Good morning church. It’s so good for us to be able to meet together again, although we are still using technology. But we thank God for the privilege of being able to meet together again and open the scriptures and get to hear what God wants to say to us in our lives. The title of my message this morning is dealing with temptation and the subtitle is the power of gradual.
I just wanted to start by letting you know one of the things that I’m afraid of in life, you know. In life, I am afraid of a lot of things but this one that I want to let you know of this morning is probably within my top three of things that I’m most afraid of. But before I reveal mine I’m just wondering what are you most afraid of in life?
And the thing for me is this, it is the power of gradual. If you don’t know what that means, I’m going to begin to unpack it just now.
And so this week, beginning of this week we started a brand new bible reading plan in the book of Revelation. And there’s a part where it says this, so if you go to revelation chapter 2 verses 4 and 5, this is what it says:
but I have this against you that you have abandoned the love you had at first remember therefor where you have fallen repent and do the works you did at first if not I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place unless you repent.
This a very intense passage of scripture and I was just thinking and I would like to ask you this question: how many men and women, powerful men and women of God do you know of, who were once used by God to do mighty things? You know whose lives ended up in a huge scandal and I’m talking corruption I’m talking embezzlement, illegal activities and even sexual sin. Think of even Solomon and all his wealth and wisdom. This is where he ended up. And I find one common factor in all of their stories and it is this: their backsliding happened gradually. It didn’t happen suddenly or even immediately but slowly over a period of time.
Jesus here talks to a church that’s doing better than most churches on all categories. And yet this is what he says, he says: nevertheless I have this thing against you, you have abandoned the love you had at first.
How does a person who was once deeply in love with the Lord Jesus Christ get to a place where they lose their love? I’ll tell you what. It happens gradually. It happens over time. How does a man who has been married for 30 years decide to leave his wife and his kids and get married to a woman half his age? It happens gradually. This is what I believe: I believe every person who gets into an affair doesn’t do it the first time the opportunity presents itself. It’s often gradually and it happens in the mind first and it happens over a period of time. It is as you and I continue to indulge these thoughts in our minds that we get ourselves closer and closer towards the cliff where we eventually get to a place where we commit the sin that we were thinking about in our minds.
Every believer who gives themselves into sin often doesn’t do it right of the bat. It happens gradually, as you compromise more and more, here and there, on small things, and thinking that these are just small things. They are not going to contribute towards the bigger things. This is how we get to a place where we actually begin to commit sin in our lives. Some of us may be tempted right now to do something that is illegal to get some more income into our lives or some are even tempted to walk away from Christianity itself.
Think about some of the things that you once made a firm stance against in your life saying I will never ever do that. Now think about those things that you once made a stance that you would never do but you actually ended up doing. How did it happen? How did you move from that stance to actually doing the thing that you swore that you would never do? I think it happened gradually. Bit, by bit. Little by little.
This is how the devil works. I believe the devil is more persistent than some of the Christians, in terms of his schemes and his attacks.
Each and every person faces temptation in their lives. The bible tells us that even the Lord Jesus Christ himself actually faced temptation in his life. Nevertheless he was completely different to us in how he responded to temptation. I believe there are some of us right now, during the lockdown, that are dealing with more temptation now than we have dealt with ever before in our lives. You feel like the temptation is so huge it is almost crushing you. Sometimes you feel like you are about to loose your mind because of the pressure of the temptation that is in your life. You’re not sure how much longer you can hold on. If that’s you, I want you to know that I know the feeling. I know it very well. But most importantly, Jesus Christ knows exactly what you are going through.
He doesn’t just know what you and I are going through intellectually, but he knows it practically. He experienced it first hand in his own life, and yet he did not give in to any of the temptations that came his way. Look at him for strength and ability to overcome your own set of temptations. Some of us right now are the most vulnerable we have ever been in our lives. Remember this, the devil’s strategy is to divide and conquer. Right now, we are physically divided, which makes this an opportune time for the devil to try his best to get us to backslide. This is why I believe we need to intercede for one another now more than ever before. If things are going well in your life right now, that doesn’t mean that things are going well for everyone else. If you have the moment, if you have the time, spend some time in prayer, intercede. Pray for someone else. Because some of us might be going through severe trials and temptations in our lives.
This is what I know about sin in my life, and I think in yours it is the same. Sin tries to convince you and I that it can deliver the feelings of deep satisfaction and wholeness that we are longing for. But it cannot. It never has and it never will. Let me ask you this, have you ever wanted to do something you shouldn’t do, but you wanted to do it so badly because you were truly convinced that doing it would bring you satisfaction? You debated it over and over in your mind until finally you decided you are just going to go for it. Do you remember how you felt immediately after you finished doing it? Do you remember the feeling of guilt, the disgust, the shame and the anger? That’s what sin does, it always over-promises and never delivers. In the history of the world there is not a single person who gave into temptation and thanked himself for it afterwards.
Giving ourselves into temptation is always followed up by regret, by guilt, and by shame. Sin is not worth it. So don’t do it. Don’t give into temptation. Continue fighting the fight.
There is only one person. There’s only one person in life who can give you the deep desires and longings of your heart and his name is Jesus Christ. He can give you that feeling of deep satisfaction and contentment. That feel of wholeness and completeness. That feeling that we are all longing for and looking for in our lives. St. Augustine of Hippo once said this:
You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.
- St. Augustine of Hippo
Pascal said it this way:
There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only God the creator made known through Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ says this in John 10:10
The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
If you know that you have the emptiness right now inside of you that is caused by that God-shaped vacuum, you may have tried to fill it with so many other things in the past. Each time it looked as if it was working in the beginning, but only to be left feeling worse than you did before. Perhaps it’s time for you to give your life to the Lord Jesus Christ. His purpose is not to spoil your life. His purpose is not to make you life boring. His purpose is not to steal your life, but to give you a rich and a satisfying life. A life that surpasses even that of your wildest imaginations.
If there’s one thing that the devil doesn’t you and I to do, it is to feed our spirits. Reading the bible and spending time in prayer. The devil may be evil, but he is not stupid. He doesn’t give up very easily. He will try more and more to get you and I to be so busy that we don’t have time to spend reading the bible and even in prayer. If he can succeed in doing that, mark my words, it is only a matter of time until he succeeds in getting you and I to give into the temptation. Given enough time, unless something changes, we will all give into temptation.
You could be contemplating an affair right now, or your could thinking about going back to something that you once walked away from. I don’t know what you are going through right now, but I know that you do not want to do it. Something inside of you doesn’t want to go back. Something inside of you doesn’t want to give into the temptation that you are faced with, but the temptation is so real sometimes, it feels just as real as anything else in your life. You don’t want to do it, and sometimes you don’t even think you have the strength to resist it. But I know this and I want you to know this morning that you do have the strength to be able to resist it. You can do it.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
You see, God believes that you and I are able to withstand the temptation that is before us. He is so faithful that He provides for us a way of escape, a way for us to be able to escape the temptation that we are facing right now. As I conclude, I just want to leave you with three practical things that I think can help you and I in our fight against temptation. I am just going to go through them quickly.
- See it coming
See the temptation coming. Recognise it as it comes. Know that the temptation itself is not sin, but acting upon the temptation is sin. The devil wants you and I to be convinced and to believe that the thought coming into our minds means that we have already sinned. He comes and he says, “you might as well go through with it, you might as well do the whole thing, because you have already started in your own mind. But we need to know, you and I need to recognise, and we need to know that the thought coming into our minds, that is not sin in itself. That is just a temptation, but what we do based on the thought, that is either sin or not based on our action. So, take each and every thought that comes into you mind captive. That is what the bible says that we do, that we take every thought captive.
- Expose it
You and I need to expose the temptation and even some of the sin that is happening in our lives. We need to expose it first and foremost and most importantly, to God in prayer. Be open to God in your time of prayer. Be vulnerable, tell him everything that is going on because he cares for you. He care about what is happening in our lives.
As you come into the presence of God, as you humble yourself and as you pray to God. As you confess your sins, and as you ask for the forgiveness. Know this that He is faithful and just and He will forgive us of our sins and will also cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Leonard Ravenhill once said "Everybody who has ever backslid in their walk with Christ, first backslid in the area of prayer." This is the first area that always goes, just before we backslide. We stop praying. We begin to compromise in our prayer life.
I believe that the second thing that we need to do when it comes to exposing the temptation and the sin in our lives is actually to find a person. A person that you can trust, a person that loves you, a person that values you and begin to open yourself up and confess some of the things that are happening in your life to that person because the bible says this in James 5:16:
Now this is not saying go around telling each and every person that you meet, your business. Telling everyone everything that is happening in our lives. But we need to find a few people. It can be one, or it can be two people that we trust and that we can open ourselves up to and confess so that they can pray with us in the things that we are going through.
It doesn’t matter how far along the road you are. You could’ve already given into temptation, you could’ve been defeated by now in your own eyes. But you can still choose to stop, turn around and walk back to God. You can still make a decision right now that you are going to turn around, that you are not going to continue pursuing the sin, you’re not going to continue living in that sin. You can make a decision to repent right now. It does not matter what you have done. It does not matter how far you have gone. It does not matter where you are right now. You are never too far gone. You can always press the stop button.
You can always choose that you are going to walk back to God. Even the prodigal son had to make a decision at some point to say, you know what, I am going to get up from here and I am going to go back to my father. Wherever you find yourself right now, know this, that you are not too far gone. Your story is not hopeless. It is not too late. You can still make a decision to press pause, to turn around and to go back to God.