Killing Temptation, Starving Sin (1 Corinthians Sermon 33)
September 15, 2019 | Andrew Davis
1 Corinthians 10:12-13
War Against the Flesh, The Power of Sin
I. The Constant Danger to Our Souls
Turn in your Bibles to the text you just heard read, 1 Corinthians Chapter 10. We're looking this morning at two verses in particular, and zeroing in on the topic of temptations. And I want to begin by talking about something I know almost nothing about. So that's a bad idea, already. So we're already somewhat at a deficit position but I'm talking about fishing. I know nothing about, almost nothing about fishing. And I know that there's a number of expert fishermen in our congregation that are probably going to be willing, after this sermon to set me straight on some things I'm about to say. But despite the fact that I grew up across the street from a very good fishing hole, in Framingham, Massachusetts, and there were numbers of people that fished there. I never did, honestly, I didn't appreciate either the process or the product of fishing.
So, just sitting there with a pole in my hand, and with my lack of knowledge, I was guaranteed to be unsuccessful. I'll talk about that more in a moment. But then, what did you get? You got a fish and I can't stand seafood, I can't stand fish of any sort, so why would I do that? So I'd worked all that through and I just didn't do that. But there are some expert fishermen here. My son was roommate to somebody who was on the NC State fishing team. I didn't know there was a fishing team at NC State, not only that, that they've won three national championships at Bass fishing. They go to local lakes here, and they just they go out in pairs and teams, and if anyone from that school wins the tournament, they're national champions. And they know a lot about Bass fishing. Some of you go like deep sea fishing. You go out to Wilmington and your charter a boat, and you're looking for a blue marlin or sailfish, some trophy fish and you're good at that.
I don't know if there's any fly-fishermen here. I've heard that that takes some of the highest level of intelligence, to be able to skillfully tie a fly, make it look like exactly the kind of flies that'd be flying over a specific stream in a specific time. And not only that, but the casting technique to be able to lay the line down gently, so that those very apparently very intelligent trout who apparently have very good eyesight can tell the difference between a poor technique and one that's just right. So the concept though with fishing seems to be a study of the habit patterns of the fish, where they pool and congregate at different times of day and what they like to eat. And so, a study also of the bait.
Number of years ago, I read a book by a Puritan, Thomas Brooks, entitled Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices. And it talks about how we can be aware of and guard against the way the devil tempts us to sin. And the first precious remedy against Satan's, the first device he talked about was Satan's skill at lavishing on the bait and hiding the hook. He is really good at choosing, studying your habit patterns and knowing the right bait to use, but hiding the hook. What will happen to you if you swallow that bait in that hook in that line? And so my purpose today as I stand before you is to help you be aware of the baited hooks that are around you every day, and there are far more than you think there are. We are tempted continually towards sin, by a very shrewd expert angler or fisherman for our souls, and that is the devil. He's been at it a long time, he is skillful and he knows how to bait the hook and hide it from us.
My job this morning is to take the bait off, so you can see the hook and the line and what it is Satan's trying to do. And how he is trying to destroy your soul, how he's trying to destroy my soul by sin. Look again at Verse 13, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man and God is faithful, He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear but with the temptation will make a way of escape so that you can bear up," or "stand up under it." So the word temptation is mentioned multiple times, "No temptation has seized you. He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear, with the temptation He'll provide the way of escape." So this is all about temptation. That's what we're studying here today.
The Three-Fold Enemy: The World, the Flesh, and the Devil
Now we're in enemy territory, we need to know that, while we live between now and the time we depart this earth, we will be in enemy territory. We have an ancient triad of enemies just like every generation of Christians has had to face. We have to face the same triad, generally called the world, the flesh and the devil.
Let's take it with the devil first. Satan is portrayed in 1 Peter 5, like a lion that prowls around, a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. He's constantly on the loose, he's vicious, powerful and skillful. And you have to be self-controlled and alert, you have to be aware of what the devil does. Now, one of the most disconcerting concepts here in this topic is the devil in some mysterious way, seems to have access to our minds. He's able to plant thoughts in our minds. Some people question this, they think it's not true. But think this way, do you remember how an angel warned Joseph in a dream to depart and take Mary and the baby Jesus and flee to Egypt? And then after that, after Herod had died, an angel spoke again to Joseph in a dream and told him that those who were seeking the child's life were dead. So, that's actual information imparted by an angel into Joseph's mind directly by a dream.
Satan's a fallen angel. So in some mysterious way, he is able to plant thoughts in our minds. So the temptation is a matter of the battle for the mind, of taking every thought captive, as another verse says. And he has something that the Bible calls schemes. Schemes. For example, Ephesians 6:11 says, "Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes." So that's the devil, that's what we're dealing with. He has demons who do his work. He has got a dark kingdom, he is very intelligent, he is skillful, and he has demons perhaps, that are assigned to you. Probably the opposite of a guardian angel would be a harassing demon or demons, that study you and are aware of your weaknesses and come after you with certain thoughts that lead you toward sin. So that's the devil.
We also have the world. We studied some of that in the Bible for Life class I was teaching where there's that evil world system that's filled with alluring tempting things, tempting us toward a love of possessions of money, a love of pleasure, sexual pleasure, other types of pleasures, love of power and prestige. Those things that the world offers, that evil world system, Satan's masterpiece, is around us at all times constantly beckoning us and drawing us.
And then the enemy within: The flesh, sin nature, we have within us the seeds of our own destruction. And Paul talks about it very clearly in Romans 7, he says there "I do not understand what I do." There's a basic irrationality, a basic insanity to sin. "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." And then he says, "As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh, for I have the desire to do what is good but I cannot carry it out." So I see this law at work in my mind and heart, which is to love God and to follow Him. But I see another law at work in my members making me a prisoner of a law of sin at work within my members, drawing me away from righteousness. "What a wretched man I am, who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God."
Some day we'll be delivered. But right now, we're not yet delivered and so we have to fight the flesh, and the flesh is the enemy within which gets up in the middle of the night and opens the gate to the outside enemies and connects with them. And so, there is both the external pulling of temptation, Satan prompting us, but then James said, "Each one is tempted when by his own desire he is dragged away and enticed." So there's an evil partnership between Satan in the world on the outside, and then us on the inside and we partner to achieve sin. So that's what we're talking about, temptation.
Temptation: A Magnetic Pull
So what is it, what is temptation? Well, for me as an ex-mechanical engineer, I tend to think of it like a magnetic pull, like a magnet, it's this invisible force on me. I remember when I was an engineer, I worked in semiconductor manufacturer, and we had these things called permanent magnets. Samarium-cobalt magnet, rare earth magnets 250 to 500 times stronger than a refrigerator magnet. This thing was amazing, it was a fun toy. You could do things with this magnet, like you could put it on one side of a wall, and stick paper clips, paper clips would just stick to the wall because the magnetic force was going right through the drywall. If you held it in your hand, you just take a paper clip, and throw it within about a five to seven-foot radius and it'll go, thunk, right to that magnet. It was awesome. Until you put it near your wallet and all your credit cards interacted with the magnetic flux lines, and the next time you tried to use it, gone, what a mystery. I shouldn't tell this, but I wrote a note to my roommate Paul, his name was Paul, "Very important that you," whatever, and covered it up with this magnet. He couldn't move it. And we both had to push as hard as we could to slide it to the edge of the refrigerator to pry it off. Strong magnet.
So that's what we are in, we are in a magnetic pull that's outside of us, that corresponds to, I don't know, iron inside our souls in this analogy that connects and draws us off the path. So none of us is driving a straight path to heaven, but we're very swervey and crooked in the way we drive because we're constantly being pulled by temptations. So that's what it is. A magnetic pull, Satan has the power to get into our brains and pull us toward him. Let me give you some scenarios.
Imagine somebody who had struggled in the past with alcoholism, struggled with drunkenness, comes to faith in Christ, is forgiven of all of his sins, but knows he now has a battle on his hands, he's gotta stop drinking. And so he's very serious about that. He put some distance between himself and his last drink. But one day he is driving home and there's a club where he used to go and there are people in there. He saw somebody going in there, he recognized him and he, as he's driving feels a pull to pull into the parking lot and go in. There's a pull on his heart and he's got to think certain things. Now, that pull wouldn't be there for maybe 90% plus of you, not there for me, but for him it's a pull and he feels it and he's got a fight and he starts to sweat, his heart rate goes up, he feels something pulling on him because of his past habits. So, that's temptation.
We could think about a scenario that I myself sadly have gone through, get into a marital conflict. You're in a conflict, and as you're saying some things, you're getting heated up. And then suddenly something pops in your mind to say, and if you're not careful, you might say it. And that the weird thing is you don't even believe that it's true. It's not really you, but you didn't have the discernment at that moment because of your carnal anger, you're handed a weapon that isn't even from you and it says clearly in 2 Timothy 2, that the devil can take us captive to do his will, temporarily even. And so you can actually hurl something that is going to be very, very hard to unsay. And you're like, "Where did that come from? Where did those words come from?" It comes from an invisible spiritual force that's surrounding you and handing you concepts and if you're not careful, you'll have a lot of healing in that relationship to go through because you said something that was so hurtful. So it's just constantly a battle, we've got to fight these things. And so, this is of the essence of the Christian life.
Romans Chapter 8 depicts the life of the Spirit versus the life of the flesh. It goes in, in Romans 8, to talking about the mind of the flesh which is death and the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace, and it's just two different ways to live: The Christian life, the non-Christian life. And then he brings the Roman Christians to this clear statement, Romans 8:13 and 14, he says there, "If you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. Because those who are led by the Spirit of God, these are the children of God." So that's vital. If you live that life of the flesh, the mind of the flesh, and the lifestyle of the flesh, you're going to die and go to hell. You're going to be living in death now, spiritual death now, and it's going to be confirmed on Judgment Day, by the dreadful words Jesus speaks "Depart from me, you who are cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels", what the Bible calls the second death. If you live that kind of life, you will die that death.
But if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. There's just two different ways to live. So don't be deceived. That life of the Spirit is a life of warfare, it's a life of battle, you're never going to get away from it while you live in this world. And you have to, you have to, by the Spirit, put to death the deeds of the body. And if you do, you will live. Because, you can almost put the word "only" in there, only those who are lead like this by the Spirit into battle are the children of God. If you are not battling sin by the Spirit, you're not a child of God, do not be deceived. And so this is the warfare that we're in.
On the Mortification of Sin
John Owen, in the 17th century, Puritan theologian, wrote On the Mortification of Sin, the putting to death of sin in believers. He had some powerful things to say, he said, "The vigor and power and comfort of our spiritual life depend on the mortification of the deeds of the flesh." You will be weak therefore, powerless and comfortless in your Christian life, if you do not vigorously mortify sin. He said, "You must mortify, you must make it your daily work, you must be constantly at it while you live. Cease not a day from this work. Be killing sin or sin will be killing you." That's very clear, isn't it? We have got to fight sin by the power of the Spirit.
II. Eternal Vigilance the Price of Freedom
And so from the text, verse 12, it gives us this idea of a constant vigilance needed. Maybe you've heard about this statement that we need to be aware of the sin all the time. Now, he says, "If you think you're standing firm, take heed, lest ye fall." Let's try to understand the context. Paul is addressing for three chapters 1 Corinthians 8, 9, and 10, he is addressing the problem of meat sacrificed to idols, the lifestyle of paganism that the Corinthians had been living before. Alright, so it was a pagan city with pagan temples that offered animals in sacrifice to false gods and goddesses. And they combined that animal sacrifice with sexual immorality, with temple prostitutes, male and female, and that combination of eating delicious foods and sexual immorality was very powerful.
It was alluring all over the world, it was very powerful there in Corinth. People worshipped these false gods and goddesses by having immoral relations with the temple prostitutes and by eating delicious meat. Then Paul came and preached the Gospel in that dark city and he resolved to know nothing while he was with them, except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. He preached that Jesus Christ has died on the cross for sins, for sinners like you and me, and God raised Him from the dead. And if you repent of your sins and trust in Christ, you'll be forgiven. And many Corinthians came out of that darkness and came to faith in Christ. And he organized them in this church, the church of the Corinthians. And as it turns out, there was an issue concerning, ongoing eating of meat at the temple or in the marketplace. What should we do? And some of the Corinthian Christians had understood the doctrine that there is only one God, and that gods and goddesses don't really exist and idols are nothing, they're just chunks of wood or metal or stone. And that meat is just meat and Jesus had declared all foods clean, so they were just living freely, and eating whatever they wanted. And in their freedom, they were dragging down some brothers and sisters who weren't quite there yet in their minds, who are weak in their consciences.
And Paul gave a basic principle. He doesn't say it literally like this, but this is what we've been saying. Love limits liberty. Your freedom is limited by your love for your brothers and sisters. So just because you have the freedom to do something, don't do it if it's going to hurt your brother or sister. Then Paul gave himself in chapter 9 as an example of someone who lives like that. He didn't take money for preaching the Gospel, though he had the right, he limited his liberty. And then in terms of evangelism, if he went to a Gentile home, he became like a Gentile, in amoral things, in whatever way he could, what he ate, how he dressed, how he acted in amoral things, he became like a gentile to win the Gentiles. If he went to a Jewish home, he became like a Jew to win the Jews, he became all things to all people. So by all possible means, he might save some. And so just in general, he didn't worry about what he liked, what foods he enjoyed eating. He kept himself under control. He beat his own body and made his body like a slave, so that he could be maximally fruitful for the Gospel, but also, so that he wouldn't be disqualified for the prize.
He had to watch himself. Like, "Paul you were never a pagan. You never got involved with idols and with temple prostitutes," he would stop and say just... Do you have any idea what a problem that was in Jewish history? What the Canaanite religion was about? What led Jewish men into wickedness? Don't you know our history? And so he goes right into the history of the Jews, he said, "It was because of idolatry and sexual immorality, that that generation of Jews that went through the Red Sea, never made it in the Promised Land. Don't you learn the lesson from that?" We've got to be vigilant over our own souls. And so, he's dealing with idolatry.
So look what he says, "Therefore, if anyone thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall." I'm speaking to you strong ones, you got the doctrine all figured out, you know, you better watch out. You may be just one step from relapsing back into paganism. You think you're standing firm, take heed lest you fall.
Now, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man." There are common temptations here, but God is faithful, He's not going to let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, with the temptation He's going to make the way of escape, so you can bear up under it. But then look at verse 14. We didn't read it this morning but go ahead, "Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry." You see the context here, what he's saying. They are still in danger, even the strong ones among them. So that's the context. So if you think you're standing firm, take heed, watch lest you fall. At the entrance to the National Archives Building in Washington DC, there's an inscription in marble, it says this, "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." So above that inscription, is a statue of a scary-looking warrior holding a helmet and a sword, ready to fight. Outside the National Archives in Washington DC. Many people think that Thomas Jefferson said it, eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. Actually, it was said by an Irish orator and politician John Philpot Curran, he said in Dublin 1790, "The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance."
Now they're talking about political liberty in a world surrounded by military enemies and nations that want to come and take what you have. Well, you need to be on the walls, in your free world, on the walls all the time and be vigilant, because we have enemies and we got to watch. Well, if that's true, militarily and politically, how much more true is it for us as Christians? You want to be free in Christ, Christ has set you free, you're free from the condemnation of your sins, there is no condemnation for you, because you're in Christ Jesus. Great, Christ has set you free from condemnation, He set you free from sin itself. You are no longer a slave to sin, He's set you free from sin, so you're free. Well, if you think that you're free, you better be vigilant over sin, if you want to stay free and not go back into the chains of sin and wickedness. So if you think you're standing firm, you better take heed lest you fall.
So what does that mean, to take heed? Take heed, literally, the Greek word is just be watchful, you better watch, be vigilant, watch, watch yourself, watch your temptations, watch your life, watch your behavior, find out what's happening, what habits are growing in your life, how are you living, what's actually going on, watch. Like Jesus said to Peter and James and John in Gethsemane, watch and pray, so that you will not fall into temptation. Spirit is willing, but the body is weak. So your enemy, the devil, is prowling around looking for someone to devour, you got to be alert every single day.
III. The Worldwide Experience of Temptation
For the Corinthians, getting into their world, it'd be just walking by the temple, they're just walking by and they can smell that meat, and then they see a temple prostitute, maybe they've interacted with multiple times before. And maybe she sees him, he sees her and she might call out to him, siren call to his own destruction, he's just got to walk on by. She even probably knows he's claiming to be a Christian now, and she's got special focus on him at that particular moment.
But for us it's different, we don't struggle like that, we have our own struggles. Perhaps the allure of internet pornography, never been easier. Because of these smartphones that just deliver the world to your eyeballs instantly all the time, 24/7. We've got to look at that alluring call. Maybe it's the enticing call of a worldly prosperous life and material prosperity. And so you're being enticed toward materialism. Maybe it's an addiction to electronic games, maybe you just spend a lot of your time playing or entertaining yourself with movies and just living for that. Might be some other sin habit, overeating, oversleeping, maybe it's procrastination. Watch and pray, watch and pray, watch and pray.
Maybe it's gossip, phone rings, friend on the other end of the phone, and you begin talking to this friend, and you're having a good conversation, but someone else comes up and you know that your friend, you and this friend have had a habit in the past of gossiping, of laying people low, of making yourself feel better because you're not like that. And you've become aware of that pattern in your life, and now, it's time to put an end to it, and say, "You know... Tell you what, why don't we pray for that person?" Or something. You're just going to have some new habit, but you got to watch and pray that you'll not go down a path you've been down so many times before, big sins and little sins.
Perhaps it's complaining. What's your commute like these days? Mine's getting harder. I don't know if you've noticed that, and we've got the population of this area is just growing and growing and growing. And I used to have a way to get where I wanted to go that seemed like very few people knew about. Not anymore, they know. And so I've found myself more irritable while driving than I remember. It's starting to... There are some irritating moments that come. Everybody, it seems either they're too fast or too slow. I don't understand that. But there I am and I find myself complaining, or complaining about anything. Do you have that pattern of discontent in your life, where you just are complaining about something at least once a day? And it's like, the time has come to say no to that temptation. So if you think you're standing firm, you better watch lest you fall back into sin.
Now, this temptation is a worldwide experience, it's not something we face alone. Look again at Verse 13. "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man," temptations we face every day are common around the world, there's nothing unusual about you, or us. It's not some new menu that he's got, that Satan's got to concoct in every generation, same thing, lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, boastful pride of life, every generation, it works, he's not very creative. It's just effective, these lusts, they work. And so the temptations we face are common to man, it's common to everybody.
IV. God’s Faithfulness in Filtering our Temptations
But God is faithful in filtering our temptations. Look what he says, "God is faithful and will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear." This is so marvelous, the faithfulness of God in all of this. It isn't just Satan and his demons that are studying you, God knows you better than you know yourself, and He knows you better than Satan knows you. And He will not allow you to be handed over to your enemy, to be tempted however the devil wants to tempt you, He's not going to permit it.
Like in the hymn, How Firm A Foundation, listen to these words, "The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose, I will not, I will not desert to its foes. That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, I'll never, no never, no never forsake." That's the faithfulness of God. He is more committed to your final salvation than you are. We already heard 1 Thessalonians 5 earlier, I think it was Brian that cited it. 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24, says, "May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and He will do it." So God is faithful concerning your temptations, He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear. He's faithful even concerning your sins, your failures. Satan baits a hook, drops it in the water, looks good and you bite. You know you're hooked, you know you've sinned, the Holy Spirit convicts you, you get on your knees, you ask forgiveness. "If we confess our sins," 1 John 1:9, "He is faithful,and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
So like I do, I was working the image. So we're fish, we've swallowed a hook, what do we do now? Does he cut the line, does he get the hook out? It's more complicated than that, where you've been hooked before you can be hooked again. Maybe the line's still there, but you can still... You still are swimming. And he is teaching you how to get the hook out of your throat. This is complex. I would suggest don't swallow the hook to begin with. Because once you start bad habits, it's so hard to break them, but God is faithful and He will forgive you, whenever you take that baited hook, but He's also faithful to filter your temptations, and that's so powerful.
When we first moved into our house in Bahama, we're on a well, still on a well system, and we had no water filter for our well. I had never heard of a whole house water filter, so for a period of time, we drank water from our well. Then I heard about whole house water filters, and so I put one in and I'll never forget the first time I changed the cartridge. Now, that was a bad moment for me. It was nasty. And all of this sludge was there caught by the filter. Now, the filter has a membrane, and it allows water to pass through, but not the impurities. So I want you to picture the filter that God has set around you, He will not allow certain temptations in. God knows our weaknesses, it says in Psalm 139:1, "Oh Lord, You have searched me and You know me," he says in Psalm 103:14, "He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust." He knows there are some temptations that would destroy you, and He won't let them come. You would fail and it would ruin your world, and He won't let it happen.
So what that means is the tempter Satan is on a leash of some sort, he's limited. And we see this in Job chapter 1 and 2, don't we? How Satan has to come and ask permission. And he's frustrated, satanic frustration. I can't get at him, because you put a hedge around him and everything he has, remember that? That's what we mean by He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear. He puts a wall of protection around us. And then the Lord lifts some of that protection, and Satan can get at him, and he assaults Job's possessions, everything he has, and kills all of his children in one day, one dreadful day. So in Job's case, the temptations were massive, far greater than you will ever face in your life. That's the godliness of Job.
Case of others, He knows how weak we are, and He will not let Satan do what he would do in your life. He's on a leash. Pilgrim's Progress there's this image as he's walking along the path, Christian is walking, and he sees two lions on either side of the path, and he's terrified and he's frozen. Doesn't know what to do. But then a guide on the other side of the lions said, "Do not worry, the lions are leased, they're on a chain, you can't see it, if you stay on the path they cannot harm you. So that's the allegorical picture of Satan on a leash, he's limited. So what does that mean for you? Well, whatever temptations do come your way, what can you say about it? God allowed it to come, and He wants you to kill it. You can never say in a combination of temptations bringing you or your family through immense trial, say, "I can't handle this," it's just not true. God will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear.
Also, if you should fall in one of those temptation to sin, it is your fault. You need to take responsibility and own up to it. But overall, isn't it comforting to know that God is faithful in this sense, and He won't allow you to be tempted, and you're going to make it through successful in this world. To me, that's the comfort of this verse.
V. Standing Firm by Escaping
So how then do we handle it, how do we stand firm? Look what it says, "God is faithful, and will not allow you to be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, He will also provide a way of escape, so that you may be able to bear it" or stand firm under it. We are called to stand firm, we're called to take our stand on Christ, and to still stand. And so in Ephesians 6:10-13, it's in there four times, stand, stand firm, stand firm then, stand firm therefore, it's just very clear, we are to stand. So like a warrior fighting a battle, don't fall into sin. That's the image. Well, how do we bear up under it? Well, when the temptation comes, you just say no, by the power of the Spirit, there's nothing else for it. And it says in Titus 2, that the grace of God has come, it teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled and upright lives in this present age.
We are to say no to that temptation. And look for God's way of escape. It's like, "Oh God, get me out of here. Get me out of here, find the door, find the escape, get out. Like Joseph with Potiphar's wife. He left his cloak and ran for his life. So there's a strange image here, standing by running, standing by escaping. So this is how I put it together. The way of escape is given, the net is laid for your feet. But you never fell in it. You escaped it, you were able to get around it, or to circumvent it, or the ditch that Satan dug for you, you didn't fall in. And now you're still standing in Jesus. You like Jesus entered the temptation filled with the Spirit went into the desert, and He left it filled with the Spirit, that's your goal. So every time temptation comes pulling on your heart, your goal is to say no, to resist and to flee.
Alright, so what applications can we take from this? Well, first, I need to say that to any of you that came here today outside of Christ, you're not yet a Christian, call in this text is not for you to fight temptation, the call here is come to Christ. You cannot defeat sin apart from Christ. And you've already fallen into temptation, you're already condemned, you're under the law. The only hope for you is to flee to Christ. Jesus died on the cross for sinners like you and me who have failed and who will sadly continue to fail. Flee to Christ, and His death on the cross is God's only provision for our guilt, and His resurrection from the dead on the third day is His only provision for the energy and power by which we lead a holy life. Come to Christ. All you have to do is trust in Him, turn away from your temptations, away from your sins, and call on the name of the Lord, and you will be saved. And if that happens to you, then you have to heed this advice.
So what do I say to you Christians? First, prepare for battle, do not expect an easy journey to heaven. Prepare to suffer, Jesus suffered when He was tempted, prepare to suffer when you are tempted. Think of what Jesus said to Peter, "Watch and pray, so that you will not fall into temptation." Let me give you some specific elements, 10 of them, and I'll finish this sermon with this. First of all, understand the eternal stakes of this battle. If you live according to the flesh, you'll die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you'll live. Eternity is at stake. Now, we're not saved by our sanctification, we're not saved by how well we fight, but if you don't fight you were never justified.
Secondly, understand the mysterious partnership between you and the Spirit. You by the Spirit have to put to death the deeds of the body. You have to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is working in you to will and to act according to His good purpose, it is by the Spirit alone you can fight temptation.
Thirdly, as I've said, take personal responsibility. You by the Spirit have to put to death to deeds of the flesh. If you fail, it's not the Spirit's fault. So you need to take responsibility for your sins and for your temptations. You must mortify, you must make it your daily work, you must be constantly at it while you live. "Cease not a day from this work, be killing sin or sin will be killing you," John Owen.
And so, therefore, fourthly, understand this is a relentless marathon, it's not a sprint, you're going to be in this fight from now until the day you die. Don't expect a day off, don't expect when you go on vacation that the world, the flesh and the devil will leave, you'll leave them behind. You might have to fight more, no, wait a minute, you probably will have to fight more on vacation then you do ordinarily, the flesh will be maybe more active. There's no day off from this, it's a marathon.
Fifth, understand the role of Scripture. Jesus fought all of His temptations the same way, "It is written, it is written, it is written." So saturate your mind in Scripture, memorize specific scriptures that will help you in your weak areas. Psalm 119:9-11 says, "How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to Your word… Your word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You." Give the Holy Spirit a flashing sword with which to fight your specific sins by memorizing.
Sixth, understand that specific sins, categorical sins, can never be killed. No alcoholic will ever be able to say I know I will never sin in the area of alcoholism again. No one who is addicted to internet pornography will ever reach a point in his life where they say, "I know I'll never sin or fall in that place again, that sin has been mercifully removed," you cannot say that. But you can and must kill specific temptations from those sins.
Seventh, kill temptation by being full of Christ, by the Spirit. So be filled with the power of Christ, be filled. It's not just negative, it's positive. Be filled with the Spirit, be filled with the joy of the Lord, be filled with the fact that you're going to heaven, be filled with all of the great gifts that God has given you. It's very hard to tempt full people. Jeremiah Burroughs, in his Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment said, "A contented Christian is as hard to tempt as an iron wall attacked by flaming arrows," so picture yourself as an iron wall and all of the flaming arrows of temptation just fall harmlessly, why? Because you're so filled with the Christian life, so filled with Christ.
Eighth, make sin personal with Christ. What that means is, understand Jesus is behind all of His laws, the call to sexual purity, the call to mental purity, Jesus is behind each of them. Do you remember when Peter fell into the temptation of denying Jesus three times, then the rooster crowed? In Luke's gospel, just at that moment Jesus was passing by and He looked Peter right in the eyes. I would guess Peter would say, at the end of his life, he who was crucified upside down, Peter, would say, "That was the most painful moment of my life. When Jesus looked me right in the eye, right after that rooster crowed." And Peter went outside and wept bitterly, and then after the resurrection He asked him three times, "Peter, do you love me?" And that was painful to him.
Some day, 2 Corinthians 5:10 says, you're going to have to give Jesus an account for everything you did in the body, whether good or bad. Realize that now. Make it very personal between you and Jesus, say, "Jesus I don't want to fail you, I want to please You today, so fill me with Your Spirit. Ninth, accountability in a healthy church. If you're not a member of a healthy church, I actually know a healthy church that I would commend to you for membership. But if not this one, be in a healthy church, where you can live out a commitment to watch over one another in brotherly love. Hebrews 3:13 says, "Encourage one another daily as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." Home fellowships are going to start next Sunday evening, not this... Not tonight, we got the picnic tonight, but a week from now, home fellowships are going to start. Make your home fellowship experience more spiritual than you've ever made it before. In your prayer times ask for prayer, ask for help with things you're actually struggling with, be honest with people, find accountability partners, men with men, women with women. You can pair off and pray for each other.
And then finally, saturate your minds with the fact that you're going to be in Heaven some day and you won't sin at all, you are going to win, you're going to win. Some day, all of the sins you struggle with will lie dead at your feet. So rejoice in that and trust in that for the glory of God. Close with me in prayer.