Robert Jeffress - When Sin Comes Knocking - Part 1
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Temptation comes in all shapes and sizes. But no matter how alluring it may seem in the moment, temptation always ultimately leads to destruction and heartache. Today, we're going to look at the story of a man who looked temptation straight in the eyes and managed to stay true to his conscience. The outcome of his situation might appear bleak at first, but God always rewards those who are faithful. My message is titled "When Sin Comes Knocking," on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
The famed playwright Oscar Wilde once said, "I can withstand anything except temptation. The only way," he said, "to get rid of temptation is to yield to it". Now, it's one thing for a pagan like Oscar Wilde to adopt that philosophy, but did you know there are many Christians who live by that philosophy as well? They don't necessarily welcome temptation, but they think it's inevitable, and they're under the delusion that when temptation comes into their life, they have no choice but to give in to it. "After all," they say, "We still have a sin nature in us, and we'll never have victory over it until we get to heaven one day". That is an absolute lie. You can experience victory over sin in this life. And today, we're going to look at one follower of God who did just that. Today, we're going to discover yet another reason that God chose to use a very imperfect servant named Joseph in such a significant way. And today, we're also going to discover some practical ways to have victory in your life when sin comes knocking on the doorstep of your heart.
If you have your Bibles, I want you to turn to Genesis 39, as we discover how to say NO when sin comes knocking. Now, remember, the story of Joseph begins in Genesis 37. Last time, we saw how Joseph was one of 12 sons of Jacob, the patriarch of Israel. He was the next-to-the-youngest son, and he was certainly the favorite son of Jacob. And you'll remember he had a dream that God gave him, that one day, he would rule over his other brothers and his father and mother. He made the mistake of sharing that dream with his family. They were less than thrilled by it, remember? And Joseph's brothers, out of jealousy, decided how they were going to get rid of Joseph. And so they found an opportune time, they threw him in a pit, they left him for dead. And immediately, Joseph's dreams were shattered. He didn't have the rest of the book of Genesis. He didn't know how the story was going to end up. All he knew was he was in a pit, left for dead.
And we talked last time about the fact when God sends tests into your life, they involve four words. First of all, surprise. Many times, we don't see the tests that are coming into our life. Perhaps it's a good thing we don't know that they're coming. We don't know what's getting ready to hit our life. They often involve surprise. Secondly, they involve treasure, they involve significance, they involve something that is important to us. Our tests in our life deal not with the loss of what is trivial to us, but the loss of what is treasure to us. Surprise, and then loss of something important to us. The third word is disillusionment. When tests come into our life, they often cause us to be disillusioned with other people who forsake us, or perhaps a God we feel has abandoned us. But the final word, after surprise, and loss, and disillusionment, is the word deliverance.
When we hit rock bottom, many times, God doesn't immediately deliver us out of the pit, but he sends some encouragement along the way to remind us that he is still working in our life, and that's what happened to Joseph. He was left in that pit, when suddenly, out of nowhere, some Ishmaelite traders came, and they purchased Joseph out of the pit from his brothers. And God used that to send Joseph to a foreign land, to Egypt, where he would be ready for the next chapter of his life. And that leads to Joseph's elevation. Look at Genesis 39:1. "Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an Egyptian officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the bodyguard, bought him from the Ishmaelites, who had taken him down there".
Who was this Potiphar? It says that he is the captain of the bodyguard. He was in control over a number of important soldiers in Pharaoh's court. Perhaps you could liken him to the head of the secret service in our culture today. Other commentators say that he was the chief executioner, and in the land of Egypt, that means he was very busy executing Pharaoh's enemies all of the time. Regardless of who or what his position was, it's very clear he was a high-ranking Egyptian official, he was an experienced military officer, and he was a hardened man. There's nothing in this entire story that indicates he was a man of faith. So why did he buy Joseph? Out of compassion? He felt sorry for him? Not at all. He needed another slave around the house. He wasn't planning on freeing Joseph, he was just buying him. And you could get a foreign slave a lot cheaper than you could a local one, so he saw a good deal and he took it.
Yeah, just think about it. Just a few weeks earlier, Joseph had been strutting around the house in that multicolored tunic, he was the favored son of a patriarch, he stood to inherit a vast fortune, and in just a matter of weeks, his situation changed dramatically. You know, when God sends tests into our life, they often involve drastic and sudden changes in our life we never anticipated.
I remember, some years ago, I was preaching at one of our seminary chapels, and my host introduced me to a man there, an older student, who served as a painter in the seminary. And they told me his remarkable story. They said that this man had once been an up-and-coming pastor. People knew him, he was invited to preach everywhere. He was a gifted thinker known for his insights on the culture. But then, a rare disease struck his nervous system, and it wiped out most of his memory. And the doctor said the best thing he could do would be to go back to seminary and retake and relearn everything he had studied. He had to begin all over again in a brand-new life.
There's some of you who know what I'm talking about. Perhaps an event not of your choosing has come into your life, a divorce, a financial reversal, the loss of a job, and you're having to start over again. That's how Joseph felt. Suddenly, without announcement, he's placed into a foreign country, separated from his family, and, from his perspective, abandoned by his God. But notice what verse 2 says. "But the Lord was with Joseph". God had not abandoned Joseph. This was all part of God's plan. And so Joseph became a successful man, "And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian". Now look at verse 3. "Now, his master," that is, Potiphar, "Saw that the Lord was with Joseph, and how the Lord caused all that Joseph did to prosper in his hand".
You know, that is a remarkable verse, when you think about it, it says that Potiphar recognized that the Lord was with Joseph. Many have pointed out that Moses, who wrote this account, when he got to the word Lord or God, he didn't use the more generic term for God, Elohim. He used the name Yahweh, the most holy name for the God of Israel, the covenant-keeping God of Israel. Now, if Potiphar was a pagan living in Egypt, how did he know anything about Yahweh, the God of Israel? Easy. Joseph told him, he told Potiphar, about Yahweh. When Potiphar said, "Joseph, you're unusual. You're different than the other slaves. I want to know, what makes you tick"? He gave glory to the God that he served.
Now, remember, in this culture, Joseph never would have volunteered to talk to his master uninvited to do so. But when asked, he used the opportunity to share his faith. Now think about it. If Joseph had been a lazy, no-account slave, do you think Potiphar would want to know about his God, what made him the way he was? Of course not. It was because there was something different about Joseph. And if I could just stop here and say this, if you're a lazy, no-account employee, one of these people who punches in late and punches out early every day, and some day, you wake up and think you're going to share your faith with your employer, can I give you a suggestion? Don't do it. Keep your faith to yourself. Please don't let anybody know you're a Christian. If they ask you about your faith, tell them you're a Muslim, or a Mormon, or something else. Oh, sharing your faith will only bring dishonor to the name of Jesus Christ. No, the people who are great witnesses at the workplace or in school are those who are diligent in their work, who do their work enthusiastically under the Lord.
And remember, 1 Peter 3:15 says, "If anybody asks you for an answer for the hope that is within you, be prepared, be ready". If you're different than other people, if you do your work enthusiastically unto the Lord, don't be surprised if people ask you about your faith. Potiphar was so impressed, look at this, verse 6, that "He left everything he owned in Joseph's charge, and with him, he didn't concern about anything except the food which he ate". He turned more and more over to Joseph because he trusted him so much. He gave him the checkbook. He was in charge of all of the money in Potiphar's household. He was in charge of overseeing all of the other slaves. The only thing Potiphar had to worry about was what he was going to eat for dinner that night.
Now, that's how much confidence he had in his slave Joseph. Now, notice this what amounts to a parenthesis in verse 6. "Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance". The new international version says, "Joseph was well-built and handsome". Why is that important? Because it sets us up for the next episode in Joseph's life. He moves from elevation to temptation. Look at verse 7, Joseph's temptation. "It came about after these events". Now, don't rush by those words too quickly. Any time you see something like that in the Bible, stop and say, "After what events"? Think about all that had happened to Joseph. Delivered safely out of the pit to Egypt, purchased by Potiphar, elevated to chief steward in Potiphar's household. It was one blessing after another Joseph had experienced. He had seen the hand of God in his life, and that's when the temptation came.
Thomas Carlyle said, "For every 100 people who can handle adversity, only one can handle prosperity". Did you know, sometimes temptation comes not when we're suffering, but when we're being blessed by God? Many times, it's during times of blessing that we feel self-sufficient, that we don't need God. It's during times of suffering, many times, that we walk more closely with God than ever. We know our dependence on him is total, not partial. But when we're being blessed by God, sometimes we get the idea we're responsible for our blessing, and that's when Satan tempts us. This is when the temptation came. "It came after these events that Potiphar's wife looked with desire at Joseph, and she said, 'lie with me'".
Now, that is a tame, vanilla translation of what the Hebrew says. You know what she really said? "Have sex with me, Joseph". Today, we would call it a hookup. She was just looking for a hookup, a sexual hook-up with Joseph. No Romance, no flowers, no dinner, no commitment, just some hot steamy sex. Man, she knew how to appeal to a man's heart, didn't she? She thought that's what Joseph would go for, sex with a beautiful woman. And so, how did he respond? Look at verse 8. Three simple words, "But he refused". He refused!
I've just gotta stop there and just say something. Joseph was 40 years old at this point, healthy male, not married, but he refused. You know, we live in a culture right now that says, "Well, if you're single and not married, I mean, you can't remain a virgin forever. I mean, you can't keep resisting sex forever. Eventually, you have to give in, because if you don't give in and keep all those desires inside, you'll explode, like mount Vesuvius. You'll damage some of your body parts if you don't give in". You know, people really believe that! We're taught that, that it's just unnatural to say no to sex, over and over and over again. We're also told, today, if you happen to be somebody who is attracted to somebody of the same sex, and you're attracted to that person, you want to have sex with them, well, God made you that way. You're designed that way. And to say no to sex? Why, that is, in some ways, blaspheming your Creator, who gave you that same-sex attraction. That is a lie from the pit of hell. The fact is, as a Christian, you have a choice. You can say no. We are not animals who have to follow every inclination that we have.
Joseph refused. And he said to his master's wife, "'behold, with me here, my master, Potiphar, and your husband, doesn't concern himself with anything in the house, and he's put all that he owns in my charge. There is no one greater in this house than i, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife'". In other words, "How could I sin against your husband when he's done so much for me"? Not to mention that he's the chief executioner. "I mean, how could I do such a thing against Potiphar"? But then, he gave an even greater reason for refusing. Notice the last sentence of verse 9. "'and how then could I do this great evil and sin against God'"? To him, to Joseph, that was unthinkable, sinning against God. You know, my friend, R.T. Kendall, in his commentary on the life of Joseph, writes that, "It's our love for God alone that will keep us from falling into sin". He says, "Nobody is exempt from temptation, but if we do not have a love for God that is greater than the intensity of the temptation, we will give in. It is then that we discover what we are really like".
Listen to me. When you're alone, separated from people you don't know, when you might feel abandoned by God, when temptation comes and there's no consequences on the horizon whatsoever, what's going to keep you from giving in? It's not the words of your parents. It's not the sermons from your pastor. It's not even a fear of consequences. It is a love for God, and God alone, that will keep you from sin. Notice that sentence, "Unless we have a love for God that is greater than the intensity of that temptation, we will give in". The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. That was Joseph. He couldn't imagine sinning against God. And how did Mrs. Potiphar respond to his refusal? Look at verse 10. And Mrs. Potiphar said, "Joseph, you're right. I am so ashamed of myself. Will you please pray with me, so that I can become a Christian and have the same strength you do"?
What are y'all laughing at? Isn't that what your Bible says? Mine doesn't either. Look at verse 10. "And she spoke to Joseph day after day". She wasn't about to give up. Ladies and gentlemen, don't fall for the delusion that once you say no to sin, whew, you can rest. It's gone. On to the next challenge. It doesn't work that way. One of my concerns about what goes on in Christianity today, I've got lots of concerns, but one of them is what I call deliverance theology. This idea that if you just pray a certain prayer or have a certain experience, you can be delivered, once and for all, from temptation and sin. There is no one-time deliverance from sin. The Christian life is a battle that goes on and on and on and on. Paul says, "For we struggle not against flesh and blood, but against the unseen forces of darkness in heavenly places". She came to him day after day. What did he do? He did not listen to her to lie beside her or to be with her.
You know, she was very smart in how she approached Joseph. She probably said something to him like, "Honey bunny, come here and lie next to mama. I promise I'll keep my hands to myself. I'll be a good girl. I just need somebody to hold me. I need somebody who understands me. That old brute Potiphar, he doesn't understand me. But I can tell you understand me. We just need to talk, maybe hold hands a little bit. Is that okay"? What did he say? He didn't fall for that. He didn't listen to her. He didn't lie beside her. He doesn't even want to be with her. He looks for every way possible to keep away from this woman. You know, there's a good word here for us. When you face temptation, you don't see how close to the edge you can get. You don't allow for a little bit of sin just to satisfy yourself.
I think of the words of a proverb I read in Chuck Swindoll's commentary. This proverb says, "He who wants to keep his garden tidy doesn't reserve a plot for weeds". If you're really intent on living a pure life that God blesses, you don't allow just a little bit of sin in your life and think you're doing something great because you don't have more sin in your life. Paul says it this way in Romans 13:14. "Make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts". Don't allow any sin in your life. Verse 11, "Now it happened one day that as Joseph went into the house to do his work, none of the men of the household was there inside". Joseph had the right intentions. He was going into the house to do his work. He walks in, nobody's there. He said, "Did I not get the memo? Is this memorial day, the fourth of July? Well, why's nobody here"? He was perplexed by that. We know exactly what happened. Mrs. Potiphar arranged for everybody to have an extra day off that day. Verse 12 says, "And she caught him by his garment, saying, 'lie with me'"! "Have sex with me"! She's got hold of Joseph. Now, what does he do in this moment?