Intro: What do you do when you hear a siren? Most of us would answer “pull over to the side of the road”. In fact it is the law in Florida. But the word “siren” has not always referred to a loud acoustic alarm used to alert people to emergencies. In Greek Mythology, a siren is described as “dangerous yet beautiful creatures, who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island.” The pagans attributed many of the shipwrecks along the rocky coasts of the Mediterranean Sea to the “siren’s call”, or the apparently irresistible appeal of the melodious voices of these maidens. You may recall the familiar allusion in Homer’s Odyssey, when Ulysses instructs his men plug their ears with wax and then tie him to the mast so he can hear their singing without giving in to their seduction. This element of irresistibleness in Greek mythology was so well imbedded, that even Jerome in his translation of the scriptures used the Greek term for sirens in Isaiah 13and Jeremiah 50 to depict wild jackals, symbolically representing worldly temptations that would destroy those who came near.
- Of course, that whole mythology thing is just a myth. There are no such things as “sirens”. But in our own language we use the term siren’s call to refer to the appeal that something has although it is harmful or dangerous.
- But you and I also know that the scriptures often warn against giving in to appealing and seemingly irresistible “voices” that lead to disaster. The Bible calls it Temptation is a siren call to sin.
- One of the most fascinating characteristics of Jesus’ life was His absolute sinlessness. 4:15 “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” This becomes more and more meaningful to me as I look back, and realize how successful Satan has been in my own life. I have given in to temptation time and time again.
I. Understanding Temptation: Mark 14:32-38 – 32 Then they came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. 34 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.” 35 He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. 36 And He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” 37 Then He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Jesus was afraid for Peter, James and John. He understood the danger they would be in during the coming hours. Satan was going to call them to sin. They were going to be tempted. What does that mean?
A. What is Temptation? The word has a sinister connotation today. But originally the word was morally neutral. To “tempt” simply meant to “put to the test or prove”. [peirazo (pi-rad’-zo) signifies (1) “to try, attempt, assay”… (2) “to test, try, prove,” (from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words)]
1. So this word is also used to denote the various trials of life, imposed even by God, that are to be counted as a joyful blessing. James 1:2-3 – 2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials [peirasmoís], 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. Abraham was “tempted” to offer up Isaac (Gen.22:1). It was a test of faith. It can be a source of joy because when it is endured, a holier character emerges and faith is vindicated.
2. But the word also denotes “an enticement or invitation to sin, with the implied promise of greater good to be derived from following the way of disobedience” (from Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary). It is a moral test, administered with the evil intentions of causing sin, and then death.
B. How does it work? James 1 gives us some insight: James 1:13-15 – Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. It is this “temptation” that concerned Jesus as He prayed in the garden. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Although James clearly indicts my fleshly desires in the process of temptation, Satan is called the tempter. He is the instigator who exploits the weaknesses of my flesh.
1. It is our own “evil desire” that drags us away and entices us. The word translated “evil desire” (Gk, epithymia) in James 1:14 simply means desire, craving, or taste. Whether to translate it with a negative connotation as here and in 2 Pet. 2:10, or with a positive one as in Luke 22:15, is determined by the word’s context. In this text, it points negatively to those times and places where human beings allow our desires to “drag away” and “entice” us.
2. I love to fish. Interestingly, these words are terms used to describe a fisherman as he baits his hook in an effort to catch a fish. I have never considered myself a deceptive person, but I never asked the fish what he thought. That’s what fishing is all about–humans trying to take advantage of fish (via their appetite and ignorance). 2 Cor 2:11 – lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices. There are all kinds of fishing lures out there intended to give the advantage to the fisherman. We have many “devices” you might say. I read recently about a type of lure that has an LED light that blinks red periodically to simulate blood. The fisherman knows better than to throw a bare hook over the side of his boat. He knows to be crafty. He will have to use a bait that is attractive to the fish. His goal, though, is not to feed the fish but to lure, entice, and snare him.
3. The same strategy works with us. We have certain fundamental needs that are in no way evil – a need for intimacy or achievement or security. But how shall we satisfy the need? There are wholesome and holy satisfactions for it in this world created by a God who is neither tempted to evil nor able to tempt us to evil.
4. Let me illustrate this way… Satan is dialing your number. What always happens when you sit down to eat dinner? Many times we get a telephone solicitation call. Someone who wants to sell me something has my number. I wish they didn’t but they do. Will you answer? Some folks can’t stand to let the phone ring. They may even know who is calling (I love caller ID), and they still are moved to pick up. In a sense, temptation is Satan dialing your number. He wants you to pick up, buy his lies and follow him into sin. That is what he did to Eve (and Adam distributively through Eve). He tempted them through deception.
• Who gave Satan my number? God did. God created us as humans with physical desires. He gave us the ability to make choices (moral agents). He also gave Satan the power to engage us in the context of human desires.
C. Where does temptation begin? The scriptures identify three avenues of temptation. In collaboration with James’ description of temptation John states in 1 John 2:15-17: 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
1. Lust of the Flesh – the phrase here may be a reference to “the desire for sensual pleasure, especially sexual desire.” Any of our natural instincts may be perverted through abuse, as men attempt to satisfy it by means that lie outside the revealed will of God. (stealing, adultery). Satan has promoted the universally accepted lie that we are sovereign over our physical bodies. “It’s nobody else’s body and nobody else’s business! But the Christian knows differently – We have been purchased to God by the blood of Jesus Christ. Our bodies belong to Him. 1 Cor 6:13 – Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body… “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). We must honor God with the use of our bodies.
2. The Lust of the Eyes – Though capable of broader and narrow interpretations, “more probably the basic thought is of greed and desire for things aroused by seeing them.” (Marshall, Epistles of John)
• Our eyes are gifts from God. But they are also open windows for temptation to enter; thus sin perverts the use of the eyes. Our eyes can gender dissatisfaction, covetousness, and idolatry. Proverbs 27:20 – 20 Hell and Destruction are never full: So the eyes of man are never satisfied.
• Lot’s wife misused her eyes, and she died as a result. Achan plundered the forbidden goods he saw, which also led to his death. David eyes led him to commit adultery with Bathsheba, and he paid severely for his sin the remainder of his life.
• Jesus said, “…if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darknes” (Matthew 6:23) He was not speaking about those who needed glasses to see. The “bad eye” refers to the materialistic heart. MacArthur says… “The eye that is bad is the heart that is selfishly indulgent. The person who is materialistic and greedy is spiritually blind.”
3. Pride of life – The third avenue for temptation is what one translation calls “the boasting of what a person has or does or is.” Pride is the motivation and attitude of Satan himself. As such pride is the arrogance that motivates all other sin. Proverbs 16:18-19 – 18 Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall. 19 Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, Than to divide the spoil with the proud.
• What is the lie attached? “You have the right to seek your own way. You can direct your own steps in life. You are smart and important. Above all look out for yourself. Man is the measure of all things.”
• The pride of life is the spirit of the world that calls on us to defend our rights before others. To seek revenge when we are injured; to manipulate others to get them to see things our way. It is the desire to exercise power over others and to seek our own wants first.
• Satan wants us to define ourselves by what others think of us, and how well we are accepted by others. It is what caused Peter to curse and say, “I do not know the man”. It is what drove the Jews to reject their Messiah and nail Him to a cross. It may be what keeps you and I from confessing our sins to each other and truly repenting of our sins.
• What is the Truth: 10:23 – O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.
D. What is the consequence of yielding? The temptation is not the sin. Jesus was tempted but he did not sin. But James says “when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin.” Desire becomes sin when we act upon a desire that God has regulated in His word. When we give in to the urge we face the consequences of our choice.
1. This point is so crucial that Jesus urges us to avoid the tempting circumstances, thereby Limiting Satan’s opportunities. He told us to seek divine help when we pray. Matt. 6:13 – And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
2. Satan has an easy job with some of us – He only has to nudge us a little bit – because we want to sin, and seek opportunities to serve ourselves.
3. God promises to deliver us from this yielding to temptation. But that promise is connected with our desire for holiness and our commitment to purity. We can overcome sin, if we strengthen ourselves for the day of temptation. I believe that Jesus’ 40 days of fasting prepared Him to face Satan. (It would seem that His hunger made him more vulnerable, but focusing the spiritual man, rather than the physical, is preparation.) Romans 8:12-13 – Therefore, brethren, we are debtors — not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.13 For 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.
E. Where does yielding (Sin) Lead Us? – “And sin when it is full-grown brings forth death” This death is biblically defined as separation from God. It occurs first in this life (Isa. 59:2) and then if we physically die in this state, we experience the “second death” or eternal separation. Rom 6:23 – for the wages of sin is death. Thus temptation to sin is a siren call – it is an appealing call to certain death.
1. If I am to escape this death, God must provide a way. 1 John 2:1-2 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. (NKJ)
2. Can I rest on my ability to say no to temptation and prevent sin? John says no – We cannot deny that we are sinners – We need an advocate – a propitiation – satisfaction. Jesus’ blood is the answer to your sin.
3. Those who were convicted as sinners in the N.T. sought for forgiveness through the blood of Jesus’ sacrifice. Saul of Tarsus was told to arise & be baptized and wash away his sins. Those who were guilty of crucifying Christ in Acts 2 were told to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. Those who had become Christians continued to seek forgiveness through the blood of Jesus through confession and prayer. As such the blood of Jesus becomes the only real answer to the efforts of Satan.
Conclusion: How serious are you about conquering the sin in your life? God has demonstrated His commitment to my problem at the cross. He seeks mine. 1 Cor 15:55-58 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. (NKJ)