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Jack Graham - Ironman

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    Jack Graham - Ironman
TOPICS: Joseph, Temptation, Sexuality, Purity

Take your Bibles and turn with me, please, to the book of Genesis chapter 39. And I want to speak to you on the subject "Ironman". Perhaps you've heard of the Ironman competition. It is a physical feat beyond limits almost. Well, I want to tell you about a man who had iron in his soul. His name is Joseph. And we've been sharing his story in the book of Genesis. What an incredible man he is! And in today's message we're going to see how God continues to shape the character of His servant Joseph, and enable him to elevate in life to the degree that he would stand as one of the most powerful men on earth, saving a nation of people, including his own family. In the series of tests and trials and temptations that Joseph faced, we also face these same trials.

Now let me remind you what temptation is, because we're going to be dealing with the subject of temptation. Temptation is the seduction of a solicitation to fulfill a God-given desire in a God-forbidden way. Temptation in itself is not a sin. There's a great old hymn that says, "Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin". It is the yielding to temptation that produces sin. The second sentence of that hymn says, "Each victory will help you some other to win". Did you know every time you resist temptation and overcome temptation and win over sin, you are building the moral fiber and character of your soul. And this will enable you the next time temptation comes along to win again. Successfully resisting temptation in our lives will enable us to grow strong in faith.

So today we're going to see how Joseph handled intense sexual pressure and temptation, and how he chose, just as he chose blessing over bitterness, now how he chooses purity over wickedness. His choice would cost him dearly. He would be falsely accused and even imprisoned, not for doing the wrong thing, but for doing the right thing. But what is important is that God never abandoned him in the midst of all of this. The steadfast love followed him wherever he went. And God was making it all possible because God's Word was coming true in his life!

Now everything is going great for Joseph at this point. He's ridden on the back of camels into Egypt, sold as a slave. But a man by the name of Potiphar purchases him and Joseph determined one day that he would rise above the circumstances of his life and situation, and rather than die in Egypt and his dreams with him, he chose, "If I'm going to be a slave, I'm going to be God's slave! I'm going to be the best man in Egypt that I can possibly be". And Joseph himself must have been stunned by the success that he experienced. Potiphar saw that there is something unique about this man, there is something so strong about this man! What was it about Joseph? Was it the obvious favor of God upon his life?

Was it the fact that he refused to bow down to the gods of Egypt, and there were many, they worshiped Minya, they worshiped the sun god Ra, they worshiped pharaoh himself. Was it the fact that this Hebrew young man now in his twenties and single, is it now because of the fact that he worships God and he lives an honorable life, a life of integrity? Was this what made the man stand out? Probably all of the above. And so Potiphar, the master of the house, gives Joseph ultimately oversight of the entire household. He is now commandeering the in entire operation of this huge Egyptian estate. Potiphar was an aristocrat, a bureaucrat of sorts, powerful in the Egyptian world at that day.

And so Joseph is carrying on, doing the right thing, and notice what happens, beginning in verse 6 of the thirty-ninth chapter: "So he left all that he had in Joseph's charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything, but the food he ate". Well he should have been concerned about one thing and that is his own wife, because the next phrase says:

"Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. And after a time his master's wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, 'Lie with me.' But he refused and said to his master's wife, 'Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?' And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her. But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, she caught him by his garment, saying, 'Lie with me.' But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house. And as soon as she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled out of the house, she called to the men of her household and said to them, 'See, he has brought among us a Hebrew to laugh at us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice. And as soon as he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me and fled and got out of the house.' Then she laid up his garment by her until his master came home, and she told him the same story, saying, That Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to laugh at me. But as soon as I lifted up my voice and cried, he left his garment beside me and fled out of the house.'"

Historians tell us that Egyptian women of this era were particularly immoral. Think Cleopatra generations later. But apparently the aristocratic women of Egypt in this day were extremely immoral, along with their husbands. So she thinks nothing of it apparently and she goes after Joseph. Now there are tests in life and then there are tests! And this was a test with a capital T-E-S-T. And the battle is on. And so Joseph begins to deal with this. Joseph refused, he resists at the outset, but it doesn't stop, it keeps on. She came after, according to verse 10, again and again. Now we can only imagine what is being said at this point. "Come on, handsome. Nobody's gonna know. I'm a married woman; I'm sure not going to tell my husband. You're young, you're beautiful; you're in your twenties. Have you ever even had a girlfriend? Come on, Joseph. This is Egypt. This is the way we live over here in Egypt. You know, walk like an Egyptian. When in Egypt do as the Egyptians do. It's not going to hurt anything. In fact you're going to love this".

I mean we can only imagine what she was saying. How did Joseph do this? Well, let me mention a couple of reasons of many, I'm sure, but several that jump to the top of the list. One is the trust factor. Joseph said no to this woman because he knew that Potiphar, her husband, trusted him explicitly and completely. Joseph obviously was loved by this man, cared for by this Egyptian, and though he was a pagan, there was this definite connection with Joseph the Hebrew. And he knew Potiphar was counting on him! And so the trust factor comes into play here. Someone trusted him. Joseph said, "How could I do this thing to my master, to Potiphar, who has blessed me in such a way"?

The trust factor. Secondly spiritual values. Joseph along the way had developed a strong core of spiritual values that developed his character. These are the iron core convictions of his life. Now remember, this is before Moses and the law. This is way long before the Ten Commandments are given so the seventh commandment hasn't been written yet! "You shall not commit adultery". And yet somehow Joseph knew instinctively that this kind of sin was wrong and disobedient to the will of God in his life. I believe it is because he had a love for God. Joseph knew God! He knew His presence and His hand upon his life. And because Joseph had this relationship with God he spiritually knew that to break God's commandments by committing a sin like this would be wrong. So he had developed moral character and convictions. But there was a third reason and that is God's reputation. Joseph said, "How could I do this thing to you, to Potiphar my master and commit this sin against God"?

Now ultimately all sin and rebellion is against God. Had Joseph taken the woman up on her offer, it would have been a sin against her, for she was another man's wife; it would have been a sin against Potiphar, her husband; it would have been a sin against Joseph himself. In fact the New Testament tells us that this particular sin, sexual sin, taking a God-given desire and fulfilling it in a God-forbidden way. That this kind of sin in particular is a sin against your own body! He would have sinned against the woman, sinned against her husband; he would have sinned against himself! But ultimately he said, "How can I do this thing and sin against God"! Because he was committed to the love of God of his life.

And this choice is critical to us as well! Because we live in a generation, primarily, who does not know God. And there are people in your school who know that you profess Christ. There are people at your office who know you profess Christ. There are people in your neighborhood, you are a representative of the Lord your God! And it is our witness of God's reputation in the world! Who He is and what we believe about Him that is at stake in our own generation! And so like Joseph, let us be trustworthy; let us form strong moral convictions and the fiber of the soul, the iron of the soul that stands against this kind of wickedness in our lives. And yes, let us be concerned about the reputation of God, our witness in the world! Now there are some principles that I want to share with you that I believe give us guidance as to how we can do this.

Number one, principle number one: When we are successful, we are most vulnerable to sexual temptation. Satan uses promotion and prosperity to produce pride in our lives. And when that happens, when you achieve some measure of success in life, whatever your chosen field, if you're not careful as a Christ-follower, you can begin thinking that the rules don't apply to you anymore. Or that the boundaries have moved. You can take the position that you're above all of this, and you're not responsible as other people are responsible. I've seen ministers and pastors play this game! And the higher we rise in life, the more likely we are to be susceptible to pride which is the root of all of this anyway! We're put in the precarious position, and this is why we must always guard our hearts, protect ourselves, because Satan can attack us seemingly out of nowhere.

It appears that when you read this passage of Scripture that Joseph is minding his own business, doing the right thing, and then out of nowhere comes this storm in his soul! And the temptation is on. But he wasn't surprised and Satan was not allowed to deliver a crushing blow! I've spent 30-40 plus years building my character, but I realize that I'm one bad decision away from destroying it all. Five to ten minutes away from destroying everything that God has done in my life. You are not immune and neither am I. We are always all of our lives the object of satanic seduction. So number one, when we are successful we are most vulnerable. That's what happened to Joseph.

Secondly, to resist temptation you must build strong moral, biblical convictions in your life. You know what lust is. And if you begin to fuel that lust by putting yourself in compromised positions or putting yourself in the presence of temptation, I mean how foolish it is to give the devil a stick to hit us with! And I presume for women it is much the same. But we can control how long we look and we can control how much we listen! The same is true in life. God has given us a place which is Christian marriage in which to engage in the beauty and the blessedness of the marriage act, and therefore, in that experience the fire's in the fireplace as God has planned it. You get the fire out of the fireplace and into your house; it will burn your house down!

So God says, "Don't put yourself in a position to be ruined by this kind of behavior". When she finally made her last ditch effort to grab him, can you, I mean, picture this. I mean she grabs him! What does he do? He leaves his outer cloak behind. She apparently grabbed his outer tunic and pulled it away. And he put on his Nikes and he ran out of the room as fast as he could! You say, "What a chicken". Well, maybe so but he still had his character. He lost his coat. You notice how Joseph's always losing his coat?

Now it happens again! Snatches his coat, she screams bloody murder, says he tried to rape her, here's the proof, and he goes into jail. But I tell you what happened there. Joseph must have been thinking, "God, I did the right thing. I obeyed You, and now look. You know, I'm back in this jail. I'm back in the prison or in the pit"! But the Scripture says in verse 21: "But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him His steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison". Let me tell you what followed him into prison. He said no to lust but he said yes to the love of God. He said no to sin, but yes to God's favor and blessing upon his life. It cost him to obey God but ultimately it became the greatest favor of his life. So I'm saying build strong biblical character in your life and when the times comes to run, you run. The Bible says "Flee fornication". This is one sin you don't want to debate. Run.

The final principle: when we obey God it may cost us, but God will bless us. If you stand for righteous obedience, God knows it! If you stand alone when all your friends are failing and falling around you, God knows the character of your! Joseph said, "How could I dishonor God by doing this wicked thing"? We want to call it something else; Joseph called sin by its first name! He said, "How can I sin against God by doing this wicked thing"? Joseph had a certain love for God. He also had a fear of God. The Bible says "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom". I tell you I have a healthy respect and reverence for our Almighty God. Not a servile fear of God, but the kind of fear which says, you know, "I'm afraid, not what God's going to do to me, but what I would do to Him by denying Him and dishonoring Him".

That's the fear of God we need! I just want to say in closing down this message, no matter what anybody else says, no matter what Potiphar's wife says, no matter what your friends say, no matter what the culture says, sexual sin is disobedience to God! No matter what man says, in the sight of God sexual sin is wrong and God has called us to purity and holiness and godliness in life! He said, "As I am holy, you also be holy". And God will give you the Holy Spirit to enable you to make that decision. When a culture denies this it is on its way to collapse! When a Christian denies this, that Christian is on his or on her way to collapse! You can not fool around with God's commandments and know the power and the blessing of God in your life! People may reject you, laugh at you, mock at you, exclude you; call you a virgin as if that was something to be ashamed of. But just like God was faithful to Joseph, God will be faithful to you! God will bless you as you trust in Him. His steadfast love.

Would you rather have the steadfast love of God or the worldly lust that is all around us? God's preparing Joseph for something greater in his life. And God's preparing you for something great in your life, as you faithfully follow Him. Now every time I preach a message like this and raise the standards high, which we should do, I also realize that a message like this can cause pain, because I'm speaking to people who have failed in this area of your life. You have disobeyed God in this area of your life. And it's very painful to hear a message like this. But let me remind you that there is no sin that the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cannot cleanse. The Scripture says "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow".

You say, "I've failed; I've broken this commandment and others. What does God have to say to me? Is God just going to condemn me and throw me away"? No, Jesus went to the cross for you. He died for you; He rose again so that you can be forgiven. "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow". And Jesus would say to each of us this morning as He said to the woman taken in the very act of adultery, condemned by the religious crowd, Jesus saw her heart of repentance and said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more". You can't change your past. You can't unscramble eggs, but it's never too late to repent! There's always time to get right with God. And you can begin again today! And you can make a pledge and a promise in the power of God's Spirit right now that "I will be faithful to God; I will be faithful to my family; I will be faithful to myself! I will live for Jesus Christ"! You can leave your sin and walk in the purity of a life filled with God's Spirit, and destined by grace for glory.
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