We have a real enemy. And his objective is to either prevent us from a full understanding of God's goodness; or to lull those of us who have trusted in God's goodness into an ineffective lifestyle. Overcoming his temptations is a matter of knowing his game plan ahead of time and being prepared to answer one or all of the three primary lies he is going to throw at us.
Make War: What are We Fighting and How Should We Fight?
Our Need for Others to Show Us the Way of Escape: Because Mufasas Become Maneaters
The Carrot, the Stick, and the Ass: The Truth Will Set You Free
The Enemy and His Tactics
Why do I show that as we start a series on temptation? The reason I show that is because too many of us have this odd or unbiblical view of who our Enemy is. What I'm going to do is I'm going to give you, over the next three weeks or so, seven or eight different bullets of truth that will help you understand temptation and, basically, how we are to prevail in the midst of it and how we're to stand against it.
I'm going to be very simple tonight. I'm going to come at it from one basic angle, and that angle is: there is no secret about what's coming and about who it's coming from. The problem and the reason so many folks out there are not just being tempted but are being waylaid by the Tempter is we don't have a biblical worldview, a right understanding of who that Tempter is. We have him as some buffoon in a leotard in a sitcom, and that's not who he is.
In fact, if you ask people in this country who call themselves Christian… Now, I'm sure many of them are nominal. Meaning, they are just notional Christians. They are people who just have some vague understanding and would call themselves something that maybe, in fact, they are not. Nonetheless, 60 percent of people who call themselves Christian deny that Satan is a literal being. They, in fact, think he's just a symbol of evil, which is a wholly unbiblical understanding.
It's not surprising that, similarly, about 60 percent of professing Christians (again, not just churchgoers but folks who say they have a relationship with God) would say the same thing about the Holy Spirit. They would say he's just a symbol of God's power and presence but not a literal being. Folks, this is a problem, because when you don't know your enemy, you don't know how to defend against it. When you don't know your enemy's weaknesses, you don't know how to defeat him.
The reason these doors are up here (we'll keep them up here as a background these next several weeks) is because we're going to use this little metaphor, which is the way of escape. First Corinthians 10:13 would be a seminal verse for this whole series. It says, "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it." There is a way of escape.
What I want to do tonight is drill home one of these points: there is no secret about what's coming and from whom it is coming. There are two equal and opposite errors we can make when we talk about the Devil. The first one is that maybe we think we are to be scared of him in a way that causes us to surrender and have a defeatist attitude, that there's nothing I can do with this overbearing darkness and this supreme power that I must be enslaved to.
To you I would say, the Scriptures say in 1 John 4:4, "…greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world." It talks about how we don't need to fear him but to resist him. For those who have a sense that we are just going to be consistently mowed down and defeated by the demonic forces that are around us and are literal, to you I say, have some hope.
There's another group, though, that I want to go after as well, especially tonight: those who either don't believe he exists or who have made such a caricature of him they don't believe they need to be vigilant in their awareness, that they don't need to be alert. I want to let you know about your Enemy.
C.S. Lewis, when he wrote The Screwtape Letters, which is an allegorical way of expressing the way that many of us are confronted by these rulers and powers and forces of darkness, said this in the introduction to that little fantastic, insightful book, when a senior demon is writing to his young nephew, his apprentice, how to tempt and victoriously defeat his subjects. This is what Lewis says:
"There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight."
In other words, those who delve into the occult, who are obsessed with spiritual forces, love to focus on them. The focus is not to be on them. The focus is to be on Christ and not on the Evil One. The materialists, those who do not believe in spiritual forces, those who only think that what is real is what is seen and tangible and able to be experienced and touched… They delight in those, because you cannot resist that which you do not believe exists.
The fact that nobody believes in the Devil anymore, that 60 percent, nearly two-thirds of Christians don't know the character of their Enemy, is part of the reason so many of us are waffling. Now, this is what the Scripture says in Ephesians 6:10-12: "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might." It continues. "Put on the full armor of God…" That's something I'll get to undoubtedly in the weeks ahead.
"…so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil." I'm going to talk about the schemes of the Devil. There is no secret what is coming and who it is coming from. It is coming from the one we struggle against. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."
That is who our struggle is against, and for us to disbelieve or to characterize Devil and these rulers and these powers as insignificant or as, as I said, a buffoon in tights is a grave mistake. I'm going to show you one more little iconic view of how we often come upon the terror that is around us and remind you again of his basic nature. I'm going to give you a biblical understanding of the Enemy. I'm going to walk you through the over the 100 verses in the Scripture that deal with this character, this Evil One.
Now, what I'm not going to do tonight is I'm not going to go and talk about how he got here on earth. He was here before we were. We, in a sense, were created to be here with him and to be victorious. I did a series called Why a number of years back where I basically told the metanarrative, the grand story, of God. I started with, basically, the character and nature of God, and then I talked next about the character and nature of evil, why there is evil, and there I walk you through the story of when we arrived on earth why there was already an Enemy present. You can go to watermark.org/messages and search to find that series to get that information.
This idea that God's history begins in Genesis, chapter 1, is unbiblical. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." That's the beginning of God's dealing with us in this part of his redemptive program in declaring his glory, but prior to that, there was another creation, a creation of angelic beings, spirit beings, one of whom we know as Satan. I will talk more about him and what he is up to here.
If you want to get a fuller understanding of that, go to the Why series and go to the second message Why There Is Evil. I talk about Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, discussing some of who he was in typology and why when we arrived an Enemy was already in our midst. But let me start with this tonight as we begin, just one more little humorous look (you'll know it right away when you see it) at the danger of mocking this Evil One. Check this out.
The reason I show that again is because you have to have a right understanding of this Enemy, this Tempter, and if you don't, you will be destroyed. Look at the bones. You think it's just a bunny. You think it's just a fable. You think it's a buffoon in tights, some caricature that is not at all informed by truth. My hope tonight, as we start this series on temptation, is to talk specifically about the Tempter. You need to know you are at war.
There's a great quote I have from a guy who describes war. He says, "There is something about war that sharpens the senses. You hear a twig snap or the rustling of leaves and you are in attack mode. Someone coughs and you are ready to pull the trigger. Even after days of little or no sleep, war keeps us vigilant." This is exactly what Jesus was saying to his disciples when he was being tempted to abandon the will of his Father as he went to a cross for us.
He asked his disciples to pray for him, and his disciples kept falling asleep physically. He would go back to them and say, "Awake, O sleeper! You must stay alert." It's a metaphor. He's telling them, "Look. You have to realize that if you fall asleep, not physically but spiritually, you will be devoured." We have to remain vigilant. If you think it's just a little rabbit, if you think it's just some symbol of evil and don't understand about the forces of darkness we must press against, you will be devoured.
There are a lot of different names for this Enemy. Before I go and share with you a little bit of a biblical record using names… I want to walk you through those 100-odd verses that talk about who this Tempter is. I'll talk about his person. I'll talk about his practice. I'll talk about the product you get if you tangle with him. I'll talk about his plan. I'll talk about his predetermined end. Focus on this.
If I can only give one message to a group of people and I had a chance to communicate with them, I believe the message I would give is a message that, again, talks about the character and nature of God. In fact, Paul talks about how we are Christ's ambassadors, as if God were entreating others through us to trust in him. We are representing our Father who is in heaven. I would plead with people to have a biblical understanding of God and who he is.
The reason I would do that is because this is the primary plan of the Enemy. He has not changed. From the very beginning, he has decided that his tactic is going to be to lie. He is a liar. Jesus says in John 8:44 that he is a liar, that he is the Father of Lies. What he does is he doesn't get you to love sin; he gets you to distrust God. He attacks the character, the nature, the love, the care.
He attacks the very essence of who God is. If he can get you to believe that God does not have your best interests in mind, he knows the game is over, because he is isolating you from your protector, from your sun and shield. He's going to move you and isolate you over here where you are vulnerable in your weakness, naivete, and lack of support.
The good news is that we can prevail against him. We have a Redeemer. We have a Savior. We have a leader. He is strong, he is sovereign, and he is able, and we have been resourced. Everything we need to be victorious in this war has been given to us, but you must know your leader. Let me just tell you that this is what the Scripture says about God.
I took my son away this week a couple of different times. We had to go someplace together on Wednesday. I drove for about four hours and went back and picked him up on Saturday, and we had about four hours in the car and some extended time at the place we went both times together just to talk. Throughout his life, I have built into him and shared with him truths about what it means to be a man, what it means to be a man who's going to lead, what it means to be God's man.
We've talked about different levels of the world we are in with different specificity along the way. This was the time when we kind of said, "Okay, son. Things are different now." We talked about changes that were coming into his physicality. We talked about temptation and sexuality at a different level than we ever had, and it was very purposeful that we got to it at this level at this place at this time.
One of the things I did with him, as we often do when we're together… We read the proverb that goes with the day. Wednesday, when we were traveling together, it was Proverbs 10, which is thick with reminders of truth that will help you as you are tempted. One of them is in verse 22. I looked at my son, and I talked to him. I said, "Let me just share with you, every time your father has obeyed God, every time I've walked with him, I have never regretted it, but you are going to be tempted to believe that God does not have your best interests in mind."
So we talked about that. We talked about why that temptation is so powerful, and we talked about the forms it would come in. We talked about what would be happening in his body and in this culture he's living in, as he continues to grow as a man, that he is to lead and prevail in. Look at Proverbs 10:22. This is the message I would give to folks if I could just get their heart for a second.
I would not tell you about evil; I would help you focus on the truth of who God is and beg you to love him. What you believe about God is the single most important thing about you, because what you believe about God will tell me everything about whether or not you're going to move away from him because you feel like he is there to oppress you, he is there to deny you, or he is, in fact, a loving Father.
Proverbs 10:22: "It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it." Rich here is not material rich. It is not more zeroes in your bank account. The idea of Proverbs 10:22 is that when you have a relationship with God, your life is full and it is not fleeting. There is no sorrow to any of the experience. It is abundant, and there is no sorrow.
First John 5:3 says, "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome." If I could grab your heart and convince you of these two simple truths, that God's commandments are not burdensome… That's why Jesus said, "Are you weary? Are you heavy-laden? Are you yoked to something that is wearing you out?" Every single one of us is tied to some idea. We're tied to some mooring.
We're tied to some yoke that will determine how we are going to row or plow through life. Jesus says, "Yoke yourself to me. I am not burdensome in my yoke. I love you, and I want to set you free." Listen to Psalm 16. These ideas, by the way, that I'm going at… The Enemy comes at this idea. The Enemy will tell you that life with God is sorrowful, burdensome. He will lie to you about the character and nature of God.
He will tell you life is not with God; life is apart from God. So many of us have believed that to some degree. In fact, every single one of us this week who gave ourselves away to lust or anger or pride or self, we gave away that right to life and richness because we did not believe that God had our best interests in mind when he called us to follow him and to live life this way.
Psalm 16:11 says, "You [God] will make known to me the path of life [you show me what row to hoe] ; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever." If you are not convinced of this… This is one of the things I talked about with my son. I said, "Look. There are going to be all kinds of individuals who tell you that pleasures forever are over here, which is outside of where God says they are, and they are deceptive pleasures. They have sorrow attached to them. They are fleeting pleasures."
God is not looking to rip you off; he wants to set you free. He wants to spare you the pain of rebelling against him. Lastly, Psalm 84: "For the Lord God is a sun and shield…" The idea of sun is he is a provider of life, of light, of direction, of warmth, and he is a shield. He is a protector. If I was giving away things tonight and I told you I'm giving away grace and glory over here, a line would form, because you want grace. You want to receive that which you don't deserve.
You want glory. You want your life to have a weight and a substance, a beauty and honor and greatness. If God was going to tell you, "There's a line over here where you can get grace and glory…" That is what the character of your God is. He gives grace and glory. That's what he's offering you. The Enemy is saying, "No. Glory is over here. Come and get it." God is saying, "No, it's not. It's only here with me."
Listen to Psalm 84:11. "…no good thing does He withhold from those who [love him] ." Nothing. I sat and talked to my son about things that are going to be offered to him and pleasures and strategies and ways of the world and enticements of his flesh that are going to look like they are good. If God tells you they're not, trust him. We got very specific. I said to him, "…how blessed is the man who trusts in You [O Lord of hosts] !" We talked about it, and we talked about those who have bought the lie.
Here's what I want to tell you: the Enemy's strategy hasn't changed. It has been the same from the beginning. He is a liar. He is the Father of Lies. There's a reason he has not changed his offense. That reason is it works. It's like Bud Wilkinson and OU in the 1950s. He ran the Wishbone. That's all he ran. He won national title after national title, running over everybody. Nobody could stop him.
So there was no reason to change to the Veer. There was no reason to go to the Spread. There was no reason to go to the Pro Set. There was no reason to go to any other offense, because this offense was chewing up every defense it faced. I will tell you, this is exactly what the Enemy has been doing. He has not changed his program or his plan to attack and to tempt you and me from the very beginning. I'm going to show you his first interaction with humankind, and I'm going to show you that his strategy has not changed.
The reason we need to study the Enemy… I talked to my buddies who are involved with military intelligence and warfare, and they said, "You study your enemy so you can know their goals so you can deny them their easiest and most likely route toward victory over you. You study your enemy so you can know his weaknesses so that your offense against him might bring you success." So, as we start this series on temptation, I want you to know your Enemy. I don't want you to have some temporary, fleeting victory; I want you to prevail consistently.
I was teasing my Aggie friends this morning. They went up to Norman a few years ago. Remember that, when Coach Fran was with you? No whooping on that, is there? It's because you got a whupping. It was 70 to nothing in the third quarter. Legend has it that Stoops actually sent somebody over to Fran and said, "What do you want me to do? How do you want me to play this, because it's ugly? Do you want me to kick field goals or not kick field goals when I get down there? Do you want me to keep scoring? Do you want me to have my quarterback fall down? What do you want me to do?"
I can remember. In the fourth quarter, Oklahoma was literally running people in that the guys who were doing the play-by-play said, "We don't know who the running back is. We see his jersey number, but that's not the 34 we have. He's on the sideline. So this is somebody who's not even on the depth chart, not even actually on the roster, but he's out there, and let's hope he does well." That's where it got to.
It got to the point where, I can remember, as OU was down near the goal line again… It was fourth and short, and they ran this play almost like, "Look. We're giving it to this guy. We don't know his name, but he's going to run it right here, right at you." They did, and the A&M linebacker tackled him, and you would have thought that guy just won the national championship from A&M. He jumped up and ran up the field. He was doing this and pumped up.
I like that he kept fighting and didn't give up, but I kind of thought, "How incredible is that, that that's his victory? It's 77 to nothing, for goodness' sake, and they're running out guys who don't even play football against you." I just think some of us… That's almost like what we're like. We get run over and run over and run over, and there's a moment of victory, and we're like, "Yeah! Stand firm, baby, like me." I just want to go, "You know what? There is so much more."
What I want you to know is that you don't have to have scars. You and I are not perfect, but we can do better. I'm going to share with you over these next couple of weeks how we can do better so that we're not getting mauled and people go, "Are you kidding me? That's the victorious life? That's the transformation? That's what your protector and provider gives to you against this Enemy? Are you kidding me?"
Let me just tell you about this Enemy. This is, if you will, a compressed theology of the Evil One. I've taken this all right from Scripture. He is one who sinned against God, was cast out of heaven and down to hell. He's given dominion over the earth for a time. He is the author of the fall. He is the one who tempted Christ. He perverts the Scripture. He opposes God's work. He works lying wonders. In other words, things we think are supernatural he will bring about when, in fact, his wonders are lying wonders, is what the Scripture calls them.
He assumes the form of an angel of light. He is the father of the wicked. The wicked are those who turn aside after him, who do the lusts of him, who are possessed by him, who are blinded by him, who are deceived by him, who are ensnared by him, who are troubled by him. He is the Enemy of believers. He afflicts believers as God permits. He tempts believers. He sifts believers. We are told that we should be armed against him as believers. We should be watchful against this Enemy.
He is triumphed over by Christ. He not just tempts Christ but Christ triumphs over him. His character is described as presumptuous, prideful, wicked, powerful, cynical, crafty, deceitful, fierce, cruel, and interestingly enough, cowardly. He will flee from you if you resist him. He is made incarnate in the Antichrist. Now, the Antichrist is not the Devil. The Antichrist, though, is one who is a physical manifestation of an Evil One who denies that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and who denies the authority of Scriptures.
The Antichrist will be one who will bring about lying wonders. He will do some things in the end times that the world will say, "Well, he must be some man above men, because look at what he does." They will be illusionary. They are lying wonders. He will bring about peace, but it will be a false peace. The world will love him. As I said, the Devil is described as an angel of light, so the Antichrist will look like the good one. The world will love him, and the world will hate all who do not take the sign of the Beast.
One of the things that has happened in Scripture is he said before you get there, you need to know not to fall for it. This guy is going to look impressive. He's going to look like he's loving because he welcomes all. He's going to look like he's bringing peace to places where there has been no peace, but he is a liar and he is not of God. The Enemy disguises himself as an angel of light, the Scripture says.
He shall be condemned at the judgment. The everlasting fire is prepared for him. The Enemy is compared in Scripture to one who sets a snare, like a fowler who camouflages a trap, that you will go out in your innocence and naivete and find yourself devoured in his trap. He is called a bird that eats good seed. If there is truth sown into your life, he will try to deceive you and remove it from you. He is one who doesn't just remove good seed; he plants false seed. He puts tares among the wheat. He causes thorns to choke out life.
He is one who is known for his destruction. He is called a wolf. He is called a roaring lion, prowling about, seeking whom he may devour. He is called a dragon. He is called the serpent of old. He is called Abaddon. In Scripture you'll see that phrase. You'll see Apollyon. They are Hebrew and Greek names for the word destroyer. We saw up there Mephistopheles was the name Saturday Night Live chose to use in that caricature.
Goethe, who wrote Faust, that classic poem that talks about the one who sold his soul to the Devil… The devil Faust gave himself to, one of the demons, the demon he actually sold himself to, was Mephistopheles. That is not a biblical name, but that is one of the names that has been given throughout history to the Evil One.
All that is is a transliteration of a couple of words in the Hebrew. Mephiz is the word for destroyer; tophel is the word for liar. So Mephistopheles was his name. That's why you see in Scripture sometimes these other names, like Beelzebub, which is a reference to Baal, which means lord in some pagan literature and languages. Beelzebub is lord of the flies. You'll see these different names.
He's called adversary, angel of the bottomless pit, Belial, distressing spirit, dragon, Enemy, Father of Lies, fleeing serpent, Leviathan (which is a word for great one or significant enemy), murderer, Prince of the Power of the Air, reptile, ruler of the darkness of this world, ruler of the demons, Satan, Serpent, serpent of old, spirit who works in sons of disobedience, tempter, the god of this age, twisted serpent, wicked one…on and on and on.
This is no bunny is the point, but you do not need to fear him; you need to know him, and you need to be watchful, vigilant, alert. You are at war, and I am going to show you his offense. It's what he has always done and will always do. Every time you are tempted, God who is faithful will not allow you to be tempted beyond that which you are able and will provide with that temptation the way of escape also so that you might be able to endure it.
There is a door, and that door is tied directly to your Savior, to your leader who has resourced you completely, but if you don't know you're at war, if you don't know you have an enemy, if you don't know your leader, you are done. So here we go. Genesis 3. Genesis 3 is the first time you have interaction with this Evil One and humankind. What we have is his offense laid out directly before you.
"Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the ** Lord ** God had made. And he said to the woman, 'Indeed, has God said…?'" The very first thing he's going to do is challenge God's Word, twist God's Word, get you to rationalize against God's Word. He said, "'Indeed, has God said, "You shall not eat from any tree of the garden"?' The woman said to the serpent, 'From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat…'"
Notice she drops freely. Now, whether she dropped freely because she didn't focus here or because she was not taught accurately by the man who had been given God's word in Genesis, chapter 2… He was to be the provider and the protector of the woman he was to become one with. There God said, "You can eat of any tree you want freely," but because God wants a relationship with us, he did not make us robots.
He gave us the ability to choose to love him or not. God wants us to love him. He wants us to please him, and the way we please a lover is by giving ourselves to him. This is what the Scripture says: "Without faith it is impossible to please God. Those who come to God must believe that he is [that he exists] and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him." Our relationship with God has always, from the very beginning, been rooted in faith.
The righteous live by faith, and here's the faith we live by: that God is good and we can be completely satisfied in him. So, God puts us in this Edenic setting and says, "Look. There's a tree there that if you eat of that tree, you will know good and evil, but you don't need to eat of that tree of good and evil, because you know me, the Good One. All you need to do is look to me. Walk with me. Enjoy me.
By the way, if you eat of that tree of good and evil, you will die. Why? Because you will then no longer look to me. You will look to self to determine whether or not you want to live by good or live by evil. You will not be able to resist the choice, because you are not innately good, intrinsically good. You are good because you are related to me, the Good One. I have put you in a place that…"
God himself called creation very good. Why did he call it very good? Not because he was impressed by it but because everything about that creation spoke to the character and nature of God. It was perfect. Everything Adam and Eve needed was there for them in abundance, including the ability to resist the Tempter. What did the Tempter do? He is going to go at them, and he's going to challenge them with some basic truths.
Instead of looking to the Good One, they go for the lie, and they are separated from life, so death comes upon them. I think physical death was going to come immediately, but God in his grace, in order to accomplish his purposes though we rebelled against him, intervened and made a provision for us until such a time as the perfect provision came through Jesus Christ. The point is that in that moment, death did become them. Death was the wage they earned.
God didn't allow that physical death to be full and complete right then because of his redemptive plan that he had ordained throughout history, but the curse fell on them. Now watch what happens, though. She says, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it…'" Then she adds, "…or touch it…"
Here we are, quoting our first Scripture. There was only one verse that had been given to humankind, and they don't remember it. They drop promise in it and add law to it. The Scripture tells you that every word of God is tested. Everything we need is there, and we are not to add to it or take away from it. This is why, gang, when you start to jack around with God's Word, when you mess with the foundation, what will the righteous do?
This is why when we twist God's Word, when we start to concede certain areas… I want to say one thing right here. I want to insert this. I told you that the offense of the Enemy has been the same since the beginning of time. I will give you one little caveat. What he has done from the beginning of time is lied. That is still his offense, but what he has primarily done is lied about the character and nature of God and the character and nature of God's Word.
Recently…I would say in the last 150 to 200 years…he has begun to change his lie a little bit. Never before have you seen this in humankind until recently, and I'll tell you why I think he introduced this lie. What happened is when we began to leave God, and the farther we move away from God the more chaotic our world becomes…
The more there is despair, the more there is war, the more there is disease, hopelessness, and death, the less it looks like there is a sovereign, loving being who ever existed. It becomes easier and easier to believe that there is no God when you look at chaos in this world. It's easier to believe we are just the product of nothing plus time plus chance, that materialistic worldviews make sense. If there is a good and loving God…
By the way, this is Christopher Hitchens in God Is Not Great. This is his entire idea. When Dawkins writes The God Delusion, when Nietzsche talks about the fact that God is dead, that we've outgrown this small-minded idea, what they're doing is saying, "Look around you. Where is this evidence for a loving, sovereign God?" What has happened is, before, there was not even the suggestion that intellectual people could in any way believe that there was no God.
Now, you could create your own nature and character of God. The nations have always tried to define the world they are in and the character and nature of God differently. God revealed himself specifically to Israel. But what happened recently is because of the chaos and wickedness and the cycle of despair in the world, we have become susceptible to the idea that there is no God, there never has been a God, and there is no hope.
This atheistic, naturalistic, finite worldview is largely a new deception. It comes when people suppress the truth about why we are where we are in unrighteousness, and professing to be wise, they become fools. Largely, though, what men have always done is they've redefined God, making him in their own image. It has only been recently in human history that we have come to this idea that there is no God. It's still a lie about the existence of God, but it's not the standard lie about the character and nature of God.
Now, the reason most of us sin is not because we believe there is no God, because God has set eternity in all of our hearts, and we have to work hard to suppress that testimony in our conscience and the testimony of what we see, even with Hitchens and Dawkins and the like screaming at us that we should wake up and see that. We know better. The problem is we don't know God well, and we don't believe it is true that no good thing does he withhold from those who love him.
We start to buy this lie, like, "Maybe he is ripping me off. Maybe there is life at Spring Break in Cancun. Maybe there is life on that website. Maybe there is life in making myself physically ill so I can have a different body image. Maybe there is life in compromise. Maybe there is life in anger. Maybe there is life in infidelity. Maybe there is life in conflict, because maybe God is just trying to rip me off and oppress me with these puritanical rules."
I talked about why when we gave away Genesis, when we questioned the character and existence of God's reliable testimony of the Scriptures with geology and biology and chemistry and physics and astronomy… When you start to allegorize Genesis and say it's not literal, when you start to give away Scripture, how can you then later say, "Well, it's not literal over here in the resurrection"?
When you give away God's promises to Israel and you spiritualize the text and say he won't fully accomplish with Israel what he said he would accomplish with Israel, why can't you then spiritualize salvation? Why can't you spiritualize other points of truth? What the Enemy wants to do is to get you to add to or take away from Scripture, and it's the beginning of the end. It's the beginning of liberalism and the destruction of truth when that stuff begins to happen. God said, "Don't add to it. Don't take away from it. Don't drop freely, and don't add touch."
Now look. The Serpent said to the woman, "You will not die! For God knows…here's the deal…that the day you eat from it, what's going to happen is your eyes are going to be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." There was part of that that was true. You'll never be like God because your nature is not godlike. You are made in his image, but you are not God. But you will know good and evil. Here's the deal. When we know good and evil, we don't choose good.
Every mistake, every sin, every inglorious choice we made this week was not because we didn't know that was, in fact, probably not going to be the wisest thing to do to bring about the best result, yet somehow, even though we knew that information, we still couldn't keep our anger inside. We still couldn't keep our lust contained, even though we knew that lust leads to death, even though we knew this poor image of self was going to lead to dishealth and self-hate. Our problem is we know good and evil; we just can't choose good if we don't have a relationship with the Good One.
"When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her…" The passive male. The woman may have been deceived, but the male was an outright rebel, there the entire time, watching the conversation, not injecting truth and not running to the Good One. Now look. This is his offense. It has been from the beginning. He wants to come at you with three basic things and three basic lies.
The three basic things he will come at you with are in 1 John 2:15-16.This is what it says: "Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh…" When she saw that the tree was good for food. "…the lust of the eyes…" When she saw that it was a delight to the eyes. "…the boastful pride of life…" When she saw that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate. "… [all this] is not from the Father, but is from the world."
Every time we are tempted, it's going to fall into one of those categories. "I think it would feel good. I think it would taste good. I think that experience would please me. It looks like it should be something I have. If I get that, it will make me something I want to be." Instead of listening to God who wants to give you grace and glory, we try to earn glory through our own strategies, and we yoke ourselves to what makes sense to us, but in the end it is the way of death.
Those are the three things that are always involved. Now here are the three lies that will always come. First, "Obedience to God is bad. Why would you want to listen to him? If you listen to God, all you're going to do is find yourself bored, oppressed, and miserable." Secondly, he's going to tell you, "Disobedience is fun, if you'll just challenge the true character and nature of God long enough to realize the reason he doesn't want you to have this is because he's a jerk, and if you'll just leave him, you'll experience life. Look at how he denies you freedom. Look at how he denies you what you want and looks good to you."
Obedience to God is bad, disobedience is fun, and the third thing he says is, "Look. Judgment isn't that big of a deal. You don't need to listen to him. You always have tomorrow to change. Why would you care what God is going to do? Where's God? He said he's been coming for, what, 2,000 years? Where is that? Judgment isn't that big of a deal. Look at all of those other folks doing it. There's no consequence in their life."
One of the verses I keep sharing with those I have influence over is Ecclesiastes 8:11. Ecclesiastes 8:11 says, "Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil." All that is saying is that because we see that the grass is green, we think the grass never burns, and we fret because of evildoers. We wonder if there is a God, we wonder if there is justice, and we forget God's long view.
We forget God's promise, and we agree with Satan's assessment of him. "Disobedience is fun, and judgment isn't that big of a deal." He challenges the character of God. "He's not that holy. Sin is not that big of a deal." He challenges the justice of God. "There's no judgment coming. Why don't you get into the party?" He challenges the love of God. "He doesn't have your best interests in mind." He challenges the care of God. "He has forgotten you. If he's a good God, would he deny you that? Come on!" We start to go, "You know what? You're right."
What's really interesting is that you see a model for how to handle the temptation that comes to us and the Tempter through the second Adam, as the Scripture calls him, Jesus Christ. Note this. The first Adam: completely fed in Paradise. The second Adam: hungry in the desert. The first Adam: "Hey, if God loves you, he would give you this fruit right here that you want." The second Adam: "Hey, if God loves you, he would allow you to do whatever you want to do, and I don't know why you don't just turn those stones into bread."
Jesus said, "Look. I'm not going to consult my flesh right now what to do. If the Father wants to feed me, he'll feed me. The terms of the incarnation here was that I would live as a man, and I'm not going to violate that. My Father knows that I'm here, and my food," as he said later to his disciples in John 4, "is to do the will of my Father." He quotes, actually, from Deuteronomy 8. "Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." So what does the Enemy do? The Enemy comes right back and says, "Oh, you like Scripture? Let's quote some Scripture."
He fires Psalm 91 at him. He says, "Hey, I'll tell you what. Why don't you just go ahead and make yourself famous. Come here. Throw yourself off this high tower here, and the angels of God will catch you, and everybody will know right away exactly who you are. That will be good for you as you try to gather your little ministry here." Jesus says, "Look, man. The Scripture also says, 'Don't put the Lord your God to the test.'" You test somebody when you are not sure about them. Jesus was sure about the character and nature of God, so he didn't need to test him.
Thirdly, he said, "Hey, look at this whole world. Doesn't it look good to your eyes? You can have it. You don't want the cross. I want you to worship me. Just bow down and worship me. You don't need a cross. I'll get what I want and you'll get what you want. Let's go this way. It looks good, doesn't it? Take it." Jesus responds again. "I don't need what I can see that looks good. My eyes are easily deceived. That which looks like it is permanent is fleeting. This world is not my home." He resisted, and he was gone.
Gang, I want to share with you, just in wrapping up, the basic mistake they made in this and the answers that were there. You see it. It's not that difficult. What you have, very quickly, is this couple that dialogued with the Enemy, and we are not to dialogue with the Enemy. We're not to enter into a discussion about whether or not God's character is in question.
The Scripture says if you walk in the counsel of the wicked, if you stand in the path of sinners, if you sit in the seat of scoffers, you have trouble. In fact, what you should do is delight yourself in the law of the Lord and on that law meditate day and night. I want to tell you what's going to happen if you keep watching Vince Shlomi. Anybody know who that is? Vince Shlomi is the guy who, when you sit there and watch him take a little rag and tell you that you're going to be miserable if you don't buy this rag, he has the ShamWow coming your way.
You'll have a Slap Chop and a ShamWow before you know what you're doing if you sit and listen to that guy. You'll go, "I didn't know I needed a Slap Chop. I didn't know I needed a ShamWow," but Vince is going to show you what you don't know. You enter into a dialogue, and the next thing you know you go, "Wow! If I order in the next X number of minutes, I get to miss out on the shipping and handling. I am in on the ShamWow."
That's exactly what happens. The Scripture says it's not dialogue with the Devil; it's submit to God. Resist the Devil. The Scripture tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:33, "Do not be deceived: 'Bad company corrupts good morals.'" I know you love your movies. I know you love your sitcoms. I know you like to read your little stories. I know you like to get involved in little fantasies. I want to tell you something.
The more you let that go over your soul, eventually you're going to start to go, "You know what? maybe it's not that big of a deal. I don't see much consequence as I listen to my friends talk about their escapades. I don't ever hear them talk about their sorrow. I don't ever hear them talk about their shame. I don't hear them talk about their guilt. Maybe I am missing out." No. You need to know that the Lord your God loves you and has told you where life is.
The second thing they did is they made decisions in isolation. The woman did not go to the man. The man didn't go to God. When we make our mistakes, we are not going where we should go. We are to draw near to God, James 4:8 says. Go to our strong one. We have a leader, and he is able to preserve us. We have resources, and we must use them. James 4:8 says that to us. It tells us, "Draw near to God. He will draw near to you, and he will strongly support you."
Thirdly, they did not remind themselves of what God had already said. They just defaulted to the fourth mistake, which was they decided to trust in themselves because they didn't have a Father they went to. So what did they do? When you don't have a father to tell you what to do with how you feel, you act on what feels right to you. When you don't have somebody with wiser perspective who can tell you about what you're seeing, you start to go after what you delight in.
When you don't have somebody who gives you perspective, you start to go for what you think will give you what you need. You trust your flesh, you trust your eyes, and you trust your own strategies, and there is death there. It seems right, but it is the way of death. This, gang, is why your Father says to you, "Listen to me."
The last three verses I'll share with you is Proverbs 10:1-3. It's what I read to my son this week as we were in the car together. It says, "The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son makes a father glad…" Why? Do you know what I want for my son more than anything else? I don't want him to be wise so people go, "Man, you're a heck of a parent." I want my son to be wise for one reason: because I love him and I want to spare him the pain that comes from living unwisely.
Nothing breaks my heart like watching my child make choices that I know are going to cause him pain. There is no pain like the pain of a godless child, and there is no greater joy than to watch your son walk in truth. "…but a foolish son is a grief to his mother." Verse 2, and this is what I shared with my son: "Ill-gotten gains do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death."
I said, "Look. There are a lot of different ways to get what you want, but if you go after a God-given desire in a God-forbidden way, it will not profit you. There will be pleasure attached for a moment, but let me assure you, it does not profit. When you live the way God wants you to live, there is no sorrow with it. Righteousness delivers from death. Rebellion leads to death."
Then we closed with this: "The Lord will not allow the righteous to hunger, but He will reject the craving of the wicked." What this means is this. I said, "Buddy, we've been to Africa. We've watched righteous people in Africa who don't eat like we eat, so this doesn't just talk about physical food here. There's something else that men hunger for. What does this mean? He's using food as a metaphor to teach you some great truth.
Answer: there are a lot of people who try to find satisfaction and fullness in strategies that their flesh would move toward, that their eyes tell them make sense, and that the world's way promises them great reward, but what I'm telling you is that the Scriptures are right when they say, 'The Lord does not allow the righteous to hunger.' Your soul will only be satisfied when you learn to walk with your Master. There is in your life something that will only be satisfied in God.
God cannot offer you life apart from him, because life doesn't exist apart from him. Mark my words, son. He will reject the cravings of the wicked, which means the wicked will never be satisfied. That is why sin always multiplies. That's where addictions come from. There isn't one website you can go to, there's not one image you can put into your mind, there's not one girl you can run to, there's not one dollar you can make that will make you go, 'Enough!'
God rejects the cravings of the wicked. You will continually want and lust until you absolutely wear yourself out and find death and shame and guilt and destruction in your strategies. There is not life there. It is mirage after mirage after mirage. There is life in Jesus, and there is no sorrow with him. Do you miss out on temporary pleasures? In spades. But is it a blessing? Forever."
Father, I pray for my friends, as we move into the week, that we would not be fools that mock the idea that there is an Evil One but we would make ourselves strong in the Lord, that we would be absolutely convinced, as Jesus was, that you do not need to be tested. You have shown yourself faithful and good. You, Lord, have not spared your own Son, so shouldn't we know that having given us your life for ours, you will give us every other thing necessary for life?
Lord, there is no questioning your character if we will just study who you are, but we are individuals, Lord, who too easily forget, so we need to meditate on your Word. It needs to be life to us. We can keep our way pure by meditating upon your commandments. Lord, help us to resist the Devil, submit to God, to draw near to you. We know he will tell us that obedience is foolish, disobedience is fun, and judgment is not that severe.
We know that he will challenge the character of your person, the character of your Word, and the wisdom of your way. May we, Lord, not be so foolish as to fall for that same deceptive lie that has destroyed so many of us for so long. We thank you that you are not angry at us. We thank you that you are not disgusted by us but that you love us and want to offer us forgiveness and want to put us back on the path of life.
Lord, we do not want to lean on our own understanding, but in all our ways we want to acknowledge you. Will you make our paths straight? We thank you that you give us what we do not deserve and restore us to what we could not get on our own. We get in line now at your feet for grace and glory, our Lord God, our sun and shield, we pray, amen.