David Jeremiah - Slaying the Giant of Temptation
No one is immune from the devices of Satan. And no matter how old or how young we may be, how new we may be in the faith or how old we may be in the faith, we all need to hear what God has to say to us on this important issue, for temptation is a giant that is winning the war in many people's lives. Some of you here today feel a great sense of defeat in your own life because temptation has taken control of your very existence.
I want you to open your Bibles, if you will, today to the book of 1 Corinthians and the 10th chapter and verses 12 through 14 where we have a Word from God through the personal writing of the Apostle Paul concerning this important subject, and I especially hope that our young people will listen carefully because if we can learn how to deal with temptation young in life, we will not stumble at it all the rest of our existence. Unfortunately, a lot of young people learn the wrong lessons early in life and then they spend the rest of their life trying to figure out how to overcome it.
Listen to the Word of God from 1 Corinthians 10, verse 12. "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but will with the temptation also make the way of escape that you may be able to bear it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry". Temptation is a common experience of every single person. Notice what he says at the beginning of the 13th verse. He says, "No temptation has overtaken you, except such as is common to man".
One of the things that happens to us when we're undergoing temptation is that we think this is something uniquely designed for us, that no one else has ever faced the kind of temptation that we're facing; and yet, here is God's Word telling us that temptation is common, that it is a very human experience, that we will all face it, and it is so subtle and perverse that there is no hope for us except in God. Even the blessed Lord Jesus Christ was tempted, for it says in Hebrews 4:15 that, "We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet apart from sin".
Jesus Christ, the holy, blessed Son of God, the perfect Son of God, was tempted in every area just as we are tempted, yet he never sinned. Whatever else we may take away from this passage in Hebrews, we must remember this. One truth we have to keep in mind is that temptation in itself is not sin. Sometimes people come to me and talk to me about their temptations, and I don't want to know about their temptations so much as whether or not they yielded to them. Temptation is not sin. It's when we yield to temptation that we sin. It was Martin Luther who said, "You can't keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can surely keep them from making a nest in your hair".
That's the difference between temptation and sin. You see, temptation is the exposure to the possibility of doing the wrong thing. That is everywhere present, and everybody is going to face temptation, and the Bible gives us no hope whatsoever that there is anything we can ever do to make all temptation go away. How many of you have thought, "Lord, just make it go away. Just make temptation be gone". As long as we live in this world with all of its influences and with all of its problems, we're always going to be exposed to temptation.
So remember the common experience of temptation. My friend, you're not alone. Every one of us in this room, we're all in the same category, we're all in the same group. We have all faced temptation, and we always will. But now I want you to notice in the next phrase of 1 Corinthians 10:13, the controlled environment of temptation. Notice what Paul says next. He says, "But God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able". Now, when God allows testing or temptation to come into your life or to mine, he promises that he will limit both the test and the intensity of it. He knows what our limitations are.
Somebody said, "You know what, the Lord's just put too much on me". Remember, temptation is not based upon what we think we can do, but it's based upon what God knows we're capable of. He will not ever over-test us, over-allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to stand in there in the power of the Holy Spirit and be victorious. In 2 Corinthians chapter 1, in verses 8 through 10, Paul talks about some of his challenges, and he says, "For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble, which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead".
Now, watch this last verse. "In God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us in whom we trust that he will still deliver us". Paul says we've been tested way beyond our own measure of strength, but the one thing we know is this: God is delivering us, God has delivered us, and God will deliver us. All three tenses of the word are used in the tenth verse. So, in the midst of the testing, just remember that God is conscious of what you're experiencing. He never takes his eyes off of you. In other words, no matter what situation I face, God is there with me and he knows my limitations.
Some of you think we'd be a lot better off if there were no temptations. And there are many days when we'd like to all vote on that, but you know what, if that were true, let me tell you what would happen. You would never be able to demonstrate your great love for the Lord Jesus Christ. You would be kept from the ability to show your loyalty to Almighty God and his holy principles as opposed to the things of the world. If we were simply automatons who were programmed to know God and to love God, there would be no glory that could come to the face of God in all of that. But because we are creatures of freewill and we do face temptations when, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we have victory over those temptations, much glory goes to God. And so we are growing in our ability to be strong and to give God the glory.
Now, notice the third thing here in this very important verse, and that is the certain escape from temptation. Listen to what the Word of God says. "But with the temptation will also make the way of escape that you may be able to bear it". Listen now carefully. Whenever we are tempted, God has the end of the temptation in sight at the beginning of the temptation. The moment that the test begins, God already knows the way out. He doesn't wait to see how we are doing. He provides the means of escape from that temptation at the very outset of the process. The way out of temptation is always there.
One of the things I've been learning as I get older is that temptation is not so much a matter of what we don't do, it is really a matter of who we do love. And when we come to know the Lord Jesus and we cultivate within our hearts a relationship with him of intimacy and desire and worship and adoration, and he is the strong, heroic image in our heart, that in itself will keep us from many faults and many sins. When Jesus Christ is not just a word in our vocabulary, but he is the person who lives within us and we meet with him every day and we have an intimate relationship with him, my friend, it's hard to walk out of a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and his Word in the morning and go out and yield immediately to temptation. It's hard to give in to temptation in the evening hours when you know that the first thing you're going to do in the morning is open the book and get into the Word and to fellowship with the Lord Jesus.
Yes, the heroic person of Jesus Christ is part of the way of escape. He is there for us to aid us and to help us. The word escape here in the book of 1 Corinthians is an interesting word. It is a Greek word that was sometimes used of the very narrow passage people would use to get out of a canyon. I don't know if you've ever been in some of the canyons, even out here in California, but sometimes there's narrow files that take you into different passageways, and the way of escape was looked at as a little way out of the canyon.
That's the picture that Paul was painting in this text. He's saying sometimes when you're walking through the valley of temptation, for just a moment, you see the way out and if you take that way, you can be victorious; and some of you have testified to that. You're in a situation you know you ought not to be in. Maybe it's a relationship with a member of the other sex and maybe you know that relationship is wrong, perhaps it's because you're already married and perhaps they are too, and maybe the friendship has gone a little bit further than it should, and all of a sudden, one day something happens in your heart and you know right then this is wrong and it's going in the wrong direction.
My friend, that's the way of escape, and you better get out right then because the way of escape may not come again. It may not be there for you again if you don't take the way of escape when the Lord provides it. But I am confident that in every temptation that I've ever faced, that you have ever faced, there's always been a moment of time when there was an opportunity to walk away. But if you don't walk away, then temptation can gain control. Well, these are the things that the Word of God says in this wonderful passage that most of us memorized in high school. "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you're able, but will with the temptation also make a way of escape that you may be able to bear it".
So how do we deal with temptation? Let me just give you some practical thoughts from the rest of the New Testament to go along with this central passage. Just some six or seven things real quickly for you to write down. Number one, recognize the possibility of temptation in your own life. Recognize it. You see, one of the things that happens to us, one of the reasons we get tempted and we fall prey to temptation is we don't think it can happen to us. One of the things I hear constantly from people who get into trouble is they'll say something like, "You know, I just cannot believe this happened to me". Why not? Why not you?
Listen to what Paul says just before verse 13. In verse 12 he says, "Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall". One of the most tragic things that can happen to you is to get a cockiness about you, a pride about you, an arrogance about you that says, "This can't happen to me". My friend, the worst thing that can ever happen to anyone can happen to anyone if we don't watch out for the enemy. Notice number two, request help in advance of temptation. This is a very interesting thought. Most of the time, we don't get much help in the midst of temptation. We have to get it in advance of temptation.
You know, there are two passages in the New Testament that tell us to pray about temptation. The first one's in the Lord's Prayer where the Lord taught his disciples to pray, "And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil". And the second one is in Matthew chapter 26 and verse 41 where we're told to watch and pray lest we enter into temptation. What that means is that we ought to begin our day, "Lord God, make me sensitive to the potential pitfalls on my walk with you today. Give me an awareness and a sensitivity so that as I walk through this day, when temptation begins to approach, I will be sensitive to it and I will know what to do".
If you don't do that, you'll get in the midst of it and you will be without recourse. But if you begin to pray ahead of time, "Lord God, protect me. Don't lead me in a path where temptation can get me". That's another good point to help you to be a victor in facing the giant of temptation. Then number three, the Bible says we're to resist the devil and he will flee from us. There are lots of ways we can resist the devil, and the Bible says when we submit ourselves to God and we resist the devil, the devil will flee from us. If you remember the Lord's encounter with Satan in the wilderness, he gave old Satan the Word of God, and I always laugh at this 'cause all he gave him was Deuteronomy. The only passages he gave him were Deuteronomy passages. And so the Lord Jesus gave Satan Deuteronomy, and at the end of the passage, it says, "And he departed from him".
Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Submit to God and resist the devil and he won't have power over you in temptation. And then number four, and I want to take just a moment to talk about this, you need to learn how to retreat from certain kinds of temptation. Now, it's one thing to stand up against temptation, but it's another thing to retreat from temptation, and there are three kinds of sin in the New Testament that we're told to run away from. I used to think there were just two, but I found a third one. Three kinds of sin we're to run away from.
The cynical Mark Twain once said, "There are several good protections against temptation, but the surest is cowardice". Be a coward when it comes to temptation. Run. First of all, we're to retreat from idolatry. It says in 1 Corinthians 10:14, "Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry". That's right here in this passage we're studying. What does that mean? We don't usually bow down to idols. We don't have idol shelves in our house, but an idol is anything that gets between you and God. And the Bible says that when you begin to realize that something is taking the place of God in your life, you need to flee from that, get away from it as far as you can. Don't let anything become an idol in your life. Secondly, it says we're to flee immorality. Twice in the New Testament, we're told that.
In 1 Corinthians 6:18, it says, "Flee sexual immorality". In 2 Timothy 2:22, it says, "Flee youthful lusts". There's something very uniquely special about sexual temptation that if you think you can stay in the midst of that situation and be victorious, you're just fooling yourself. Nobody can. What God is telling us through the Word of God and what Paul is instructing us through his letters is this: that when you find yourself in a situation where the temptation to be immoral is present, you need get out of that situation as fast as you can, and the illustration that is often used is from the 39th chapter of Genesis in the Old Testament where Joseph found himself under the pressure of Potiphar's wife.
And the Scripture tells us in Genesis 39 that one day she had everyone dismissed from the house and Joseph was left alone in the house, and she came in and took hold of his coat and said, "Lie with me". She propositioned him. And the Bible says that Joseph turned and he ran out of the house, leaving his coat in her hands. It was the only way he could get free from the temptation. Someone said, "The best equipment for running away from sexual temptation is the best pair of Adidas that money can buy". I think there's some real value in us just talking for a moment about this, especially young people. When you live in an environment, when you put yourself in a situation where that temptation is always there, you are ultimately going to fail. So you need to flee from it. The last thing that we're to flee from, which is kind of interesting, and I hadn't noticed this before I studied this passage, is we're to flee from any kind of greed.
Notice what it says in 1 Timothy 6:10 and 11. "For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things". We're not to allow our lives to be taken up with the pursuit of material things. That itself can become a kind of an idolatry. And then number five, I want you to notice that if we're going to be victorious over temptation, we have to remove any means of sin far from us.
I remember reading the story of an overweight man who finally got the courage to go on the long dreaded diet. He even went so far as to change the way he drove to work every day so that he would not have to pass his favorite bakery. And he was doing well for about a week, and then he showed up at work one day with a dozen donuts and a cheesecake, and his fellow employees could not comprehend what had happened because he had been doing so well. When they asked him what had happened, he said, "Well, I drove my former route to work today and I decided that if God wanted me to stop at the bakery, he would give me a parking space right in front of the main entrance". And, you know, he said he did just that on the eighth trip around the block.
Now, here's the guy who's not real serious about staying on his diet or being victorious over temptation. You know, the Bible says, "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts," Romans 13:14. Then replace bad influences with good ones. Proverbs 13:20 says, "He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed". I don't want to tell you who your friends should be. That's none of my business, but I want to just warn you this way. It's wonderful to have friends in the world that we're trying to win to Christ, but every once in a while, we need to take a little check and say, "Are they pulling me more in their direction or am I bringing them toward God"? You need to replace bad influences with good ones.
And then number seven, and this is the end of the list, you need to resolve to live on the high road. That's really important. That's really important. I believe that every Christian has made a choice, whether knowingly or not, as to where they're going to live out their Christian life. A lot of you who come to church, you know the Lord, you know you're saved, you know you're on your way to heaven, but when it comes to really being sold out for God and really living for the Lord, you've just decided you don't really want to live up there. You're okay down here, and let me tell you something, the pitfalls on the low road are far more treacherous.
I've already told you that when you walk close to the Lord, you will be tempted. But if you determine just to live a convenient sort of Christian life just to be kind of inside the door, you've got a pass in your pocket that keeps you out of hell and that's just about all you care about, my friend, you are setting yourselves up for all kinds of trouble. Why not rather decide, by the grace of God, I'm going to live on the high road. I'm going to cultivate every influence in my life that lifts me up. I'm going to watch the things that I read and the places where I go and the kinds of things that I allow into my system, and I'm going to bring those things close to me that will help me to walk on the high road with Almighty God, and begin to strategize your life like that.
Begin to understand that there are people and places and resources and books and tapes and television ministries and radio ministries and all kinds of things that can fill your life with truth and good. And if you will cultivate your life on the high road, you will have the strength to face temptation when it comes. That's why the Word of God says, "Even though the outward man is perishing, the inward man is being renewed day by day".
What is the best thing you can do to be victorious over temptation? Build the inward man. Build the man who lives within you, who is Christ Jesus, the hope in your heart. Cultivate the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Read the Word of God. Be strong as a Christian so that the pressure within you can withstand the pressure that is outside of you. Because if you walk into the world and you have not built any inward pressure through your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, you run the terrible risk of being crushed and destroyed through temptation. The Lord Jesus Christ is our inner pressure, isn't he? He's the one that enables us to go through the pressures of the world with all the temptations and still be victorious in his name.