There was chaos in the children’s church! Was a pigtail pulled? A flannelgraph mishap?
I was delivering a scintillating sermon when parents began to walk out on me to locate the chorus of sobbing preschoolers.
The kids had been making birdfeeders by dabbing peanut butter on a pinecone and then sprinkling it with birdseed.
Aha! A parent discovered that the seed was laced with cayenne pepper to repel squirrels.
The little ones handled the seed and then rubbed their eyes – hence, the blood curdling screams.
I guess some things are harmless unless we touch them.
Sin is a lot like that. It burns, but only if we touch it.
Of course, temptation abounds today. It shouts to us like a carnival barker who uses every trick to draw us in.
There’s little we can do to insulate ourselves from temptation. In fact, James argued that the inclination to sin is already within us. He said, “But each one is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires.” (James 1:14)
My nature is to be a people pleaser – that’s my desire. Which is why I am sometimes tempted to compromise to keep people happy. I am a man – like any other man – who is tempted to browse in all the wrong places. I like things and am occasionally tempted to twist my ethics to get what I want.
The devil’s mission is to identify these inclinations and to tease them out – to turn my thoughts into evil deeds. James went on to say, “Then when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is full grown, it gives birth to death.” (1:15)
It is when we touch sin that we suffer. It gives birth to death. For the Christian this results in a profound deadness in our relationship with God – a relational black hole that persists until we face it and confess it as sin. As always, He is faithful and just to forgive us. (1 John 1:9)
But unfortunately, we are unaware that there is heat in the seed. Like the preschoolers we unknowingly touch and feel pain. Therefore, James ended with the words, “Do not be led astray…” (1:16)
Temptation is beyond our control, but we can choose – we can choose – whether to touch it to not. Martin Luther said, “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”
So how do we do this? Two words – NO and GO.
Joseph was a virile young man whose ego had been crushed beneath the feet of his 10 vile brothers who had sold him into slavery. Despite his anger and wounded self-esteem, he became a successful estate manager in the home of Potiphar.
However, the man’s wife was drawn to him. Genesis says, “His master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me.” (39:7)
His bruised ego must have surged. The slave with little control over his life, was offered the driver’s seat. How intoxicating it was to be wanted. She may have been as purty as a toad, and bigger than a house, but I bet she looked appealing to Joseph.
But he saidNO! “How could I do such a great evil and sin against God?” (39:10)
Well she kept it up, day after day, until “NO” had to become “GO.” Genesis says, “One day he went into the house to do his work when none of the household servants were there. She grabbed him by his outer garment, saying, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his outer garment in her hand and ran outside.” (39:11-12)
There was no one else in the house. If he were to take the bait, this would be the right time. The pressure was intense, so, he knew he had to run.
NO and GO. It’s as simple as that.
When temptation comes, “Just say NO.” I often have said it out loud which chokes the temptation immediately. And if it’s possible, GO. Leave the situation. The temptation will abate as soon as you get through the door.
When Satan tempted Eve in the garden, she responded, “God said, ‘You must not eat from it, and you must not touch it, or else you will die.’” She understood. Don’t even touch it – and yet she did. May we be wiser.
A PRAYER: “Lord my prayer is the one that you taught me to pray, “Deliver me from evil.”
Scripture passages are from the NET Bible ®