Intro: In choosing the particular promises of the Bible to consider in our ongoing series this year, I was posed with a difficult task. There are so many meaningful promises in the scriptures. One I had on my list is 1 John 5:4 – For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. The New Living Translation says it this way… For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. (NLT) This promise or assurance of victory in encompassed in our consideration of temptation this month. Temptation is a battle with evil and the clear implication of John’s statement is that faith is the weapon through which that battle is won.
- Satan is real and the temptation to do evil is ever present. How can we win against Satan’s assault?
- Our faith (or trusting obedience) in God is the key to victory.
- The promise of God’s protection should forbid us to be afraid or intimidated by temptation. It is not a sin to be tempted, even Jesus was tempted. Satan’s words must be confronted with the words of God. David was not intimidated by the giant because he knew God’s promises and he knew God was powerful enough to deliver him in the end. 1 Corinthians 10:13 – 13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. We will consider this verse particularly later on, but it does not mean that we are not responsible for responding to temptation in the right manner. We have to recognize the way of escape and follow it carefully.
- In Ephesians 6 Paul describes the spiritual armor of the Christian by comparing it to the individual pieces of armament used by the Roman soldier of his day. In vs. 16 he tells us we have a shield.
- Ephesians 6:16 – 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.
- Do you have faith? Does it successfully shield you from evil? How does that work?
I. Temptation: An Assault on Faith: Sin began when Satan took aim at Adam & Eve’s confidence in what God had said. God created a perfect environment and there was no reason to doubt what God had said. But God gave Adam and Eve the power of choice (as He has you and me). So Satan, disguised as a serpent, said to Eve, “Did God really say?” (Gen. 3:1, NIV) Satan wanted her to doubt God.
A. The temptation to doubt God was made more appealing because Satan lied to Eve, saying, “You surely shall not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (vv. 4-5). Satan was saying, “You can’t trust God because He has ulterior motives
B. Eve was vulnerable from two perspectives:
1. She failed to hide behind God’s revealed word (the faith that has been made known). She did not have to be intimidated by Satan’s lies because she already knew what God had said.
2. In the end, she sinned because she failed to put her trust in God (lean her full weight upon him, and obey.
C. Satan will fire shafts of impurity, selfishness, doubt, fear, disappointment, lust, greed, vanity, and covetousness. Satan will say, “I know the Bible says you’re not supposed to have sexual relationships outside of marriage, but trust me: It’s fun.” Many fall to that temptation.
II. The Elements of Protecting Faith: I want to consider some crucial elements of our faith that will shield us from the attack of Satan, and help is in the hour of temptation:
A. Knowledge: Let me begin with a simple and familiar verse. Romans 10:17 – So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. This is fundamental. Everything we say about the efficacy of our faith is rooted in the power of God of God’s word. Faith is not an esoteric emotion or a feeling. It is not self-confidence or believing that we can do something. Faith is resting our thoughts and actions fully on what God has said in His word.
1. We must know the will of God to have faith. All those who displayed successful faith (lived by faith) knew what God expected of them and they trusted in what He had revealed.
• By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark (Heb 11:7)… By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out… (Heb 11:8)
• Those who do not seek to know God’s will are destined to fall to the enemy. Jehovah declared through the prophet Hosea, My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. (4:6)
• The wise man petitions for the knowledge of God’s ways (see bulletin), and takes it a step further in Prov 2:1-15 – My son, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you, 2 So that you incline your ear to wisdom, And apply your heart to understanding; 3 Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding, 4 If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; 5 Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, And find the knowledge of God. 6 For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding; 7 He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; 8 He guards the paths of justice, And preserves the way of His saints. 9 Then you will understand righteousness and justice, Equity and every good path. 10 When wisdom enters your heart, And knowledge is pleasant to your soul, 11 Discretion will preserve you; Understanding will keep you, 12 To deliver you from the way of evil, From the man who speaks perverse things, 13 From those who leave the paths of uprightness To walk in the ways of darkness; 14 Who rejoice in doing evil, And delight in the perversity of the wicked; 15 Whose ways are crooked, And who are devious in their paths;
B. Discernment: The proverb calls on use to “cry out” for discernment. Discernment is the ability to make a distinction. Do we know how to tell the difference between right and wrong? This is an essential aspect of our faith, and essential to its ability to shield us. Hebrews 5:12-14 – 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
1. The subject under discussion here is spiritual maturity. It is possible for a person to be a Christian for a long time and yet still be a baby – feeding on the first principles of God’s word. Spiritual maturity demands that we grow to “a full age”, when we can discern good and evil.
a. Babies will put anything in their mouth. They will crawl out into a busy street. They cannot discern between what is good for them and what will kill them. The mature adult, on the other hand, has developed considerable discernment. He is careful about what he eats, what he does, where he goes.
b. The mature believer has discernment about what is right and wrong, true and false, helpful and harmful, righteous and unrighteous. On the other hand, An immature believer will listen to any preacher on the radio or television and not be able to identify whether or not he is true to the Scriptures. He may have faith, but it is not a shield.
2. Notice that this discernment comes through “exercising” of our senses. The apostle makes his point with language that describes the physical senses of the body (sight, hearing, smelling, taste, touch). We learn to distinguish things around us by using these senses (exercising them) on a constant basis.
a. So we learn to tell the difference between right and wrong by a constant application of God’s word to the situations around us. He is not “unskilled in the word of righteousness” (v. 13), but he can use it to make the tough choices that need to be made. Can you take the scriptures and come to conviction on difficult cultural questions, or discern between sound and false doctrine?
• Burton Coffman writes… The great loss to the spiritual infant is that he may be misled, an eventuality that becomes certain unless he attains some degree of spiritual maturity. The church needs full-grown people, people who are not blown about by every wind of doctrine, people who have triumphed over the flesh, people of deep and loving personality, able to comfort the weak and the discouraged, and prepared to stand against all obstacles whatsoever. The pity of the present age of the church is seen in congregations of spiritual infants, uninstructed in the weightier things of the true faith, and indeed utterly ignorant of them, incapable of recognizing the most arrogant heresies, even those that deny the Lord, and still, after so many years, possessing only the most elementary knowledge of Christianity. (from Coffman’s Bible Commentary)
C. Virtue: 2 Peter 1:5 – 5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue… Peter list several necessary ingredients that need to be added to our faith in response to the exceeding and great promises that God has provided for us. All of these qualities are important to our discussion, but the first listed is virtue. Vines’ says virtue (arête) is “moral excellence”. It is used to describe the moral character of God (1 Peter 2:9– “excellencies”). MacArthur says it denotes moral heroism or courage. Those who have virtue are willing to act courageously for moral reasons.
1. We must add to our faith the courage to act, and by such action become what God calls us to be. 1 Cor 16:13 – Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.
2. Those who are willing to make the necessary sacrifices in order to live up to their faith find a defense against the power of Satan. 1 Peter 5:8-9 – Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.
• With this promise – James 4:7 – 7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
a. Joseph virtuously refused the advances of Potiphar’s wife over and over again, and stood behind the shield of His faith in God to provide for him no matter what the circumstances. (Gen. 39)
b. Moses courageously refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing to suffer with God’s people. His faith was a shield against the temptation to compromise and enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season (Heb. 11:24-25)
c. Daniel’s friends in Dan. 3 stood virtuously behind the shield of their own faith in God and said no to the order to worship the idol of the King. Dan 3:16-18 – O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”
d. The list goes on and on – Faith shielding God’s people against the fiery darts of the evil one.
e. The knowledge of the word provides an adequate answer to the false doctrines of men and the dangerous doctrines of Satan. We must use that knowledge to shield our minds form what is false.
f. But the courageous (virtuous) action of our faith repels all of the arguments and rationalizations of Satan in the context of the temptation to do what is wrong. I knew a young couple, both new Christians from backgrounds of the world, without much teaching on what as morally right, who decided to live together before they were married. They had a lot of reasons to do this: their families were urging it, many of their friends expected it, they were being tempted sexually, and it was a whole lot cheaper to live together. In fact, the only reason not to do it was because it was morally wrong.
• But their faith in what God said in the Bible was enough to shield them from everything that Satan could hurl their way when they found the virtue to act upon it and do the right thing. God provided for them financially, emotionally and spiritually. He always does.