Craig Groeschel - When the Urge Is Too Strong
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Well, I just couldn't resist it. I told God that if the parking spot right in front of the donut store was open, then it was his will that I would go in and get a dozen donuts. I'm talking about the one right in front of the store. If it was open, it was his will. And sure enough, after eight trips around the block. It was a miracle! It was open and it was the will of God. And I just couldn't resist. Little bit of a joke but I am guessing that in your life you may have something like that, some area of weakness, something that's very difficult for you to resist.
So when you don't really want to, you end up doing it and you buy it. Or click on it. Or eat it. Or drink it. Or smoke it. Or say it. Or bet on it. Or tell someone all about it. Because you had to. You just couldn't resist. If you've ever felt vulnerable to give into temptation, to do something that you really know you shouldn't do and you probably don't want to do, Jesus actually understands. The title of today's message is "When the Urge Is Too Strong". And the good news is we're gonna get to know the one who is stronger, the one who always gives you a way out.
So Father, we pray today in the name of Jesus that your word will speak to us, convict us, empower us, and give us a way out, to always honor you in all that we do. We pray this in faith, believing, and all God's people said, amen, amen.
Online, type it in the comment section. Amen. We don't want you to just watch but be a part of it. We're in a message series. It is called "Been There". And we're looking at the life of Jesus and for the most part whatever challenge that you are enduring, whatever pain that you're facing, for the most part, Jesus understands. And what I want you to do today is if you've got something in your life that you think, "I really wish I wasn't doing that, and I've tried to stop and I continue to do it," I want you to listen to the message through the lens of whatever that temptation is that just seems too difficult to defeat.
If you've been tempted to say it or look at it or touch it or eat it or whatever it is, Jesus understands. Because scripture actually tells us this in Matthew's Gospel, Matthew chapter four, the Word of God says this: "Then Jesus one time was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil". Jesus knows what it's like to be tempted. And then I'm gonna read you the most obvious verse in all of the Bible, this is it. After 40 days of fasting and 40 nights of fasting, he was hungry. Duh. After 40 days and 40 nights, Jesus was hungry. "The tempter, Satan, came to him and said, 'If you're the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.'"
Even Jesus, the Son of God, was tempted by the evil one. What does it mean to be tempted? I'll give you a definition that I like from Tim Challies. He defines temptation this way. He says that "Temptation is anything that promises satisfaction at the cost of your obedience to God". It's something that promises satisfaction, but it leads you away from the will and the purposes of God. And you know in your own life you've got those things. You may be hurting and the drink or the pill promises to dull the pain, even though you end up disobeying God. Or looking at something that you know you shouldn't look at. You binge on porn and it promises the thrill and the relief, and it gives it to you for a moment, followed by depression and you feel even more alone than you did in the first place. Or you feel low and you feel a little down, you feel unworthy.
And so you justify your gossip or your criticism of somebody else because for a moment it makes you feel better when you make someone else look bad. Temptation is anything that promises satisfaction at the cost of your obedience to God. And so I wanna talk about it today and we'll start with what I call the process of temptation, how it is we're actually tempted, and then we're gonna look at how to overcome it. Many people say there's four different steps in the process of temptation. The first one would be a thought. You have a thought. The second would be you imagine more about it, your imagination. Then there's justification. And finally there is the choice. Temptation starts with the thought.
You think something like, "I feel kind of depressed, and so maybe a new outfit would help me feel better". You have a thought. And then you have a little justification like, "I work really, really hard and I've been going through a lot lately and so I deserve an outfit and I can probably find one 20% off". You have the justification and the imagination. "I'm gonna look good," and the justification. And then eventually you get to the choice, which is, "If I go to the site and there is one that's 20% off I'm gonna click buy and I'm gonna get the outfit and the shoes and the watch to match because I need to have the whole outfit to honor God with excellence at all that I do". It starts with a thought. And it might not be something as benign as shopping. It might be a thought, "I'm bored, what should I do with my time"?
And then you think, "Oh yeah, there's that girl in my life group that often posts bikini photos". Or "there's that guy who's so fine, okay, I'm gonna look at him". That's what girls say, right? Okay. Maybe you don't, I don't know, but just work with me, okay? Okay, just work with me. And so you have the thought and then you have the imagination. They might look so good. And then you've got the justification. "Hey, it's no big deal, I'm just looking. And they put it out there anyway. And my spouse isn't putting it out there anyway. And so I might as well just look". And then you make a choice, you go to it and you're careful. Don't double click and then zoom in just so you can get a better look so you can know how to pray for them when you're praying for them.
You guys are so quiet. It's almost like I'm preaching about something you know about. It starts with a thought. It starts with a thought. And that's why what happens in those first critical moments of temptation are far more important than you could ever imagine. So what we wanna do is we want to decide now how we're gonna fight and with the help of God's word overcome the temptation of the evil one. And what I wanna do is give you three truths about temptation from God's word. The first thing might surprise some of you, and I want you to recognize, number one, it's not a sin to be tempted. A lot of people think, "I've been tempted, I've already failed". It's actually not a sin to be tempted. In fact, the writer of the Hebrews, in Hebrews 4:15 says this, "That Jesus, he understands every weakness of ours". Why? "Because he was tempted in every way that we are. But he didn't sin".
It's actually not a sin to be tempted. You're going to be tempted. And that's not the sinful part. And that's why you have to understand that becoming a Christian doesn't mean you won't be tempted. Sadly, you're more likely to be tempted because the devil's not threatened when you're doing his will. But the moment you step away from darkness and start to glorify God, that's when your spiritual enemy wants to take you out at your knees and disarm you from living God's word and fulfilling his will. Don't be surprised when the enemy attacks when you're being obedient to God. You're gonna be tempted. And when you are tempted, again, don't blame God. Like don't say, "Well, God's tempting me".
I've heard people say, "God's tempting me". No, God is not tempting you. God may test you, but he'll never tempt you. And there's a big difference. In fact, scripture says this, James chapter one tells us this. "Remember when you're being tempted, don't say, 'God is tempting me.' Because God never tempts anyone". Where does temptation come from? It actually comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. And what do those desires do? They give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. God may test you, but he'll never tempt you. Well, why would God test you? God actually tests you to promote you. He wants you to succeed. He wants to propel you forward. He will test you to promote you.
The devil will tempt you to fail you. He wants to pull you back and keep you away from the will and the purpose of God. We have to understand this. It's actually not a sin to be tempted. The second truth is very important, and that is this, that you're most vulnerable to temptation when you're weak and when you think you're strong. You're most vulnerable to giving in to temptation in those genuine weak moments. And you're also equally or maybe even more vulnerable to temptation when you think you're strong and you can handle it on your own. Look at when Satan tempted Jesus, when he was weak, when he was hungry. 40 days and 40 nights he hadn't eaten. And the devil doesn't come up to go, "Hey, you ought gossip about Peter". He didn't do that right? He said, "Hey, turn these stones into bread". Why? Because he attacked exactly where Jesus was weak.
And that's what's gonna happen for you. And that's why we have to be honest about where we're weak and where we're vulnerable. I always say you're only as strong as you are honest. And the reality is you are weak to some things I'm not and I'm vulnerable in some places you're not. And we need to be open and transparent and confess our needs and pray for one another that we may be healed. You may be tired sometimes. I'm a little bit tired right now, so you know what? I might need to be a little bit more on guard because I'm more vulnerable. When you're angry, you're vulnerable. You got something bad going on at home right now. You're ticked at everybody. You're ticked at the world. You're actually very vulnerable to temptation when you're angry. Or when you're lonely. Or when you're hurting. And you need to be aware of those times because you're vulnerable in some weak moments and you're vulnerable when you think you're strong.
And I wanna talk to some of you right now, the one of you right now who's thinking, "I'm so glad Craig's preaching on this because my husband needs to hear this message. Oh, he's a mess. He's a sinner and he needs to hear". I need to do it in woman's voice. "Oh, he needs to hear this. He's just a mess and he's just a sinner". Or you're the one going, "I'm gonna so send this link to my friend who's sinning in a big way". The moment you think that may be the moment God needs to speak to you. Because when you're pointing to somebody else and say, "I don't need a message like this," that's when you're very, very vulnerable. In fact, scripture tells us this in 1 Corinthians chapter 10, verse 12, "If you think you're standing firm," if you think you don't need this and you're not weak at all, scripture says be very, very careful that you don't fall.
There are times when you're vulnerable because you're weak and there's times that you're vulnerable because you think that you're strong. I did this one time years ago, I was preaching a message, somebody may remember this. I was making fun of the kind of arrogant, prideful, narcissistic people that in a traffic jam think that it's their right to drive on the shoulder on the right side by all of us law abiding, God fearing God pleasing citizens. Who knows what I'm talking about? Those people. Type in the chat, I know what you're talking about. I hate those people. I mean like I know you're supposed to love 'em, but I love to hate 'em. How about that? Is that in the Bible? I don't know. I hate those people. And I was talking about how I hate those people. And the very next day, next day, I'm driving into the office and there's a traffic jam out in front. And every we owned the land, the church did, and the traffic was backed up on the church land.
And so I just thought, "Well, we kind of own that land. It's kind of God's and kind of ours". And so I just thought, "Well, I'll just drive on my land," you know? So I just pulled over the next day, I'm talking Monday, right after Sunday, and I'm driving on the land thinking, "Well, it's kind of my land". And sure enough, I'm driving by this guy named Mark who's on staff and Mark's got his little kid, maybe eight years old, Alex, in the passenger's side, and Alex screamed out, "Dad, there's one of those guys that Pastor Craig hates"! And then he screamed even louder, "Dad, that is Pastor Craig"! Because you're most vulnerable when you think you're strong. And that's why scripture warns us, "Stay alert! And watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour".
Can I tell you right now, he wants to devour your marriage. He wants to devour your finances. He wants to devour your testimony. He wants to rob you of peace. He wants to steal, kill, and destroy in the lives of your children, do you understand that? Christianity is not a playground. It's a battleground. Where the forces of darkness are attacking you. And the more you do the will of God, the more the forces of darkness come against you. Don't be surprised when you're tempted. When you're doing the will of God, the enemy's coming after you. So if you know he is coming, because he is, stay alert, be on your guard, stay alert, be on your guard. If you know he is coming, shut the door through which he will likely enter. Because he comes in the same door in your life over and over again, doesn't he? You've all got that door or that window.
If you know he is coming, if there's a door he's likely to enter through, shut that door. Because I've discovered that temptation often comes through a door that's been deliberately left open. Can I get in your business now? I'm telling you, almost every time. You give in to something you gave into before, the reason you gave into it again after you gave into it before is because you deliberately left the door open. I'm not gonna lie to you. I have binged on M and Ms and ice cream and chips and salsa, but I have never binged when I didn't have them nearby. Never. I have never eaten 400 M and Ms when I had no M and Ms within my reach. And that's why one of the best ways to resist temptation is to eliminate it. If you know the devil's coming, lock that door and throw away the key. Make him find another way to try to get you.
"You came in there before, you're not coming in that way again". Proverbs says it this way, Proverbs 4:14, "Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil doers". Watch what Proverbs says. "Avoid it. Don't travel on it. Turn from it. Go on your way". In other words, listen, dummy, if you're not paying attention, let me say it to you again. Avoid it. Don't go near trouble, don't travel that way. Turn from it. Go on your way. If you know where the devil might attack, close that door so he can't get in. If you got a problem with alcohol, you don't host your life group at the local bar. You're laughing, but you do this kind of stupid stuff all the time. We all do, right?
If every time you go to the gym, you find yourself going, "Praise the Lord for that. Oh, hallelujah for that. And praise the Lord for that," don't go to the gym! Get you an app and work out it home. If every time you go there, you find yourself lusting. If every time you get on Instagram, you're on the Gram and you're going, "My life sucks. I hate her, I hate him. They've got everything. My life sucks". You find yourself comparing and miserable? Get off the Gram. If you find yourself at the office enjoying the presence of someone you're not married to and you are married to someone. And you got a little flirty flirty thing going on. And you're just enjoying a presence. And you find yourself putting on a little extra cologne. And enjoying when your hand brushes up against 'em. And thinking about 'em.
What you wanna do is you want to ask to be transferred to another office or if you can't get away from there, you look for another job. Don't mess with it. Don't mess with it. The devil's coming for you. Turn from it, avoid it. Walk away from it. Go on your way. One of the best ways to resist temptation is to close the door completely to it, whatever it is within your power. Why would I resist a temptation in the future if I have the power to eliminate it today? So scripture teaches us it's actually not a sin to be tempted. You're most vulnerable whenever you're weak and whenever you think that you're strong. And the third truth I want to show you is that our good God always gives you a way out. God will always, no matter what you're facing, will always give you a way out of temptation.
And Paul promised us this, this powerful life giving promise in 1 Corinthians chapter 10, verse 13. And our God, what is he? He is faithful. He is good, he is righteous, he is pure. Our God is faithful through and through. And he is so faithful that our God will not let you be tempted beyond whatever it is that you can bear. But when you are tempted, every single time, our faithful God will also provide a way out so that you can endure it no matter what it is, no matter where it is, no matter what you're facing, no matter how many times you've given into it, your God will always give you an exit. He will always give you an off-ramp. He will always give you a way out. It is a faithful and true promise from the living Word of God that every single time He will give you a way out. And you find the way out through the word. The word will show you the way out.
The Word of God is living and active and powerful and sharper than any two edged sword. And you work the word, you live the word, you internalize the word, you memorize the word, you meditate on the word and when the devil attacks you fight back with the word. In the very same way that Jesus fought back against the temptation of the evil one. When he was tired and hungry and vulnerable. And the devil said, "Turn these stones into bread". He said, "People will not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God". And he fought back with the Word of God, the sword of the spirit. And the devil said, "Hey, why don't you throw yourself off this mountain and let the angels of God come and save you"? And Jesus quoted the word and said, "Do not put the Lord your God to test. Get back away from me devil".
And the devil came at him again. And you're gonna find the devil will attack and he'll attack and he'll attack and at some point when you resist him and you fight him back in the name of Jesus, he will flee from you. And the third time the devil says to him, "Hey, why don't you just bow down? And if you bow down Jesus, and you just worship me, I'll give you all the kingdoms of this world". And Jesus quoted the word and said, "Get away from me, Satan, for it is written, worship the Lord your God and serve him only". You work the word. You live the word. You internalize the word. You fight back with the Word of God. The word will give you the way out.
Be alert. Be alert church. Be alert saints. Be alert believers. The devil is like a roaring lion trying to take you down, trying to take you out, trying to take the lives of your kids, lying to you, lying to them, lying about your marriage, trying to talk you out of the will of God. And he promises satisfaction, fulfillment, joy, thrill, the hit, at the cost of your obedience to God. He's attacking. Be alert, be on guard.
Amy, my best friend and I, we are coming up on 32 years of marriage. I am blessed beyond measure. I love her more than I can imagine. But I'm embarrassed to tell you that 28 years ago I was in bed watching TV. She was in the bathroom, and I was flipping through the channels because as you know, for many of us men, it's not about whatever is on at the moment, it's all about what else might be on. Click, click, click, click. Why don't you stop and watch? Click, click. It's just what I do. And I was clicking through the channels. Golf channel, click. Infomercial, click. Game show, click. Old sitcom, click. House renovation show, click. News, click. Weather channel, click. Girls in bikinis, click. I just hesitated. I probably had a one second rhythm. And on that one, it was probably a full two seconds. Only two seconds. But I hesitated.
And my bride and my best friend a minute later, walked in, came in, got in bed, and without emotion, without anger, she just looked at me and she said, "Well, was it worth it"? And what I wanna tell you about any and every sin. That's not a popular word in our culture today, but anything contrary to the will and the way of God is called sin. And a moment of lust is sin. And it's never, ever, under any circumstances whatsoever worth it. I broke and apologized and repented. And some of you are going, "Well, that ain't really nothing". Actually, with the standards of God's word and the love in my heart, that's something to me. And I never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever wanna dishonor God or dishonor my bride. And I was broken about it.
What happens is this, at some point you will sin. And there's two responses to it. You're gonna be sorry about it to some degree, unless your heart gets hardened and that's a whole 'nother message. That's a whole 'nother message when you stop even feeling bad about it. But assuming that you still do, you'll feel sorry. And there's two types of sorrow. There is a worldly sorrow. And this is where some of you are right now. It's a worldly sorrow. If someone confronts you about it, you're defensive. Not that big of a deal. You're argumentative. You may push back on it.
In my case, I could, "It was only a second. It wasn't that big of a deal. I mean, I haven't done anything else. I mean, look how good a husband I've been to you. And you have your own things, right"? Defensive. And you're sorry you got caught. "Oh, I got caught, I got caught". And you make excuses and you minimize the pain that you're causing someone else. And that kind of sinfulness, it can take you away from God. That's worldly sorrow. There's another type of sorrow in scripture that's called godly sorrow. And this is a deep and sincere brokenness over what you've done. It's a decisive and marked genuine humility and repentance. "God, I am so sorry". And it's an awareness that you hurt someone else and you're not sad that you got caught, you're sad that you've broken the heart of God and sinned against someone else.
And it's this humility of receiving God's mercy that you don't deserve and you could never, ever earn. And listen to me, it changes you. It makes you different. You don't want to do that thing anymore because God changes your heart. There is a worldly sorrow and that's where some of you are right now. "Not my fault, not that big of a deal. You got your own problems anyway. Who are you to point this out"? And then there's a brokenness. "God, I'm so sorry. Please forgive me".
This humility that maybe you hurt someone else and you don't ever want to do that again. Because scripture tells us this, that godly sorrow, it brings repentance. It's a turn of our heart away from the sin and back toward God. And this godly sorrow, what does it lead to? It leads to salvation and it leaves no regret. But worldly sorrow, it brings death. godly sorrow, godly sorrow. If the urge feels too strong and you give in, you run to God and you confess your sins to him. Why? Because he is faithful and just to forgive all your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. And this isn't a worldly sorrow.
"I'm not that bad, no big deal. I'm just mad I got caught". No, this is a godly sorrow. "I'm repentant. God, change me". This leads to salvation and leaves no regret. Temptation is anything that promises satisfaction at the cost of obedience to God. And listen to me when I tell you it is never worth it. What do we do? God heal us, God change us. God forgive us. Wherever you are today praying:
Father, we ask that you would do a work within us, a work within our church. God, turn our hearts away from all of the filth and sinfulness of this world and turn our eyes toward you.
As you're praying today at all of our churches, those of you online, those who say, "I want to honor God with a life of righteousness," would you just lift up your hands right now? I hope it's all of you. If you lift up your hands right now online, just say, "I wanna honor God". Type it in the in the comments section.
And Father, I pray right now, I pray, God, for those who have been stuck in darkness, those who go back to the same old sins. God give us the wisdom to lock the doors. Anywhere we can resist it and eliminate it, God, just give us the wisdom to it. God, give us the courage to be honest in our life groups. God, if we don't have a life group, let's get a life group and confess. God, we confess to you for forgiveness, but we confess our sins to one another and pray for each other that we may be healed. God, I pray there be confession. Even today, before the end of this day, God, we confess our sins before those that we trust and we pray for healing. God, we thank you that no matter what temptation comes our way, that by your grace and your goodness and your power, you'll always give us a way out. May your word lead us out of temptation and into your will. We pray, God, that you would break the bondage that has held so many people hostage. Set us free. In the name of your risen son, Jesus, we pray, set us free. God forgive us. godly sorrow with repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret.
As you keep praying today, I know that there are many of you right now that you gotta a weight that's holding you down, the weight and the burden of your sinfulness. You've done some things you wish you hadn't done. You've hurt some people and you feel it, and you wonder where do you stand with God? And so you might try to be good or try to be better, and you still end up doing the wrong thing. Let me tell you about God's goodness. He loves you so much, even though you sinned, even though you've hurt people, even though you've done the wrong things. He loves you and he loves you right now, and he loves you so much that he sent his son Jesus, his son, perfect in every way.
And Jesus became the perfect sacrifice for us. He died in our place on the cross, and three days later, God raised him from the grave so that anyone, and this includes you, it doesn't matter how broken your life is, it doesn't matter how much you've done wrong. Anyone who calls on his name, the name of Jesus, your sins will be forgiven and you will be new. There are many of you. You're not watching by accident. It's not a coincidence. You're here because God loves you. In a moment you step away from your old life. It's a repentance. It's a godly sorrow that leads to salvation. The old is gone and all becomes new. Wherever you're watching those who say, "I need that. I want his forgiveness. I'm gonna call on him".
When you call on Jesus, he hears your prayer. He makes you new. Wherever you are, you say, "Yes, I need him. I'm turning away from my old life today. By faith, I give my life to Jesus". That's your prayer. Lift your hands high right now all over the place and say, "Yes, that's my prayer right up there". God bless you guys. Others of you today say, "Yes, Jesus," right here. Both of you, praise God for you together today. Others say, "Yes, Jesus. I need you". Lift up your hands and say, "Yes, I surrender my life to you". Online you can type in the comments section. "I'm surrendering my life to Jesus". Just type that into comments. And as we have people at all of our churches coming to faith, let's pray aloud. Pray:
Heavenly Father, forgive all of my sins. Save me by your grace. Make me new. Fill me with your spirit so I can serve you and know you and follow you for the rest of my life. My life is not my own. I give it all to you. Thank you for new life. Now you have mine. In Jesus's name, I pray.