Survivor: Sunrise Part 1
Winning Your Immunity Challenge
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
April 27, 2003

 

Main Passage: Matthew 4:1-11


How does an Inuit kill a wolf? I know it’s a question many of you have struggled with for years, so let me tell you the answer.

First, the Inuit coats his knife with animal blood and allows it to freeze. Then he another layer, and another until the blade is completely concealed with blood. Then he takes the knife and fixes it in the ground with the blade up. Wolves have very sensitive smelling, and it doesn’t take long before one will pick up the scent of the blood and follow it.

When the wolf finds the blade, he begins to lick it. He tastes the fresh-frozen blood, and begins to lick faster and faster. Feverishly, he continues licking until all the frozen blood is licked from the blade. But by this time, he has sliced his own tongue. But his craving for the blood is so strong that he doesn’t even notice. So he continues licking, not realizing that the blood he’s licking at is his own. He just craves more and more, until he finally falls over dead. And that’s how an Inuit kills a wolf. At least that’s what I’ve read.

The desire of the wolf gave birth to an act, which eventually gave birth to death. And that’s the way temptation works. It draws us in, captures us, and keeps us until it does us in.

Today we’re beginning a new series called Survivor: Sunrise. And this morning we’re talking about Winning Your Immunity Challenge. Specifically, we’re talking about building up your immunity against temptation. So as we begin, let me ask you:

 

What is Temptation?

PARTICIPATION

Temptation is the enticement to do what you know is wrong.

 

Let me give you five things to remember about temptation, and then we’ll look at some ways to increase your immunity.

 

When Facing Temptation, Remember…

 

A. Temptation is not a sin.

It may feel like it, you may feel guilty for being tempted, but you don’t need to. Temptation in and of itself is not sin. It’s giving in to the temptation when sin occurs.

We’ve already seen this morning how Jesus was tempted, but he was without sin.

Hebrews 4:15 (NLT)
“…He faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin.”

Charles Swindoll is a pastor and the author of a number of books, and in one of them he wrote:

“Sin takes place when we agree to the temptation and follow it.”
~ Charles Swindoll

 

B. Everyone is tempted.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT)
But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience.

It’s inevitable. We all face temptations, regardless of who we are, how long we’ve followed Jesus or how mature we’ve become. We can’t outgrow it or become immune to it. It’s something we all have to deal with. The temptations we face here are as real as the temptations faced by soldiers in the Middle East. The temptations business executives face are as real as those faced by farmers in rural areas. The temptations children face are as real as those faced by their grandparents. And the temptations you face are as real as the ones Jesus faced Himself. Everyone is tempted.

I think sometimes we get to thinking that only bad or weak people are tempted. I know there have been times I have thought that way. But that’s not the case.

“We are not tempted because we are evil but because we are human.”
~ Anonymous (F. Sheen?)

So when you start feeling guilty because you’re tempted, remember that even Jesus was tempted. Being tempted is not wrong, giving in is.

 

C. The temptation won’t be too strong.

Oscar Wilde once said:

“I can resist everything – except temptation.”
~ Oscar Wilde

And Mae west was famous for saying:

“I generally avoid temptation unless I can't resist it.”
~ Mae West, 1892-1980, American Actress

Well, the truth is that God promised the temptation will never be so strong that we cannot resist it.

1 Corinthians 10:13b (NLT)
He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it.

I’m no Greek scholar. But from what I understand, the terms used in this passage in the original language were nautical terms. They painted a picture of a ship being caught in a storm at sea. There’s no secret escape hatch to get the ship out of the storm, but the ship will weather the storm and come out safely on the other side. God can provide the strength of character and sustain us and help us endure any temptation and enable us to land safely and victoriously on the other side.

 

D. The longer you stay the stronger it gets.

Look at 1 Corinthians 10:13 again:

1 Corinthians 10:13b (NLT)
He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it.

You don’t have to give in to it, but the likelihood is that the longer you allow the temptation to remain the more it will wear you down and the more likely you will become to give in to it.

I read a story about a man watching birds flying around Niagara Falls. He stood and watched these birds over a period of time as they swooped down through the mist and near the falls themselves. Gradually, little bits of ice began to build up on the wings of the birds and eventually the weight of the ice became to great and the birds would drop from the sky.

Or if you’re a science fiction fan, like I am, you can picture temptation like the gravity of a Black hole. You’re going to begin feeling it while you’re still a long ways off, and you’ve still got time to adjust your course. But as you get closer and closer to the black hole, the stronger the gravitational forces become until you can’t break free.

God won’t allow any temptation to confront you that can’t be overcome, but don’t press your luck.

“It is not falling into the water but lying in it that drowns.”
~ Anonymous

 

E. Giving in will make you happy… for a time.

Otherwise you wouldn’t feel tempted. It’s the only reason temptation has any power.

“The power of all temptation is the prospect that it will make me happier.”
~ John Piper

Giving in to temptations will give you some kind of immediate pleasure, but in the long run the price will be more than you want to pay. It will leave you broken and defeated, with all kinds of feelings of regret and remorse.

VIDEO – Willy Wonka – girl eats gum, becomes a blueberry

Violet was tempted by the gum that Willie Wonka had. So she gave in and took it. And she liked it... at first. But eventually it turned on her.

Hebrews 11:24-25 (NLT)
It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be treated as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin.

There’s pleasure in giving in. There’s no denying that. But that pleasure is fleeting. And it’s not worth the price you’ll have to pay. The guilt, the feelings of failure, the addictions, and all the other consequences. Plus, the final price…

Ezekiel 18:4 (NLT)
“The person who sins will be the one who dies.”

More than I’d want to pay for a brief moment of pleasure.

 

We’re calling this series Survivor: Sunrise. Those of you who are familiar with the show (which I would guess is most of you) know that part of the competition involves an Immunity Challenge each week. Early on it’s team against team. Later, it becomes an individual challenge. And whoever wins is safe; they cannot be kicked off the show that night at tribal council.

By winning the challenge long before tribal council, they ensure their safety. And by the choices we make and the preparations we take before we even face a temptation, we can position ourselves to overcome the temptation when it does come.

So let me give you five tips for building your immunity and for getting ready to overcome any temptation that comes your way.

 

Five Tips for Building Your Immunity:

 

1. Avoid compromising positions.

In Genesis 39 it tells about Joseph. Joseph had been sold into slavery and was working for a powerful Egyptian named Potiphar. Joseph worked well and was eventually put in charge of the whole household. But something happened. Potiphar’s wife became attracted to Joseph. And she tried to seduce him. She hit on him day after day, until one day she actually grabbed him urging him to go to bed with her. You know what he did? He ran from the room. He didn’t stick around to show that he was above temptation. He ran from the room.

Do you know how far away you can hear a lion roar?

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8 km (5 miles). You know when he’s near.
(From The Pet Show with Warren Eikstein)

1 Peter 5:8 (NLT)
Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour.

The Devil prowls around like a roaring lion… you can hear him up to 5 miles away. He can’t blindside you if you’re paying attention at all. When you hear him coming, move.

You know what things tempt you. I’m sure you’ve already been thinking about things as I’ve spoken. I know I have. You also 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. You know when temptation’s near. You’d be wise to avoid those compromising positions. It’s like going grocery shopping when you’re hungry: not a good idea.

 

2. Be ready for it.

Be prepared for when temptation comes your way. Resolve now to be faithful to God, regardless of what the temptation is. Build up strength of character. Overcome smaller temptations that you face every day so you’re equipped to handle the larger temptations of life. And never think that you’re above temptation or that you’re invulnerable.

In ancient China, the people desired security from the barbarians to the north. The result? The Great Wall of China. It’s 30 feet high, 18 feet thick, and more than 2400 km (1500 miles) long! The goal was to build an absolutely impenetrable defense—too high to climb over, too thick to break down, and too long to go around. But during the first 100 years of the wall’s existence, China was successfully invaded three times. But it wasn’t the wall’s fault. The barbarians never climbed it, broke through it, or went around it. They didn’t have to. All they did was bribe a gatekeeper and march through an open door.

You want to be prepared. You want to be ready for it. But how do you do that?

 

Taking a Preemptive Strike against Temptation:

 

Listen to these. This is probably the most important part of the message this morning.

 

  • Build a Vibrant Prayer Life

Discipleship Journal did a survey about temptation a while back and discovered that 81% of people said that temptation was more potent when they neglected their time with God. And 84% said that prayer helped them resist temptation.

Jesus Himself said:

Luke 22:40 (NLT)
“Pray that you will not be overcome by temptation.”

 

  • Know Your Bible (Memorize and Apply)

66% of the people in the same survey said that Bible Study helped them resist temptation. In the passage we read earlier (Matthew 4) Jesus used scripture to fight temptation. Read this with me:

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

Not even a good devotional book can take the place of the Bible in your life. Know your Bible.

 

  • Find an Accountability Partner

52% said this helped. Find someone you can trust who can check with you once in a while to see how you’re doing. Confide in them about areas where you’re vulnerable to temptation and ask them to hold you accountable.

 

  • Recognize Your Weakness

You don’t want to become overconfident. Because the truth is that you’ll never be above temptation. None of us will be. You may grow spiritually and build up your immunity, but you will never be totally safe from the allure of temptation.

1 Corinthians 10:12 (NLT)
If you think you are standing strong, be careful, for you, too, may fall into the same sin.

Recognize your weakness. But at the same time…

 

  • Recognize God’s Strength

We try to do it on our own, we’re not going to make it. But when we’re relying of God nothing is impossible.

Jude 1:24 (NLT)
And now, all glory to God, who is able to keep you from stumbling, and who will bring you into his glorious presence innocent of sin and with great joy.

 

3. Refuse to Give In.

C. S. Lewis said;

“A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later.”
~ C. S. Lewis

Resist it and find out. Remember, there will be no temptation that you can’t overcome with God on your side.

As you can see, Mark Anthony was a man with “chiseled features.” He was known as the “silver-throated orator of Rome.” He was a brilliant political leader as well as a military leader. He was known for his courage and strength. Plus, he had a great deal of charisma. In fact, he had all the qualities that made him a world leader.

But he had a weakness. He had a habit of giving in to temptations. Particularly with a certain lady named Cleopatra. This vulnerability to temptation made him vulnerable as a leader, and he was severely hindered on different occasions as a result. In fact, it eventually led to his downfall and death. There was supposedly one occasion when his own personal tutor turned to him and shouted in his face:

“Oh, Marcus, oh, colossal child! Able to conquer the world, but unable to resist temptation.”
~ Mark Antony’s personal tutor

Good things happen when you resist temptation.

James 4:7 (NLT)
So humble yourselves before God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.

 

4. Recognize temptation for what it is.

James 1:14-15 (NLT)
Temptation comes from the lure of our own evil desires. These evil desires lead to evil actions, and evil actions lead to death. 16So don't be misled, my dear brothers and sisters.

There was apparently a middle school in Oregon that faced a unique problem. Kind of a funny problem, actually. The custodian was constantly cleaning lipstick off the mirror in the girls’ bathroom.

It was a middle school, and many of the girls were just starting to use lipstick. So they’d go into the bathroom, put it on, , and then they’d press their lips to the mirrors leaving dozens of little lip prints.

Finally, the principal decided to do something about it. So she called a number of girls to the bathroom and met them there with the custodian. She explained to the girls that all these lip prints were causing a major problem for the custodian, who had to clean the mirrors every day. And to demonstrate, she asked the custodian to clean one of the mirrors. So he took out a long-handled brush, dipped it in the toilet, and scrubbed the mirror. They never had a problem with lip prints on the mirror since.

Let me tell you something for when you’re tempted. If you could only see the real filth you’d be kissing, you wouldn’t be attracted to it. It will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.

 

5. If you fall, get back up.

I’ve been giving you some tips to help you build your immunity for facing the challenge of temptation. Hopefully they will help. But you know something? There may still be times when you fail. You don’t have to, but it could happen and probably will. Because we all struggle and we all fail at times. But God’s forgiveness is real. It’s not my goal today to make you feel defeated. I want you to be encouraged that you can overcome temptation. But at the same time, I want you to know that there’s hope and forgiveness for you when you fail. One of my favorite verses that I learned at youth camp as a teenager was this:

Acts 3:19 (NLT)
Now turn from your sins and turn to God, so you can be cleansed of your sins.

Hebrews 4:16 (NLT)
So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.

 

Response Time:

(What compromising positions do you need to avoid?)

 

 

 

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