sum of the sermon – love is a battlefield: be strong in the Lord (2)

 

“Well now way back in the Bible, temptations always come along. There’s always somebody tempting, somebody into doing something they know is wrong. Well they tempt you, man, with silver, and they tempt you, sir, with gold. And they tempt you with the pleasures, that the flesh does surely hold. They say Eve tempted Adam with an apple, but man I ain’t going for that. I’m goin’ for the …”

Perhaps you recognize those lyrics. They make up the middle verse of the song Pink Cadillac by Bruce Springstein.

Or maybe you recognize those lyrics because that’s the song you sing every day. Every day you’re goin’ for the ________ (you fill in the blank).

This is part of being human, a fallen being, isn’t it? No responsible person gets a pass. We all are tempted in many ways and at many times. Sometimes blatantly; sometimes with subtlety. But, as Christians we know, no matter in what form it comes to us, we’re called to:

… be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. (Eph. 6.10)

We know what our Lord expects of us regarding temptation. His special messenger to us, James, puts it concisely and with some serious motivation for us:

Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (James 1.12)

The question now, of course, is how to resist temptation. How to be strong in the Lord by turning away from darkness and toward light, toward him.

James doesn’t leave us wondering. He laid out a captured copy of our Enemy’s battle plans against us and spread it out on the table for us to see. Here they are … with his word of warning to us at the end:

… one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. Do not be deceived, my beloved. (James 1.14-16)

We need to take a good, hard look at what’s being said here. If we’ll do so, we’ll find a great deal of help for us to be “strong in the Lord” in our resistance of the darkness that would have its way with us.

Do not be deceived. Keep a good look out. And as you do so …

Look within. That is, take note of what you desire. Just because you desire something doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. What is it you desire to think, say. or do? Why do you desire this? Desire isn’t temptation, and neither desire or being tempted is sin, but we know sin starts with both. Desire coupled with temptation just might not be a green light to go for it, but a flashing warning sign that says: “Bridge Out! Dead End.” So look within and then pray honestly to our Father regarding your desires.

ook ahead. Have you got so caught up with seeing only what’s right in front of your hood ornament that you can’t see down the road? Think seriously about where your desire could lead you. Could it lead you to a place you never would have dreamed of going and would never have wanted to visit? Choices and decisions made in the moment can have huge consequences, consequences that could domino and pile up on you. So, determine to take the long view and allow that to help guide you in the here and now.

And by all means, look beside you, for beside you is Jesus Christ.

… I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age. (Matt. 28.20)

Remember he’s right here with you. He knows your desires. He know what is tempting you. He knows the suffering temptation can cause within you. And he’s here to help you to be strong.

Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Heb. 2.18)

Go now. Go “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”

LIFE group discussion guide: love is a battlefield – being strong in the Lord (2)

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Aug. 31) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. To find previous group discussion guides, look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous issues.

Reason

Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of this morning’s sermon.

To explore the meaning of, preparation for, and engagement in spiritual warfare.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

• … Spirit pushed Jesus out into the wild. For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by Satan. Wild animals were his companions, and angels took care of him. (Mark 1.12-13 The Message)

• Jesus … full of the Holy Spirit, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. There he was tempted for forty days by the devil. He ate nothing during those days and afterward Jesus was starving. The devil said to him, “Since you are God’s Son, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus replied, “It’s written, People won’t live only by bread.” [Deut. 8.3]

Next the devil led him to a high place and showed him in a single instant all the kingdoms of the world. The devil said, “I will give you this whole domain and the glory of all these kingdoms. It’s been entrusted to me and I can give it to anyone I want. Therefore, if you will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It’s written, You will worship the Lord your God and serve only him.”[Deut. 6.13]

The devil brought him into Jerusalem and stood him at the highest point of the temple. He said to him, “Since you are God’s Son, throw yourself down from here; for it’s written: He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you and they will take you up in their hands so that you won’t hit your foot on a stone.” [Psalm 91.11-12] Jesus answered, “It’s been said, Don’t test the Lord your God.” [Deut. 6.16] After finishing every temptation, the devil departed from him until the next opportunity. (Luke 4.1-13 CEB)

• Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2.18 NIV)

• … one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. Do not be deceived, my beloved. (James 1.14-16 NRSV)

Relation

Use one of the following icebreaker questions to prime the pump, to help the conversation begin. Choose one to discuss.

1. Which “tempts” you more: chocolate or vanilla?

2. Name a book, movie, or song that speaks of temptation?

Research

These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this sermon.

1. There are three accounts of Jesus’ temptation (Matt. 4.1-11; Mk. 1.1-12; Lk. 4.1-13). Differences?

2. Read Hebrews 4.14-16. How does this passage relate to the texts above?

Reflection

These questions assist our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us in our encounter with God’s word.

1. Is there a difference between being “tested” and being “tempted,” a trial and a temptation?

2. What exactly is “temptation” and what makes it so hard to resist?

3. Scripture says Jesus never sinned. But, what if he had sinned; could he still save us? Explain.

4. One confides in you as to their need to resist a big temptation. How do you respond/advise?

Response

These ideas/suggestions are for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid in living out today’s message in the coming days.

1. Think of temptations you have, by God’s grace, fended off. Note what enabled the victory.

2. Set up a daily smartphone reminder to prompt you to pray about a specific temptation.

links: this went thru my mind

 

Application, Bible interpretation, preaching & teaching: 1 Triangle, 3 Corners, 4 T’s

“Every word of the Bible was written at a certain time and in a certain context. Even the most recent of those times and the nearest of those contexts is at a great distance from us in time and space. Thus, when we read the Bible, we have to determine how those words apply to us today in our very different times and very different contexts. It is not always a simple task. We have all seen situations—and many of us have caused situations—where we have been sloppy in going from the text to today.”

Church, ministry & U.S. trends: MissionTrends: 4 Trends for Churches to Consider

“The next 20 years are going to be a challenge for convictional Christians and churches in many places. … 1. The Word “Christian” Will Become Less Used and More Clear. … 2. The Nominals Will Increasingly become Nones. … 3. Christians Will Increasingly Change Cultural Tactics. … 4. More Robust Churches will Result from the Death of Nominalism.”

Fulfillment, leadership, satisfaction & work: Why You Hate Work

“The way we’re working isn’t working.”

Leadership: 7 of the Hardest Paradigms I Had to Learn to be an Effective Leader

“I had to develop the ability to say no more than I get to say yes. … I have to live with sometimes being unpopular. … I have to move forward sometimes in uncertainty. … I had to get comfortable challenging mediocrity. … I had to lower my pride and admit I can often be wrong. … I had to come to a reality that I couldn’t be everywhere or do everything. … I had to realize that sometimes the best thing to put on my calendar is rest.”

Short term missions: 24 Things World Christians Wish North American Short-Term Missionaries Would Quit Doing …

“… Talk more than you listen. …”

Temptation & testing: A Test and a Temptation—Can You Tell the Difference?

“Both God and Satan perform tests on you and me. These road tests reveal how the rubber meets the road in our Christian lives. But the two tests have two completely different goals. Can you tell the difference?”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Church & expectations: * Church and The “Jacob Syndrome”; * 7 Things Churches No Longer Do (But Should)

* “The burden is on all of us to be serious about our faith while also being patient with the shortcomings of ourselves and others. So before you are tempted to say you would be a part of a church only if the did X, Y and Z…take yourself out of the driver’s seat for a moment and pray that God would shape your choices and decisions because God often has a way of using imperfect people and situations to really shape us in significant ways.”

* “Participating in church now means attending weekly services — but rarely requires anything beyond that. What if churches required their congregations to go out into the world and be missionaries, sacrificially, humbly, and passionately loving others just as Jesus did — practicing what is actually being preached?”

Discipleship & influence: The Trouble With Being Salt and Light

“Who among us will be common for God’s sake?”

Dogs: How Dogs Read Our Moods: Emotion Detector Found In Fido’s Brain

“Dogs always seem to know when you’re upset and need extra love, even though they hardly understand a word of what you say. How can that be?”

Discontent, disgruntlement, offense & unhappiness: * Spirit Airlines Taps A Nation Of Hate Fliers; * It Is Our Duty To Never Be Offended [essential reading]

* “The hate flier is the guy who knows what he’s getting into, doesn’t like it, but flies Spirit anyway because it’s so cheap.” [This article makes me how many Christians are – unknown to themselves – actually ‘hate members’ (i.e. – they know what the church they’re a part of is like, don’t like it, but stay with it anyway because – equally sadly – it doesn’t require much of them at all.)]

* “To be “offended” is an expression which should never be welcome in the Christian vernacular. There is no virtue in being indignant and we have no “right” to take offense. There is a lot progress the Church, and humanity as a whole, could make in understand each other if we stopped indulging in this petty and whiny reaction.”

Politics, power & temptation: The Seduction of Worldly Political Power [required reading]

“… why Christians ought to be wary of the seductions of earthly political power.”

Worship: The Risky Nature of Worship [essential reading]

“A world largely driven by consumerism, self-interest, and entertainment might just prefer worship services that have regularity, rhythm, and pleasantness. I am sure many would prefer worship that is relaxing, lovely, and safe. If necessary, one should be able to catch up on some sleep. But from the beginning, worship has not been so innocuous.”

imagine you, on food stamps (5)

 

Note: The following is not an account of any one conversation I’ve had with any one person regarding the Imagine You, On Food Stamps project, but is a composite derived from a number of conversations.

Oh, the conversations this project is generating!

“David, aren’t you afraid?”

“Afraid of what?”

“Of what eating like that for a month could do to your health, that’s what!”

“No, not really. Should I be?”

“Yes! That stuff can’t possibly be good for anyone!”

“That ‘stuff’?”

“You know what I mean. I mean the food you’d have to live on that can be bought for $4.00 a day.”

“Oh, you mean the ‘stuff’ we’re content for other folks to live on as long as we don’t have to live on it ourselves, don’t you?”

“No, that’s not what I mean. I mean those people who receive that kind of food are only getting what they deserve. You don’t deserve that.”

“I’m not sure I understand your point. Help me here.”

“They’re in the fix they’re in because they wanted it that way. They made some bad choices and now they have to experience the consequences. If that’s all they have to eat, let them eat it. Perhaps they’ll learn from the experience!”

“Really? ‘All’ of ‘them?’ How do you know the situations of all of the lives of all of these people? I doubt either one of us would say, after a little reflection, that every person who is poor – or even the majority of the poor – chose to be poor or want to remain in need. And even if what you’re saying is true – and I don’t believe for a minute that it is – what does that have to do with eating on $4.00 per day for a little while?”

“Okay, we both know there are surely some exceptions, but you and I both know most of the money going out for food stamps is just a waste.”

“No, actually I don’t know that … and I don’t believe you do, either. I only know a great many people don’t eat nearly as well as either of us and I think we both would do well to remember that often. Doing so would surely change the way we think of and live with the people around us.”

“So you’re telling me people who make their own bed shouldn’t have to sleep in it? I don’t feel bad for bums who won’t work. It’s in the Bible for crying out loud!”

“I’m saying none of us knows what all went on to get anyone to the point they’d cry out for help with putting food on the table. We mustn’t presume we know what they’ll do with any or all of the help that’s offered to them, either. If they do happen to misuse some, or all, of that help, that’s on them, not us, and it’s between them and the Lord. It’s no excuse or reason for us to not be merciful. Besides, no small number of the ‘them’ you’re talking about are little children, people who have absolutely no say in their circumstances or their sustenance, but who like the rest of us, need to eat every day. There are more than a few words about mercy and about leaving all judgment to the Lord in the Bible, too.”

“I don’t think I’m being ‘merciful’ to them if I see them driving a newer car than I drive!”

“Again, we don’t know all the circumstances of their lives, do we? And, I must say with all kindness, but with forthrightness, I find the way you’re lumping and labeling all sorts of individuals together under the word ‘them’ and as people of suspicious character as degrading and dehumanizing, both of which lead to being judgmental.”

“So you’re saying I’m judgmental! Who do you think you are? I have eyes to see how some of them live.”

“I thin I’m someone inviting you to join me in eating the same thing other people eat for a little while just to see what that must be like.”

“Well, you can count me out because I don’t want anything to do with those folks!”

“I think you’ve established that quite clearly. And that’s the real issue, isn’t it? Not your fears for my health, but your own insecurities over who receives help and how that doing such might draw you closer to some you have little care for … and that’s very uncomfortable for you.” Right?”

[Long pause] Maybe.”

“Then let’s pray. Let’s pray right now on what we both must surely agree.”

“Father in heaven, by your goodness and mercy and in the name of Jesus Christ, we pray that neither one us ever gets to such a point of need or want that we’re ever tempted – much less frequently tempted – to cheat, lie, or steal.

“Because only you are the Most Holy One, we pray you would ever deliver us from setting ourselves up as judges of others. May we both be always content to leave all of that up to you.

“Because you are the Creator of all, we pray that our fear of others would melt away. What can man do to us?

“Because you are the source of all that is true strength, we pray that our fears based on our own frailties and weaknesses would recede through growing faith in you. May that faith lead us daily to where we know by faith you would have us always go: doing good to all as we have opportunity.

“Open our eyes to truly see every person we meet. Deliver us from seeing ‘around’ people. Open our minds to discern what you would have us to be them. Help us to think the way our Lord and Savior thinks. Open our hearts daily so that we love others – all others – with the love you have for them. May we be channels of your blessings, not filters. And may you open our hands so that we are genuinely giving people, seeing as how you are so generous to us in so very many ways every day. Amen.”

[Long pause] “Perhaps I was a bit … hasty. I’m not saying I’ll do this! I am saying ‘I’ll think about it.'”

“Thinking is good and an all too rare commodity these days. Let’s continue to think – and pray – about these things together.”