Smooth, creamy peanut butter. Delicious melted milk chocolate. A few M&Ms sprinkled throughout. Glazed with a hot fudge sauce. Eaten right out of the oven—warm & delicious.
This is the recipe for Temptation Bars. Or at least, it's similar. (You can Google it and find a bunch of different recipes.) They are called Temptation Bars because they are hard to resist.
Temptation Bars work a lot like real temptations. They look delicious. They taste good while you're eating it, but...after you eat 2 or 3 (or in my case, 7) you have a tummy ache.
Temptation to sin works just like that. It seems cool. It seems fun. It may even feel good while it's going on, but afterwards you are left with the emotional stress of shame and guilt. You may even have caused your body real physical pain. Finally, there is the eternal pain of suffering in hell for falling to temptation.
No wonder we ask Jesus to “Lead us Not Into Tempation” in the Lord's Prayer.
Today we're going to look at that phrase and discuss three common misconceptions about temptaiton. In doing so, we'll reveal the lie and reveal the truth that God gives us in Scripture. The specific part of Scripture we'll look at today is found in 1 Corinthians 10.
MYTH 1: I am powerful enough to overcome temptation.
Ever thought like that? Ever been convinced that temptation isn't a problem with you?
Yesterday was new member Sunday. New Member Sunday recognizes those people who have spent time learning the truths of Scripture in a Bible Basics course and are ready to become full members of the church. In our church, this class takes up about 20 hours of learning for adults—60 45 minute classes for middle school children.
It's interesting that temptation was the topic for this Sunday. Because, if it's the same as it was when I was confirmed, then the devil is quickly at work: “Finally, I made it through. I learned all I need to know about the Bible. I got through Pastor's bad jokes. I no longer have to get up early or stay up late in order to keep studying the Bible. I'm going to be confirmed! Suddenly, temptation won't be such a big deal. I'm confirmed. I'm a professional Christian. I'll never be easily tempted again!I am powerful enough to overcome temptation on my own.”
Perhaps you confirmed awhile ago. Then, you might recognize the strange thinking that takes place, “They think they don't need to be wary of temptation any longer? They've got another thing coming. It's not so easy. Temptation keeps on coming.At least, it did. But I've been a member here for 20 years. I've been spiritually strong. I was confirmed years ago. I can quote Lutheran hymns in my sleep! All the sins pastor normally talks about – hated, greed, lust. I don't have to worry about them. Never have those temptations anymore. That's kiddy stuff. That's new member stuff. I am powerful enough to overcome temptation on my own .”
People think foolishly about temptation at all different levels of Christianity! The goal: get to a place where we can go and do whatever we want, because we're so powerful we can take on any temptation the devil is going to throw at us.
It's as if we view ourselves as Superman whose temptations bounce off of us like bullets to the Man of Steel's chest.
If we don't think like it, at least we act like it! Consider this:
Have you ever knowingly head out for a drink with the same group of people that lead you to foul language and drunkenness every time you go out? Yet, you rationalize: “I'm feeling extra Biblely today. I'll be fine. I won't sing this time.”
Or why do we think that this is the time that we're not going to think lustful thoughts during that “R” rated TV show when it's always been the case every other time? Did God grant you a special level of resistance that allows you to watch smut without being affected?
So, is it true? Are we really? Are Wisconsin Synod Lutherans really impervious to temptations? Are just the stronger members? Is the pastor?
Look at what the apostle Paul wrote: “If you-- and that's plural. He's talking to everyone who reads this letter – If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!"
In order for an NFL quarterback to take a hit, he lowers his center of gravity. He plants his feet. He stands firmly on the ground. It prevents him from being knocked over and helps to keep himself from fumbling.
Similarly, the lady who is at the mall for the 2am Black Friday special stands firm. She knows she needs to in order to keep her place in line. If she doesn't stand firm, she'll fall back—knocked over by the vicious grandma out to get her grandchild the latest bed wetting doll.
Paul meant the same thing: If you think you are standing firm, watch out! Because the truth is that once you start getting complacent, once you stop bracing yourself, once you think you aren't in trouble, you are in the biggest trouble of all.
The myth is that we can handle temptation. The truth is that we are in danger of temptation, because we can fall! We do not within ourselves have some kind of superpower that makes us impervious to temptation! If you think you are above temptation, because you are a member of a church or a long time member of a church-- you have got another thing coming!
MYTH 2: Your temptation is so powerful that you can't help but fall.
On the other hand, you might be totally agreeing completely. “Yes, temptation is great. I can't handle it. In fact, pastor, I have a few temptations in my life that I can't handle. Super temptations! It's borderline –an addiction! I want that chemical or that sneak peek or that anger release so badly that any time I'm tempted I can't help but sin. What's the point in trying to fight back? I'll just sin again and again and again. As soon as the temptation hits, I basically give up. I'm done for.”
And what's really strange? We may take pride in this. We might say, “The devil has to work super hard on me. Sure, I fall to his temptations, but they are super temptations. The regular temptations that other people fall to, I am better than. In order to get me, he has to pull out all the stops. Impressive, right God?”
It's as if we view our own personal temptations as on steroids! We think of them as super temtpations, as if they were bitten by a radioactive spider or fell into a vat of mutagen. Then, they are able to completely conquer us.
But is that true? Do we deal with temptations that are so far superior to us that God will just excuse us because the temptation is too difficult to deal with!?!
Look at what Paul wrote, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.” Literally in the Greek it says “Humanish.”
Understand then what he is saying: The temptations that we experience are normal to all humans! There is no such thing as a “super temptation.” Temptation is NOT impossible to overcome. Your temptations are not impossible to overcome!
MYTH 3: You are fighting temptation alone.
Wow. Talk about depressing. Jesus is saying that the temptations we face aren't even all that impressive and yet we still have to be aware, because we aren't powerful enough to defeat them all by ourselves.
You might be feeling sad. Pathetic. Alone. Stuck in temptation without a way out and without anyone to help us!
But that too is a myth!
Look at the incredible truth of the next passage: God is faithful. Think about that. It's a predicate nominative. Faithful is God. It's his essense. It's who He is. Meaning...He can't not be faithfully there for you, even in the midst of temptation.
You are NOT alone. You are NEVER Alone. God is with you!
You might say: “Yes, he's there. But he's God. He doesn't know what it's like to be tempted by a pretty lady. He doesn't know the pull alcohol has on me. He doesn't realize how upsetting my brother is!”
But remember: Jesus was human. And as we already reveiewd, remptation is common to humankind. Since Jesus was a human it follows that he too was tempted! Turn to Matthew 4 for a specific exmaple of the devil doing just that!
The book of Hebrews says it this way, “Jesus was tempted in every way, just as we are.”
Think about that: As a little boy, Jesus was tempted just as we were. To refuse to put his toys away when his mom asked, to throw fits, even to fight with his friends in school.
When he grew older, he would have been tempted to ditch school and go vandalize the Hebrew schule. His eyes would have been tempted to gaze lustfully at the girls by the well.
It didn't change when he was grown up. He would have been tempted to greedily steal some monies from his Apostle's stash. He could have been tempted to take advantage of the women who came to him for help. He might have been tempted to slap and hit all of the men who came to arrest him at night.
Then, to top it all off, he would have been tempted to pridefully look down on all the sinners who surrounded him and even begin to think of himself as better than God the Father himself!
Jesus' human life was just like ours. It was filled with temptation. He knows what you are going through.
But unlike another human who might commiserate with you and say “I hate that sin too, but I don't know what to do about it.” Jesus knows exactly what to do.
Listen to the end of the passages from Hebrews: Jesus was tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin!
Wow! Think about all the ways you are tempted everyday...by media, friends, and physical feelings. Then, appreciate what Jesus did: He never fell to temptation even once. Never abused his body. Never abused another. Never broke a commandment. Always did what he should all the time!
That's nothing short of incredible. It's nothing short of miraculous. It's nothing short of super!
So, yes, we don't inherently have some kind of super power above temptation. And we don't each have some kind of super temptation that's impossible to resist. But Jesus!-- He is super. He has super power! He defeated temptation in all of its ugly, disgusting forms!
Including the end result: Sin! Jesus defeated sin. He defeated your sin. He destroyed, shatttered, vaporized all of the sins that we have been revisiting through this sermon. Jesus beat them all on the cross! He suffered the wrath of God for you.
It means you are forgiven. Through faith in our Savior, you are forgiven of every single temptation realized—every single sin, you've ever fallen to. All of them. Forgiven.
That's how incredibly faithful God is. We had fallen to temptation. We deserved to fall to hell. Yet God is so faithful to you that he would not let you die even when you deserved it. Instead, he died. Then, he remained faithful in death—coming back to life to continue to suppoort and uplift you to this day!
This is why the Apostle Paul wrote, God is faithful. He didn't write, “He was faithful, or he sometimes is faithful. Or only when he remembers to be faithful. NO! God IS Faithful! He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it!”
In John 14:6 Jesus says, “I am the way.” Certainly, he is the way to heaven. Is it so far off to also say that Jesus is the way out of temptation?
It starts with prayer. “Jesus, I'm being tempted right now. On my own, I can't handle it. But with you, I will defeat it. Because you're more powerful than the devil. You're more powerful than any temptation. You are the most powerful, all powerful Lord of heaven and earth! Be faithfull. It's who you are. Help me!”
Then, get away! Run from temptation. Get out of the sinful relationship you are in. Get away from the drug that tempts you. Stay away from the gossip group. Pull the plug on your computer. Take a walk and cool off. Get away from temptation. Run to God!
This might seem scary, but remember: God is faithful! He will always abide. He is always with you—with all of his power and strength.
This is why we pray what we do: Lead us not into temptation! Not that God ever would lead us into temptation, he wouldn't and he can't. He's faithful. It's not in his divine genes!
Instead, we remind God of his promise. We focus ourselves on his incredible power. And we remain confident. Confident to defeat any and all temptation. Confident not because of ourselves AND not because temptation is weak, but because our God is stronger! Amen.