Intro: One of the most fascinating characteristics of Jesus’ life was His absolute sinlessness. Heb. 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 sinned and I still do.
I. What is your attitude toward sin? More specifically, and appropriately, toward your own sin.
A. Do you fear it? – Jesus used several occasions to warn about the seriousness of transgressing God’s law. Matt 5:29-30 – If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. Matt 10:27 – And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. That is serious talk. What should we take from those words?
B. Do you see your own vulnerability? 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. He wanted to alert them to their own vulnerability – they might “enter into” temptation. The NIV translates it as “fall into”, giving the connotation that they would not see it coming. They didn’t, did they? They were going to be tempted. What does that mean?
II. “Satan has asked for you” – Interestingly, One of Jesus’ most faithful disciples provides one of the most insightful examples of the threat of temptation and sin. Immediately after Jesus predicted the authoritative place of the apostles’ teaching (sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel) Jesus spoke personally to Peter.Luke 22:31-34 – 31 And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” 33 But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” 34 Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.” Once again, Jesus acknowledges that Satan is on the scene and actively seeking His disciples.(Satan asked, and Jesus said, “yes, you can sift him”)
A. Jesus was prophetically stating that within a matter of hours Peter would do what he could never have imagined. The whole direction of his life was changed through this temptation to sin. He did not see it coming.
• Mark 14:66-72 – 66 Now as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came. 67 And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with Jesus of Nazareth.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you are saying.” And he went out on the porch, and a rooster crowed. 69 And the servant girl saw him again, and began to say to those who stood by, “This is one of them.” 70 But he denied it again. And a little later those who stood by said to Peter again, “Surely you are one of them; for you are a Galilean, and your speech shows it.” 71 Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know this Man of whom you speak!” 72 A second time the rooster crowed. Then Peter called to mind the word that Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” And when he thought about it, he wept.
III. Understanding Temptation: God does not tell us about sin just to make us feel guilty and depressed. The threat is real because sin is real. We need to know how sin enters our lives.
A. What is temptation? The most common word for temptation (tempt) is peirazo (pi-rad’-zo) and it signifies (1) “to try, attempt, assay”… (2) “to test, try, prove,” (from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words) Tempt, in the Bible, simply meant to “put to the test or prove”.
1. At times this word is 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” (tested) when he was commanded 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, not by God, but by Satan, with the evil intentions of causing sin, and then death. It is this “temptation” that concerned Jesus as He prayed in the garden.
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. 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. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
1. It is our own “desire” that drags us away and entices us. The word translated “desire, or lust” (Gk, epithymia) in James 1:14 simply means desire, craving, or taste. (also translated as concupiscence in the KJV) Whether to translate it with a negative or positive connotation 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. The scriptures present this struggle against sin as a conflict between the spirit and the flesh.
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 instinctive desires of the physical body can lead us into sin. God has provided for the righteous fulfillment of every human need, but when we attempt to satisfy them outside of God’s revealed will, we sin. 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) We can be tempted to sin through what we see.
a. 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.
b. Eve saw that the fruit was “pleasant to the eyes”; Achan plundered the forbidden goods he saw, which also led to his death; David eyes led him to commit adultery with Bathsheba.
c. Jesus said, “…if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” (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 – one translation calls this “the boasting of what a person has or does or is.”Human 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.
a. Our pride tells us -“You have the right to seek your own way” “You can direct your own steps in life.” “look out for yourself first” “Man is the measure of all things.”
b. 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.
c. 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.
IV. Yield Not to Temptation – How can we win over temptation? 1 Cor 10:13 –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. First we must put our confidence in the promises of God. We can escape. Here are some ways to overcome:
A. Stay Awake: Jesus tried to keep his disciples awake in the garden. Not just physically awake (they were tired) but spiritually alert to what was going on around them.
• 1 Cor 15:33-34 – Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” 34 Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.
• Rom 13:11-14 – And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. 12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.
B. Stay in Touch: Jesus told the disciples to watch (stay awake) and pray. They needed to ask God’s assistance and protection. Paul prayed that the Ephesians might be strengthened in the inner man.
C. Stay Away: Avoid the people and places that lead to temptation. 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.
• David’s commitment: Ps 101:3 – I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.
• Job’s commitment in Job 31:1 – “I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman?
D. Stay Close – God has given us each other as a defense against the threat of temptation and sin. Those who are truly serious about living holy lives will not avoid the assemblies of God’s people.
• Heb 10:22-25 – let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
• James 5:13 – Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
E. Stay in the Word: David affirmed that he had hidden God’s word in his heart that He might not sin. (Psalm 119:11) We must engage the enemy with the sword of the Spirit, as Jesus did in the wilderness, answering every temptation with “It is written…”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. God also provides help for us here by reorienting our desires through the influence of His word. As we read and study the word, our minds are transformed to desire God’s things and God’s ways. We will want to please Him above all else.
• Romans 12:1-2 –I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
• Eph 4:21-24 – 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
1. 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 on 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.
Conclusion: James tells us that temptation can lead to sin, and “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.
• 1 John 1:8-10 – If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
Can I rest on my ability to say no to temptation every time? John says no – We cannot deny that we are sinners. If I am to escape death, God must provide a way.1 John 2:1-2My 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) Jesus’ blood is the answer to my sin, and yours.
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.
- 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)