God On Film 2009 part 3
Public Enemies: Taming My Temptations
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
July 19, 2009

This was a week of firsts for me. One thing I did for the very first time was crawl into an inflatable pool filled with balls with my son. We had never done that before, and instead of playing with the balls he decided to crawl all over me for the next 20 minutes. It was painful, but it was fun.

Another thing I did for the first time was call someone on their cell phone while they were at their brother’s wake. That wasn’t so much fun.

And a third thing that I did for the first time was, I went to a movie by myself. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but most people go to movies with someone else. Of course, later in the week I was flipping channels and I caught part of The Simpsons, and it was the episode where Homer admitted that he sometimes goes to movies alone. So I guess I’m a real Homer now.

Well, the movie I went to see was Public Enemies, which is the movie we’re using today as part of our message series, God On Film. During this series, we’re using the movies that are popular this summer to launch into discussions about spiritual things. This is not really our attempt to say you should see these movies or you shouldn’t see these movies. We’re just acknowledging that they’re there, people are going to see them, and they do raise issues that are probably worthy of discussion.

Two weeks ago, we talked about Star Trek. Last week, we talked about the movie “Up”. Today, we’re talking about Public Enemies, and next week we’re going to wrap this whole thing up with a look at the new Harry Potter movie.

Now, in Public Enemies, Johnny Depp plays John Dillinger. Dillinger of course is famous for robbing banks in the Chicago area back in the 1930s… in fact, this was back in the early days of what we know as the FBI, and it was the capture of gangsters like Dillinger which was the drive behind the FBI at the time and really impacted the formation and expansion of the FBI. And Dillinger himself… He was public enemy number one.

And if you’re familiar with Dillinger, then you may know of one of his most famous quotes. It’s disputed about who actually said this, but as the story goes Dillinger was once asked why he chose to rob banks, and his answer was… “Because that’s where the money is.”

That was his weakness. That was his temptation. He wanted money, and he was never happy with what he already had. He always wanted more. So he robbed banks.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been tempted to steal. Stealing isn’t an area where I’m tempted a whole lot. I’m tempted in other areas. And everyone of us here this morning faces different temptations. The temptations you face, may not be the ones I face. And the ones I face may not be the ones you face. But we all face temptation.

Sometimes it is the temptation to steal, or sometimes it’s the temptation to cheat. Sometimes it’s sexual temptation, sometimes it’s the temptation to give in to an indulgence. Sometimes it’s the temptation to take a shortcut. Maybe you’re tempted to manipulate and use and step on other people. We all face temptations.

And I want you to understand, this is a personal message this morning. Because I face it, too. Just because I’m a pastor does not mean that I’m immune from temptation. In fact, I think it makes me more of a target. And there are times that I give in to the temptation and I fail. So we’re all in this together. We all face it. In fact, the only people who don’t face temptation are in the graveyard. And they’re not working there.

We all face it. Temptation is common for all of us. And since temptation is common for all of us, there are also some common solutions.

That’s what we’re going to talk about this morning… these common solutions… five ways to tame your temptations. Not how to get rid of temptations, because we’ll always face them. But five ways to tame them and deal with them.

Inside your Sunrise Update this morning, you should find a sheet that looks like this. Those are your message notes, and you can use them to follow along and fill in the blanks as we go. And I want to start with these verses…

1 Corinthians 10:12-13 (NLT)
If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful.

And how is God faithful? By giving us a way to tame temptation. Not to remove it, but to overcome it.

Five Steps to Taming My Temptations:

1.    Name my temptations

No, I’m not talking about giving them an actual name. “Hi, my name’s Greg. This is my temptation Larry, and this is my other temptation, Larry.” No, I’m not talking about giving your temptations names like that. I’m talking about identifying them. I’m talking about acknowledging that they exist. I’m talking about recognizing them and admitting that they are there. But why would you want to do this? So you can begin to deal with them.

Now, why would you want to deal with temptation in the first place? I mean, why is this even important? Well, because of the consequences of temptation. Because anytime you give into temptation, it always leads to consequences. Consequences like heartache… hurting others… guilt… shame… regret… And of course, temptation always leads you away from God. And that has consequences for this life and for the life to come.

Plus, you can learn to tame temptation for some positive reasons. You can develop discipline in your life, you can be more mature in your faith, you can be a model for others, you can be healthier emotionally, spiritually, socially, and physically. There are good reasons for you to want to tame temptations. But you’ve got to start by naming them.

Now, in this movie Public Enemies, the main temptation was money. And maybe some of you face that same temptation. And when you follow that temptation, it leads to the sin of greed. Some of you may regularly face this temptation. Others of you, though, may never be tempted by money. I joke that I never have enough of it to be tempted by it. But actually, for those who face this temptation, it doesn’t matter how much money they already have. They may be rich, they may be poor, but either they don’t have enough. That’s the nature of this temptation. And even if you don’t face this temptation right now, that doesn’t mean that you won’t face it if your situation changes. I think a lot of people who have never faced this temptation before have come face to face with it over the nine or ten months with this recession. So maybe you are tempted by money.

Or some of you may be tempted by titles. You want to climb that ladder and get that promotion and achieve that title. For others of you, you couldn’t care less about titles.

Some of you are tempted by alcohol or by cigarettes or by some other substance that holds some kind of attraction for you. And you use them and abuse them.

For others, that may not be a temptation you face, but maybe you’re tempted by violence.

There’s a variety of temptations that each of us may face. And while the temptations I face may be different from what you face, none of these temptations are new. They’ve all been around for a long, long time. As we’ve already read…

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT)
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience.

And the truth is, even though there are a lot of different temptations, there are some that are very common… ones that everyone faces or that most people face.

I think sexual temptation is one of those. It’s very rampant in our society. So I think most if not all of us here this morning face that temptation in one form or another.

But whatever temptations you may face, you’ve got to name them. It could be money, it could be titles, it could be food, it could be fame, it could be power, it could sex… whatever it is, you’ve got to name it.

You’ve got to look inside yourself and you’ve got to ask God, “God, bring to light whatever it is that I face… the temptation that I am most tempted by.”

Maybe you need to pray what King David prayed in the Old Testament. King David… we know him as a great hero of the Bible, a man after God’s own heart, but the greatest stain on his life was when he gave into his sexual temptation and had an affair with a married woman. They committed adultery, and it cost them dearly. So David knew what it was like to be tempted and he knew that there were consequences to giving into that temptation. And so this is what he prayed…

Psalm 139:23-24 (MSG)
Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I'm about; See for yourself whether I've done anything wrong—then guide me on the road to eternal life.

So turn to your neighbour right now and tell them what your greatest temptation is. I’m kidding, don’t do that. But recognize it for yourself. Ask God to bring it to light.

Okay, so once I’ve identified my temptations, then I’ve got to…

2.    Recognize the source of my temptations

Now, a lot of people blame temptation on other people. They like to say, “The reason I’m tempted is because so-and-so offered me this.” Or, “It’s their fault; if only they would dress differently.” Or, “They’re the ones who push me in this direction.” We try to pass the blame on to them.

Well, certainly other people can influence you to move in the direction of your temptation. But they are not the source of that temptation. They are not responsible for your temptation. The temptation is already there. So what is the source?

Romans 7:23-25 (NLT)
But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.

So within you and within me, we each have a sin-nature that is the source of our temptation to do evil and that draws us away from the ways of God. The role of the Holy Spirit in your life is to help subdue this sin nature and overcome it and break its hold on your life. But we’re all born with this bent or this leaning or this inclination toward temptation and sin, and so we all battle with it.

I know we talked about Star Trek a couple weeks ago, but I’m going to bring it up again. Way back in the original series, there was one episode where a transporter accident split Captain Kirk into two people… One with his good nature, and one with his evil nature. It was actually a pretty bad episode, not one of my favourites, but it does acknowledge that we all have these two natures within ourselves fighting against each other. And I think that’s true. I think that’s what Paul was writing about.

So that’s your own nature. That’s inside of you. That’s one source of temptation, and it’s constantly trying to seize control. And the very person who claims to not have that nature within them is the very person who is most likely to fall and to give into it.

So that’s one source… the evil nature within yourself. And you need to just recognize that it’s there and it’s real. But there’s another source of temptation, too, and it’s outside of yourself. It’s an invisible force that’s working against you.

This is probably something we don’t talk about enough here. But I believe in an invisible spiritual world. I believe in the existence of God, and that He is all-powerful and all-good. But I also believe there are opposing forces led by a spiritual being that we call the Devil or Satan. In cartoons and in movies and even TV commercials, the devil is often portrayed as being a comical being, with red skin, a pointy-tail, and a pitchfork. But that image that we have of the Devil really does a disservice to just how evil and how dangerous he really is.

And he commands an army of fallen angels or demons that are fighting against the forces of God. It’s a losing battle, but they are doing everything they can to oppose God and to sabotage what He is trying to do in this world. And that includes presenting you with all kinds of temptations to draw you away from God… away from Jesus. Satan is working against you and is trying to take you down.

1 Peter 5:8 (NLT)
Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

We’re actually going to be talking about this more in August as part of our You Asked for It series, but for now let me just mention a few things. First of all, the Devil and God are not equals. God is all-power, the Devil is not. So it’s not like they’re equal yet opposing forces. They’re just opposing.

And the Devil is pretty predictable in how he works. For example, if you’re here this morning and you are not yet a follower of Jesus, then he’s going to do whatever he can to draw you away and to distract you and to keep you from Jesus. If you are a Christ-follower, then he’s going to do whatever he can to weaken you spiritually. He’s going to try to keep you from being fed spiritually and he’s going to throw obstacles in your way to keep you from praying and reading the Bible and he’s going to try to lure you away and entice you.

Have you ever noticed that on Sunday mornings everything seems to work against you getting here? It seems to me that families fight the most on Sunday mornings, trying to get ready and on the way here in the car. It’s almost as if something or someone is trying to keep you away or trying to prevent you from being engaged in what’s going on here.

So the Devil is always going to be working against you. He’s going to try to keep you from growing. He’s going to try to keep you from getting involved in a LIFE Group. He’s going to try to convince you to put off being baptized. And if he can’t keep you from becoming a Christian, he’s going to try to keep you from becoming a mature, fully devoted, effective Christian.

And he’s going to constantly try to trip you up with temptations. So you have him as a source of temptations, and you have your own nature as a source of temptations. So what do you do about it? Well, let’s see…

3.    Avoid the people or places that fuel my temptations

You’ve named you’re temptations and you’ve recognized the sources. Now you’ve got a choice to make. Are you going to fuel that temptation like pouring gasoline on a fire, or are you going to pour water on it instead? Are you going to go to places and hang around people and put yourself in situations that make that temptations stronger, or will it be places, people, and situations that make the temptations weaker?

For example, if your temptation is alcohol, the worst place for you to visit is a bar. You might tell yourself you’re only going for one drink, but you know it never stops there.

Or if pornography is a problem for you, it’s probably not a good idea to be surfing online late at night with no one else around.

If you’re tempted with greed, then you’d better be avoiding the Racino and slot machines and really any form of gambling. I think we should all avoid those things anyway, but especially if this is an area of weakness for you, you’re only going to make it worse. And it has spiritual consequences.

The best example of this is one I’ve used before. In Genesis 39 it tells about a man named Joseph. Joseph was working as a slave for a powerful Egyptian named Potiphar. And Joseph was always being tempted sexually by Potiphar’s wife. And she hit on him relentlessly day after day after day, and she constantly tried to seduce him. Do you know what Joseph did?

Genesis 39:10 (NLT)
She kept putting pressure on Joseph day after day, but he refused to sleep with her, and he kept out of her way as much as possible.

Joseph didn’t even want to be around her, because he knew that temptation was going to be there. So as much as possible, he kept his distance. He couldn’t avoid her altogether, but he did as much as he could. He knew the truth of what Paul would write some 1300 years later…

1 Corinthians 15:33 (NLT)
…“Bad company corrupts good character.”

So avoid those people, avoid those places. Hey, you know what situations you get yourself in that make you more vulnerable. You know the places you go, the things you do, the people you’re with. You know how tired you get and how that lowers your defenses. It’s like going grocery shopping when you’re hungry… not a good idea.

Temptation will take you further than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay. So don’t put yourself in those situations. Build some safeguards in your life.

But you know what? Even when you do this… even when you do everything you can to avoid those people and places… you can’t always avoid them completely. Joseph tried to avoid Potiphar’s wife as much as he could, but he still worked for her husband and there were times he simply couldn’t avoid her. And when that happens, here’s what we need to do…

4.    Take God’s “out” from my temptations

Because God will always provide an out. You see, even when Potiphar’s wife physically grabbed Joseph and urged him to go to bed with her, God still provided an “out.” In fact, do you know what Joseph did? He literally ran from the room. He didn’t stick around to show that he was above temptation. He didn’t try to prove he could resist it. He ran from the room. Even in that pressure filled situation, God provided Joseph with an “out.” He provided Joseph with the opportunity to get out of there.

You see, you always have a choice when it comes to temptation. John Dillinger had a choice. In fact, at any time in his life he could have resisted the temptation and taken God’s out. But he consistently chose to obey the temptation and it led to his demise.

Earlier we took a look at part of a verse in 1 Corinthians. Let’s go back and look at the entire verse. Read it with me…

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT)
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

Temptation never takes away your free will. You always have a choice. You have the choice to leave, you have the choice to stop, you have the choice to say no, you have the choice to flee… you always have a choice. God always gives you an “out.”

And listen, God is never surprised by temptation. He’s always aware of it. So when you’re tempted, don’t be too embarrassed to pray about it. God knows about it anyway, so ask Him for help in finding the “out.”

And besides, Jesus Himself was tempted. That’s why we know temptation itself is not sin. Jesus was tempted but He never sinned. You don’t sin until you give into the temptation. So when you’re tempted, pray about it and ask God for strength and for wisdom and for guidance to find the “out.”

Hebrews 2:18 (NIV)
Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Underline the word “help”. Jesus Himself was tempted and He understands temptation. So he’s there not to condemn you or to embarrass you or to scoff at you… He’s there to help you.

5.    Focus more on God than on my temptations

Because what you focus on longest becomes strongest. In other words, if you continue to focus on the temptation, then you’re giving that temptation more power in your life. But if you focus on God and on His Word and what He’s doing in your life, then His influence in your life becomes stronger.

Philippians 4:8 (NLT)
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
So as an example, let’s talk about a very common temptation today… pornography. If you’re tempted by pornography, and you’re always thinking about buying those magazines or going to those websites, and your thinking about ways to maneuver around the safeguards on your computer, and you’re not even looking at pornography but you’re thinking about it… then you’re feeding that temptation and it’s getting stronger.

So what you want to do is, as soon as you recognize the temptation is there, catch yourself and begin to shift your attention toward God. Instead of looking at pictures or thinking about them and filling your mind with them, go to God’s Word and fill your mind with Scripture instead. Or you could start praying, or you could call a Christian friend. Or try memorizing some verses so you can internalize the Word of God.

Psalm 119:11 (NLT)
I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

You see, you always have a choice of focus. If your focus is on the temptation, then it’s going to lead you into sin. But if your focus is on God, then He’s going to give you the strength to overcome. The choice is up to you.

So, maybe today is the day for you to refocus your life. Maybe you have been a Christ-follower, but your eyes have gotten off of Him and onto someone else or something else. Maybe today you just want to refocus yourself.

Or maybe for the first time today, you want to turn your heart and your attention to Jesus Christ. Maybe you’ve never done this before, but you can turn your focus to Jesus Christ and follow Him as the leader in your life. Why not today? Why not put your full faith in Him? You place your faith in Him, and in return He gives you forgiveness, He gives you life, He gives you purpose, He gives you Heaven. You can do that right now.

Let’s pray together. You can bow your heads, and close your eyes, and just silently, why not pray like this… using your own words…

Let Jesus know you want to focus on Him
Tell Him you want Him at the centre of your life
Admit you can’t do it on your own
Acknowledge to Him the temptations you tend to face most often
Invite Him to help you with those temptations
Ask Him to help you as you limit the influence those temptations have in your life
Ask for His power to overcome temptation

If you’ve never turned your life over to Jesus Christ, you can just pray something like this…

“Jesus, I’m placing my full faith in you. I’m choosing this morning to follow you. Be my leader and my Lord. And show me what it means to follow You from this point forward.”

[This message drew heavily on resources by Nelson Searcy]



Copyright © 2009 SunriseOnline.ca