March 4, 2015

4 Mar 2015

Message:  “Temptation Got a Hold on You?”

 Preacher Larry

        Over the last week I have come across some things in a Bible Study I do on Thurs nights, that has helped me to think of “Temptation,” in a little different light.  So tonight I want to explore that with you, and hopefully after this message you will see where I am coming from, as well as being able to approach those temptations in your life, with a different mindset and more authority.  But first let’s try get a better understanding of our temptations.  So here goes:  the message is called, “Temptation got a hold on you?”  

Many of us suffer unnecessarily because of our misperceptions about temptation.

The first one is:  Expecting your temptations to cease-or at least decrease. When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, they had the same expectation. They were surprised that the Canaanites were still in the land. So they got discouraged, thinking they must have gone the wrong way. “Surely this couldn’t be the land of promise,” they thought.  God’s Word makes it clear that the Christian life, from start to finish, is warfare. Paul says we are called to “wrestle…against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph 6:12). And your level of tempta­tion increases as you draw closer to God. Notice: When Israel first left Egypt, God didn’t lead them through Philistine territory, “though that was shorter. For God said, If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt'” (Ex 13:17 NIV). God understood their fledgling faith, and protected them from their enemies. But later, when their faith had grown, He permitted them to face seven powerful nations. And just like the Promised Land, the promised life of victory requires you to deal with temptation, and wrestle your way through to victory, believing that “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 Jn 4:4). Indeed, their enemy’s attack, proved that Israel was in the Promised Land. So experiencing temptations, is proof you are truly, abiding in Christ.  Think about that.  Temptation means Gods part of your life. 

 The second misperception is: Temptation is sin. The Devil wants you to blame yourself for the temptations you experience. Why? Because when you believe that you are the source of it, you feel condemned and discouraged. As you indulge in feelings of discour­agement, you become an easy prey, and Satan convinces you to go ahead and yield to the temptation. Ironically, you yield to sin, through the fear of having already fallen. Don’t fall for it, the temptation itself isn’t sin, the sin only occurs when you yield to it! Many of us feel like we’re spiritually deficient, distant from God, maybe even phonies, because we think we initiated the temptation ourselves. Imagine a burglar in your house, and when you detect him he accuses “you” of being the burglar! What kind of nonsense is that!!  Would you believe him? Of course not! Yet that’s Satan’s approach with us. After he tempts us, he accuses us with thoughts like “A real Christian would never have such thoughts!” Knowing our own weakness, his accusations sound plausible, and we believe him. Then we feel condemned, we spiral into discouragement, and yield to the temptation. Understand this: Condemnation comes from Satan (See I Ti  3:6). The Bible says, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Ro 8:1 NIV). When Satan sends temptation, the Holy Spirit goes to work in us, helping us to reject his sug­gestions, and reminding us of Jesus’ availability to help us triumph. “Because Jesus was tempted as we are.. .He understands us and He is able to help us when we are tempted” (See Heb 2:18). So when you’re tempted, reject Satan’s condemnation, and reach for Christ’s overcoming assistance.

Satan knows that when you recognize him as the source of your temptation, he loses his advantage. He knows that when you understand that “he” initiated the temptation, you’ll recoil from it faster than if you think you yourself are the source of it.  If Satan approached you and said, “I’ve come to make you sin and feel condemned,” your vulnerability to his temptations would evaporate! He won’t tell you that—but if you remember it, you’ll have the advantage over him. As Paul puts it, “We are not ignorant about Satan’s scheming” (2Co 2:11 GWT).

Another misperception is:  Temptation is time lost and effort wasted. In long periods of temptation, we feel like we’ve lost ground rather than gained it. There again, that’s not true, with­standing temptation is “[fighting] the good fight of faith” (1Ti 6:12), and that’s when God develops your character. “When all kinds of.. .temptations crowd into your lives.. .Realize that they come to.. .produce in you the quality of endurance,” and when that happens, “you will find you have become men [and women] of mature character” (Jas 1:2-4 PHPS). Indeed, your compensation goes far beyond your present development.  Your reward for resisting temptation will be eternal.  God’s glorious guarantee is this: “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation.. .he shall receive the crown of life” (Jas 1:12). 

One of the biggest sources of our temptations begins in our mind.  Things we see, things we hear, trigger thoughts in our mind. Be careful what you allow into your mind, because your thoughts run your life. You say, “But thoughts come at me every day from all directions: at home, at work, through the media, in my relationships, and in my private world. How can I manage my mind, successfully?” The answer’s surprisingly simple. You can be transformed by making this one decision:

I will submit my thoughts to the authority of Jesus. It’s easy to overlook the significance of Christ’s claim: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Mt 28:18 NIV). Jesus controls everything in heaven and on earth. That means He has the final say on everything-including your thoughts. He has more authority, for example, than your parents. Your parents may have told you you’re worthless, but Jesus says you’re valuable, and He has authority over your parents. He even has more authority over you than you do. You may tell yourself you’re too bad to be forgiven, but Jesus has a different opinion. And when you repent and give Him authority over your life, those old con­demning thoughts are no longer allowed.

 Jesus also has authority over your ideas. Sup­pose, for example, you get an idea about robbing a grocery store. Jesus has already made it clear, that stealing is wrong, and if you’ve given Him authority over your mind, then the idea of stealing, can’t linger in your mind. To manage your mind successfully, all you have to do is submit your thoughts to the authority of Christ. Will it happen overnight? No, but with practice and commitment you’ll get better at it.  Last week in our Thurs night bible study, I was reminded that when God looks at us, as individuals, He see Jesus.  That was hard to visualize, as I consider myself to be a sinner.  Yes God forgives me for those sins that I commit, because when I asked Him into my life, I received the free gift of Forgiveness.  But what I failed to visualize, was that when I accepted Jesus into my life, I was made righteous in God’s eyes.  He doesn’t see me as a sinner.  So each time I am confronted with temptation, I visualize God looking at me and seeing Jesus, because I was made Righteous, through Jesus’ Blood.  Once Jesus died on the cross for us, and we became born again, we are no longer under the law.  We are under the Blood of Jesus!!

Take a moment to consider this question. How do you respond when you’re tempted? Do you say, “I’m in love with him.  He’s married and I know it’s wrong, but I can’t help it” The point is, you actually can. You can spend an hour listening to stories from women who lost their husbands to infidelity. Look into the eyes of their children. Hear the betrayal, and see the broken promises in their eyes. When you do, you’ll think new thoughts! The Bible says, “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not the lust of the flesh” (Gal 5:16 NKJV). At any moment, you can turn your mind to God and your thoughts will change. Feelings are like spoiled children; they can take a little to come around. But if you keep your mind “fixed” on God, your feelings will eventually line up with your thoughts.

  And looking back, you’ll be glad you were guided by God instead of your im­pulses. It’s as if there’s a little network called HSN (Holy Spirit Network) where you can tune in at any time. When you ask God to guide your thoughts, then pause and listen to what He says—He will guide you.

“You” determine the outcomes in your life, because God has given no one but “you,” power over your options. When things aren’t working out for us, we often look elsewhere for the reason. Like Eve, we say, “The devil made me do it.” No, Jesus said, “I give unto you power…over all the power of the enemy” (Lk 10:19). Like Adam, we say, “Eve made me do it” But the Psalmist says, “I trust God, so I am not afraid. What can human beings do to me?” (Ps 56:4 NCV). Sometimes we believe circumstances beyond our control are responsible. Ro 8:28 says but with God “all things {including people and circumstances] work together for [our] good” – not for our defeat! Your misbeliefs victimize you and predispose you, to a lifestyle of trying to change people and circumstances. That’s like attempting to unscramble an egg. You become a blame-fixer, instead of a problem-solver. Accept the truth that no matter what Satan, others, or circumstances do, God gives you the right to the last word in your life. “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 Jn 4:4). The outcome is not determined by what goes on “around” you, but by what goes on “within” you. “As he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Pr 23:7 NKJV). The Devil can only determine the outcome with your permission and cooperation—and you don’t have to give it to him! So believe in God’s ability to bring you triumphantly through any temptation.

You need to understand what is happening when you are tempted.  But then you need to manage what is going on in your mind.  If you respond appropriately, the outcome will be “VICTORY” over that temptation.  So we are back to that original question:  Does “Temptation got a hold on you??”  Doesn’t have to!!