This week, [at the suggestion of Al Seed—who prepared the suggested sermon outlines for the FIREPROOF campaign] I visited a website that tells you pretty much everything you want to know about PARASITES. It was very informative. I learned that the NUMBER ONE PARASITE infecting humans on this planet is called ROUND WORM. Here’s a picture. These round worm parasites can grow to 15 inches in length and once they are big enough to reproduce, they can lay 300,000 eggs a day. According to the World Health Organization about 25% of the world’s population is infected with these nasty little egg-laying guys—that’s well over a BILLION people.
This next slide contains pictures of the number two parasite—PIN WORMS—and they infect about 500 million people. They are extremely contagious. You can get them by simply wearing the clothing of others who are infected or by walking barefoot on a carpet that is infested with pin worms.
This next slide contains pictures of HOOKWORMS feasting inside human intestines. Hookworms generally enter through the skin—usually through bare feet where they then migrate through the blood stream to the lungs and intestines. Makes you think twice about going barefoot in the summer doesn’t it!?
These next microscopic parasites are known as BLOOD FLUKES and according to the World Health Organization they are the second biggest danger to society next to Malaria, infecting more than 200 million people worldwide.
This last slide is a picture of the biggest parasite—a TAPEWORM. Like all parasites they grow inside you but these guys can reach lengths of up to 20 feet! Imagine that! That’s Dr. Oz and Oprah holding one.
Okay—who’s ready for lunch!
I apologize for any stomach distress—but then again maybe I shouldn’t because perhaps this information will help you empathize with the millions of people on this planet whose QUALITY OF LIFE IS DIMINISHED by parasites like these.
Now—whereas, thanks to good hygiene and clean drinking water, we AREN’T usually plagued with these particular invaders, the truth is there ARE parasites even uglier than these that are VERY prevalent in our nation—parasites that suck the life out of lots of people—YES—right here in the “good ole U. S. of A.” I’m referring to RELATIONAL PARASITES and they diminish the quality of RELATIONSHIPS in countless families.
The plot of the film we’ve been talking about for the last few weeks, Fireproof, gives us a great example of this because our “hero” Caleb Holt struggles a relational parasite in his own life. Its influence is one of the reasons his marriage is on the brink of divorce. Watch this clip and you’ll see what I mean.
CLIP — Session 4 — 2:16
I want you to hear the last line from this scene again. In THE LOVE DARE Caleb’s dad writes,
“Watch out for PARASITES. A PARASITE is anything that latches on to you or your partner and sucks the life out of your marriage. They are normally in the form of addictions like gambling, drugs, or pornography. They promise to please but grow like a disease and consume more of your thoughts time, and money. They steal away your loyalty and your heart from those you love.”
Now, as Caleb’s dad says, parasites come in a variety of forms—and please note. Even our desires for THINGS can turn into a relational parasite that weakens our marriages. Remember, in the clip from the movie we just watched that pop-up of the young girl inviting Caleb to take a peek wasn’t the only thing that was vying for his attention. He was looking even more longingly and lovingly at the BOAT of his dreams—a possession that in essence had won his heart and taking his wife’s rightful place—sucking the life out of their relationship.
In any case, RELATIONAL parasites are like their physical counterparts in that there are SEVERAL DIFFERENT KINDS—and they plague both husbands and wives. Men seem to struggle more with the parasite of lust—a yearning for physical pleasure or the parasite of pride—which makes it easier for us to become workaholics putting our careers on a higher priority level than our wives and families. Women seem to be more vulnerable to the parasite of relationships—like Catherine was in the movie—as she found herself drawn into more and more conversations and lunches with that attentive philandering doctor.
So there are many different FORMS of relational parasites—but they all use the same TACTIC to invade. They all rely on TEMPTATION and this morning that’s what we’re going to study.
You see if we can beat temptation—then we can nip the problem in the bud and protect ourselves from these parasites that threaten to destroy our relationships. Take your Bibles and turn to 1st Corinthians 10:12-13 and stand as I read.
12 – If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!
13 – No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let 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.
Let’s begin by looking at three basic facts about TEMPTATION.
(1) All people STRUGGLE with it.
As our text says, “If you think you are standing firm—IF YOU THINK YOU ARE BEYOND THE REACH OF TEMPTATION—be careful because it’s COMMON to man.” In other words—this is a problem everyone deals with. Now—of course it would be wonderful if we could live without facing temptation. But the simple fact is we cannot because we are fallen beings who are prone to sin. As someone once put it, “If you think you’ve found some perfect location, some uninhabited island, some ideal church, some place where there is no chance for temptation, don’t go there. Because when you do, you’re going to spoil it!” This is true because wherever we go we take our minds—our thoughts with us—and they are the vehicles of temptation!So, none of us is immune to this problem. It is inevitable that we will all be enticed—or TEMPTED—to do wrong from time to time in life. I’m reminded of the bumper sticker that says, “Lead me not into temptation; I’m perfectly capable of finding it on my own.” Well, that humorously puts forth the truth that in life all people face this problem—even mature Christians who make it their goal to walk close to God. Like the rain, temptation falls on the unjust and the JUST. C. S. Lewis once said, “A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only [good people-only] those who try to resist temptation—know how strong it is.” Lewis is right…all people GOOD and BAD are tempted. The monk who lives behind cloistered walls wrestles with it just as much as the salesman out on the road.
Another thing—it’s not a sin to be tempted. Jesus Himself dealt with this particular aspect of being human. Heb 4:15 says, “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 without sin.” So sin happens, not when we are tempted but rather when we YIELD to temptation—when we act on our thoughts and desires. This leads to a second basic fact we must understand.
(2) The SOURCE of temptation is satan.
This is important for us to know because if we are to win our battle with temptation we have to understand what—or rather WHO we’re up against. By the way, the dictionary DEFINES temptation as,“the act of enticement to do wrong, by the promise of pleasure or gain.” In other words temptation tries to motivate us to be BAD by promising something GOOD—and doesn’t that sound like the devil’s tactics?! Sure it does! As Ephesians 6:12 reminds us when it comes to temptation our “…struggle is not just against flesh and blood. It’s against the powers of this dark world—the spiritual forces of evil.” Our temptations are orchestrated by the powers of darkness. You see, the truth is there’s an evil force at work in this fallen world of ours and its ruler seeks to destroy your life—my life. Part of the way he does this is by stirring up our desires—hoping that we’ll respond to them in sinful ways. He wants us to take the wrong path and pay the painful consequences. He wants to ruin your life. He wants to demolish your Christian witness. He means us no good. In John 10:10 Jesus describes him a “…thief—come to kill and destroy.” And that is his intent. satan wants to STEAL the joy that God intends you to have in life. He wants to DESTROY you and your family. He wants your marriage to fail.
Now, these days many people-even some Christians-tend to downplay a belief in a literal devil. And if you’re one of them think with me for just a moment. How do you explain the fact that in this country alone well over 90% of the 40 million abortions that have taken place since Roe-v-Wade were not done in cases of rape or incest. In other words they were not done to save the life of the mother—but rather because it was not convenient for that little human being to be born? Not to belabor the point—but how do you explain the fact that our culture does more to save the life of baby animals than baby humans? How do you explain racial prejudice—judging someone’s character by the color of their skin—a sin that just won’t seem to go away? Like a wild fire just when we get one put out another flares up somewhere else. How do you explain the fact that 35,000 little children under 5 years of age starve to death every 24 hours while just across the border from where many of them live, house pets—dogs and cats—have to eat low-fat meals because they’re packing a little too much weight around the middle? How do you explain sexual abuse? How do some parents mistreat their own kids in this way? How do you explain that man walking into a church in southern Illinois last Sunday and murdering the pastor as he delivered his sermon? How do you explain what those fanatics did on 911?
Is your explanation for all this moral insanity your belief that all this EVIL was caused by bad parenting or a damaged chromosome here and there or an ineffective public school system? Come on! It’s deeper than that! It’s EVIL and its ORGANIZED and there’s an INTENTIONALITY behind it. As, James 1:16 says, “We must not be deceived…” — there IS a force at work in this world and in your life and mine and it’s the force of evil and its leader is a fallen angel named satan. He wants to wreck your life—and one way he does it is by stirring up the dark destructive desires that dwell in each of us—desires, that if we let them will destroy us and our marriages!
Here’s a final basic fact about temptation.
(3) When we yield it is our FAULT.
As James 1:14 says,“Each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.” Now, draw a line under the words, “each one” and “own” to remind you that when we choose to give in to temptation and sin we can’t blame anyone else. Each one of us is responsible. I mean, “The devil made me do it” is not a valid excuse. The fact is nothing outside ourselves is strong enough—not even satan—to CAUSE us to sin. He is an EVIL, POWERFUL, ORGANIZED enemy but thanks to Jesus he is a DEFEATED one so we can’t blame him when they yield. No, sin takes place when we agree to his temptations and of our own free will decide to follow it. In other words, no one HAS to give in to temptation. No one HAS to cross the line and sin. We have a choice. Anyone who says, “I can’t help myself” is either lying or deluding themselves. Let me give you an example I used several years ago to show you how true this principle is. Let’s suppose you are home alone and you decide to yield to temptation and watch a pornographic movie. I know that’s an extreme example but hang with me. Well, you tune in to the appropriate “adult” channel and start to watch but a few minutes into the film you hear a car pull up in your driveway and a car door open and close. You lean over to look out the window and you see ME about to knock on your door. Could you stop watching the movie? Of course you could—in fact, I imagine you would amaze yourself at how fast you could grab that remote and change the channel!
Listen—no sin is irresistible. God has given us FREE WILL and we can always exercise it. Henry Louis Mencken once defined temptation as an “…irresistible force at work in a moveable body.” And I like that—we can make our bodies move away from temptation. We don’t have to lose the battle with temptation. We can say NO. In fact, God promises that because we are His children, He will never allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear. Our Creator…our Designer…knows our limits and He has promised that He will not allow the devil to exert more pull than we can say “no” to.
Years ago many ships were lost at sea in accidents that were caused by overloading—carrying too much cargo. Well, after decades of tragic losses, a man in England by the name of Plimsoll came up with the idea that a line should be painted on the side of merchant vessels, so that it would be easy to tell if they were overloaded. This later became known as the “Plimsoll mark.” This is a picture of the mark on the side of the bow of a ship. It soon became illegal for any ship to be loaded more heavily than permitted by this Plimsoll mark on its side. Well, in the same way there is a “Plimsoll mark” on our lives. God will not allow satan to tempt us any more than we are able to handle. He won’t let him overload us with more enticements than we can carry. As our text from 1 Corinthians tells us, if we are willing, He will always provide a way out.
Some translations word the last part of verse 13 this way, “When you are tempted God will also provide a way of ESCAPE…” And I’d like us to take that word “ESCAPE” and use it as an acronym to help us remember six things we must know or do to BREAK FREE and win this battle we all wage. I first saw this in the devotional materials we provided our mission trip team members several years ago so it may be familiar to many of you. Okay, here we go.
(1)The “E” Stands for ENVIRONMENT.
You see, one way we can prevent our struggles with temptation from happening in the first place is to stay away from environments where we know we are sure to be tempted. Ephesians 5:15 alludes to this principle when it says,“See then that you walk CIRCUMSPECTLY, not as fools, but as wise.” Let that word, “CIRCUMSPECTLY” remind you that we should walk AROUND places where we know temptation waits to entice us because as this verse says, it IS foolish to go where you know the devil is lying in wait ready and willing to tempt you. We would all be better off today if Adam and Eve had steered clear of that forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden.
Well, satan still waits in forbidden places—places God wants us to stay away from—and this is why the Bible warns us to walk circumspectly—to walk around those places! In fact, Proverbs 4:14 says, “Do not set your foot on the PATH of the wicked…” which is another way of saying not only should we avoid places where we are tempted, we should also steer clear of PATHS that lead to places where this will happen. We must do everything we can to avoid anything that can lead us to sin. As Irwin Lutzer says, “Run from temptation without leaving a forwarding address.”
I once read about a Christian man who doesn’t wear dark sunglasses when he goes to the beach because he says they make it too easy for him to look where he shouldn’t be looking without his wife or Christian friends knowing the direction of his glances. He is a wise man—someone who knows what it means to walk circumspectly. We should all follow his example and keep out of any environment where we know we might be tempted to sin.
- I mean, if you have a problem with gossip stay away from people who can’t keep their nose out of other people’s business.
- If you struggle with the temptation to eat too much, don’t buy your coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts.
- If you have an alcohol problem don’t eat your meals in bars.
In short, stay away from people, places, and things that you know could cause you to stumble. Remember, as Rick Warren says,“It’s easier to STAY out of temptation than to GET out of temptation.” When we foolishly spend time near people, places, or things that we know will tempt us we are playing right into the hands of the devil. This is what Paul was getting at in Romans 6:13 when he said, “Do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin.”
(2) The “S” in this acronym stands for “SPEND time with God.”
One of the greatest weapons in this war we all wage with temptation is to keep a daily appointment with our almighty, all-loving Heavenly Father. I say this because spending time with God—learning His perspective on our lives—learning to think His thoughts after Him—well, it opens open our spiritual eyes. I mean, the closer we get to God the more clearly we see satan for who he really is. The deeper our relationship with God is, the better we can see through the devil’s lies and understand the potential consequences of our sin. The more time we spend with God the easier it is for us to say “NO WAY!” to satan’s invitations. When Jesus was tempted in the desert for 40 days He told satan,“Away from Me! For it is written ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.” (Matthew 4:10) Jesus was basically saying, “Leave me alone satan, because I belong to God and not you.” And we need to have a deep relationship with our Lord such that we can confidently say the same.
Let me ask you. Have your kids ever gotten in an argument with each other—perhaps one tried to tell the other one what to do and her sibling said, “I don’t have to do what you say. You’re not the boss of me!” Well, when we spend time daily with God reaffirming His Lordship in our lives, we are strengthened to say the same thing to satan, “Get away from me. You’re not the Lord of my life! You’re not the boss of me. Jesus is!”
This leads to the principle behind the third letter in this acronym.
(3) “C” stands for: CLAIM Scripture.
The gospels record that Jesus’ primary weapon when He faced temptation was Scripture. Every time satan tempted Him, His response was, “It is written…” And this should remind us that the Bible is a WEAPON in our own battles with temptation. This is one reason it has often been referred to as “…the SWORD of truth.”
David understood this principle. In his 119th Psalm he said, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to Your Word…I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You.”
The fact is, the more Scripture we know—the more easily we can handle the Sword of Truth—the more power we will experience over temptation. It’s like every verse we memorize becomes an anti-missile we can fire to shoot down the projectiles satan launches our way. Let me show you some examples.
- When you first feel drawn to sin you can fire off James 4:7 where it says, “Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
- When you’re tempted to lie or cheat, you could use Proverbs 11:1 which says,“The Lord abhors dishonest scales but accurate weights are His delight.”
- When you’re tired and tempted to take a verbal shot at one of your kids, you parents out there can rely on Ephesians 6:4 where it says,“Fathers, do not provoke your children.”
- When you’re tempted by lust remember Proverbs 6:25-26 where it says,“Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes, for the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread, and the adulteress preys upon your very life.”
- If you are tempted to talk about someone behind their back remember Proverbs 11:13 where it says,“A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.”
- When you are tempted to give into panic remember Psalm 46 where it says,“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.”
That’s how the Bible works—when we put it in here—when the Word of God is stored up in our minds—it stands ready to strike automatically and no weapon can stand against the Truth. Perhaps this is why Dwight Moody once said, “Sin will keep you from this Book and this book will keep you from sin.”
(4) Okay let’s move on. The “A” stands for ACCOUNTABILITY…
…and it refers to the practice of finding a fellow Christian friend to be your accountability partner. Now, understand—true ACCOUNTABILITY is when you confess a sin and give someone permission and leverage in your life to do something to help you. It’s different from DISCLOSURE. DISCLOSURE is telling someone you have a problem with porn on the internet. ACCOUNTABILITY is asking them to keep your computer until you an overcome the problem.
DISCLOSURE is telling someone you are arguing with your parents a lot and being unkind to them. ACCOUNTABILITY is having them call your parents once a week to see how you’re treating them. Accountability is a good thing because other people can give us a lot of power when it comes to saying NO to temptation.
The story is told of a horse pull that was held years ago. One horse pulled 9,000 pounds, another 8,000. Together you would expect them to pull 17,000 pounds right? Not so! When teamed together, they pulled 30,000 pounds! This principle is called synergism. It means that separate agents working together have a greater total effect than the sum of the individual agents. In other words, much more can be done in a team effort than can be accomplished solo and that’s the way it is with temptation.
(5) Okay… “P” Stands for two words: PLEASURE and PAIN.
The point here is that the pleasures that come with yielding to temptation—and there are pleasures because of course sin IS a pleasurable thing but its pleasures are VERY temporary whereas the PAIN that always comes after goes on and on and on. Moses understood this principle. Remember? In Hebrews 11:24-25 it says he, “…refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, rather than to enjoy the PASSING PLEASURES of sin.”
Let’s stop a moment and each imagine the consequences of yielding to sexual temptation. I mean review in your mind the nightmare of ripples that would spread from that one selfish act. What would this do to your spouse? You would lose their respect and trust—things that are very hard to get back. You would probably destroy your marriage. Plus your actions would inflict a DEEP wound on him or her. And speaking of wounds—think of what that would do to your children! Not only would this hurt them—but it could nullify both present and future efforts to teach them to obey God. They could always think, “Well, dad did it.” or “Mom did it.” so its okay for me to do it as well. And the ripples go on and on. Friends will be hurt—families divided. I mean, whenever we are tempted to sin, we should ask God to open our eyes so that we can see all the pain our sin will cause us and other people. As Paschal said, “We can never find happiness at the expense of character; we can never find happiness by stepping out of the boundaries God has prescribed for us.”
Understanding this can be a powerful motivation to say “no” to satan’s invitations. This leads us to the “E” in Escape…
(6)…which stands for EVANGELISM…
One thing we must always remember as Christians is that when we yield to temptation and sin we often lose something very precious, namely the power of our personal witness. You see, many non-believers are looking for an excuse not to take the claims of Christ seriously and often all it takes, is for them to see one of us involved in sinful behaviors.
You know, we often talk about how wonderful it will be to go to HEAVEN and have people we don’t know come up to us and tell us that things we did unknowingly led them to faith in Jesus whether it was the way we taught a Sunday School class or helped a neighbor in need. And it WILL be great to have people walk up to us on the streets of glory and say their lives were changed because of our non-verbal witness. But can you imagine the reverse? Can you imagine how painful it would be to walk the streets of HELL and have people come up to you and say,
“I would have become a Christian if it weren’t for you! I saw you sin and concluded that your faith in the Son of God was just an empty sham. I’m here because of what you did.”
Now, as Christians we won’t walk the streets of Hell but when we stand before God’s throne I do think we will have an understanding of our sin. In the light of God’s holiness we will, for the first time comprehend the true depth of our depravity. Perhaps this is why the Bible says God will need to “wipe tears from our eyes…” — tears we shed when we get to heaven and realize that our sins kept others from Jesus. No sin is so PLEASURABLE that it is worth that kind of PAIN.
Now—as I have said, as Christians we don’t have to yield to temptation. God will help you win. He will provide a way for you to ESCAPE. You can have victory over temptation. But—what happens when you lose that battle? What then? The Bible says, “If anybody DOES sin, we have One Who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 2:1-2) You can win this battle—but when you don’t God is faithful and will forgive and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. And—when our friends or spouses fail we must be willing to forgive them as well.
Let us pray.