Craig Groeschel - 3 Keys to Overcoming Temptation
Well, I don't know about you, but I've never met anyone that planned to be overweight. Have you? No. I don't know about you, but I don't know anybody that has a five-year goal to be bankrupt. I don't know anybody who has ever like really thought, I want to be hooked on pornography. I know some people that like pornography, but I don't know anybody that wants it to wreck their marriage, and end up taking them to a place that they really shouldn't go. I don't know anybody that plans to do something stupid, something sinful, and then hide it, and lie about it, and lose the trust of the people that they love the most. I don't know anybody that plans to wreck their life. And chances are really, really good, when it comes to you, you're not planning to make stupid decisions.
The problem is, most people also don't plan not to do stupid things. And that's what we're going to talk about something that I believe has the potential to impact your life in a very, very powerful way. I want to review what we covered last week. We talked about the power of our decisions, because for the most part, we need to understand that the quality of your decisions determines the quality of your life. In other words, we make our decisions, and then our decisions make us. The problem is, although we have good intentions, many of us are simply not very good decision makers. And that's why we introduced the big idea that I called the power of pre-deciding, the power of choosing ahead of time what we're going to do in the future. And if you were with us last week, we introduced the big idea, and we find this all over scripture, of choosing ahead of time what we'll do in the moment.
And we introduced this concept, when faced with what, some scenario of how to spend our money, or what to say, or what to look at, or how to treat somebody, or where to go, or where to not go, or what to do or what not do. Whenever we're faced with a certain situation that we've already pre-named, we're going to make pre-decisions to take a certain action. Instead of waiting until the moment to give into some temptation, or let our emotion take us to a place that we don't want to go, we're pre-deciding what we're going to do. And last week we introduced six, I Am, statements. As we're moving into a new year, we are deciding who we're going to be. We're pre-decided who we are, because when we know who we are, we'll know what to do. Let's review those, and we'll start on the left with ready. I'll give you a little clue, that's what we're going to talk about today. But let's talk about what we're deciding that we'll be. I am. God is the great I Am. God is all of these qualities and more, and this is what we're going to be. What are we going to be?
Say it with me, all of our churches, you can type it in online if you want to, what are you? "I am ready. I am consistent. I am. Devoted. I am generous. I am faithful. I am. A finisher". One more time. What are we? I am ready, consistent, devoted, generous, faithful, and I am a finisher. When we pre-decide, our decisions won't be based on what feels good in the moment, but on who you want to be for the rest of your life. They're based on values, because when our values are clear, our decisions are easier. Let's dive into new content for this week, and I want to ask you the question, how many of you have ever given into a temptation and you regretted it? Raise your hand. You've given in to temptation and you regret it. We all have. Why did you give into that temptation? Chances are, in most cases, you gave into that temptation because you weren't ready. You weren't prepared.
In fact, scripture talks over and over and over again, telling us we need to be prepared, because our enemy is going to attack. In fact, the apostle Paul, he said this in 1 Corinthians 16:13, he said, "Be on your guard, and stand firm in the faith. Be courageous, be strong". Be ready, your enemy is attacking. Don't let your guard down. Have your guard up. Be ready because he's coming. Paul said that, Jesus said this in Matthew's gospel, chapter 26. He said, "Watch and pray". Why? So you're ready. "So you don't fall into temptation, because your spirit wants to do the right thing. Your spirit is willing, but your flesh is so often weak".
That's why we're going to pre-decide that we are ready. Our guard is up. We are watching. We are praying. Why? Why are we ready? Why are we on guard? Why are we watching and praying? Two reasons. Number one, I hate to tell you, number one, because the devil is coming for you. Our spiritual enemy has a mission to steal, kill, and destroy anything and everything that matters to the heart of God. In fact, it was the apostle Paul who said this in 2 Corinthians 2:9, he said, "I wrote to you," why? "So that Satan, the father of lies, will not outsmart us, for we are familiar with his evil schemes". He's studying you. He knows where you're weak. He knows when you're vulnerable. He knows how to attack you to take you out of God's will, to hurt you and the people around you. So we're going to be ready, because we know the devil is coming for us. And number two, because you're not as strong as you think. Because we tend to think we can handle a lot more than we can actually handle.
And there is a very sobering warning in scripture, 1 Corinthians 10:12 it says, Hey, those of you who say, I don't need this, I ain't got no Brahman, and I'm going to handle it, it no big deal. I'm not worried about it. I got this thing, I got to covered. It ain't nothing. Y'all can you worry about it, but I ain't worried about it at all. Scripture said, hey you, who think you're standing firm, be careful, because when you're overly confident, those are the people that tend to fall. If you think you're standing firm, be careful so that you don't fall. And that's why we often end up in a place that we don't want to be, because we make decisions that don't honor God. And studies are really fascinating. They show that people vastly overestimate their ability to resist temptation. We think we're way stronger than we really are. And the technical term for it, is known as restraint bias, restraint bias. You think you can fight off more than you can fight off. That's why when they bring that chocolate cake into the office, you think you can walk on by that thing, and you do the first time, and the second time you got chocolate cake in your hair, and you don't know how it happened to you, because you thought you could handle more than you could actually handle.
Why is that? Why do we tend to overestimate our ability to fight off the wrong things? One of the reasons is, is because we have no idea how much energy it actually takes to resist temptation. That just fighting off temptation, it drains us, it spiritually we become fatigued. Mentally we become fatigued. That the part of our brain that controls willpower, it wears out. We could say willpower wanes. And that's the very reason why you work with, anybody work with crazy people? Anybody work with crazy people? It's like all day long they making you crazy, and you're wanting just to unleash on them, but you're godly and you fight it off and you fight it off. And you want to say something, you want to do something, and you don't want to take that, and you fight it off all day long. And then you go home and you yell at your spouse. You make good decisions all day long, and you come home and you binge eat, it's because your willpower starts to wane, our self-control, our willpower, it's a limited resource. The more we use it, the less we have, it has to recover, and it has to rebuild. We need to understand the devil's coming for you, and you're not as strong as you think.
So what we're going to do is we're going to pre-decide to be ready. And I want to share with you today what I call the three keys to fighting temptation. And we're going to pre-decide three things. What are we going to decide? We're going to pre-decide to move the line. We're going to pre-decide to magnify the cost. And we're going to pre-decide to plan your escape. We'll say it aloud. What are we going to do? Everybody? We're going to move the line. We're going to magnify the cost, and we're going to plan the escape. We're going to be ready, because our spiritual enemy is coming for us. The first thing I want to talk about and demonstrate for you is how we're going to pre-decide ahead of time to move the line. In fact, I'm curious, it'd be really amazing for an illustration. Does anybody have like a roll of yellow tape? Anybody have a roll of yellow tape? Anybody have a roll of yellow tape?
Oh my goodness. Oh, amazing. What a co-incidence. Look how great our God is. Thank you, pastor Doug. Okay. Wow. I had no idea. That's just so amazing. So, what I'm gonna do is I'm going to put down a line, and we're going to assume that on this side of the line, this is actually sin. This is not God's will, this is wrong and this is dangerous. This side is right. This side is God-honoring. This side is sin. This side is right. What do we typically do, and don't act like you're holier than everybody else. When there's a line somewhere, what do most of us like to do? We like to go right up to the line. And the best example of this was when I started dating Amy, before I dated her, I wasn't a Christian. And when you're not a Christian, you don't really have any boundaries. Like if you dated, you just did things. Well, then I became a Christian and I realized, oh my gosh, we're actually supposed to honor God with our bodies, and stuff like that, we're supposed to wait until we're married.
So I was dating Amy and there was one guy that I really respect, who's a Christian, his name was Braun. I said, "Braun, what can I do with her"? Just gimme everything possible. Like, can I rub, can I pat, can I smell her hair? Give me everything. What I want to do is I want to get right up to the line, and do as much as I possibly can. Does anybody know what I'm talking about? Don't sit there and polish your halo, we all do that. But what's funny is we may do that about some things, but things that we know are really dangerous, we never do that. For example, I've been studying to get my pilot's license. And when I fly across country, I never ever asked myself, I wonder what is the least amount of fuel possible that I can put in the airplane and still barely not die. If I'm looking at the map, and there's a 2000 foot tower, I never say, I wonder how close can I get to barely missing that tower, and not clip it and end up in a headline the next day. I never do it. What I do when I know it's really dangerous is, I stay away from the line.
So we know, since our spiritual enemy is coming at us, what we're going to do, is when we know there's a line of sin, we're going to move the line and stay away from sin. If this is wrong, I'm not going to get as close as I can, to what I'm going to do is I'm going to move the line. Okay? Thank you, pastor Doug. How will this play out? Let's say you've gotten the spiritual gift of spending money on Amazon. Buy now, click, it's here, same day delivery, which for the glory of God, we have to say, that's amazing. How did they do that? I don't know. But let's say you're spending too much, and so here's the line. I'm not going to spend, I'm not going to spend, I'm not going to spend. What you're going to do, is you're going to move the line, and you might give your best friend your password, and you don't get to click, buy, unless your best friend gives you the password. We're moving the line.
Let's say you look at how much time you spend on Instagram, and it's like four and a half hours a day. I know you got some interesting friends, but they're not that interesting. Live your life. So what you're going to do is you're going to move the line away from that which is distracting, and you're going to put on limitations where you can look for 30 minutes a day. You're moving the line. Let's say every time you go out, and let's say, you go, you ended up going to a club. Club, the club, the club. Da-da-da-da-da. And the next thing you know, you get drunk and you hook up. How'd that happened? Well, so I'm going to go out and I might, I'm not going to get drunk, and I'm not gonna hook up. No, no, no, no, no, no. What are you gonna do? Listen, you're not going to the club. What we're going to do is we're going to move the line. Oh, pastor Craig, that's like so restrictive. Like, can't you have a life. I mean, that's no fun at all. I mean, you got all these rules and that, is it so restrictive. When are we ever going to have fun.
I love what David said in Psalm 16:6, he said, "The boundary lines for me, they've fallen in pleasant places. Surely I have a delightful inheritance". It's incredibly freeing to me, it's not limiting, it's freeing. Everybody say, move the line. We're going to move the line. The second thing we're going to do, is we're going to magnify the cost. We're gonna magnify the cost, because anytime we're tempted to give into temptation, there's always a risk. And what I want you to do is I want you to train yourself, when you're tempted, to pre-decide to stop, and ask yourself, what could go wrong, because something can always go wrong. The big question you can pre-decide to ask yourself is, what if the worst case scenario comes true? We're going to pre-decide. We're ready because we know the devil's coming for us, and we're weaker than we think.
So when we get close, we're even here and we're thinking about, oh, should I step over? No, no, no, no. What is the worst thing that could happen? What if the worst case scenario comes true. And you may answer, like, well, someone could get pregnant when we didn't want to get pregnant. Right? Is this too real? Do you not live in the same world that I live in? We could lose our reputation. We could lose our ministry. We could lose our integrity. We could lose our job. We could lose a loved one. We could financially find ourselves in a wreck. We could compromise our relationship with our kids, or whatever. My pastor used to always quote this verse to me, he scared me with this verse, and he should have scared me with Numbers 32. He said, you'll be sinning against the Lord, and he said, your sin will find you out. It's going to come out. You will be found out.
What you want to do is ask yourself, what is the worst possible thing that could happen, and magnify the cost, and that will help you pre-decide not to do that which could hurt you later. And I do this, over and over again I've asked myself, what would happen if I betrayed my vows? What if I lost my integrity? What if I betrayed my relationship with Amy? And I just magnify the cost? I think about, let me tell you what would happen, and here's what would happen, I would lose the trust and the respect of my best friend, the woman who has stood by my side and honored me with more love than I could ever describe to you. My six children and my son-in-laws, they look up to me as a man of God, and I would lose that. There are, and I would say humbly, there are thousands of you, maybe tens of thousands of you, that I could hurt you. It would hurt some of your faith, it could devastate people who believe that, no, you're not perfect, but you're seeking God, and trying to live a life of integrity. I could lose every bit of credibility, and every bit of spiritual authority.
Listen to me, five minutes of sin could wreck a lifetime of pursuing Jesus. And so, what we're going to do is we're going to recognize that, that we have a spiritual enemy who's going to attack. And so we're ready. We're on guard. When he does attack, we're gonna move the line. We're not going to be stupid and be way out here. Oh, hope I don't get in trouble, we're going to move the line. We're going to magnify the cost, and my favorite thing we're going to do is we're going to plan our escape. We're going to decide ahead of time how we're going to get out of any temptation that our spiritual enemy brings to us. We're going to plan our escape. And the best example in all of scripture of someone doing this is in the Old Testament with a guy named Joseph.
Now, if you don't know who Joseph is, Amy says that I'm a lot like Joseph, and let me describe Joseph to you from God's word. Scripture says, "Joseph was a very handsome and well-built young man". Amy would say, I'm more in the middle age man category, but you know what I'm saying? So this guy's a good looking guy and scripture says, Potiphar's wife, this was his kind of boss. "Potiphar's wife soon began looking at him lustfully". Noticing, hey, you're a very handsome and well built young man. "And so she said to him, 'Come sleep with me.'" Okay, that's just weird, but you have to appreciate the fact that she is clear. You notice that, right? Because guys don't often read cues very well, we're stupid. But anyway, imagine how easy it would've been for Joseph to give in.
Think about it. He was like, well, this isn't my homeland. My brothers don't even know where I am. We're all alone and nobody gonna find out, and this good looking cougar flirting me down, and I'm young and I'm single, and she made the move, so it must be okay, right. Or he could have done what many of you do, and the reason I know you do this is because I've done this. He could have given in because he wasn't happy with God, because he wasn't doing anything wrong when his brothers beat him up and put him in a pit. He wasn't doing anything wrong when his brothers sold him into slavery. So here he was in a bad situation because God let him down. And so often we feel like, well since God didn't do what I wanted him to do, then I'm not going to do what He wants me to do. And that's why I always tell our kids, don't ever do this, the very thing many of us do is we use our disappointments to justify our disobedience. Don't do this. Don't do this. Well, my spouse isn't meeting my needs, so I got to do what I gotta do. Right?
God let me be in this spot, so I'm just going to live in it. No. Joseph had pre-decided that he was going to honor God. She came onto him and he faithfully resisted. He told her, no deal. He's like, hey, your husband trusts me as a man of God. How can I sin against him? How can I sin against God? And so he resisted, and what happened when he resisted? She stopped, the angels sang, and he was never tempted again. And that ain't true. Do you know what happened? She kept getting up into business every day. Hey, you're looking good there, man. Hey, you're looking kind of lonely what's a little thing like you doing in a place like this. And day after day she hit on him. Day after day she made moves. In the same way, day after day, the devil is going to come after you. Day after day he's attacking. And because we know he's coming for us, and because we're not as strong as we think, we're going to pre-decide to plan our escape.
Now ,you might look on and go, well, Joseph, that bro was strong. What I want to tell you is he wasn't strong, he was ready. He was smart. He was smart enough to preplan his escape, because scripture tells us, and this is so cool. One day, when they're all alone, Potiphar's wife comes to him, and she's not just saying stuff, but she actually grabs his coat to try to pull it off of him and says, let's go, it's time. And scripture says he left his cloak in her hand, and ran out of the house. What did he do? He left his coat in her hand, and ran out of the house. Why? Because he knew it was better to have a good name than a good coat. Come on somebody. I'm gonna let go of that which could hold me back, hold me down, get me in trouble, because I've pre-decided my name is more valuable than any kind of possession. He pre-determined.
If she grabs, I run, because I'm not strong enough to resist it, so I will run from it. And the amazing thing about God is when you are tempted, and you will be tempted, the good news is our God is faithful. He is always faithful. He will never let you down. And he will never let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. And the good news is when you are tempted, scripture says, he will always give you an escape. Every single time, every single time. There is no temptation the devil will bring your way, which God hasn't given you escape. There's no lust. There's no financial temptation. There's no breach of integrity. There's no relational loss in which God hasn't already said, there's a door, there's another way.
So we pre-decide. We choose ahead of time. The devil is going to attack, and I'm not as strong as I think, so I'm ready. I've pre-determined to move the line, I've pre-decided to magnify the cost, I've pre-decided when she grabs my coat, I run out the door. I've pre-planned my escape. Because no one plans to screw up their life, but people do it all the time. No one plans to screw up their life, but most people don't plan not to, and so we're going to be on our guard. We're going to be ready. And what I want you to do, as we're still early in the year, is I want you to be incredibly honest about where you're vulnerable. How does our spiritual enemy attack you? Is it in your pride? Well, what about me and not me? How do you justify sin because you're mad at God? Well, if God, hadn't done that, I wouldn't be doing this. Or if he be, or she'd be, I wouldn't be whatever.
Do you find yourself compromising financially, because you put your security there, or you love the bling that the thing buys? Do you lie sometimes to make yourself look better? Do you gossip about people to make them look bad? To make you feel better? Do you judge others? Are you overly critical? Are you carrying unforgiveness in your heart? Do you find yourself giving into lustful temptations again and again and again, looking at things or even acting in a way that you know is dishonoring to God? Do you find yourself taking God for granted? You wake up one day and you're just lukewarm. You used to be passionate about the things of God, but you're not passionate about the things of God now. Do you find yourself compromising around your friends, you're one person at church, and you're somebody else around some other people.
What we're going to do is we're going to be ready, because the enemy is. We're pre-deciding we're ready. And we're going to put distance between ourself and temptation, because we know we're not that strong, and we're going to decide ahead of time, how to stay out of trouble when the devil attacks. I'll give you a personal example, and I want be incredibly transparent, and hope it doesn't freak anybody out. But I pre-determined to be faithful to Amy for the rest of my life. I pre-determined. And I know a bunch of my friends had that goal, but not all of them achieved it, and so I have to tell myself that I am not above being tempted. And because I'm a normal person, what I'm going to do is, I'm going to decide ahead of time to eliminate anything that could be tempting, or even the appearance of tempting.
So a few of the things, not the extensive list, but a few of the things I would do is, I'd just, I'm not alone with a person of the opposite sex. Some people criticize that. Criticize all you want, my wife appreciates it. And so I'm not alone. I don't travel alone. You'll never see me somewhere in another city by myself. I'm not in a hotel room by myself. All of my devices, computer, iPhone, iPad, all those things, they're what I call locked down and transparent, locked down meaning I can't do hardly anything on them. Like I can't download an app, someone else has to do that for me. So I couldn't have access to looking at something that would be dishonoring to Amy or to God, or hurtful to me. I've got adult content block. My stuff's so locked down it's frustrating. I tried to rent a hot air balloon to take my son on. I couldn't even get a hot air balloon because hot was in the search, that's how locked down it is.
It's stupid, but it's locked down. It's transparent meaning that all my assistants in my office, Amy, people, my passwords, everybody has my passwords. I couldn't talk to someone privately on social media, or on my texts because, or email or anywhere, because a lot of people see every written conversation that I would have. And of you are going, like, well pastor Craig, are you that vulnerable, are you're that weak, are you that pathetic that you need that kind of protection? The answer's, no, actually, no, I'm very happily married, and I'm very rarely tempted, but I am occasionally tempted. And I don't know a few months from now, in a weak or a vulnerable moment if I'm ever vulnerable then, why would I fight off something then that I could eliminate now. I'm ready. I'm ready, because I know the devil is going to attack.
And so I ask myself the question, why would I resist a temptation in the future if I have the power to eliminate it today? The devil's coming for you. He's going to try to destroy your reputation, your witness, your ministry, your friendships, your relationship to a spouse, your witness before your kids. The devil's coming for you, and you're not as strong as you think. And so what are we going to do? We're on guard. We're watching and praying. We're ready, because we're not as strong as we think. And so we're going to pre-decide to move the line. I'm not going to get as close to I can be in danger, I'm going to stay far away. And before I'm tempted, I'm going to magnify the cost, what's the worst possible scenario, if that could happen, why would I even go there? And then ahead of time we're going to plan our escape. All this is based on our values, because when our values are clear, our decisions are easy.
And so, when that moment, somewhere in the future, when you're like tired, you're hungry, you're angry, you're overwhelmed, you're emotional, you're depressed, and you're more vulnerable, your decision when you're tempted, won't be based on the emotion in the moment, but on the values God placed on your heart. And so what do we do? We commit all of our ways to God, our relationships, our friendships, our finances, our witness, our words, our thoughts, we commit all to God and He will establish our plans. And because we know His word, we know it's true, we decide ahead of time, when I'm faced with such and such scenario, I've already determined, in that moment I choose to honor God. What are we? We're ready. If you're ready, say I'm ready. What are you? Are you ready?
Father, help us as followers of Jesus, to be ready, to fight off the attacks of the evil one, so we can faithfully share the love of Jesus in all that we do.
At all of our churches today, those of you online, as we're reflecting, I want to give you a moment to think about any area of your life where your guard might be down. Might be down. How does our spiritual enemy attack you? Where are you vulnerable? What are your values? If you find yourself vulnerable, or maybe you're not prepared, I'm just going to ask you to determine today, to pre-decide to be ready. And what you may do is just like I have, you may get a real game plan in your life, where you pre-decide ahead of time, I'm going to eliminate, distance myself from as much temptation as possible. This will take some work. You may want to talk about this in your life groups. We're going to pre-determine, pre-decide we're ready. At all of our churches today if you recognize that you, you're always under attack. I hope you do recognize you're always under attack, and you want the help of God to be ready, would you lift up your hands right now? Just lift them up, lift them up. Online you can type in the chat, help me be ready, just put it in the comment section, help me be ready.
Father, we ask that we would be prepared, in the same way Paul said be on our guard, we'd be on our guard. In the same way Jesus said, watch and pray so we don't fall into temptation, we're going to watch and pray. And give us the wisdom, God, ahead of time to pre-decide, to move the line, to distance ourself from temptation, to magnify the cost, knowing that if we dishonor you, we could hurt ourselves and hurt other people around us, and, God, to plan our escape, knowing that you are faithful and you always give us a way out. Help us to choose to honor you to be ready, to fight off the attacks of the evil one, so we can honor you by showing your love in all that we do.
As you keep praying today at all of our churches, we're talking about being ready, and some of you you're ready for the biggest decision that you're ever going to make. The quality of our lives is a reflection of the quality of our decisions. And I'm going to ask you to make a decision. What are you gonna do with Jesus? What are you gonna do with Jesus? Who does Jesus claim to be? He claims that he is the way, he is the truth, and he is the life. He claims that the Father sent him, and he came not for those who were already righteous, but Jesus came for people like me, he came for people like you, he came for sinners. Jesus said, "I didn't come for those who are healthy, who had it all together". He came for the sick, and he loved those of us who were broken.
Although we're imperfect and sinful, he was perfect in every way and never sinned. And he is the Lamb of God was slain, he gave his life on a cross, and our God raised him from the dead so that anyone, and this includes you, who calls on that name that is above every name, the name of Jesus, the King of kings, the Lord of lords. The Lamb of God. When you call on his name, God hears the cries of your heart, and he forgives your sins. There are those of you today that you're not walking with Jesus, you're not serving him faithfully. And I just want to ask you, what are you gonna do about it? What are you gonna do about it? One decision, one choice. Who do you say he is?
If you recognize, if you look at him, there's no one like him, the Son of God who loves you so much, he gave his life. When you see that, your only reasonable response is, take my whole life. I want to give it all to you. Wherever you're watching from today, if you recognized you've sinned and need forgiveness, I'm going to invite you just to decide to step away from your old life, and step towards Jesus and say, "I want to follow you. Forgive my sins". When you call out to him, he hears your prayers. He forgives you. You become new. Your life is no longer your own, now you're his disciple. You belong to him, and your life will never be the same. Are you ready for that? Are you ready? Are you ready for your sins to be forgiven? Are you ready for new life? Are you ready to be completely transformed? Are you ready to live for something beyond yourself? Are you ready to live in such a way that it glorifies God? Are you ready to be beyond yourself, and be God focused and others driven? Are you ready to be changed? Are you ready to be whole?
In all of our churches, those who say, I'm ready, I'm ready, today by faith I give my life to Jesus. That's your prayer, lift your hands high now all over the place say yes. We've got those of you all over here. Come on somebody. Let's tell God, thank you. Just lift up your hands and say, yes, Jesus. Those of you that are watching online, just call it what it is. Say I am ready, type it in the comment section, I am ready to follow Jesus. Just type that in, and we're going to pray wherever you're watching from today, pray aloud:
Heavenly Father, please forgive my sins. I am ready to be your disciple, to follow Jesus, to serve him, to live for him, and to show his love. Fill me with your spirit so I could know you, and I could serve you. My life is not mine. I give it all to you. Thank you for new life. Jesus, you have mine. It's in your name I pray.