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Jack Graham - Character is a Choice

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    Jack Graham - Character is a Choice
TOPICS: LifeWorks, Character, Choices, Temptation

Temptation is when Satan takes a normal God-given desire and tempts us to fulfill that in a God forbidden way. We all have normal, natural human desires that God has given us. And God has given us His truth to teach us how to fulfill those desires. And Jesus is the answer to all of our desires and He is the One who appeals to us and draws us to Himself. But Satan uses those desires, normal, natural human desires and offers temptations, you see, to fulfill those in some God forbidden way, and that's temptation. It's not a sin to be tempted. Everyone is tempted. Jesus was tempted in all points as we are tempted, and yet, the Bible says, He never sinned.

We know we have been tempted and we know that we have sinned. But I want to show you from James here how we can win over sin, how we can triumph over temptation in our lives. Look at verse 13 of James 1: "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God,' for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured (mark that word in your Bible) lured and enticed (another word to note) by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change".

God is unchangeable and He is always good! So let's start out with the problem that we all face regarding temptation. It is a problem so this is a reality check. You can't outlive temptation no matter how long you live! Maybe you thought "Well, if I got a little older just my age would sanctify me". No, you can't outlive temptation, but you can overcome it! If you're breathing, you will be tempted in some way. We are all susceptible to temptations. Paul concurs with James about temptation. In a verse that many of us marked and memorized years ago when we first began to following Christ; 1 Corinthians 10:13, "But there is no temptation that is overtaken you but that it is common to man, and God is faithful and with the temptation will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation will also provide a way of escape that you may be able to endure".

So God has promised! That's a great promise that God will protect us if we will seek His protection. That there is a pathway out of temptation and out of sin! Jesus taught us to pray in the model prayer, the Lord's Prayer, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil". And we ought to be praying for God's protection every day. When you gave your life to follow Christ, we got some new believers here today, and maybe you thought that when you came to Jesus that your life would get easier and you've found that it's getting harder, more difficult, more demanding. The demands of discipleship. And you wonder why do I seem to be even more tempted in some areas of my life?

Well, you are in a spiritual battle. I talk about our spiritual battle in my book Unseen, and the spiritual warfare in which we are all engaged as believers. Satan hates Jesus! And if you follow Jesus and stay close to Jesus, you'll be under Satan's attack. We have spiritual enemies including demon forces. These are the infernal forces of hell, and therefore, our enemy. You are a target of Satan. But not only is there the infernal enemy-Satan, but there is an external enemy which is the world. The Bible talks about the world system, the secular system that does not know or honor God. The anti-Christ, anti-God system. We all feel the allure and the attraction of the world. John, the disciple, described it this way in 1 John 2:16: "As the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life".

That's the world! So Satan is an infernal enemy, the world is an external enemy- attacking us from without. But James here is focusing on the internal enemy which is the flesh, the old nature; what we were before we met Christ; our old desires. James wrote temptation comes from the lure, the enticement, the entrapment of our own evil desires. And that these evil desires, like a pregnancy, lead to evil actions and evil actions lead to the birth of death. So here you have it. You wonder why you're tempted? You wonder why you face some of the same temptations in your life? Because on the outside Satan attacks, the world attracts, and our own flesh, our own human nature allures us to invite us to disobey God in some way. So we must accept personal responsibility for our own sins, our own temptations. You can't always say, "The devil made me do it"! So who do we blame? What is the problem?

Well, that's James 14 to 16. Again, look at it again. "Each person", as if there is an individual attack, an allurement for each person, that may even be different, but, "Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire". Now, just stop right there because here we see, moving from the problem of temptation, the process of temptation. It is a process. The truth is it doesn't just happen. We often put ourselves in the position to be tempted. We give the devil a stick to hit us with. And it doesn't come from without, but it comes from within. What we contemplate, what we consider, how we imagine things. What we think about things. Proverbs 23:7, "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he".

In my book Unseen I talk about in there's an entire chapter on the battle for your mind, because that's where the battle of spiritual warfare is won or lost. It happens in your mind. As the mind goes, the man goes. Jesus said in Mark chapter 7, verses 21 and following: "That out of the heart proceeds all of these things" which is sexual immorality and lust and murders and lies, and all the rest. He said, "It comes from within". James picks up on that. He observed a lot by watching and listening. And from the love of our own desires or the lure of our own evil desires.

Now the lure here, it's suggests a bait or a hook. So you might call this Lessons from the Lure. So to all you fisherpersons, here's a lesson from the lure about temptation. It's an illustration and the illustration is this: Temptation is like bait on a hook. You don't see the hook, but you see the lure. And like a dumb fish that comes up swimming and sees something shiny and sparkling in the water, glistening in the water, and takes the bait and finds the hook. And from the bait to the hook, you're cooked. Right? And that's what happens to people in life. Sin, temptation wouldn't be attractive, it wouldn't be appealing if it wasn't fun at some level. "There's pleasure in sin for a season".

So temptations, it's just us talking now, it's reality, can be exciting! And enticing! And Satan knows just the bait with which to hook us. Jesus was tempted, as I mentioned, with three different kinds of temptations. He was tempted with physical appetites when Satan said turn the stones into bread. He was tempted with spiritual or rather personal ambitions when Satan said, "Throw Yourself off the temple; the angels will bear You up. Everybody will believe in You. You can bypass the cross. You don't have to go through the pain. Just jump off, everybody will believe. You'll be the national hero. They'll accept You as Messiah".

Or the third temptation which had to do with spiritual allegiance when Satan said, "Bow down to me, Jesus, just worship me," and Jesus didn't rebuke him. He said, "I'll give you all the kingdoms of this world". Satan presides over the world system. So Jesus didn't say, "No, no, you can't do that". Jesus knew that Satan could give Him all of that, if He would just bow down and worship. And each time Jesus responded to each of these temptations. I believe one of the reasons that Jesus was tempted in the way that He was tempted and is described in the Bible, the temptation of Christ is to show us that just as we are tempted with physical appetites, just as we are tempted with personal ambitions, just as we are tempted with spiritual allegiance, so was Jesus. And Jesus used the Word of God as a weapon to overcome it. He didn't pull rank on us, He didn't do something supernatural. He overcame as the Man-God, the God-Man, and the same tool, the same weapon that Jesus had to overcome temptation, we have, as He submitted to the Word of God, He surrendered to the will of God and to the worship of God in His life.

But I give you all that to say look, there are various kinds of temptations that we all face. When we're younger, and this is generally speaking, because remember, if you're breathing, your tempted. Right? But when you're younger it seems to be that the temptations are physical appetites are the strongest. That's why the Bible says "flee youthful lust". So physical appetites are especially appealing and alluring when we're younger. Then middle age comes and you know we're more interested in our personal ambitions. We're climbing the ladder to success, and that's when those kinds of temptations like lying or cheating or stealing or losing control or running over people or demanding our own way to get where we want to go. All of those kinds of temptations regarding our personal ambitions. We'll have success. It's all pride.

Those are most powerful typically at our mid-life years and our earning years, and so on. And then in the latter years our temptations are regarding spiritual allegiance, who we're going to worship because Satan comes along and says things to you like, "You can't trust God. You're getting old; you're getting sick; you're gonna die. You're not even going to be able to pay for your medicine. Who's going to take care of you? Your kids, they're not taking care of you. What's wrong with you? God told you that He'd take care of you; look at you"! Those kinds of temptations, you see. So each one is tempted in a different way, but all attractive and all appealing. And it's like a lure that takes us in. And the bait and the hook are set for you.

Some of us right now are facing temptation and the hook is almost in your mouth. And not far from the hook, you can't see the hook, but not far from the hook, that's why James says, "Don't be deceived". The Bible says "Don't be deceived, God is not mocked. Whatever a man sows, that he will reap". You get hooked, you get cooked. Now you can rationalize anything. Never mind the consequences! When temptation is so strong it does something to the mind: "It doesn't matter, it's just one look, it's just one thought, it's just one action, it's just a little thing, it's not that big a deal, I can stop any time I want, it's not that bad". Sound familiar? Temptations. When we start rationalizing it, that's when we're getting ready to take the bait. It's not a sin to be tempted. It's a sin to say yes to temptation. You can still say no! But once sin occurs that's disobedience. And disobedience leads to death, the tragic consequences of our sin.

So sin is like a pregnancy. It's often unseen. You can be pregnant and not know it for weeks and months. Some of you are pregnant with temptation right now! And yet if you turn away you can be delivered from death, and the consequences of sin. Sin reproduces like rabbits. And that's what James is telling us. Satan doesn't tell you about the awful, sinful consequences and death of sin and temptation. The bait is bright, it's beautiful, so you bite. Have you found this to be true? "Oh, I never intended for it to happen. I never thought it would end up this way. I fell and I fell hard, and I didn't know it would hurt this much". James is saying protect yourself; prepare yourself because you can't sin and win.

As the old evangelist used to say: "First, sin fascinates and then it assassinates. It thrills and then it kills". True. That's what James is saying. It leads to death: death to your character, death to your family, death to your marriage, death to your relationship with your kids, death to your relationship in your church, death, death, death. But you don't have to live this way. And there is power, therefore, to overcome temptation. Power. And I want to give you, in closing, some words that you can write down. Maybe you would even want to write them in your Bible, or take notes on your cell. However you're doing it.

I want to give you some words that will enable you by God's grace to resist temptation. That's the goal, right? So number one, is the word resist. James 4:7. Look at James 4:7 on the screen. "Submit yourself, therefore, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you". When Satan attacks, you have the power in Jesus name to say no. 1 Peter 5:8 through 9 says: "Be sober minded; watch, for your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour". "Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of sufferings are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world".

People everywhere are going through this! You're not the only one. One of Satan's lies is to tell you, "Oh, you're the only one that's ever felt like this". Or "You're the only one that's ever had this experience. You're the only one that's got this weakness". No! Everybody is tempted! But you have the power to resist! Don't tell me that Jesus Christ lives in you by His Holy Spirit and you don't have the power to say no to Satan! You do!

Resist. Number two, run! Especially run from the sins of the flesh. Second Timothy 2:22 - I quoted it earlier: "Flee sinful, youthful passions and pursue righteousness"! Flee! Run! Look at Romans 13:14 - here's another one: "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires"! In other words, starve the flesh and feed the Spirit! Don't give the devil a stick to hit you with! Run, like Joseph who was nearly seduced by a seductive woman, Potiphar's wife in Egypt, but because of his commitment to God he said, "I cannot sin against God in this way! How could I? God's been too good to me"! So he ran out of the room. She grabbed his coat literally and took it. But she could take his coat; she couldn't take his character. And he ran. Sometimes that's the very best thing you can do. Young people, don't put yourself in a position where you're going to be tempted beyond. Remember, God gives everyone a pathway, a way out. Don't put yourself in a position! Run from anything that looks like sin! Get away from it!

Thirdly, remember. That's verses 16 and 17 in James 1. I'm going to bring an entire message on this the next time, the goodness of God. But verse 17 says: "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change". God is unchangeable, and God is consistent and God is faithful. So remember that. "Submit to God," the Bible says, "Drawn near to Him and He will draw near to you"!

Why do people find temptation so attractive? When we are vulnerable or susceptible to temptations in our life it's because we're not finding our satisfaction in Jesus. It's because we're not finding our fulfillment in the Lord. But if you remember how good God has been to you, God's a good God! God's not holding out on you! If it's wholesome and healthy and vibrant and good and holy, God wants you to have it! Psalm 84, and verse 11: "The Lord our God is a sun and a shield, and He gives grace and glory; and no good thing will He withhold from them who walk uprightly". But people get all bent by temptation because they thing God's not meeting their needs, or God's not taking care of them. So run ahead of God, jump ahead of God and so on! No! Remember how good God is! Like Joseph said, "How can I do this in the light of how good God has been to me"! His grace. Jesus is the source and the secret of all satisfaction. He's the solution to temptation.

Rely is the next word, rely. And by that I mean rely on others in the family of faith. I showed you 2 Timothy 2:22, the first part of it. Look at the last part of that. After we flew youthful passions, pursue righteousness, faith love, peace, "along with those who call on the name of the Lord from a pure heart". In other words, get around godly people. Proverbs 13:20, let's go to that one first. Proverbs 13:20 says "Whoever walks with the wise become wise, but companions of fools will suffer harm". You hang around with bad people, guess what's going to happen. You're going to be tempted with bad things.

I'm not saying you shouldn't engage people in a friendship in order to bring them to Christ, but you don't hangout with people that are going to bring you down. You choose friends among those who believe in Christ, your closest companions. That's the church, that's Christian friends who will hold you accountable, who will pray for you, who will encourage you, who will equip you and teach you! With all of those who believe! And there's such strength in being together in Christ. Amen? That's why you need the church. You get yourself isolated, I get worried when I see people out of church. They drop out, they bail out of church, they quit coming, they get unattached, and before you know it you hear a story and it's typically not a good one.

So stay connected to Christ and His church! And one final thing: renew your mind in the Word of God. Psalms 119, verse 11: "Your word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against God"! That's what Jesus did when He quoted the word of God, and not just quoted the word of God, but submitted to the word of God in His life! He knew the word; He used it as a weapon, the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.
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