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II Samuel 11:1-5
I Corinthians 10:1-12
In an article in Today’s Christian Woman, a Sarah Ames writes that her 7 year-old daughter, Jessica, is a deep thinker when it comes to theological questions. They had recently discussed the why bad things happen sometimes, re-reading the story of Adam and Eve and how sin came into the world. Later that week, Jessica was ill and had to stay home from school. Feeling miserable, she told her mother: “If only Adam and Even hadn’t eaten the fruit, I wouldn’t be sick.”
Before her mother could respond, Jessica added: “Of course, if they didn’t eat it, we’d be sitting here naked.” 1
I think her mom was right . . . Jessica sounds like a ‘deep thinker.’
As we begin to talk about how to overcome temptation, Paul is encouraging you to emulate Jessica and be deep thinkers.
If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall” (I Corinthians 10:12 NLT).
Therefore let the one who thinks he stands firm [immune to temptation, being overconfident and self-righteous], take care that he does not fall [into sin and condemnation]” (I Corinthians 10:12 Amplified Bible).
To the person who thinks they are immune to temptation or the person who think they can handle temptation when it comes along, Paul gives a warning: “Think again.” Why?
Because temptation can be very enticing and if given into often leads to disaster.
You recall the story of King David, who one evening was walking on the roof of his palace when he happened to spot a woman named Bathsheba taking a bath. She was beautiful and David could not resist the temptation to have her brought to him.
If only he would have taken the time to think about all the probable disastrous consequences that would inevitably result before he decided to pursue the beauty of Bathsheba?
One of the largest freshwater turtles is the alligator snapping turtle. Found primarily in the southeastern United States, these massive turtles have been known to weigh close to 250 pounds. They are carnivorous, and while their diet is primarily fish, they have been known to eat almost anything else they can find in the water; even small alligators! The alligator snapping turtle relies on a uniquely deceitful method of foraging for fish. The turtle will lie completely still on the floor of a lake or river with its mouth wide open. At the end of the turtle’s tongue is a small, pink, worm-shaped appendage. The turtle wiggles the end of its tongue so that it looks like a worm moving through the water. When a fish sees that wiggling worm, it cannot resist it and the turtle’s jaws snap shut trapping the fish so that it cannot escape.
Oh if only we could somehow take our eyes off the worm and see the deadly jaws instead it would be far easier to resist temptation.
Before we give in to temptation, we need to think about the negative consequences that will certainly cause us and probably others pain. Thinking in this way can help us overcome temptation.
Then we need to think again if we believe we can give into temptation because we can handle sin without experiencing the negative consequences.
That was one of David’s pitfalls. He thought because he was the King he could get away with giving in because he would be able to handle it, that he could somehow tame it without letting it get out of control. I guess we could say in that regard David thought of his sin as a ‘pet’ sin.
In 2011, a South African farmer was tragically killed by a hippo he had raised as a pet for five years. Before the incident the owner had boasted, “They think you can only have a relationship with dogs and cats, but I have a relationship with one of the most dangerous animals in Africa.” A few months later, his pet hippo dragged him into a river and mauled him. 2
Do you know what can be even more dangerous than a pet hippo? A pet sin. Like the owner of an exotic pet, we think we can domesticate our sin and keep it caged up. We think it will obey us when we tell it to sit, stay, or heel. We think if we train it right, this sin will not pose a threat to our soul.
If and when we think like that, we are only fooling ourselves because sin is stronger than we think!
This past week, I used a broom to knock down some spider webs that routinely are built around our two outside lights on either side of our garage. We who nonchalantly yank down spider webs around the house underestimate the true strength spider webs have. The fact is that spider silk is one of the strongest substances known to man. Pound for pound, it is five times stronger than steel. It is easy to yank a web down with a broom because there is so little web there. No wonder when a fly gets stuck in a web, it is doomed. That little bug might as well be stuck in a web of steel cables. Just as we underestimate the strength of spider webs, so we underestimate the strength of sin. When we get caught in a web of sin, we think we can break out of it ourselves. We invent temptation-fighting techniques, we exert all the willpower we have. But those are fly-strength efforts against steel-strength sin.
“Think again;” says Paul, we cannot beat temptation and sin in our own power.
I’ll never forget Radio personality Paul Harvey’s description of how an Eskimo kills a wolf. The account is grisly, yet it offers fresh insight into the consuming, self-destructive nature of temptation and when we give into it, sin. First, the Eskimo coats his knife blade with rabbit blood and allows it to freeze. Then he adds another layer of blood, and another until the blade is completely concealed by frozen blood. Next, the hunter fixes his knife in the ground with the blade up. When a wolf follows his nose to the source of the scent and discovers the bait, he licks it, tasting the fresh frozen blood. He begins to lick faster, more and more vigorously, lapping the blade until the keen edge is bare. Feverishly now, harder and harder the wolf licks the blade in the arctic night. So great becomes his craving for blood that the wolf does not notice the razor-sharp sting of the naked blade on his own tongue, nor does he recognize the instant at which his insatiable thirst is being satisfied by his OWN warm blood. His carnivorous appetite just craves more until the dawn finds him dead in the snow! 3
What did James say? “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” (1:14-15).
John Owen, 17th-century scholar, theologian, pastor and professor at Oxford is famous for saying, “Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.” 4
Then ‘think again,’ if you think you can hide your sins.
David again; thought because he was the King, he wouldn’t have any trouble covering up his sin, hiding it away and keeping it a secret. But he couldn’t hide it from God. God sent Nathan the prophet to confront David.
Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’ (II Samuel 12:7-10).
There is no such thing as hidden sin. Trying to hide sin from God is like running from our shadow. We can’t outrun it. We can’t run away from God because God knows everything. Our family and friends might not know about our secret sin, but God knows. We cannot hide skeletons in our closets as far as God is concerned.
Hebrews 4:13 says, “Nothing in all the world can be hidden from God. Everything is clear and lies open before Him, and to Him we must explain the way we have lived.”
So, for all these reasons we need to think again!
Think again and pray.
Fortunately for you and I and every human being, we have Jesus to turn to in prayer.
But what should we pray? First things first. The first thing we can and should pray for is for the forgiveness of our sins.
Paul discusses this concept thoroughly in his letter to the Romans: Where he writes in 3:23 that “all people have sinned.”
In 6:23 he writes, “The wages of sin is death.” Death being spiritual death (living apart from God forever).
In 3:21-22 he has, “But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.” Faith in what Jesus accomplished on the cross. He paid the price for our sins by dying in our place. Faith (belief, trust in, rely on, cling to) in the power of the cross.
A little later, he writes, “There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (8:1).
But even though all of our sins are forgiven in Christ, we are still prone to temptation which if given into leads to sin. And so it is imperative that knowing ourselves, knowing our weaknesses knowing our propensities and inclinations to sin that we pray, asking God for His help to resist temptation.
Jesus is our model. Last week, we saw Him struggle with temptation in the Garden of Gethsemane. He threw Himself on the ground and cried out to God over and over, “Father, please, if there is any other way to accomplish Your purpose without having to suffer the cross, please make it happen.” Until He came to the point where He was able to say, “Not my will, but Thine be done.”
But please note, it was being in contact with His Father through prayer that helped Him reach that point where He was ready to put His fate in God’s hands.
Being in contact with the Father through the medium we call prayer is vital in overcoming temptation.
An article in the journal, Sociological Images, describes researchers who created a Halloween field experiment with the following setup: On Halloween, a woman answers the door and invites the trick-or-treaters in. She tells them to “take one,” and then she exits the room leaving the bowl of treats. The researchers repeated the experiment with a total of 1,300 kids. The good news was that most kids (69%) took just one as they were instructed. They also noted that the majority of that 31 % who decided to steal were trick or treating by themselves rather than in groups of two or more. 5
That’s why it is so important to develop a prayer life, whereby we stay connected to God on a regular basis. When we train ourselves to live our lives in Christ’s presence, His power to resist temptation will be available!
So imagine you are David. He had an image come to his mind when he saw Bathsheba taking a bath; an image of gratification of the flesh. He needed another more God-like image to replace the image that was enticing them to sin.
So do we. May I suggest that when you are tempted you replace the image enticing you with the image of Jesus on the cross. Use your imagination to see the spikes through His hands and feet, His lacerated back, the blood oozing from His forehead where the crown of thorns presses in, the agony of His struggles to heave Himself up and down just to breathe scraping His raw back on the wooden beam of the cross, Now we are no longer thinking of that image that first enticed us, now, we are at Calvary.
“So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same temptations we do, yet He did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God (in prayer). There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (Hebrews 4:16).
Think again and pray.
1 Sarah Ames. “Kids of the Kingdom.” Today’s Christian Woman
(January/February 2006), p. 6
5 Livingston, Jay. “The Psychology of Greed on Halloween,” Sociological Images