OVERCOMING TEMPTATION AND LUST (LESSON 3)
(A similar lesson to this one can also be found at Obedience - Lesson 1)
This is our final lesson on overcoming temptation and lust. Tonight we are going to look at the very first people who gave in to temptation. We are going to go back to the beginning. We are going to take a look at Adam and Eve and show you how Satan is still tempting us just like he tempted them. And hopefully we will learn from Adam and Eve's mistake and not fall when we are tempted.
* First of all, we have to realize that there are things in this world that we need to leave alone. There are things that will poison us, kill us, defile us, and enslave us. And most of these things don't have big "keep out" signs on them, but God's Word has shown us that we are to have nothing to do with these things because they are bad. Well, God also told Adam about something that was bad. Let's look at God's instructions to Adam. Genesis 2:15-18, "And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."
God had provided Adam with everything he needed, and He put him in charge. But there was one thing that God wanted Adam to have nothing to do with, because if he partook of this one thing, it would bring death. A lot of times we make the mistake of believing that God is somehow trying to spoil our fun. We feel burdened by God's rules and commands. But you have to understand that if God does not want you to have something, it is only because He knows that that thing will bring a kind of death to your life. And just as a good parent will try to keep their child from ingesting rat poison, God warns us to stay away from certain temptations because He know that those things will kill us: kill our youth, our health, our self-respect, our relationship with Him, our bodies, our minds, et cetera.
God gave Adam much, and God has provided much to us as well. We have liberty and freedom and opportunities to experience many wonderful things. Psalm 84:11 tells us, "For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly." God is not some kind of bully who wants to spoil your good time. As a matter of fact, God wants to provide good things to those follow Him.
* Anyway, now back to Adam. When God warned Adam of the forbidden tree, Eve hadn't even been created yet. Let's read about when Eve comes into the picture. Genesis 2:21-25, "And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept; and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof. And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed."
Adam and Eve are in the garden. God has given them much to enjoy. They don't have a care in the world. And they had nothing to be ashamed of. Have you ever noticed that when you are obeying God, you have peace? There is no shame, only satisfaction. But, unfortunately, even when you are happy and satisfied, that is no guarantee that you won't be tempted by something forbidden down the road. Let's read how Satan made his move.
* Genesis 3:1-3, "Now the serpent was more subtile (cunning) than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die."
Now, do you guys see what Eve was doing wrong? Why is she standing there debating with the devil about something that God told her was strictly forbidden? Satan's first tactic is always to try to get you to start thinking about those things that are forbidden. And a lot of times we make the same mistake that Eve made and instead of getting as far away as we can away from that snake, we stand there listening to what he has to say. How many of you have people in your lives who, like Satan, will try to talk to you about doing things that you know God doesn't want you to do? And the longer you sit there listening to them, the more likely it is that they will convince you to do something that you will later regret. Well, let's see what happens when you stand there too long gazing at a serpent.
* Genesis 3:4-5, "And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil."
God warned Adam that if he touched this forbidden thing, it would bring death. Here Satan lies and says just the opposite. Satan says not only will you not die, but also you will gain knowledge and be like God. Satan and the dark powers of this world, which are at war with us, always lie. They will do whatever it takes to get you to fall. As we've said in the past, some of the lies that the world will try to tempt you with are: "Alcohol makes you have more fun, you become more social." "Smoking cigarettes makes you look cool." "Everybody is having sex with everybody; it's no big deal." "You don't have to get married. A marriage certificate is just a piece of paper." "Hey, come on. We won't get caught committing this crime." And after a while, we begin to believe the lies, just like Eve. We ignore God's loving warning and God's abundance and instead choose those tempting forbidden things. We begin to desire those very things that are going to bring death to our lives!
Genesis 3:6-8, "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons."
Do you see what happened? Eve began seeing the tree as something to be desired. She fell for the lie. Sure, Satan partially told the truth. Any good lie has to have at least a little bit of the truth in it. Adam and Eve did become wiser. But Satan didn't tell them about the price they would pay for this newfound wisdom. Now all of a sudden, with no one else around them, they were ashamed. They covered their bodies. And next, as we will read, they hid from the Lord.
How many of us have given into temptation because we wanted to gain knowledge, we wanted to experience certain things, and now we are ashamed at the things we have done and we wish we could forget the acts we have committed? I have knowledge of what it feels like to murder my own child, but I regret that knowledge. Maybe you have knowledge of what it is like to have sex with multiple partners, but is that good knowledge? Perhaps you know what it is like to have a hangover. Did you really need to know that? All knowledge is not good, and some things are best left unlearned. And life experience and doing things that God has warned us against only separates us from God. It does not draw us closer to Him.
* Have you ever done something and then you were too ashamed to go to God because you knew that what you did was displeasing to Him? Maybe you stopped going to church or stopped praying or stopped reading your Bible after you fell for some temptation because you were too ashamed to commune with God. You, essentially, tried to hide from God. Well, let's look at how Adam and Eve reacted when God wanted to spend time with them. Genesis 3:8-10, "And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid because, I was naked; and I hid myself."
Adam and Eve are hiding in the bushes from God. Adam claims that it is out of modesty, but what Adam really meant was, I heard your voice and I was ashamed because I knew I did what you told me not to do. This is so sad because at one point Adam and Eve enjoyed being in God's presence. At first they probably couldn't wait to fellowship with God. But now they are running from Him. But you can't hide from God. And when you try, the only one you are hurting is yourself. Maybe someone here right now has God asking, "Where are you? Why won't you turn from that temptation that has separated you from Me and instead just ask for My forgiveness"? God knows right where we are just like He knew right where Adam and Eve were. But God wants us to come to Him. He wants us to admit our mistakes and see our need for Him and humble ourselves before Him. He wants us to choose Him.
* Now, let's see how Adam and Eve tried to blame others for their disobedience instead of admitting what they had done and asking God for forgiveness. Genesis 3:11-13, "And he (God) said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this thou hast done? And the woman said, the serpent beguiled (deceived) me, and I did eat."
Do you see what is going on? These two are blaming everybody but themselves. They blamed the serpent, each other. But since they had free choice and they chose to do wrong, it was really no one's fault but their own. Adam couldn't blame Eve, and Eve couldn't blame the serpent. No one forced them to disobey God. (Refer to 1 Timothy 2:13-14 to see that Adam sinned with his eyes wide open.)
Sadly, sometimes we will even try to blame God for our own sins. We will say, "Well, God made me this way. God gave me these desires." Or "Why didn't God stop me?" But the Bible tells us very clearly in James 1:13, "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man." God does not tempt us. God tells us right from wrong, and we make the choice. God is willing to forgive you if you sincerely come to Him, but you have to choose Him over that sin. And the sooner you repent and ask God for forgiveness, the sooner you will be back on the right track, going to the place where He is trying to lead you.
* Remember last week when we said the trouble with giving in to temptation is that even if later you come to your senses and ask for forgiveness, you may still pay a price for your sin? Well, Adam and Eve did not physically die the day they were disobedient, but because of what they had done, things were never the same for them again. Let's see the price that Adam and Eve had to pay.
Genesis 3:22-24, "And the Lord God said, Behold the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man: and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life."
Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden that God had given to them for their enjoyment. And now they had to labor and work hard and face illness and disease and eventually die. Because they gave in to temptation, they lost something very precious. And we, too, will lose something precious every time we give in to temptation and go against God's wishes. We lose our respect for ourselves. We lose the ability to enjoy things in the way that God created us to enjoy them. We lose our freedom. We lose our dignity. We lose our health. Temptation can be so attractive at first glance, but it is not worth it!
So in conclusion, know that, yes, there will always be temptation. But God makes a way for you to overcome any temptation this world throws your way. Considering that God made a way for you to live forever with Him in heaven and not go to hell, don't you know He can help you day to day in your struggles? Galatians 1:3b, 4 says this of God, "Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father." You can be set free of temptation's trap, but you have to want to be free, and then do it through the power of God. And when you choose to follow God instead of falling into temptation, your life will be richer and fuller because of it!