Today’s video with Dave Robbins hits home, doesn’t it? Maybe not to that extent, but we’ve all felt temptation before, and we’ve all given into it at some point too. It doesn’t matter if you’re here today and you don’t believe in Jesus yet, you know what temptation feels like. And you also know that you’ve had consequences for giving in. Right? Whatever you believe, temptation and its consequences is something we can all relate to.
Several years ago, as a young, aspiring musical artist, I went to Guitar Center with a friend. We were there for hours looking and playing all the different instruments and gadgets that they had. I had gone in for one reason: to buy a drum machine for my recording projects. I knew what I was there for and what I was willing to spend.
But, if you are also into music, you know that when you walk into a huge music store, the temptation struggle is real. The walls are just covered in guitars that you’re allowed to play, there’s a room full of keyboards, electronic drum sets, DJ equipment, I mean, just everything you need. So if you’ve got the time, you play around. Well, we spent too much time there apparently, because I fell in love with the idea that I could become a ripping electric guitarist. I picked up acoustic pretty fast, so I was sure that I could learn if I spent some time. I looked at all the options up there. If I was going to purchase one, it wasn’t going to be the cheapest, but obviously not TOO expensive. And it had to look cool, of course.
So, after spending a few hours at this store, I came away with my drum machine that I had planned on… and this brand new guitar. Now granted, I was still at home, not even engaged yet, so I had some money I could spend.
But, I’m a musician, so it couldn’t stop there.
Christmas was coming up, so I had to expand on my new purchase. I used a large portion of Christmas money, weeks before it was even Christmas, to purchase myself an electric pedal board that I just HAD to have in order to be the shredder I imagined I’d become. So, I bought it.
Fast forward to today, THIS IS THE FIRST TIME THIS GUITAR HAS BEEN ON STAGE. Ha!
I was so sure that it was a good decision to spend hundreds of dollars of this stuff. I bought the guitar, which then led to another big purchase of a pedalboard. But the reality is, I just lost lots of money for stuff that is still taking up space in my dad’s basement! I still keep them because I’m convinced I’ll take the time to learn someday, and I already spent the money.
I know that’s a silly example compared to the story we just heard, but that’s the way temptation works, doesn’t it? We want something, we desire it, think it’ll be ok, can’t see the harm. So we give in. But temptation never stops there, does it? It comes back, and we want more, often times blinded to the consequences of our actions.
What do you do when a temptation you deal with threatens to tear apart your marriage? What do you do once you begin the pattern of giving in to your temptations? What do you do when you wake up one day and you don’t recognize yourself in the mirror?
This is where Dave Robbins found himself. Do you think that when he was a young kid in church, he imagined that he’d be addicted to alcohol and lust, to the point of almost losing his wife and kids? Nobody plans for that. Nobody wants that to happen. Nobody gives into a seemingly small temptation with the hopes that it’ll eventually ruin their relationships or life.
The real question we have to answer today is this: What do you do when you are facing temptation?
Again, this is something we all struggle with, because temptation is not just a ‘Christian’ thing. The temptation to have an affair in your marriage will cause a lot of trouble whether you believe in God or not, right? The temptation to steal will lead to fines or jail time. The temptation to overeat will lead to bad health or obesity. The temptation to buy things without the money for it will lead to debt. The temptation to drink often and heavily will lead to an addiction.
Society and big business is practically built around our temptations. Why else do we sexualize women on commercials? Why is alcohol becoming more and more available at gas stations and grocery stores? Why do we have a day where we put everything on sale and stay open all night, just to convince us to buy things we can’t afford? Why do our movies all involve sex (almost every time with someone other than their spouse), drugs and alcohol, and violence? Why do the worst foods for our bodies sound the best and the cheapest at fast food restaurants?
Do you see what I’m saying? We are constantly being tempted, from all sides, Christian or not. We need help to stay away. I don’t want you to continue to go through life stacking up regret. I don’t want your relationships to break apart over addiction. There is very real, very practical help if you are sitting here right now, hoping nobody has found out about what you’re dealing with.
I’ve got 3 big points that I want to follow today, all very practical. What do you do when you are facing temptation?
- Understand this: Temptation is the invitation.
Temptation itself is not sin, it’s the invite.
How do I know this? Well, because Jesus Himself, who is our example, who was without sin, was tempted. Matthew 4:4 says,
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”
Temptation is not sin, it’s the invite.
For example: Let’s say I am walking behind someone and see them drop their wallet; I may have the temptation to grab it and not say anything. I play through my mind the possible outcomes. But I haven’t actually done that yet. I reach down and instead of turning around and running, I catch up to the person and return the wallet. Clearly, that was the right decision. The temptation was there, but I didn’t go through with it.
James, the brother of Jesus, articulated this same thing in his letter. He writes:
“Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.” James 1:14-15 NLT
It’s where our temptation leads that is the problem. And our temptation comes from our own, sinful desires. Does that makes sense? When you are tempted to do anything, you have a choice to make, every time.
But how will you make the right choice?
Let’s say that you are hiking the mountains this afternoon and you hear some rustling behind you and your friend. You look back and you see that you’ve just passed by a small bear cub. Then you look to your left and you see momma bear charging you and your friend to protect her cub. What do you when you’re faced with this dangerous situation?
You push your friend down and start running right?
It would be extremely foolish to not run away from that danger, yet when it comes to temptation, we aren’t as quick to turn away.
Why is that? Like we said, it’s naturally appealing! Even when we know the outcome will be bad, our natural urge is to go for it! Paul described this feeling like this:
“I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.” Romans 7:22-23 NLT
We cannot simply pretend that we aren’t tempted in order to avoid it. So when we see danger coming our way, what do we do? Here’s Paul’s advice to Timothy:
“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” 2:22 ESV
The NLT version says it this way: “Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts.”
Here’s your real practical thing to remember today:
2. SEE and FLEE.
Or said another way, The best way to avoid a mistake, is to completely forsake.
Temptation comes when we see and desire something. But that’s when we have the choice to make. When you see a momma bear charging you, you run the other way. If you want to live with fewer regrets, and if you want to avoid anything that will tear apart your relationships, you have to get away from that temptation.
Jesus made it really practical for us. Here’s his advice for you as he’s giving his most inspirational speech, the sermon on the mount:
“So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your hand—even your stronger hand—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” Matthew 5:29-30 NLT
If we took this literally, there’d be nothing left to us! But Jesus is making it so clear: Do whatever it takes to avoid it. Even if you’re not sure about the Christian faith yet, this is still great teaching isn’t it?
The greatest example of practically living this out is a clip from the movie Fireproof. This scene is an amazingly clear example of what it looks like to not only not GIVE IN to our temptations, but to COMPLETELY get away from it! He smashes his temptation, the computer, to pieces!
Would you be willing to do that to save your marriage? Would you change jobs? Would you quit your addiction cold turkey? What do you have to do today to get away from the temptations you face?
The most famous example of temptation in our Bible is found in the very beginning with Adam and Eve. They were in paradise, no wrong or bad thing was there. They were told by God not to eat from one specific tree, and that’s it. But Satan set up the temptation to eat from that same tree, and because they gave in, sin entered the world. I love this quote from Richard Sibbes:
“Satan gives Adam an apple, and takes away Paradise. Therefore in all temptations let us consider not what he offers, but what we shall lose.”
Here’s a one liner to remember:
When tempted by a desire, Remember that Satan is a liar.
It’s always going to look enticing. But remember, we have to make the choice to flee. But it won’t be easy. But here’s the good news: We don’t have to do it all alone.
Jesus, in his last hours the first time around (haha), looked at his disciples there with him and gave this warning:
“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41 NIV
Who can help us in our temptations? God. His Holy Spirit. When we don’t know what to do, we don’t have to rely on our weak selves, we have God at our side. When we don’t know what to do, we fix our eyes on You.
As Paul is writing his first letter to the Corinthians, he’s talking to them about the history of God’s people, and how they turned to evil things, and gave in to their temptations. The beginning of the chapter really just reads very depressing. It’s the reality that we are weak and give in all too often. But then he turns it upside down. He says that all of that history is now our warning, and we can learn from it. And what’s better, we have help:
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And 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.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV
There are 3 great truths that we can hold on to:
- What you’re struggling with, someone else has before too. You’re not alone!
- God is faithful.
- Through Jesus we can endure temptation.
Listen, all of this teaching will help you live with less regret if you decide to run from your temptations. But it’s only with Jesus that we are able to endure it. It’s only with Jesus that we can get the help that we need to continually stay away. And it’s only with Jesus that we can move to point 3.
- Find Forgiveness.
How in the world could Mary Lynn get through what her husband Dave had done to her? I mean it didn’t sound like a one time thing. He had been pursuing other women often throughout the marriage, and had continually lied about it. What could possibly stop her from just… not being home when he got home one evening? Why fight for the marriage? He deserved to be left to clean up from all the mistakes he had made.
I want to be honest with you. If you walk away from here today without knowing Jesus but just some good teaching, it’ll help you a little bit. It’ll save you from some mistakes. You may have fewer regrets. But you will still give in to things, and mistakes will still be made. Maybe not as often, but they’ll come around. The cycle of doing right and wrong becomes exhausting, and it can feel hopeless. No matter how hard we try to avoid temptation, it always seems to find us again. And it’s not because you don’t believe and we do, that’s not the point. We’re all the same in that we are human, and will continue to make mistakes.
God cannot look upon sin, because there is none in Him! But He wants a relationship with you more than anything. He knows the effects of sin. He knows the power it has over us. So because He loves you so much, He couldn’t just leave it at that.
God sent His Son Jesus so that you can be FORGIVEN for all the mistakes you’ve ever made, are doing, and will ever do. People think Jesus just came to make the most exclusive claim that you must give your life to him to not rot in hell. But the reality is His life, death, and resurrection changed everything! Christianity IS exclusive in the fact that we believe that Jesus is the only way to eternal life with God, but it’s the MOST INCLUSIVE in that Jesus died for EVERYONE who would believe! He forgives and takes away the sin of ANYONE who calls on Him! It’s not based on your performance, or how good you were, or how many temptations you ran away from. Every temptation you’ve given into is forgiven because of what Jesus has done for us. It’s undeserved, it’s grace.
How amazing is that? Dave said he felt like a sociopath, and crazy. He said that he was a dead person. But, as Dave puts it, that night, God came right to him where he was to rescue him, and to get him out of the pit that he was in.
This is such an important part to hear today, because you may be dealing with a lot today. You’ve given in to your desires time and time again. You know it’s not right, you know it’ll hurt somebody, but you’re in a harmful cycle. You can work as hard as you can to turn away from those addictions, but because we’re human, we will continue to mess up. But God not only wants to help us get out of the pit, and turn and flee from the mess we’re in, but He wants you to know that you are forgiven for it all.
If you feel like you are in the pit today, God wants to pull you out of it. Even if you’ve never asked for His help before, you can today. If you feel like you’ve sinned against others, yourself, and God too much, you’re wrong. You can find forgiveness in Jesus. If you have given into temptation time and time again, God wants to help you run the opposite direction.