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CrossPointe Community Church
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Chippewa Lake, OH 44215
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry. During that time the devil came and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”
But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”Matthew 4:1-11
Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’”
Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’”
Next the devil took Him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.”
“Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’”
Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.
One month ago today, on our Last Communion Sunday, in a message titled Sinners No More! I talked about how in the church we talk about sin; a lot.
Although it is appropriate and even necessary for salvation to accept the theological truism that we all sin, it is not helpful to think of ourselves solely as a sinner. Because we have a human tendency to live out the label we attach to ourselves. That is, we usually speak, act and react as the person we think we are. And because that is true, my main point that day was that we should endeavor to see ourselves the way God sees us as righteous; a word which means ‘pure,’ ‘perfect,’ ‘holy.’
That message serves as a perfect set-up for today’s scripture reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans. In chapter 5, which I used as our main text a month ago, the main subject is God’s grace in that He has declared sinners as righteous. And so anticipating his readers’ possible response to that wonderful truth, Paul begins by asking a rhetorical question:
Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of His wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined Him in His death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.
Since we have been united with Him in His death, we will also be raised to life as He was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with Him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and He will never die again. Death no longer has any power over Him. When He died, He died once to break the power of sin. But now that He lives, He lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.
Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.Romans 6:1-13
This text serves two purposes. First, it serves as a warning to any Christian who thinks that since all my sins; past, present, and future are forgiven, why be concerned about sin? And secondly, the text encourages us to live up to the high standard that has been conferred upon us by God Himself. “Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires”
Easy to Grab, Hard to Let Go!
A gentleman who worked the 4 pm to midnight shift lived close enough to his workplace that he always walked to and from work. One night the moon was shining so bright he decided to cut a half-mile off his walk by taking a shortcut through a cemetery. After he made it through the cemetery without incident, he decided to walk that way every night carefully following the same path. One night he was walking his usual route through the cemetery, but unbeknownst to him, a grave had been dug earlier that day right smack-dab in the middle of his path. He fell into the deep hole and immediately started desperately trying to climb out. But alas, the harder he tried to more difficult it became. He stopped, took a few breathes, calmed himself down, and decided that the best course of action would be to wait till morning when surely someone would come along and help him out. So he sat down in one corner of the grave and actually dozed off when a drunk stumbled into the grave, and, he too, began to desperately claw his way out. Our hero came to, reached out and grabbed the man by the leg, and said, “Friend, it’s no use, you’ll never get out of there.” But he did! 1
You ever fall into a hole, a pit, a rut, and no matter how hard you try to extract yourself you can’t get out. Or, after you put up a valiant struggle, you get yourself out, only to fall back in again?
As you have probably already guessed, I am not speaking physically, but spiritually. All us of struggle with sin and some of us probably feel like we have been struggling to get out of the hole we have dug for ourselves for a long time. And it often seems the harder we struggle, the more we fail.
And when we hear Paul say, “Don’t let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires,” we feel guilty first, and then frustrated. And it is very discouraging and sometimes we are tempted to throw in the towel and give up trying. And that makes us doubt that we are even a Christian at all.
Does anyone here know what I’m talking about?!
I have two action steps that will help us win the battle over sin and temptation;
one practical, and the other spiritual.
One of the most practical ways to avoid temptation is to avoid circumstances and places where we know we are headed for trouble.
On the TV show Hee Haw, Doc Campbell was confronted by a patient who says, “I broke my arm in two places.”
The doc replies, “Well then, stay out of them places!”
When faced with the problem of temptation and the inclination to sin, we need to take the good doctor’s advice and “stay out of them places.”
It’s hard to pick forbidden fruit if you are a hundred yards away, but if you are at an arm’s length, you better watch out.
I was reading about a man who worked in the reptile house of a zoo that had a 13-foot king cobra that had a scar over his left eye that made him look evil, and more significantly, kept him from shedding his skin in a normal fashion. And so twice a year they would have to surgically remove the eye cap.
Two men would stand on either side of the cage door each holding a bird net. The curator who was responsible for grabbing the snake’s head stood about six feet away and the two men who flanked him would hold the snake’s body. With a nod of his head, the curator would signal for the door to be opened. Seconds late the king cobra appeared and as soon as he saw them, he stopped, spread his cape, and raised to full stature. The cobra was trembling, as he, in turn, stared at each of his five enemies. He seemed to be choosing who would be his victim. The curator was chosen and with shocking quickness the snake lunged forward, hissing with rage. The two skilled keepers caught the snake’s head in their bird nets. The curator grabbed the snake’s head just behind its venom sacks. The other two keepers grabbed his writhing body. Then the curator said to our hero, “Get a wad of paper towels and put them in the cobra’s mouth!”
When he got the paper towels close, the cobra bit down on them violently and they became yellow with venom until they began to drip. The curator said, “His venom glands contain enough poison to kill 1,000 adults.”
When it was all over, the curator said, “I had you drain his venom sacks because my hands were sweaty and my fingers were cramping. And when I let him go, it may not have been quick enough. More people are bitten each year when they let go of snakes than when they grab them.” 2
There are many situations in, life that are parallels; easy to grab, hard to let go.
So it pays to think twice before you even put yourself in a position to grab them. Moral of the story: When you encounter a king cobra, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!
Yes, it’s true that Jesus was led by the Spirit to do battle with the devil. But just because He waded right in there doesn’t mean we can. Jesus told His disciples, “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). Keep watching implies taking stock of where you’re at. Don’t put yourself in a vulnerable position!
If you know certain situations will cause you to be tempted, why put yourself in those situations? Why pick up a king cobra? If you are tempted to drink and know it will bite you don’t go to the bar. If you know you are going to be tempted beyond your capacity to resist by turning on your computer, don’t turn it on! If you know that hanging with certain people is likely going to get you in trouble, don’t hang out with them. If you know you have a weakness for spending too much money, don’t take extra cash or cards with you when you go out with friends. Don’t pick up the snake!
Martin Luther once said, “Don’t sit near the fire if your head is made of butter.”
An unknown author wrote: An Autobiography in Five Short Paragraphs
I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in, I am lost. I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.
I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in. I can’t believe I’m in the same place, but it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.
I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in. It’s a habit. My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.
I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.
I walk down a different street. 3
Secondly, if we are going to win the battle over sin and temptation, we must recognize that we cannot do it alone.
And it is helpful to know that we do not face temptation alone.
Pastor and author, Earl Palmer, writes: “The most important thing for us to recognize is that we don’t face temptation alone.”
And I would add, we dare not face temptation alone!
We need the Lord’s help to win the battle over sin and temptation! Apart from Christ’s power, we have no hope of resisting temptation.
That is why it is so imperative that we remain in close contact with Jesus; the New Testament states this over and over. “I am the light of the world, he who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12). “He who abides in Me shall bear much fruit” (John 15:6). “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).
How? O come on, you know how; the disciplines! The outward disciplines of worship, and the sacraments. And just as important, the inner disciplines; prayer and Bible, prayer and Bible. Jesus said, “Pray that you might not enter into temptation” (Matthew 26:41). And how did He defeat the devil? “It is written,” “It is written,” “It is written.” (4:4, 4:7, 4:10). Psalm 119:17 says, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”
Our only hope to resist temptation and therefore triumph over sin is found in the Lord Jesus; His strength, His power, His might, His grace.
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.I Peter 5:8
To you O Lord, I lift up my soul, in You I trust oh my God
Do let me be put to shame, or let my enemies triumph over me.
No one whose hope is in You will ever be put to shame
That’s why my eyes are on You O Lord,
Surround me, defend me, oh how I need You
To You I lift up my soul, to You I lift up my soul.
Reinhard Bonnke, who before he died in 2019, was the Billy Graham of Africa told of a man who was very proud that he owned a beautiful two-story home with four bedrooms and three bathrooms up, in addition to a master suite on the first floor. One day he heard someone knocking on his door, and when he opened it was surprised to see Jesus standing there. Jesus, ever the gentleman, very humbly said, “May I come in and live with you?” There was something compelling about Jesus and this man invited Jesus to come in and live in the house and gave Him a bedroom on the second floor. Jesus, always the gentleman will only take what you give Him.
The man was sleeping that night when he was suddenly awakened by a loud and insistent knocking at his front door. He opened the door a crack and the devil barged in. He had a terrible struggle trying to resist the devil and his temptations, crying out for help throughout the night and eventually, he managed to throw the devil out. In the morning, he said, “Jesus, couldn’t you hear me calling for help?”
Jesus replied, “The problem is, you’ve got this whole big house to yourself,
and I’ve only got one room.”
The man said, “Ah, I see your point, please take the whole top floor.”
That night the man was sleeping and heard an insistent pounding on the door, opened the door a crack, and saw the devil standing there. The man threw all his weight against the door, but to no avail; the devil already had his foot in the door and effortlessly shoved his way in. The man had another terrible battle, trying to resist the devil and his temptations, hollering for help all the time. Eventually, he barely managed to push the devil out and closed the door.
In the morning, he said, “Jesus, why didn’t you help me? Couldn’t you hear me calling for help?”
Jesus said, “The problem is, you have given me the top floor of your house,
but you still have reserved the bottom floor for yourself.”
The man replied, “I see what you mean; I give you my whole house!”
That night, the man was asleep, and there was a pounding at the door again. The man jumped out of bed in time to hear footsteps already in the house. And when he came out of his room, he saw Jesus moving toward the front door. He hid behind Jesus and looked over His shoulder as Jesus opened the door. Sure enough, it was the devil again. Jesus opened the door wide and stood there in the doorway. The devil looked at Him, bowed very low, and said, “I’m sorry, but I think I knocked on the wrong door.” 4
1 ‘All It Takes Is a Little Motivation,’ Zig Ziglar, in Stories for the Heart,
[Gresham, Oregon: Vision House Publishing, © 1996] Page 109.
2 Gary Richmond, ‘Easy to Grab, Hard to Let Go,’ in God’s Chicken Soup for the Spirit, compiled by Kathy Collard Miller and D. Larry Miller, [Lancaster, Pennsylvania: Starburst Publishers, © 1996], Pages 31-32.
3 ‘An Autobiography in 5 Short Paragraphs,’ author unknown, in Stories for the Heart, [Gresham, Oregon: Vision House Publishing, © 1996] Page 110.