Paul Sartarelli is the Senior Pastor of The Chapel, one of the largest churches in Ohio. Paul is also teaching pastor on Moody Radio.
Experiencing and Overcoming Temptation
**Universality of temptation
§ We all fight temptation–whether that is the temptation to focus on ourselves, to lust after the opposite sex, to covet the approval and attention of others, to want more and more, to be prideful, to focus on the temporary, to put other things before God, or whatever it may be. We all are tempted by something. It is not unique to a country, a religion, an ethnicity, a language, a gender, a class, or anything else. A man walking the streets in South Africa and sees an attractive women will share that same temptation with a man walking the streets of South America. A businessman in Australia will fight the temptation of greed in a similar way a businesswoman in Arkansas will fight it. The temptation to respond with violence is similar on the streets of Somalia as it is in Spain.
o We see in Somalia as government soldiers battle Islamic insurgents.
o All we have to do is open up our newspaper or read cnn.com to see the pitfalls of temptation. Those two are from the front page tonight.
§ We see this in the advertisements that litter our days, we see this in the lifestyle that pollutes governmental and religious leaders, we see this in our video games that contaminates children, we see this in movies that infect culture, and we see it in the desires and thoughts that taint our own hearts.
**The characters in Voyage of the Dawn Treader are no exception. They also endure the experiences of temptation. As they travel from island to island, hoping to piece together the puzzle of the seven missing Lords, each character ultimately faces a moment of temptation.
§ Eustace: Dealing with the loneliness and frustration of the adventure, while wandering alone by himself in the cave, he is lured by wealth: Greed.
§ Lucy: Dealing with the envy of her sister Susan’s beauty, while browsing through the spell book, she is lured by external appearance and the approval of others: Envy.
§ Edmund: Dealing with the role of power with Caspian, while investigating the unknown pool, he is lured by the wealth and power: Pride.
Transition question: We all know it; we all experience it; we watch it; we read about it; we watch loved ones struggle with it; we watch ourselves struggle with it. What can we learn and what provisions do we have to assist in overcoming temptation?
** Two Things about the Nature of Temptation:
1. Temptation, a common sensual experience/process of this world.
§ Genesis 3:6-7—“When the woman saw that fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”
**The temptation process…In this passage we notice something about temptation in this passage: it is a process. Eve saw something good and pleasing. Eve was attracted to it By using her senses, Eve saw, wanted, and acted. Sound familiar? It is a similar pattern we read about throughout the Bible. In 2 Samuel 11, David saw something good and pleasing in Bathsheba. David was attracted to her. He acted on that attraction. In Judges 16, Samson saw something good and pleasing in Delilah. Samson was attracted to her. He acted on that attraction.
**of See. Want. Act. It’s a pattern we all fall into. Whether we are flipping through TV stations, browsing the internet, walking through the mall, walking through the hallways at school, or driving down streets, we will see something good and pleasing to the eye and be attracted to it. Whether we are 5-year old boy looking at a new stuffed animal at Chuck E. Cheese’s, an 18-year old girl looking at a new skirt at the mall, or a 48-year old man looking at attractive women at the checkout lines. We see something pleasing and say “Ooo , I want that.” That is the process of temptation. And it’s a process that happens on a daily basis. Especially in our age of consumerism and advertisements, we are bombarded with sensory-stimulating material. We are peppered with occasions to say, “Ooo, I want that.” So we get it.
§ 1 John 2:16—“ For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.”
**…is of this World. When we see something good and pleasing, and are attracted to it, we learn from 1 John 2:16 that it is from the world—not from God. In other words, our sensual temptations are not of the world. Our desire for more, our cravings, and our attractions are not signed by God; the world signs at that bottom-line. When we look at something pleasing to the eye and say “Ooo, I want that,” that is craving of this world.
**But, Why? Why is temptation of the world? What makes a sensual experience of the world? I wonder if it centers on our view of ourselves. Why did Eve want the fruit? It was pleasing to the eye…and desirable for wisdom. She wanted something more than what she said and who she was; she didn’t think she had enough or was enough; there was something more she needed to truly have contentment. I wonder how much of temptation is buying into the lie that we are not enough; we are not complete—yet.
**Example from movie.
§ Lucy: Motivated by the disgust of herself and envy of her sister, she desires to have beauty beyond what she can imagine—or at least, beyond her sister Susan—as she flips through the book of spells, seeing for herself the potential beauty.
§ Edmund: Motivated by seeing something good and pleasing—a pool that transforms anything in gold—he was attracted to it, and led by his attraction to crave power and wealth.
§ It seems like Lucy and Edmund had similar thoughts to Eve. They saw something they wanted—whether that is beauty or riches and power—and believed in the lie that those things would make them enough and would complete them—finally. If only I were prettier…thinks Lucy. If only I were richer and more powerful…thinks Edmund.
§ When we see temptations, what makes us attracted to those things? I wonder how things would change if we asked ourselves, “Why do I want _________?”
2. Temptation, a personal experience between two worlds.
§ Romans 7:15-20—“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”
**We are in a State of Limbo: The wrestling within one’s own person. As we live in the “already, but not yet” tension between Christ’s ascension and his 2nd coming, we experience this limbo between our old and new selves. Our old self, or as Paul calls the sinful nature, remains a part of our heart/body/ mind. Our heart desires sinful things. Our mind thinks sinful thoughts. Our body performs sinful actions. On the other hand, our new self, as directed by the Spirit, is able to focus our hearts/bodies/minds on things above, rather than the things below (Colossians 3:2). It is to this idea that James writes in his book in 3:9—“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.”
**Between the Power of Sin: In the Romans passage, we begin to understand why we struggle in this limbo, why we struggle with temptation. We understand this world is not as it should be because of two things: the power of sin and our individual weakness. Sin is powerful enough to override our knowledge, wishes, and desires to not succumb to temptation. As Paul writes, “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do want to do—this I keep on doing.” Despite our best efforts and intentions, we still do things we do not want to do because of the sin that lives in us.
o Illustration: I picture the car driving down a windy road during the winter. The road is slick, and the driver hits a patch of black ice. At that moment, everything in that driver, let’s call him George, wants to regain control of the vehicle; he wants to hit the brakes, slow down, and avoid any damage, but the ice is too slippery. George cannot regain control, and crashes into the railing on the side of the road. I wonder if we are like George driving our cars down the winter road, and the power of sin—the slippery nature of the black—can overpower any of desires to regain control.
**and the Potential in Christ: And yet, even though sin is powerful we are people who, through Christ, live in a state of potential. As believers in Christ, we all have Spirit of Christ within us, as Paul writes in Galatians 2:20—“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” There is the potential for greatness, but at the same time, there is the potential for ugliness. Depending on the day, depending on our surroundings, or depending on any other circumstances/influences on our life, whether that be our relationship with friends, family, or with God, those two potentials can manifest pretty close together.
o For example, consider a golfer, or for that matter, just about any athlete. At the beginning of a round, match, or game, there is a potential for greatness; there is the potential to hit the great shot, make the right move, or score the perfect shot. We noticed that particularly in Tiger Woods this past year. He had the potential to create an incredible shot to make a birdie; on the other hand, he had the potential to hit an awful shot to make a bogey. At a recent tournament, he played four rounds and shot 65-73-72-67. Potential for greatness. Potential for ugliness.
**example of same from movie
§ We see this sort of tension in Eustace: Quote from book: “Though his mind was the mind of Eustace, his tastes and his digestion were dragonish.” He lived in this limbo between his human and dragon sides. He had the potential for greatness and act like a human, but at the same time, a potential for ugliness and act like a dragon. We are like Eustace. We have a human side and a dragon side. We fight this battle day-in and day-out.
** Two Things about the Provisions for Temptation:
3. Temptation, an overcomable experience in this world.
§ 1 Corinthians 10:12-13—“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not allow you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
**In spite of the common experience of temptation and the personal tension of living between worlds, Scripture teaches us that temptation is an overcomeable experience. In fact, God promises that to provide a way out so that we can stand up under it; in other words, our temptations will not completely devastate us. In this passage from 1 Corinthians, God gives us two ways that we can overcome temptation:
**through the help of others: It is interesting that the “you” is actually plural in these verses. There is a communal aspect to handling temptation. Try reading through the passage by inserting “you all” for every “you.” It is shift from how we usually handle and deal with temptation. In most scenarios, temptation is something we experience alone and deal with alone. In fact, what do you think the Devil’s favorite number is? My first thought is 6…but that’s not it: it’s 1. If you think about it, it makes complete sense. When are we most vulnerable to temptation? With a group of people…or behind a closed door by ourselves? Definitely the latter. But in this passage, God is handling temptation on a community level. We have to break out from our individualistic shell. To begin to understand God wants us to deal with temptation together—not by ourselves. To not disregard the fact that we have individual temptations—not by any means. We see this idea in Galatians 6:1—“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.”
Story: Do we want to be people to have to wait for a major sex scandal, like that of Tiger Woods, the Catholic priests, or the pastor of a mega church to deal with our sins? Or worse yet, do we want to one day find our friend on the front page of the paper because we failed to restore him gently?
But on what sort of level do we deal with temptations? How many of us have people holding us accountable? How many of us are in community groups that know us well? That know our strengths/weaknesses/temptations? How well do we let people see who we truly are?
**and the character of God: But at the same time, while God designed us to help each other out in community, He also wants us, as a community, to look towards him; to trust in his character for our support. It says in 1 Cor. 10, “And God is faithful; he will not you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
**example from movie
We see this throughout the story as in each tempting situation, there is a way out—through an appearance by Aslan. As Lucy turns the pages of the spell book, an image appears—seemingly out of nowhere—of Aslan. In a similar manner, while Edmund and Caspian argue over power and authority, Aslan appears, as the book quotes, “Shining as if he were in bright sunlight through the sun that had in fact gone in, passed with slow pace the hugest lion that human eyes have ever seen.” When the characters are tempted, a way out is offered through the presence/image/reminder of Aslan. God is faithful.
When we find ourselves in temptation may we remember that God is Faithful in two ways: faithful in knowing and understanding us, and faithful in providing a way out. God knows our limits; we may disagree with God on what exactly our limits are—especially when we fall into temptation, but God is faithful. We may not like the way out that God is giving us—it may be a humbling and humiliating way, but God is faithful. And in the end, God promises that we will be able to stand up under it. We will be able to put two feet on solid ground. The weight of temptation will not force us to crumble to our knees.
4. Temptation, a common and winnable experience–because of Christ.
§ Hebrews 4:14-16—“ Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
**Christ’s breaking of the process: However, not only can we overcome temptation, but we can beat temptation—because of and through Jesus Christ. Because of the life Jesus Christ lived, because he was tempted in every way, and yet did not sin. He was tempted in every way, if we think about that, we have to go to our list at the beginning and start filling in the blank. Jesus was tempted to __________. Think through all your temptations, Jesus experienced those same temptations. And so, as we think about the process of temptation talked about from Genesis 3, we see that Jesus broke that process. See. Want. Act. But we notice in Jesus’ temptation that the process stops after See. We read in Luke 4:5—“The devil led him up to a high place and showed in an instant all the kingdoms of the world…”. The devil “showed” Jesus. It is a sensory experience. Jesus broke up the process.
**Allows us to break the process: His breaking of the process allows us to break the process. We share in his victory. We share in this breaking. The writer in Hebrews draws the conclusion that we can now receive grace to overcome our temptations. He says, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” The life of Christ gives us confidence to overcome our temptations—but how?
**Through faith in the High Priest: The idea is in v.14—“ we have a great high priest…let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.” We can defeat temptation through faith in the high priest. The role of the high priest was to offer animal sacrifices for the sins of the people. And Jesus Christ is our high priest because he offered a sacrifice for sins of the people, but not only did he offer sacrifices, but he was the sacrifice—once and for all. His sacrifice carries the power of giving us new life. And through faith in Christ, through faith in the perfect—though tempted—life of Christ and faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ, we can approach the throne of grace. We know that our Savior overcame temptation, and as our High Priest, his sacrifice grants us the same opportunity.
**example of Aslan from Dawn Treader story
§ Eustace: We see this in the character of Eustace. After he had fallen victim to his temptation of greed and taking jewelry, he became a dragon. After a while, he began scratching away the scales, scratching away at the sin in his life, and he began to pull off layer by later, but the lion was the only one who could truly peel his scales off. As quoted in the book: “You will have to let me undress you.” After Aslan peels off the scales of the dragon, after he peels off the greed, Eustace says, “It hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt… and there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch.” And throughout the rest of the story, Eustace begins displaying more Christ-like qualities. For example, he was praised for his valour as he fought off the Sea Serpent. Also, at the end, many people noticed a change in his attitude and behavior. He was able to display those qualities because Aslan himself clothed him, as it says in the book, “after a bit the lion took me out and dressed me.” But the only way to defeat temptation was through Aslan. In a similar fashion, our only way to defeat temptation is through Christ.
§ As we watch this movie, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, may we identify the temptations of Eustace, Edmund, and Lucy, and recognize the ugliness for what it is. But at the same time, may this movie move us to identify and recognize the temptations in our own life, so we can see the ugliness that dirties our life. And as we approach the temptations in our own life may we have a better understanding of the sensory experience and process of temptation: See, Want, Act. May we recognize the power of sin in our lives and the futility of our own strength. But may those things not bring us, but may those things point us to Christ. He broke that process—and we can too. May the nature and power of temptation point us to the provisions we have in Christ to overcome our sinful desires. May we look towards the community around us, may we trust in God’s faithfulness, and ultimately, may we place our faith in Jesus Christ, the great high priest.
§ If you haven’t placed your faith in Christ now, could God be using this movie and His Word to be drawing you to Himself? Would you consider the joy you could have in overcoming the temptations in your life through Christ?
§ And if you have placed your faith in Christ, would you consider how you are handling temptation? Are you handling it in community with other believers? Are you restoring others? Are they restoring you? Is it based on Christ’s sacrifice for you?
§ For just as Eustace, Edmund, and Lucy were able to overcome their temptations through Aslan, let us now overcome our temptations through Christ. Amen.