Temptation - Part 2

Scripture: Mark 7:21, James 1:14-15, Matthew 5:29
This is the second of a two part broadcast on dealing with temptation. Everyone faces temptation. How can we gain the victory over the assaults of Satan? It begins in our thought life.
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Today we continue to study that intriguing subject of temptation. Here's an issue that no one can safely ignore. Every living soul is going to be tempted until the very last day of life. The form and appeal of it may change as age advances, but even the aged are sure to be tested by impulses to evil.

The great question is how can we gain the victory over these fearful assaults of Satan? Is it humanly possible to overcome all temptation of sin? This is the crux of the problem. Mark this well, temptation always assails the mind first. Every sin originates in the mind and thoughts before it ever appears in the life of an individual. In Mark 7:21 Jesus said, "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts. ..." Then he names some of the sins such as adultery, etc., and all of them begin with evil thoughts. In Ephesians 2:3, in the original language it says, "The desires of the flesh and the thoughts." Now desire in itself is not wrong. The affections and propensities of our nature are not wrong in themselves, either. God has put all manner of appetites and feelings within us, and they can be very beautiful and sacred. Wrong comes in just one way, when desire oversteps the bounds and seeks gratification outside the will of God. Then it becomes lust. In other words, pictures, books and words may come before us to excite the mind and appeal to the senses, they may present unholy desires to us, but we must not fulfill them. The temptation to lust may be present, but we must not gratify it. The evil thought may knock, but we must not open the heart to receive it and hold it. Desire will become lust if we do that. In James 1:14, 15 we have an example of that very thing: "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death."

Now we can illustrate this, I believe, by a story from nature. Flowers, you know have sex, they produce pollen and bees will carry the pollen from one flower to another causing the flower or fruit to reproduce. Now in the same way, the heart of man is always open, and bees of all kinds seem to bring in the pollen of unholy thoughts. Now when those evil thoughts are sown in the desires of our nature, sin results. Just as soon as that evil thought mingles with your nature, it brings forth an act of sin and death.

Now what is the solution, friends? We must place a guard at the avenues of the soul, to keep that gateway well protected. We must sift out the impure and unholy thoughts which come along before they are able to enter in and mingle with the carnal nature. I think of a story here that will illustrate this point perfectly.

The men of Israel were once fighting a battle against the enemy across on the other side of Jordan. Now these enemy soldiers looked exactly like the Israelites. They dressed alike, they looked alike and they spoke the same language. But there was just one difference between the Israelites and the enemy. The enemy could not pronounce the sound of "sh." So, when the battle was on the side of Israel and they had put the enemy to flight, and the enemy was fleeing to cross back over the river, the men of Israel set up a barricade there to stop the enemy from escaping. But when they came to the river, how would they know whether it was a friend or foe? Well, what they did was make the person pronounce the word "Shiboleth." And if they said "Siboleth" instead of "Shiboleth," they knew it was the enemy and they slew them as traitors.

Now friends, we need to put up some sort of test like that at the gate of the heart. We must catch those evil thoughts before they enter in and make them pronounce the name of Christ. If they are not able to do it, they should be cast out.

We ought to consider carefully the road we are following. We may need to change our occupation to get away from temptation. We may have to give up some things that please us very much in order to avoid the enchanted ground of the devil that might lead us to sin. Notice what Jesus said in Matthew 5:30: "And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell." Now this refers, of course, to the things that the hand might be doing. It is not talking about literally cutting off the hand, but the occupation of the hand. If our vocation is likely to bring disobedience, then we should cut off that vocation. We should stop doing the thing that we are engaged in if it is liable to lead us into sin.

Again in Matthew 5:29: "And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell." Now this again, is not in a literal sense. We could be minus an eye and still be a great sinner. It means that which the eye focuses on. If our spiritual nature is offended by what we see, Jesus said, "Cut it out." If it presents temptations to do wrong, it is better to cut that thing entirely out of our view. By the way, there is a lot that might be said right here concerning television. There is so much evil that comes over that tube and there is so much evil that appears on the silver screen of the theater, and this command of Christ would apply in about 90% of the cases, I think. Cut it out if it is liable to lead us to wrong thinking and wrong conduct. In other words, it is better to lead what the world calls a narrow-minded existence, or a one-eyed life, than to lead a full life and lose our own soul.

Somebody says, "Well, I am not worried, because I am not bothered a lot with temptations." Ah, when people say this, friends, I get very worried indeed. In fact, I remember a certain text of the Bible in 1 Corinthians 10:12, "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." That is the time to be careful. You know something, the most unlikely people are overcome by the most unlikely temptations. Often people are overcome in the very point where they feel the strongest.

Moses, for example, was the meekest man in all the world, yet he lost out over anger. Elijah was a man of great courage and dared to stand up against thousands of false prophets: yet he lost out finally by fleeing like a coward into the wilderness in front of an angry woman. Peter, whose impulsive courage in the garden led him to draw his sword and fight, denied his Lord a few hours later and withered into a cringing coward. Abraham was a man of faith, and yet twice he also told cowardly lies in order to save himself. Yes, when things like this happen to the most unlikely people, we realize our own danger. No one thinks about the results, of course, when temptation is facing him, because temptation comes along the line of least resistance. Gehazi in the Old Testament saw the flashing colors of the Syrian raiment, not the leprous scars that would come on him as the result of his covetous sin. Achan saw the goodly Babylonish garment, not the anger of a nation that would rise up to stone him to death. Judas saw the glitter of gold, not the dark remorse that would seize him finally and lead him to a suicide's grave.

Listen, I will tell you another truth, friends. Many temptations cease to trouble us as we make good choice a habit. It becomes automatic for us and the struggle disappears. I read an article some time ago entitled Don't Decide to Go to Church. This may sound like a strange article, but the idea was that there is no need for a decision each week about this, we ought to do it by nature. After all, we don't decide three times a day whether we are going to eat or not; we simply take it for granted that we will be eating breakfast, lunch and dinner. So it is with spiritual food, it should be taken for granted, friends. We should not go through any kind of struggle day by day as to whether we should pray and study the Bible or not.

Now let's ask another question. What is the secret of overcoming temptation? In Hebrews 4:15, we read that Jesus was tempted in all points like as we are yet without sin. It is His victory that makes our victory complete and assured. You could never do it alone. But He is faithful! What a subject this is! God refuses to give us up. He comes right down as a God-man and breaks into the very camp of our enemy to rescue us. Friends, He did it with one hand tied behind His back. He did it without using His deity. He did it in the same strength that you and I may have by faith. No one else could ever put the devil to flight. No one else could cause Satan to tremble, but Jesus did. He gained the victory over him, and now He offers that victory to us.

Let me tell you a favorite story of mine in closing. Augustine was a man swept by mighty currents of temptation. And he was swept by these tides of loyalty to two women, one, his wonderful mother, Monica, a saintly woman. The other, an evil woman who fascinated him almost to damnation. His life hovered between these two as between Christ and Satan. Sometimes Monica attracted him, but then the evil influence of the other woman came in to drag him down. The conflict was long and terrible. He seemed like a chip on a tide as he was swept back and forth. But one afternoon as he states it in his confessions, he and a friend were seated in a garden and suddenly he seemed to hear voices across the wall of children talking. Then he heard a voice saying, "Take and read." There was a Bible near by, so he took it up and began to read. Suddenly he knew what he was going to do. He was converted right then and there. Immediately he rushed to tell the good news to his mother, Monica. She was overjoyed by Augustine's conversion. But the next day, he was walking down the streets of Carthage and met this other woman who held such an evil fascination for him. He simply walked right past her as though she did not exist. The woman was astonished and ran after him. She took hold of his arm and said, "Augustine, it is I." He turned and looked at her and said, "Yes, but it is not I." And he passed on by and was saved. He was not alone in meeting that temptation, friends.

Some of you may be wavering also between two influences, the good and the evil. You may be swept by these strong tides of temptation. Your heart and life may be standing right now between Christ and Satan. If you are willing to quit sin, give yourself to God, a wonderful destiny awaits you.

Augustine became Saint Augustine. You can be a saint too. Your ugly past can be blotted out, it will not be counted against you. With all the fleshly avenues of the world against you, you can still be a child of God. You can accept the new position as one of His children. He is knocking at the door of your heart now and longs to come in. Will you not answer now and give Him your heart and gain the victory over temptation, get the mastery of your own heart and life? Christ will do it. He will come in and live, and you may have the victory through Him. God bless you as you do it now.

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