Make the World a Better Place –
Reading the Bible reveals how to overcome temptation!
Back in 2010 John Ortberg wrote a book called The Me I Want to Be. In that book he told this story.
Recently my wife and I went fly-fishing for the first time. Our guides told us that "to catch a fish you have to think like a fish." They said that to a fish life is about the maximum gratification of appetite at the minimum expenditure of energy. To a fish, life is "see a fly, want a fly, eat a fly." A rainbow trout never really reflects on where his life is headed. A girl carp rarely says to a boy carp, I don't feel you're as committed to our relationship as I am. I wonder, do you love me for me or just for my body? The fish are just a collection of appetites. A fish is a stomach, a mouth, and a pair of eyes.
While we were on the water, I was struck by how dumb the fish are. Hey, swallow this. It's not the real thing; it's just a lure.
You'd think fish would wise up and notice the hook or see the line. You'd think fish would look around at all their fish friends who go for a lure and fly off into space and never return. But they don't. It is ironic. We say fish swim together in a school, but they never learn. Aren't you glad we're smarter (than a fish)?[i]
So what’s your lure? What bait does Satan use to get you (US) off track? Some of you told me. Several weeks ago I asked you this survey question. Name a temptation which enters your mind most often? All of the survey results are on our website but here are a few. I broke these temptations down into several categories. See if you can relate to any of these: Financial: Greed, always wanting more than I have! Sexual: Adultery, Lust and Fantasy. Emotional: Anger/Road Rage, Pride-thinking of myself more highly than I should, Jealousy, Envy, Bitterness towards people that hurt my children, Coveting what others have that I do not. Spiritual: I will read the Bible tomorrow, The temptation to be selfish instead of sacrificial. Sounds lofty but its true. Coupled with anger I feel when others expect the sacrifice so they can be selfish. I don't think there is a Mother who does not understand this. To believe that I can do things on my own and that I do not need God. Anxiety: Doubt and Worry Verbal: To gossip, to swear, to complain. Time: Escape real life for social media (Facebook, etc.) Physical: Laziness, Food, sweets, over eating, While I am not overweight, being tempted to eat sweets is always with me. I talk to our Father often about the situation. This past Christmas season I lost the battle. Does anyone else feel you’re losing when it comes to this battle called temptation?
In this church I asked men and women to rank their highest temptation. Women said - Worry, pride and food. Men said lust, pride and greed. Now let me ask you this? Of all the temptations listed today, which ones did Jesus face? Let’s find out! Turn to Luke 4:1. Do you need a Bible? Today we end this series on How to make this world a better place. This world will become a better place when we as Christ followers will BE the church instead of just going to church. The world will be a better place when we read and apply the word of God. Why do I want you to read your Bible? Because reading your Bible is one of two ways of overcoming temptation! Maybe you are tempted right now to sit back and just listen – I would invite you to go deeper – get on the edge of your chair and let’s dig into what the Bible says –turn to Luke 4:1! Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan… What happened at the Jordan? Go back to chapter 3 and find verse 21. (21-22) Guess who’s not pleased? Go back to chapter 4:1b. Luke calls him the devil. Mark calls him Satan. Matthew calls him the tempter. The Bible says this about “the tempter?” Devil comes from the word “diabolos” which means “the slanderer – one who falsely accuses.” Satan comes from the word “Satanos which means adversary.[ii] Wrap your mind around this. Satan is a powerful angelic being who was kicked out of heaven because of his great pride. The created thought he could “one up” the Creator. Satan rules the dark recesses of this world and seeks to destroy the body of Christ which happens to be the church.
Now God has just said this about his Son: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." So Satan starts to scheme. I wonder if I can lure Jesus into doing something that would displease God. So Satan tempts Jesus in three ways. They are the same type of temptations he uses on Adam and Eve. They are the same type of temptations that John the Apostle lists in 1st John 2:16. Here are those temptations. For everything in the world--the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does--comes not from the Father but from the world.
Notice how John’s three match up with Luke’s three! Look at verse 3 in Luke 4 (Doritos Commercial) -cravings of the flesh), verse 5 (eyes) and then verse 9 (pride). Now it does not surprise me that Jesus was tempted. What amazes me is what Jesus did to overcome temptation. Look at verse 4, 8 and 12. Are you kidding me? Jesus overcomes these three powerful temptations by quoting Deuteronomy. (8:3, 6:13, 6:16) Why am I challenging you to daily read the Bible? Because the Holy Spirit of God uses the Word of God to help us become more like the Son of God. And the Son of God overcame temptation. And we can too. But it’s not through will power. It’s through Holy Spirit power. Paul tells us in 1st Corinthians that the Holy Spirit will send you a way of escape.
Do you remember our little temptation survey? Top three temptations for women - Worry, Pride, Food. Top three temptations for men - Lust, (Women may lust for clothes, but men lust the one wearing the clothes), Pride, Greed. (Falcon Commercial) Which one spans the gender globe? PRIDE! Pride is thinking of myself more highly than I ought! I am up here. You are down there. I am better than you, smarter, stronger or more intelligent. I am the President of this company. I am a US Senator. I am the Principal of this school. I am the Pastor of this church. So when a pride temptation comes how do we actually fend it off? #1: Realize what it is. An attempt by Satan to get us to walk away from God. (Adele – Cussing[iii]) #2: Ask for help. A man works for the power company. He’s climbing telephone poles all day. He wears a safety harness, but slips anyway. He’s now dangling up-side-down. His prayer is loud but short. “God help me!” When you are tempted don’t get long winded, just call out for help. #3: Who’s going to help you? The Holy Spirit! How will the Holy Spirit help you? He’ll direct you. Most times he’ll direct you right to the Bible. For me, it’s often Proverbs. Look at Proverbs 16:18: Pride goes before destruction… Uncontrolled pride is going to kill us. Pride will prevent you from apologizing. Pride can cause a rift in your family that even God can’t pull back together. Pride divides churches and cripples many marriages. So no matter the temptation, but especially pride the Bible promises a way out!
Next week I will begin a new series called Confessions of a Pastor. Guess who the pastor is? This series was birthed from this message. One of my confessions was going to be – I am tempted more than you think I am! I had a person say to me one time years ago – “You’re a minister, you don’t get tempted, right?” Truth is – because I am a pastor – I get tempted allot. I am a man and I agree that lust, pride and greed are huge, but lately here’s the monster temptation for me. Satan tempts me to believe that God is not trustworthy![iv] Go back to Luke 4:3. It happens again in verse 9. Who is Satan talking to? Jesus himself. Look at what Satan asked Eve in Genesis 3:1?
I believe the biggest temptation we all face is doubt! Not doubt if God exists, but can he be trusted? There’s so much trouble, so much suffering, so many diseases, and so much death. So when we are tempted to doubt, what should we do? Ask for help! Ask for the helper – the HS of God and God will direct you back to his word. And his word will remind US that this world is temporary at best and God can be trusted. Go back to Luke 4:13. Name the opportune time! Turn to Luke 22:39. (Read 39-42) Do you think Satan is tempting Jesus right now? He’s already got Judas. He will tempt all the disciples to run away – which they do. In Luke 4 Satan is tempting Jesus to not believe he’s the Messiah. Right here he’s tempting Jesus not to do what only the Messiah can do – suffer and die on a cross. And if Jesus doesn’t suffer and die on the cross – we’re still stuck in our sin!
Did you read about a woman named Evelyn Fuller from Carmichaels, PA? She robbed a bank. She told Police she robbed the bank so she could buy dentures. After her arraignment, she told a reporter, “I’m very sorry for what I did, and I know God is going to punish me for it”[v] Maybe the most important question to ask now is, Greg, I know all about temptation. The problem is I give into temptation all the time. Is God going to punish me like Evelyn? Not if you repent! Not if you confess. What temptation is Satan dangling in front of you?
[i] John Ortberg, The Me I Want to Be, Zondervan 2010, 137-138
[ii] Mark E. Moore, The Chronological Life of Christ, 78
[iv] Bruce Larson, The Communicator’s Commentary, 84
[v] Columbus Dispatch, Robbery Suspect Needed Dentures, February 2, 2012