By Adam Burton | September 24, 2023
Well, it’s 2 a.m., you roll over, you’re unable to sleep. Work, deadlines loom, bills are piling up as you just mindlessly scroll through social media for a distraction. But then an ad, “find instant relief” pops up. They’re pills to reduce your stress and to help you to relax. They promise this sweet relief from the pressures of life.
You know, in our nonstop hyper-connected world, temptation lurks around every corner. Our devices bombard us with targeted ads for addictive vices and empty pleasures. Society constantly whispers that the next product, experience, or self-indulgence will finally, oh, finally satisfy our cravings for meaning and fulfillment. But it’s all a mirage. Behind the glossy facade lies a spiritual wasteland.
Our culture pedals an illusion of becoming a better version of us through consumption and sensuality. Yet many who chase after these hollow paths find their lives eroding right from beneath their feet. Substance abuse in America has reached epidemic levels. Pornography addiction within the church mirrors rates outside. Depression and anxiety are rising among every demographic.
From social media to secularism, our world excels at enticing us toward dangerous desires outside of God’s will. Look, we long for more as a people created in God’s image for a unique purpose. Our hearts yearn for greatness. But the constant pressures of the culture deceive and they destroy when entertained and unchecked. Temptation fractures our lives and relationships, dimming our light.
But what if temptation wasn’t a dead end but a bridge? What if each confrontation was an opportunity to choose wholeness over destruction? As James chapter one instructs, temptation leads to sin only when acted upon in the flesh. So through the spirit, we can stand firm. In the wilderness, long ago, Jesus himself faced temptation by the devil. Yet he emerged victorious through the power of God’s word. And by his triumph over sin’s grip, he paved the way for us to walk in freedom.
So today, we’ll explore the nature of temptation. But let’s remember that Jesus is not just a distant figure from the past, but he is our present help, our guide, and our ultimate example in facing and overcoming temptations.
So having set the stage for the challenges of our modern world, I want us to delve deeper into the specific images of temptation that confront us in our daily, in this digital age that we live in. Today’s message is titled “Standing Strong”. On the back page of your bulletin, you can find an outline to help you to follow along this morning.
I. Today's Temptations
Our first point is today’s temptations. Today’s temptations. Now, when we think of temptation, the first images that might come to mind are the classic ones, the forbidden fruit in Eden, the snake’s cunning words. But in our modern era, temptation has taken on new forms. Often, they’re more subtle, but yet they’re just as potent.
We see the digital dilemmas, the challenges of our online world. You know, in our pockets, we carry devices that are more powerful than the computers that sent the astronauts to the moon. Just think about that. These smartphones connect us to a world of information and entertainment, but they also expose us to a barrage of temptations. Social media platforms are designed to keep us scrolling and that can lead to envy, pride, sadly, even despair as we compare our lives to others.
Online shopping apps, we’ve all got them. You go and you sign up for the rewards because, hey, who doesn’t love a reward? But they make impulsive buying as easy as a click away. And the vastness of the internet can lead us down paths of harmful content from gossip sites to explicit material.
I mean, imagine a fisherman. He knows that to catch a specific fish, he needs the right bait, doesn’t he? Similarly, the algorithms, they study our online behavior, offering us the perfect bait to keep us hooked. But unlike fish, we have a choice. Yet in the midst of this digital maze, Jesus offers us a different path, a path of contentment, where our worth isn’t determined by how many likes or followers we have, but by our identity in Him. A path where we use technology as a tool, not a master.
Second are the chemical challenges, the struggles with substances, from the caffeine that kickstarts our day to the sleeping pills that close it. Our society has become increasingly dependent on chemicals. Now, while some are medically necessary, many are used recreationally or as crutches. Alcohol, drugs, or even some prescription medications can be misused, leading to addiction and to devastation.
I mean, consider a campfire. When it’s contained, it provides warmth and light. But if that fire spreads, it can destroy an entire forest. Similarly, what starts as an occasional use can escalate to a deadly one. Use can escalate and it can consume our lives. But Jesus, however, offers true peace and rest. For in Him, we find refuge from life’s storms, a comforter in our pain and a healer for our souls. Look, we do not need to numb our feelings or escape reality when we have the Prince of Peace on our side.
Thirdly, the sensual struggles, the battles against bodily desires. Our culture is saturated with sexual imagery from advertisements to entertainment. The message is clear. Look, just indulge your desires without any restraint. But this mindset often leads to broken relationships, to guilt, and a distorted view of our own lives. Our worth, you know, a river, when within its banks, it’s beautiful and it’s life-giving. But when a river overflows, it can cause destruction. Look, our sexual desires, when aligned with God’s design, are beautiful. But when they go beyond His boundaries, they can harm us and others. But in contrast, Jesus offers a vision of love that is pure and selfless and honoring to both God and to others. It’s in Him that we find the strength to pursue purity, to value ourselves and others beyond just physical attraction, and to build relationships on mutual respect and godly love.
Now that we’ve explored these modern faces of temptation, I want us to remember that we’re not the first one, though, to face such challenges. Now let’s turn our eyes to the wilderness, where Jesus Himself confronted and overcame the devil’s temptations, which brings us to our second point.
II. Jesus' Journey
Jesus’ journey, the wilderness wisdom for our battles. When we face temptation, it’s easy for us to feel isolated, thinking, oh, well, I’m the only one that must be struggling. But Scripture reminds us that Jesus, the Son of God, faced temptation too. His experience in the wilderness provides an invaluable lesson for us today.
Let’s look at Matthew chapter four, starting verse one, going through verse four. We read that, then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For 40 days and 40 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 the every word that comes from the mouth of God. In his physically weakened state, Jesus faces the devil’s first temptation to satisfy his hunger. But Jesus, prioritizing spiritual nourishment over the physical, responded with, not with a big Mac and fries, but with scripture. This teaches us the importance of relying on God’s word, especially in our vulnerable moments.
Let’s continue on and picking up in verse five, it says, then the devil said to him, 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 that he will order his angels to protect you and they will hold you up with their hands so that you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone. Jesus responded. The scriptures also say, you must not test the Lord, your God. The second temptation was a challenge to Jesus’s identity and mission. The devil knows scripture. In fact, he knows it better than all of us do, but the devil, he twists it. But Jesus, grounded in his relationship with the father, countered with the true meaning of God’s word, this reminds us to be discerning that we need to know the scriptures deeply, but we also need to be able to recognize when they are being misused.
We continue on in verse eight, said next, the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all of 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. This final temptation was a seductive offer of the power and prestige without the cross. But Jesus, firm in his divine purpose, recognized or rejected the devil’s offer, emphasizing the promise of worshiping God alone. This underscores the importance of keeping our worship and our allegiance solely to God, regardless of the allure of worldly gains.
And it’s through these temptations that Jesus not only models how to resist, but it also showcases his divinity and humanity, his resilience on scripture and his unwavering commitment to God’s will, and his victory over the devil’s schemes to offer of hope and inspiration to all of us. See, in our battles against temptation, we looked at Jesus and we can draw strength from his example and remember that he is not only our savior, but he is also our empathetic high priest who understands our struggles. Drawing inspiration from Jesus’ victorious encounter in the wilderness, you might ask, well, how can we in our daily lives turn temptation into triumph?
Well, let’s explore some practical strategies that can guide us in this battle, which brings us to our last point, triumph tactics.
III. Triumph Tactics
You know, understanding temptation’s nature and drawing inspiration from Christ’s example, they’re foundational. But then how do we navigate the daily temptations that we face? Well, let’s explore some strategies, but always remembering that our ultimate strength comes from Jesus and through the Holy Spirit and his work in us.
The first is the scripture shield. The word of God is our primary weapon against temptation. When Jesus faced the devil’s schemes, what he responded with, scripture. But it’s not just about knowing a few verses, it’s about letting them transform our hearts and our minds. Consider a blacksmith, a sword, when it’s first forged is blunt and ineffective. But after refining it and sharpening, it becomes a powerful weapon. Similarly, our understanding and application of scripture becomes sharper with consistent study and meditation. For in moments of doubt or temptation, recalling and declaring God’s promises can shift our perspective and strengthen our resolve. It’s not about our effort, but it’s about letting God’s word work in us.
Secondly is the wise withdrawal. You know, sometimes the wisest action is to just remove yourself from tempting situations. We see that in scripture, right? With Joseph’s encounter with Potiphar’s wife as a prime example. He didn’t stand around debating. Oh no, he ran. Recognizing when to flee is a sign of spiritual maturity. Imagine being in a sinking boat. You wouldn’t have to sit and ponder. Look, there’s a hole in this boat. I wonder why this hole is here. I wonder why water is coming in the boat. Well, I think sometime, you know what, in a few days when I get back to shore, I’m gonna get that boat fixed and get that hole so it doesn’t cause any more problems. All the while you begin to drown. No, you quickly move to safety. Similarly, when we sense spiritual danger, swift action is often needed. But remember that fleeing isn’t about our strength. It’s about recognizing our weaknesses and relying on God’s guidance to lead us away from harm.
The next one is the circle of strength. Temptation often thrives in secrecy. But by sharing our struggles with trusted friends or mentors, we create a support system. Look, they can offer encouragement and prayer, accountability. Think of mountain climbers. They don’t ascend a treacherous peak all by themselves. No, they tether themselves to others. What this ensures is that if anyone slips, the others can support them and prevent a fall. In our spiritual journey, community acts as our safety tether, reminding us of God’s truths and pointing us to Jesus when we waver.
The next one is root remedies. You know, temptations often, they often mask deeper issues or unmet needs in our lives. By identifying these root causes, it can reduce our vulnerability. Now, this might involve seeking counseling or joining a support group or engaging in some deep spiritual and personal reflection and ultimately prayer. You know, a gardener doesn’t just trim a problematic plant. No, they examine the soil and the roots for addressing the root causes of our temptation leads to lasting change. But in this introspection, it’s crucial that we invite Jesus in, that we ask him to reveal, to heal, and to guide us toward a wholeness.
Next is prayer’s power. Prayer is our direct line to God. Oh, it is. In moments of weakness, it’s our lifeline. Through consistent prayer, we build resilience against temptation. And in immediate challenges, turning our focus to God brings clarity and strength. Imagine being lost in a vast forest. A compass points the way out. Prayer is our spiritual compass, always pointing us not to north, south, east, or west, but it points us to Jesus, our true north. In every prayer, we’re not trying to earn God’s favor, but we are leaning into the grace that he freely gives, reminding ourselves of our dependence on him.
And so equipped with these strategies and grounded in God’s word, we’re not left to face temptation alone. So may we anchor ourselves in the hope and strength found in Christ, ensuring our response closely aligns with his call on our lives.
I ask if our musicians would come forward at this time. As we reflect on today’s message, I want us to remember that our journey with temptation is not one of despair. It is so easy to get down, to feel defeated, maybe even to give up, but every temptation, every challenge we face is an opportunity for us to lean deeper into Jesus, to experience his strength, and to witness his faithfulness.
Like in the face of life’s battles, you often feel overwhelmed, questioning maybe your ability to stand firm. But our strength doesn’t come from our own grit or resolve. Oh no, it comes from Christ, who has already triumphed over sin and death. Oh no, power of hell, no scheme of man could ever pluck me from his hand. Oh till he returns or he calls me home. Here, in the power of Christ, I stand. All these words just aren’t poetic, they’re a declaration of our identity and our security in Jesus.
So as we prepare our hearts for a time of invitation, I want you to allow these truths to sink in. Oh, let us open ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s work. We do the tough task of asking him to reveal areas where maybe we need to rely more on Jesus, where we need to strengthen our resolve, to deepen our relationship with him.
In just a few moments, we’re going to sing, oh this great hymn, I Need Thee Every Hour. Oh, it’s a heartfelt cry, acknowledging our constant need for Jesus. But as we sing, I want it to be more than just words that you read on a screen or out of a hymnal. More than just notes of a melody on a page, but may it be a prayer, a surrender, a commitment.
Because the Holy Spirit is moving in your heart, I urge you to respond. Do not delay. I’m going to be standing right down here in front, ready to receive and to pray with anyone who wants to make a decision. If you’re not ready to come forward and talk about that connection card in your bulletin, fill it out and drop it off in the offering plate in the back. I’ll get them. I’ll make it confidential, and I’ll reach out to you.
But, you know what, the Holy Spirit doesn’t just quit working as soon as you walk outside of those doors. Sometimes I think we wish it would. You know, we wish, oh, you know what, thank goodness I … But if he continues to work in you as you leave, maybe tonight, in the morning, ah, when you’re having that challenging moment at work, don’t quench the Spirit. Lean into him. Reach out to me. You can always get a hold of me. It’s nothing more than I would love to help, to walk alongside of you on this faith journey.
But whatever you do, respond to God’s calling. So many times it’s just easy when he’s calling us just to hit the decline button. You know you’ve got that person that you do it to. You know, you look at their number like, oh, no, no, can’t do that today. Or even worse. Maybe we set up our Jesus phone to the do not disturb setting. Just don’t mess with me today, Jesus. Don’t, don’t do it. Look, I’ve got too much going on. Look, I’m not there yet where I need your help. Friends, we need to turn down most of the noise out there, and we need to turn the volume up on his ringtone.
Remember, our battles against temptation, and our moments of weakness, and in our daily walk, we are never alone. Oh, we stand, not in our power, but in the power of Christ.
Would you pray with me? Oh, dear Heavenly Father, oh God, we thank you for your son. God, how he, oh, was tempted in every way we are, yet he did so without sin. Lord, not only does he serve as our example, but through his death and through his resurrection, he is our only hope. So, God, may you work in us to rely more on you, to resist the devil’s temptation, and to live a life that is not only pleasing to you, oh, but is for our good. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.