Our final stop in our journey through the Scriptures finding Christ as our Refuge may be the most vital one of all. We have seen over the past few weeks that Christ is our refuge.
· He is the Refuge for all of us when we feel uncleanness;
· He is the Refuge for all of us when we feel weariness;
· He is the Refuge for all of us who feel homelessness and loneliness;
· He is the Refuge for all of us when our hearts darken and we feel hopelessness and depression; and
· He is the Refuge for all of us when we feel helpless and weakness;
This morning we find He is the Refuge for all of us when we struggle, and feel so weak when tempted.
Over sixty years ago, a German pastor was awaiting execution on Hitler's death row. After this faithful pastor's death the following was found among his final words in his journal:
"In our members there is a slumbering inclination towards desire which is both sudden and fierce. With irresistible power desire seizes mastery over the flesh. All at once a secret, smoldering fire is kindled. The flesh burns and is in flames.
The lust thus aroused envelops the mind and will of man in deepest darkness. The powers of clear discrimination and of decision are taken from us. It is here that everything within me rises up against the Word of God.
It makes no difference whether it is sexual desire, or ambition, or vanity, or desire for revenge, or love of fame and power, or greed for money, or, finally, that strange desire for the beauty of the world.
Joy in God is extinguished in us and we seek all our joy in the creature. At this moment God is quite unreal to us, he loses all reality, and only desire for the creature is real; the only reality is the devil.
Satan does not here fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God.”
Temptations around us all abound. Because temptation to sin is so powerful, we need help. The best and the only real help is Christ, the Refuge for the tempted.
Now before any of us check out because this message isn't for us, open with me to James 1.13-14.
James 1:13-15 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. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. NKJV
James 1:13-15 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. NAS
Note that James, the very first New Testament pastor, of the first New Testament church, the first leader of the Church of Jerusalem, and our Lord's earthly brother—doesn’t say 'if’ but he says 'when’.
God's Word says temptation is inevitable, temptation is inescapable, temptation is going to follow us all through our earthly lives.
Temptation is inevitable. So listen up, this message is for ALL of us. But this message hinges on one word—lust.
Lust (epithumia ‘super desires’) is dreadful, dangerous, and deadly. Lust is surrounding us and in various forms, planted within us—and is either pursued for pleasure or fled from for righteousness. Listen carefully to Paul—
2 Timothy 2:22 Flee [ ‘I command you to always flee’] also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. NKJV
Note he doesn’t merely say when you are a youth to flee. No, he says ‘youthful lusts’ the lusts that we nurture and feed as young people are going to chase us through life. So we must all decide to flee lust, no matter what our age.
However large we grow those ravenous wolves of lust in our youth—that is how large they will be as they chase us through life. Why should we flee these lusts that tempt us to sin against God? Because they cost us far more than we could ever imagine. To help you know what I mean, listen to these three scenarios.
- Scenario #1: If I were to tell you, as you were buying a home, that you were in the Tar Creek watershed and that there was such a toxic runoff that in a few years you would start having terrible sickness in your family, your children would be crippled for life, your home would end up becoming worthless, and you would have such lifelong headaches you would be unable to work or even think—would you keep on in the purchase of that house?
- Scenario #2: How about if you were applying for a job at a manufacturing plant and I told you that everyone up to this day who had run that machine had either mangled or crushed their arm in the press and were maimed for the rest of their life? Would you pause and reconsider that job offer? Even if you always wanted that job, the pay is great, the plant is convenient, the hours are perfect, and everyone else works there—would you take the job?
- Scenario #3: How about moving to a home with your family of small children, that sat too close to a busy highway crowded with cars and trucks? Would you take the home if you knew that each of the preceding families had lost a child to a traffic accident as they played in the front yard and a car or truck lost control and plowed into the yard? Of course not. You would never think that you could beat the odds and escape such a loss.
What do each of these scenarios have in common? A looming potential loss, so that making the choice is clearly foolish. Most of us when we hear such things, stop and reconsider the cost of such a choice of a job or home and decide against it. Our life, our home, our children, our job, our health—all are too vital to be risked for something that is not worth that much.
But do you look on temptation and lust as carefully? We should. God wants us to flee all forms of lust by counting what it will really cost us. God warns us over and over in His Word of the exorbitant price of lust. So what happens if we do not flee?
The consequence engines of life unavoidable though they may be-do not usually bring immediate consequences in response to our actions when we feed our lusts little by little.
Because we often do not see the negative consequences of our bad choices right away, we are often persuaded to make bigger and more foolish mistakes. Because God's judgments are usually long delayed in time, we think we escaped the consequence of that poor choice. But sin always pays us back with boredom, guilt, shame, loneliness, confusion, emptiness, loss of purpose, not to speak of loss of rewards.
All sin is forgivable, but all sin also has consequences. So since lust is what entices us to sin, what are these lusts that we are to fear and flee?
- 1 John 2:15-17 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
Temptations are enticements from our lusts. God says that lusts are packaged in varied shapes, sizes, and colors, but they fall into one of three categories:
- We are tempted by the flesh to chase pleasures, this equals the cravings of the body. These are all of the sensual temptations. This is lust for another person. The desire to have and enjoy the body of an individual, either mentally or physically, even though such pleasure is illegal and/or immoral. We can feed these lusts by going to places where we see uncovered bodies, or watching TV and movies that have various states of immodesty, or by seeking out images in magazines and online that feed these evil desires.
- We are tempted by the eyes to chase stuff, this equals the lusting of the eyes. These are all of the material temptations. This is lust for things. The things may be as large as a house or as small as a ring, as bright and dazzling as a new sports car or as dull and dusty as a two-hundred-year-old antique dresser. Lest we think that this is not as bad as the lusts of the flesh, remember that covetousness (insatiable longing for more things) is as damnable as idol worship. That means that the lust for possessions is as wicked as the lust for immorality. Beware of both, they are deadly!
- We are tempted by pride to chase status, this equals the boasting of the mouth. These are all of the personal temptations. This is selfishness because I’m most important. This is irritableness because life revolves around me. This is untruthfulness because I need to protect myself. This is laziness because I want to rest and comfort myself. All of these are pride as well as obvious lust for status and special recognition. Pride also shows up as lust for the status of fame, fortune, power, or authority. Pride may also be wanting a title that makes heads turn, like “top executive” or “president” or “executive director” or even “doctor”. In the Scriptures this was Satan’s sin. Pride in all its forms is heinous to God.
Any form of lust God hates. And so any form of lust we must flee and also hate.
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