jesus taught about this subject and by some of what He said about it. That it is not popular to preach about these days says VOLUMES about the condition of our world, how it got that way, and the solution for it. Just adding Jesus to a sinful life is not repentance, nor salvation. Don't misunderstand me, everyone who is saved added Jesus to a sinful life but if you are saved you sin less than you did the day before you were saved, if not or if you can do things that the Bible calls sin and not feel guilty about it, you need to have a talk with God. Let me add here that the BIBLE defines sin, not man, not denominations. You are responsible for what the Bible says and nothing else when you stand before God.
Love. Once Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment, His response was; Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. Matthew 22:37-40. Jesus had a way of boiling it all down and making it simple. Instead of trying to pick out one of the ten commandments he put in four sentences the essence of all ten. Let me point out that Jesus said to FIRST love God, THEN your neighbour. All the law and the prophets are intended to get people to treat others as they wish to be treated (does that sound familiar to you to?). If you love someone you find out what they like and don't like and you adjust your actions accordingly. First, find out what God likes and doesn't like, adjust your life to that THEN follow the golden rule Matthew 7:12 All things therefore whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also unto them: for this is the law and the prophets. Put God first and you and everybody else next. Go the extra mile but don't become a slave to anyone but God. If you do this you will take most of the tools satan uses right out of his hand.
Here is something else that i have noticed in my life. The less satan is able to use me to make me sin the more he uses others. Remember that he came to Jesus personally in the first of the examples above, then used others when he was unsuccessful. The more your temptations come from outside sources the better you are doing generally. Another thing is that the sooner that sin is dealt with the easier it is to deal with. When you sin, repent as soon as you know it, ask forgiveness and turn away from it. When you are being tempted, deal with it as soon as you realize it. Often it's not the first look that becomes lust but the second. You might not be able to avoid seeing that half naked person that walks in front of you but DON'T dwell on it. The longer it stays in your sight and mind the more sinful it becomes. There are so many scriptures that could be added on this topic but let me close with this familiar one in James 4:7,8 Be subject therefore unto God; but resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.
Well, i have to say that i intended to go in a much different direction when i started this study, maybe i'll go there another time but i go where the Spirit leads the best i can and it seems today this is where He wanted to go. Somebody must have needed it, for those who didn't, and those who did, tune in next week, ya never know! Until then, the Lord bless and keep you and cause His face to shine upon you and give you peace.