Category Archives: temptations

Compromise #2-Don’t go very far!

As mentioned in the previous post, compromise in areas of Christian living is a source of danger. While we can compromise in areas that do not contradict Biblical teaching, “walking worthily of the calling with which we have been called” requires that we walk in the straight and narrow path, not wander closer to the broad and wide path-which leads to destruction.

A lesson about compromise can be learned in the account of Moses and Pharaoh. Moses was sent by God with a message to “Let my People go!” and Pharaoh responded with stubbornness and “offers” that were in effect, compromise. His first compromise we discussed in the last post, the 2nd one is found at Exodus 8:28

So Pharaoh said, “I will let you go to sacrifice to the LORD your God in the wilderness; only you must not go very far away. Plead for me.”

Even as Pharaoh asked Moses to pray for him, he was not allowing Moses to take the Israelites “very far away”

Satan is like that too. If you must leave the world to serve God (e.g. become a Christian), then do not go very far away from the world. Don’t get too involved in the Church, don’t spend time studying and learning about God’s ways and desires for your life, don’t mature in the faith.

Satan doesn’t want you so far away from the world that you can’t see it. He wants the allure of the world’s ways to be ever present before you. Yet, it is so apparent in the Scriptures that we are to be as far away from the world as we can possibly be. Far enough away that the people of the world take notice

For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you;  (1Pe 4:3-4)

Paul reminds the Corinthians of the type of people that they once were but no longer are:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1Co 6:9-11)

But it isn’t just leaving the “big” sins mentioned above. Our whole life needs to say we are different from the world and have left it. This means even our attitudes will reflect it. One of the saddest portions of the Parable of the Sower is the third soil. It is the soil that also heard and accepted the word which was implanted but when the harvest time came, it proved unfruitful. Why?

but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it prove(d) unfruitful. (Mar 4:19)

Three things created weeds and thorns in the third soil. All of those things belong to the world. Leaving the world behind and focusing on what is ahead, pressing on toward the high calling of Jesus Christ desensitizes to the ways of the world. We can be IN the world but not OF the world.

The Gentiles care about the things of the world but God knows what we need. The riches of the world will not buy happiness, contentment, or our salvation. The contentment with what we have-not the striving after bigger and better will keep us centered on what is truly important not desiring things which we do not have and often don’t satisfy if we get them.

Just as Moses was not planning to go a short distance out of Egypt, we should not plan to go a short distance away from the world.  We need to speak as if we are on a journey. Just like Abraham left his land to go to a land which God was to show him, we journey to a land (Heaven) which God will show us…but we can get to Heaven if the world is always before us. No, let us set Christ before our eyes and follow his path even if it means our death because that will mean our exaltation!

Don’t accept Satan’s compromise.

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Compromise and the Christian

Compromise is a necessity in many aspects of our life. Spouses, business men, boyfriend/girlfriend, salesmen, bosses, employees, neighbors, politicians all find themselves in situations where compromise is necessary.

Compromise is, in essence, a negotiation. The negotiation entails each party giving up something that they want (or strategically speaking “want less”) in order to get a deal that they view to be more valuable than the item given up.  In a finance negotiation where two parties are $10,000 apart, the negotiation may see one party give up $2500 and the other $7500 or they may just split the difference down the middle. It is the compromise that says “you give up this, I will give up that”. If the two parties agree, the compromise is agreed to and the deal is struck.

When it comes to the Christian life however, compromise becomes a source of danger and needs to be guarded against. I am not, of course, talking about issues which do not matter to the heart of the Christianity. If some members of the congregation want to have 3 songs before the sermon and others want 5, perhaps 4 might be a good compromise. Peace can be maintained in areas where doctrine, Biblical teaching, is not contradicted.

Satan, of course, is a devious foe and I am convinced that compromise is one of his most effective tools. The biblical account of Moses and Pharaoh, highlight 4 compromises that the world offers to Christians. I would like to take a look at them in four separate posts.

 

Compromise #1 ” Sacrifice to God in the Land” Exodus 8:25

Pharaoh offered (and I use ‘offered’ in a loose sense) to Moses to let the Israelites perform their sacrifices to God in the land where they lived. This is similar to Satan telling us that we can worship God and stay in the world; that no movement on our part is necessary.

Many times people say, “I don’t need to go to church services.” Others say, “I don’t need to give up the activities of the world.” Some even say, “We will make this change so that we are less inconvenienced.”  Jeroboam led the northern tribes into this compromise:

Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold; and he said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Beth-el, and the other put he in Dan. (1Ki 12:28-29)

Why should worshiping God be a hard thing for you? You can have your cake and eat it too. Some congregations are known for changing their worship times on Super Bowl Sunday so that their members can enjoy the game. Some cancel services altogether!

There are many passages which show we are to be different. Staying in the land and partaking of the things in the land does not tell the world we value Christ, it says we have compromised.

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a lamp, and put it under the bushel, but on the stand; and it shineth unto all that are in the house. Even so let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Mat 5:13-16)

We are to be salt to the world, a light to the lost and this we cannot be if we are friends with the world. James 4:4 says:

Ye adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore would be a friend of the world maketh himself an enemy of God. (Jas 4:4)

We must separate our lifestyle from that of the world.

Wherefore Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, And touch no unclean thing; And I will receive you, (2Co 6:17)

When God told Pharaoh through Moses “Let my people go”, it was not in His plan for the people to say to Pharaoh, “Oh, OK, we will stay and sacrifice in the land”  When God through Jesus says to Satan “let my people go”, He does not expect them to tell Satan “Hey, it’s nice here, we think we will stay.”

 

The benefit of maturing in Christ

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.  (Heb 5:12-14 ESV)

measure heightAnd so it was in the garden of Eden that Eve was tempted by the serpent to eat from the tree that she was not supposed to eat from. Do you remember how that tree was described or named? It was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  For whatever reason (and we could explore those) God did not think that mankind needed to have that particular knowledge while in the Garden.  While in the stage of innocence Adam enjoyed a great deal of communication with God and I am sure the communion with Him was wonderful. So it was truly a sad day when Adam and Eve did what God did not want them to do.

Sadder still is that today, we also do not do what God wants us to do in relationship to “good and evil.” In the Garden we were directed away from it, but today we are directed towards it. We seem to resist that call however. We just do not want to grow up.

The Hebrew writer pointed out to the Christians to whom he wrote that being in Christ should lead to growth. When he says “ought” as in “ought to be teachers” he is bringing out a moral “should” not just an idea or suggestion (e.g. Well, it would be nice if you made it to that level).

He also points out that they are also regressing in their knowledge. Whereas, they ought to be teachers they need to be students and relearn things that ought to already know. After reaching a certain point in school, a student should be able to ‘teach’ a younger sibling to read. How sad to have that older child revert back so far that he would need to learn the alphabet.

Finally, he points out in this passage that one of the characteristics of mature Christians is that we will, with practice, be able to distinguish between good and evil. We begin to understand the wiles of Satan and find ourselves less fooled by his schemes. We also, with maturity, are able to teach others so that they too can avoid his temptations and traps.

The benefit in maturing in Christ is not just for our own good but for the good of others who do not know the difference between good and evil.

Question: What are the spiritual areas in which you need to mature? Which areas, if any, have you regressed?

Photo attribution: Fort Rucker

An autopsy of sin.

A repost with minor edits: enjoy!

With all the of the CSI programs on TV today, not to mention the old medical shows like Quincy M.E., it seems that people have an interest in autopsies. An Autopsy is the procedure performed on the body after death to see what killed it. (So I suppose my title should really be something like “An Autopsy of a spiritually dead person”) Today’s post is going to look back and see what kills us, spiritually speaking, from James’ book.

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. (Jas 1:13-16)

Who Tempts us?

First, off it is important to note that he instructs us not to blame God for the temptations you are going through. Not only is He not tempted, he does not tempt anyone. Flip Wilson, a comic from way back was famous for his phrase “The Devil made me do it!”  James is going to show that the devil doesn’t MAKE you do anything. From early on in our life we learn to blame others. Even Adam tried to blame both God and his wife in one shot: “The woman YOU gave me….” is why I ate. We will look everywhere and at everyone else that  we can except at ourselves.

It is true that Satan tempts us but James is going to show us the limits on his ability to tempt us. It not true that God tempts us and Paul says that God protects us from being tempted above what we can handle. In other words, he reins Satan in so that he is not able to overpower us.  (I cor 10:13)

What is a temptation?

James says that each of us is tempted when we are drawn away and enticed by our own desires. The word ‘desire’ is an appropriate word here. The meaning in this context is ‘illicit desires’ which is why some versions use the word “lusts”. At its core, a lust is a desire but it passes beyond the boundaries that God has set. An example is our desire for food. It is a perfectly normal desire to feed ourselves and satisfy our desire for food, but when turned into lust, it results in gluttony. Our natural sexual desires when taken in to the category of lusts results in fornication. Basically ‘desire’ is fine when kept within the boundaries God has established.

Temptation is the enticement to take a desire beyond its boundaries. So to be tempted means you must have some desire to begin with.  It would be useless to tempt me with liver. I do not like it, can’t stand it and so if I were guarding the ACME liver factory, there would be no temptation, to take any home with me. The same would not be said if I were guarding the See’s chocolate factory or the Blue Bell factory. It could become a temptation. The desire is for chocolate not to steal. Theft would be the result of letting the enticement go too far.

What if I like my sin?

Once the lustful desire has been conceived and accomplished it brings forth sin. Then when the sin becomes fully grown, it brings forth death. Since Scripture teaches that ONE sin is enough to result in death, I asked myself why sin would have to become full grown in order to kill. (“Self”, I asked…..)

Keeping in mind that James is writing to Christians, already cleansed in the blood of Christ, the lesson James teaches has to apply to our current temptations and desires. Christians are not prevented from sinning mechanically. God does not make it impossible for us to sin or the first chapter of First John wouldn’t make much sense.  The blood of his Son cleanses us from our sin….if we walk in the light as he in in the light.

But what if we like our lust and desire? What if the sin conceived is enjoyable to us and we do not wish to stop? Well, it grows. Cain had already sinned in not offering an appropriate sacrifice. God warned him that sin was ready to take control and urged him to do right so that he would be accepted. As we know, he didn’t listen, held on to his own sin and let it grow.

You see, if you could blame God for all this then there should be no fault attributed to your account. If you can blame Satan for making you do it, then again no fault is yours. But, if, just what if, that sin you are doing and giving into actually started from your own heart,  your own desires that you fanned into lust and then into sin and then decided you liked enough to live in it. Well, that would be a horse of a different color.

So on our autopsy death certificate it should read:

Cause of death:

Sin caused by an acute desire.

(we could have saved this one if he had repented)

The Choices of Cain

Today’s morning lesson looked at the choices that Cain made in an attempt to help us do better in the choices that we make. The Premise of the lesson is based on 1 Cor 10:13 which states that God does not allow us to be tempted above what we can bear.

Cain’s first choice was to not offer God the sacrifice that God wanted. Many thoughts are stated about this but at the very least we know that Abel offered his sacrifice by faith and was accepted. Cain then apparently continued to compound one sin by others.

God even advised Cain on how to be accepted. “If you do well, will you not be accepted?” You would think that Cain would choose to respond to this. However, the response to God’s encouragement was killing his brother; some response. Finally he did not even repent of this but made the situation worse by not admitting what he did.

God finally sent him away.

The examples we have in Christ give us clear paths to follow and to serve God. We should make the choices he made and resist the temptations to choose sin over God.  The link to this sermon is here

An autopsy of sin.

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.
(Jas 1:13-16)

With all the of the CSI programs on TV today, not to mention the old medical shows like Quincy M.E., it seems that people have an interest in autopsies. An Autopsy is the procedure performed on the body after death to see what killed it. (So I suppose my title should really be something like “An Autopsy of a spiritually dead person” but that is too long and not as intriguing as “An Autopsy of Sin”) Today’s post is going to look back and see what kills us, spiritually speaking, from James’ book.

First, off it is important to note that he says not to blame God for the temptations you are going through. Not only is He not tempted, he does not tempt anyone. Flip Wilson, a comic from way back was famous for his phrase “The Devil made me do it!”  James is going to show that the devil doesn’t MAKE you do anything. From early on in our life we learn to blame others. Even Adam tried to blame both God and his wife in one shot: “The woman YOU gave me….” is why I ate. We will look everywhere and at everyone else that  we can except at ourselves.

It is true that Satan tempts us but James is going to show us the limits on his ability to tempt us. It not true that God tempts us and Paul says that God protects us from being tempted above what we can handle. In other words, he reins Satan in so that he is not able to overpower us.  (I cor 10:13)

James says that each of us is tempted when we are drawn away and enticed by our own desires. The word ‘desire’ is an appropriate word here. The meaning in this context is ‘illicit desires’ which is why some versions use the word “lusts”. At its core, a lust is a desire but one that passes beyond the boundaries that God has set. An example is our desire for hunger. It is a perfectly normal desire to feed ourselves and satisfy our desire for food, but when turned into lust, it results in gluttony. Our natural sexual desires when taken in to the category of lusts results in fornication. Basically ‘desire’ is fine when kept within the boundaries God has established.

Temptation is the enticement to take a desire beyond its boundaries. So to be tempted means you must have some desire to begin with.  It would be useless to tempt me with liver. I do not like it, can’t stand it and so if I were guarding the ACME liver factory, there would be no temptation, to take any home with me. The same would not be said if I were guarding the See’s chocolate factory or the Blue Bell factory. It could become a temptation. The desire is for chocolate not to steal. Theft would be the result of letting the enticement go too far.

Once the lustful desire has been conceived and accomplished it brings forth sin. Then when the sin becomes fully grown, it brings forth death. Since Scripture teaches that ONE sin is enough to result in death, I asked myself why sin would have to become full grown in order to kill. (“Self”, I asked…..)

Keeping in mind that James is writing to Christians, already cleansed in the blood of Christ, the lesson James teaches has to apply to our current temptations and desires. Christians are not prevented from sinning mechanically. God does not make it impossible for us to sin or the first chapter of First John wouldn’t make much sense.  The blood of his Son cleanses us from our sin….if we walk in the light as he in in the light.

But what if we like our lust and desire. What if the sin conceived is enjoyable to us and we do not wish to stop. Well, it grows. Cain had already sinned in not offering an appropriate sacrifice. God warned him that sin was ready to take control and urged him to do right so that he would be accepted. As we know, he didn’t listen, held on to his own sin and let it grow.

You see, if you could blame God for all this then there should be no fault attributed to your account. If you can blame Satan for making you do it, then again no fault is yours. But, if, just what if, that sin you are doing and giving into actually started from your own heart,  your own desires that you fanned into lust and then into sin and then decided you liked enough to live in it. Well, that would be a horse of a different color.

So on our death certificate it should read:

Cause of death:

Sin caused by an acute desire.

(we could have saved this one if he had repented)

Waiting for the crown of life.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
(Jas 1:12) ESV

James began his letter  by telling us to rejoice when we meet various trials. He talks about the trials producing steadfastness,  gives some advice about obtaining wisdom, and gives counsel to the rich and the poor. Even that counsel to the rich and the poor is within the overall theme of standing fast in trials because each economic status brings its own sets of trials.

The question is often asked: Does verse twelve  belong with the section above or the section below? I honestly think that it applies to  both. James uses this statement as a transition from trials/temptations in general to a specific type of temptation, one that entices to sin.  Some versions pick up on the slight difference by using “trial” in verse 3 but use “temptation” in verse 12. The ESV uses “trial” in both verse 3 and 12.

Temptations (direct enticements to sin) are definitely discussed in verse 13 but not all trials (temptations-NKJV) are direct enticements to sin. The death of a loved one, the need to find a different discipline for the youngest child who responds differently than the first two (thus the need to pray for wisdom),or  some financial set back can test us and may lead us toward sin but throwing our faith away is not the most likely response.  Of course, if enough of those trials are heaped on top of us, we may choose to buckle but Job did not buckle under his trials and, as far as I know, they were not direct enticements to sin, with the exception of his wife’s advice to “curse God and die.”

In either case, James ties our reward in Heaven (the crown of life) to standing fast. The only way to be able to say that one has stood fast in this context is to die faithful in the Lord. In other words, it is the summation of a Christian’s whole life not a few victories and  then a sliding away. This is a similar to Revelation 2:10 “be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life”. The idea then is that  trials will be present throughout our life, but this should not disturb us.

Verse twelve also reminds us who this reward is for. He says that the crown of life is promised for those who love God. Much is made of the fact that God loves us. John 3:16 is a well known and comforting verse. However, to be loved by someone does not mean you love them in return. The greatest commandment is that we love God with our whole being, so it stands to reason that this promised crown of life is to those who love him in return. How do you know you love him? In this context, when you have stood fast through your whole life, your love is shown.

As we go through and grow through these trials, our hope is set on Christ and that crown of life that awaits us. Our steadfastness in trials and temptations will allow us to say with Paul:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
(2Ti 4:7-8)

Self-control in the Garden

Today’s lesson takes a look at an important topic, that of self-control.  Self control is not a commonly used word in the Bible, however, the concept of self-control is found so often in the Bible, that is hard to miss. In fact, one would have to try very hard to miss one main message of Scripture: control thyself! In fact, one doesn’t have to go very far to see self-control, or the lack of it, at work in the garden of Eden. Adam and Eve present a good study on how their lack of self-control could star in the book of life’s chapter entitiled “what not to do”.

The tree that Eve ate from was a good looking tree, to be sure, and it was good for food as well. But so were all the other trees in the garden (Gen 2:9) so why that particular tree and what was her motive? I think it was, in part, the attention that she paid to it. If she had treated it like any other tree, as she had been doing, there should have been no problem. The other part, was that Satan caused to be discontent with what she had. It wasn’t enough to have God providing everything for her that she needed, now she wanted to be like God.

Such knowledge was not necessary for her to do her job and fulfill her role. And there are lots of things that we do not need to “know” in order to do our job for God. Knowing Drugs or pre-marital sex, or how to win through deceit is not a knowledge we need to have and the damage can be substantial. Because of our lack of self-control sin creates problems not just for us but for others.

Developing self-control is an important thing to do. It is easier as children to learn to be disciplined but even as adults there are lessons that we should learn to help us control our lives. Admitting that we have a need for control in this or that area will help. As the old saying goes ‘admitting that you have a problem is half the battle.’ A second way to help avoid sin (the failure to control ourselves) is to do as David did. “your word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against you” (psalm 119:11) and third, we can prayer for strength as Jesus counseled the disciples to do “pray that you enter not into temptation” Luke 22:40

I hope you enjoyed reading this and if you have any suggestions that will help in developing self-control, let me know. The sermon parts one and two are here.

Count it all Joy

So many times we look at trials and testings as a bad thing. But I like the way the ESV states verse 3. “When you meet various trials”

When you meet them. mmmm. That is easy to understand although sometimes we might think that they are meeting us. James says our faith is tested and we may think of temptations to sin or even to leave the Lord. While that may be included, it should also be narrowed down.

Consider it this way: When that driver cuts you off are you exploding all over yourself as he drives away blissfully unaware of what he did? What kind of faith do you have? A kind one? A forgiving one? An assumption that maybe he needed to be hurrying along his way and meant you no ill?

Or when someone offers to let you cheat on a test: Is your faith one that says Honesty and not speaking lies is part of God’s character therefore it is part of mine. An A+ stolen is not a godly as a C- earned.  Besides, you should have paid more attention to the ant you sluggard! No more procrastinating.

When your faith is tested in various ways and you pass that test, your steadfastness is increased. Not only does this open the way for you to be used by God more, it opens the way for you to be a better example to others and perhaps provide the wisdom that some lack.

(next time: Lacking wisdom)

P.S. So my trial right now is “how do I post this onto my James page?” Fear not if there is a way, I will find it or someone will help me find it.

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