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The Carrot, the Stick, and the Ass: The Truth Will Set You Free

As Christ-followers, we can expect to be tempted by our enemy. The Gospels tell us that even Christ endured it. So why are we so reluctant to be honest about the temptations we face, the pressure of the world to conform to its ways, and the flesh that wars against what the Holy Spirit wants to accomplish in our lives? Todd explains that the only way to counter the enemy's lies is to be grounded in truth.

Todd WagnerJun 21, 2009
John 8:44

In This Series (4)
Make War: What are We Fighting and How Should We Fight?
Todd WagnerAug 23, 2009
Our Need for Others to Show Us the Way of Escape: Because Mufasas Become Maneaters
Todd WagnerJun 28, 2009
The Carrot, the Stick, and the Ass: The Truth Will Set You Free
Todd WagnerJun 21, 2009
The Enemy and His Tactics
Todd WagnerJun 14, 2009

Female: Okay. Sit in that chair. All right. Here's the deal. Marshmallow for you. You can either wait and I'll give you another one if you wait or you can eat it now. When I come back, I'll give you another one, so then you'll have two. But stay in here and stay in the chair until I come back.

I'm going to go do something, and then I'll come back.

Boy: It smells yummy!

Boy: It smells really good.

Female: It's up to you. You can have it now or you can wait.

I'll be back. Stay in the chair. Okay?

All right. So, I'm going to leave, and then I'll come back. You can either eat it right now or you can wait. Either way. Okay?

How did you do? Did you do good? You did? You wanted to eat it, didn't you? Yeah. So, did I tell you I'd give you another one? Now you can have both. You can eat them.

[End of video]

Oh my. Dadgum marshmallows! How great is that? We did that this week. We left the kids in that room for eight hours with that marshmallow to get that footage. No, they were in there for 15 minutes. We told them when we came back we'd give them two if they would just wait. It was okay if they wanted to eat it, but if they'd wait, they'd get more.

So that was that little wrestling that went through with each of those little kids. It was a ton of fun to watch and really, really cute the way Steve put that thing together. But you can tell where that's headed. Just looking at the marshmallow, touching the marshmallow, smelling the marshmallow. It's not long before that thing is ingested. Little nibbles lead to big bites and the loss of reward and life.

There's a story about a guy who was trying hard to resist his regular habit of eating a lot of doughnuts, and there was this new doughnut shop in town. Think back when Krispy Kreme first came to Dallas and how folks formed lines outside the door. It was always really, really crowded.

This guy said, "One of the things I'm going to do to try to lose weight and control myself a little bit is I'm going to stop getting these great cinnamon buns on the way to work every day, so hold me accountable. I'm not going to stop there unless there is a parking spot right there in the middle right by the front door when I drive by."

The other guy said, "All right, that's good. That bakery always has people parked there. There are people waiting to pull in." He said, "There's no way. So if you won't do that, then you won't eat those cinnamon buns." The guy had done pretty well for a week, and finally, on the Monday of the next week he came by, and the guy could tell… He had that guilty look on his face, a little icing hanging out on the lip. He said, "What did you do?"

He goes, "I swear to you there was a spot right in front, that one spot that we didn't ever think would be there. It was right there. The fifteenth time I circled the block, it was right there." Isn't that the way it is for most of us when we talk about temptation? We play with the marshmallow. It's like it's alive. My son was one of the ones up there. "It jumped off the plate at me, Dad. I swear. I was just sitting there, and it leaped." You saw him.

I love the way certain kids weren't looking at it, but the hand would walk and find it. I loved one of John Cox's little girls. It was like she was praying, and she just looked up at that marshmallow. Can't you relate to whatever the marshmallow is in your life? Well, what we are talking about here is a little series that deals with the topic of temptation. It is something we all face.

What I am trying to do during these three weeks is give you some basic truths about temptation. I don't even have a chance to cover everything I want to cover with you, but I'm just going to give you some basic truths so that certain lies, which lead to you ingesting marshmallow after marshmallow and feeling defeated, can slowly be stripped.

Now, I may come back in August… You're going to have a great chance to hear from Blake. He's going to take you through the book of Jonah, starting in July, and then we'll have a few other great little things throughout the summer, but when I come back in August, I might come back and take a look at some of the major lies that have come up through the church.

I'm going to touch on a few of those today, about what is commonly called the casting out ministries, the ekballistic, if you will, which is using the Greek word which means to take from or to be thrown out from, to cast out. When you think about ballistics, a bullet that is shot… We talk about ballistics. It comes from the Greek word which literally means to be thrown out. You put ek in front of that, and it means to cast or to exit. So, to take something that needs to be thrown out from you, these deliverance ministries and the error of that ministry mindset.

Today I am going to touch on a truth I may dive more deeply into in August, but let me just say this: so much of our struggle is not so much to get rid of demons which struggle or reside within us or that are concealed within us, to kind of make this memorable; it is to struggle to make sure we don't conform ourselves in our flesh, that our flesh does not reveal the same evil that is around us.

One of the reasons so many of us get in trouble is we are looking for this quick fix, this colon cleanse that will lose that unwanted weight once and for all, this spiritual cleanse. "If I just do this, I will not carry around this baggage of a love for marshmallows, because I've gotten rid of the demon of marshmallow loving." Trouble. Error. Unbiblical. Inconsistent with Scripture.

I want to remind you of the truth from last week, and I'm going to give you every one of my points for next week, this week, and from last week by starting with there is. As I said last week, there is no secret about what's coming and who it's coming from. There are no magic tips and techniques. The answer is "Trust and obey." It is what is called the classic mode of spiritual warfare.

You are going to be tempted, and there is a reason for that. There is this monolith, this huge, solid object. If you will, there is this axis of evil, this trinitarian expression of rebellion between the world, the flesh, and the Devil that work in concert to make us go for things which seem life-giving to us but, in fact, lead to death.

You need to know that the choreographer behind the evil is the Devil. He is not an abject representation of evil; he is evil himself. Evil has a source, evil has a father, and his name is Satan. We talked about him last week. I want to read to you a little excerpt from a guy who has done some excellent work in this area, a guy by the name of David Powlison.

This is really what happens when you have one of the two equal and opposite errors, to either be infatuated with demons and dealing with them and casting them out or ignoring them and believing that they don't really exist. This is essentially what he says. I think this is excellent. "Downplaying or de-mythologizing spiritual warfare usually creates a pernicious domino effect." A lot of big words there. All that is saying is "Be careful not to make this Enemy not real and a symbol."

"Prayer and worship [when you do that] become hollow forms." In other words, you cannot resist what you don't believe exists. I said that. You don't need to use an affection for God, his Word, and all that he tells you to use if there is no enemy to fight against. "God's power and aid are little needed and little expected. Sin becomes psychopathology or social maladjustment. The Bible becomes a remote object, not the voice of the living God. Evangelism becomes vaguely embarrassing; death to self is distastefully fanatical." Discipleship, I would add, is unnecessary.

"Normal life becomes, well, normal: work and unemployment, marriage and divorce, sickness and health, the economy and politics, traffic jams and weather, war and peace." By the way, if you read The Screwtape Letters, you'll see that's what Lewis says that Screwtape says to young Wormwood. He says, "When your human, if you will, is being exposed to truth, we cannot win against truth. Our ad campaign does not stand against scrutiny.

But here's what you can do. When he's done being taught truth, when he's done thinking of truth, what you've got to do is jerk him out of that moment and convince him that what's real is not this idea of truth; what's real is that red car, what's real is that red dress, what's real is that red blood which runs through him which makes him hunger for that which he has been told is not good for him now. Get him to focus on what he sees, on what he wants, and that is real and tangible before him." This is the mold and the model of the Enemy and what he does.

Powlison writes, "As biblical Christians, however, we deny that this secularized rationalism makes up the Christian faith," that there is a spiritual world and a real world and never the twain do meet. That's not the case. "We know that there is warfare to be waged, and we do not deny the existence and work of our foe." He is there, and he works in this trinity of evil, which is informed, if you will, by the Evil One, which our flesh has given itself over to, and which the world has a current toward.

When you look at how the Scriptures encourage you to deal with the Devil and his schemes, the world, and your flesh, it never dices and slices. "When you're dealing with a demon, you deal this way. When you're dealing with your flesh, you deal this way. When you're dealing with the world, you deal this way." No. It says, "You just deal with temptation and evil this way." Do you understand what I'm saying there? There isn't a specific tactic for devils, a specific tactic for your flesh, and a specific tactic for your world. There is one tactic.

When I was with my sweet friend Mama Rosa yesterday and we were talking, we talked about the things that her children gave themselves away to that led to their death. It reminds me of what the Scripture says. "There is one who comes to steal, kill, and destroy." But Jesus says, "I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly."

John 8:44, a seminal verse, when Jesus is talking about people who go toward death and destruction: "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies." Your flesh will lie to you, the world lies to you, and the Enemy who choreographs all of those lies is a liar.

Let me ask you a simple question. You might go, "Man, I'm not a theologian, Todd. This is really hard and complicated." Is it really? Let me ask you a question. When you are being lied to, what will set you free? Truth. You need truth. You have to hear testimony. You have to let evidence march before you, and then you have to decide, "What is truth? What am I going to go with?"

A seminal (a seed), a core verse we go back to again and again when we're dealing with conflict… And, boy, it's everywhere, and we have a conflict going on with our soul. We are at war. When I have my kids and they come or when I have two different friends who are not seeing things similarly, I listen to one person and go, "That is convincing," but the Scriptures tell me in Proverbs 18:17, "The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him."

Listen, gang. Do not be surprised at what's coming. Lies. So what you have to do is go, "Okay, you've stated your case. You've appealed to my flesh. You've put me in the current of this world. You have appealed to my senses. You have wooed me to trust my feelings, but I have to make a decision, because I don't win or fail based on my emotions; I win or fail based on my choices. So before I choose, I want to make sure I choose wisely."

This is what Joshua said to his people. "Choose for yourself this day whom you will serve." Here is what you need to know: every one of us has a master. Is your master a good master or is he going to be an abusive master? When you have an evil master and he is your master, when you work for him, he is not going to be kind to you. He is evil in his core, and he will destroy you even in his ranks.

What you have to do when you are faced with a lie is go, "I have to get more information. I have to see if there's truth that is out there." Jesus in John 8:32 is the one who said, "You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free [from error, from deception, from death]." You have to listen to truth. Let me walk you through this. We are at war. There is war waged on the human soul. There is an Enemy who hates us. He hates our Father.

If somebody really wants to hurt me, they won't come after me; they will go after those I love. That's what the Enemy is doing. He's coming after God's children, and he's trying to make those children believe that their Father is not good and does not love them and does not care and he's not all they need; all they need is a new father, a new shepherd that will lead them to life. You are constantly being attacked and being told to not love your Father.

"Here. Would a good father tell you not to eat this for 15 minutes? Smell it. Touch it. It's bouncy. Just take a taste. It's sweet. Why would you wait for sweetness?" This is what is going on in 2 Timothy 2:1-4. We are told to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Do you remember what Psalm 84 says, that he is the giver of grace and glory? Do you remember what Ephesians 6:10 said? "Be strong in the Lord and the strength of his might."

When you are strong in the Lord and the strength of his might, it means you should continually remind yourself of the greatness, the weight, the goodness of God. Don't let somebody attack his character. Don't let somebody believe because he hasn't come yet he's not coming. Don't let somebody believe because he has a permissive will that his providential will doesn't still exist. Don't let somebody believe that because you go through a time of trial and suffering that he has forgotten you. There are other alternatives. Let God speak.

If you study the Scriptures, specifically from Romans to Revelation, you'll see that Paul, Peter, and James all talked similarly about how to handle the war you are in. It has been very well said… Paul is talking about how to handle lies, that carrot out in front of the donkey. I know it's there, but you're never going to get what you want if you chase that carrot out there in front of you.

Peter talks about how to handle the stick behind the donkey…persecutions, sufferings, trials that beat you and make you think, "Look, man. If my master loved me, he would let me have that carrot. If my master loved me, he wouldn't let me be beaten." Then James deals with the ass itself, your flesh. The liar, the world and persecutions, and your flesh.

Saint Francis of Assisi, when he would talk about his flesh, called his flesh Brother Ass. What he's talking about there is "I don't need a carrot before me, and I don't need a stick behind me; I in and of myself am a beast and make choices away from life, so I need a wise guide who will shepherd me."

Gang, it is a battle for truth, and that is why Paul, as he gets ready to close up his discussion about spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6… We're going to look extensively at that passage today, but when he summarizes the whole book by stating in 10 verses what he has been telling you in specificity prior to that, he says, "Be strong in the Lord and the strength of his might." Know who God is. Don't let the Enemy lie you off your love for him, because it will lead to death.

Look at what Paul said to Timothy at the end of his life. Let's read 2 Timothy 2:1-4. You're going to see this basic mode of combat. I'm doing this again because I want you to know there is no surprise about what is coming and who it's coming from. What is coming is lies. "Obedience is bad. Disobedience is fun. Consequences to sin are not that great. Look at the marshmallow. Taste the marshmallow. Look at what the marshmallow can give you."

"You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier."

Understand this: you are at war, and you cannot entangle yourself in things that will make you weak at war. So here we go. Are you ready? We got the first point drilled into our heads. Here's the second point. Some of you may not be impressed by this one, but I'll tell you why I have to say it: because I think the church, for years, acts like this isn't true. This is the statement: there is no shame, and it is not a sin to be tempted.

You're kind of like, "Well, good." First of all, you might say that. Then you might go, "Well, really? Do you mean I can tell other people here that I am really drawn to evil, that my ass is corrupt and stubborn?" Yes! What makes me sick, what drives people away from the church is a lack of authenticity. They don't believe anybody else is struggling in their marriage, is struggling with their mouth. We all are, every single one of us.

I have to tell you, if you're going to be my spouse… I told my wife, "Sweetie, be afraid. Be very afraid, because left to myself, it is really ugly and dark. You are marrying not a man of God in his nature, until he gives himself to Jesus; you're marrying an ass who is stubborn, who wants to veer his own path, who doesn't want to go in the way of righteousness.

Now, by the grace of God, I have given myself over to a new Master, and I am learning his ways. I am a sinner saved by grace. I am proclaimed clean, I am justified, and I am giving myself, because I'm in war, to prayer, discipleship, Bible study, meditation, fellowship, repentance, confession, service, so that I might be who God wants me to be. But be afraid. Be very afraid. If you ever see me act like I don't need those things in my life, help me."

One of the things that I met with the leaders of re|engage… By the way, the reason we started re|engage is we don't care where your marriage is. If it's an 8 and you want to move it to a 10, come join us. If it's a zero and you're still going here and you don't want anybody to know it's a zero, come. We have folks who are negative 4, they've told us, coming to re|engage, and we have folks who are 7. All of us want what God wants for us, which is to have a relationship that delights our hearts and is a glory to God.

We all struggle in relationship. When we act like we don't struggle, we are, therefore, not able to avail ourselves to the resources for those who struggle. There's a phrase around here at Watermark: "They're struggling well." What does it mean to struggle well? First of all, to struggle well means you know what you're struggling against, and you don't pretend like you're not struggling against it. It means you are focusing on truth and not trying to avoid error.

It means when you err, you call it error, and you don't rationalize, justify, or dismiss it. You go, "That is sin. That is rebellion. It is not addiction, it is not history; it is a foolish choice that leads to death, and I'd better make sure I change my playmates and my playground or I will go right back there again. I am going to meditate on truth."

We have to go back and go, "Where did you begin to walk in the counsel of the wicked? Where did you begin to stand in the path of sinners? Where did you begin to sit in the seat of scoffers? When did you stop delighting yourself in the law of the Lord and on that law meditating day and night?" You have to struggle against that, and you're not alone.

Guys, I tell you all the time, if you knew who I was, if you knew the thoughts that cross my mind, the things that I was tempted by, you wouldn't come here, but I wouldn't let you in if I knew what you were like. We are all in it together. There is a war. When we act like godly people aren't tempted, we are dangerous folks.

Read with me Luke 4 and Matthew 4. Luke 4 says, "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, was led around by the Spirit and was tempted by the Devil." Look at Matthew. It says, "Jesus, led by the Spirit to be tempted." Let me make this very clear. Jesus was tempted when he was full of the Spirit and was perfectly submissive to the leadership of the Spirit. Hebrews 4:15 says, "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin."

Why do we act like we are not tempted? Because we think it's not spiritual to be tempted. When I first came to the realization that there was a lie, that my nature, from the moment I was conceived and came into being, was self-willed, self-glorifying, self-serving, and because I was, sometimes I did things that were societally acceptable as a young person, but by and large, I was looking for opportunities to advance my cause and my way and my pleasures…

When I realized I didn't have to live according to the carrot before me, the stick behind me, and the ass within, I gave my heart over to a new Master. I asked him to lead me, and the spirit of death no longer led me but now this Holy Spirit. There was a new voice, a new operating system. But I have to tell you, I could not believe… I remember when I trusted Christ, and I went back and still had the same prideful thoughts that I know better than anybody else. I still had the same lustful thoughts. I still coveted.

I still found myself at times wanting to deal in anger, and I thought, "Well, I must not have really trusted Jesus, because a person who really loves Jesus wouldn't even think those things are appealing." Early on, before I looked at God's Word and was taught by people who knew God's Word better than me, I would go back and get on my knees and go, "Jesus, I really meant it when I said I want you to be my Lord and Savior, so deliver me from this body of death."

And dadgum it if I didn't still have the same prideful thoughts, lustful thoughts, angry thoughts, and angry moments. I'd go, "It says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, 'Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature. Behold, old things are gone; new things have come.' The old things aren't gone! They're still here. I'm still an ass. The carrot still looks good. That beating makes me want to turn around and go, 'You do that one more time, and I'm going to put my hoof right through your chin.'" That's the way I wanted to live.

I'd go, "Okay. Why aren't you going after that carrot? Why aren't you listening to your voice that wants to go down this path and doesn't want to move toward righteousness? Why aren't you now responding to the world the way the world treats you?" "Well, because I know that's not right." "Exactly," God said to me. "You have a new nature. Before, you chased everything you could. You did whatever you wanted. There was no alternative plan for you.

New things have come, Todd. You're no longer a slave to the flesh. You're no longer at the mercy of the world. You no longer listen to the lie every time it's given. Now, you keep playing with it. You keep smelling it and touching it. If you don't flee it, you're eventually going to eat it. That's why we're going to tell you to flee certain things. Flee. And against the other three, we're going to tell you to stand firm. Resist." That is the classic mode of spiritual warfare.

Gang, I want you to know there is no shame or sin in being tempted. It's okay. Now look. The Bible never honors a man who says everything to everybody, so I'm not encouraging husbands to go, "You know what? I'm not nearly as physically attracted to you as I am other women. I just wanted to be clean and authentic." That is not wise. It is…no surprise…not biblical. It is not loving. What the Scriptures would tell you, though, is to make sure you have places where you can be honest about your struggles.

I do believe a husband and a wife should be one, and I think there are ways to communicate what it is to be a man and what it is to be a woman to a man and to a woman without discouraging one another, but when you have to act like your marriage doesn't need work, so you pretend around other couples, you guys are not availing yourself to the Scriptures and to confession and to repentance and to practice and to discipline for your marriage to be.

One of the hardest things Alex and I have had to do with so many couples is convince them that we struggle in our marriage just like they do. They go, "Oooh." We just kind of go, "Okay. Believe what you want, but that's a lie." What you're trying to do is create for yourself a special case. It's going to be one of my points next week. There is no special case. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to marriage, to mouths, to men.

So, you can believe the lie that you're unique or you can struggle with me, but, church, will you stop pretending you don't struggle? That's why I say all the time the healthiest people at Watermark are at least here on Monday nights and Wednesday nights. They're here at CR, saying, "I am a believer who struggles and does not know how to trust and obey in order to overcome sin and death. The carrot, the stick, and the ass drive me, and I don't want it to, because it's leading to death. These habits hurt me, and I am hung up on them, and I want hope." Healthy people do that.

Healthy people say, "I want my marriage to grow." Now, there are people who are doing that other than Mondays and other than Wednesdays, like myself. There may be healthy people in our church outside of those two nights, but I know there are healthy people leading us on those two nights, because they've understood that temptation is not sin, and they are learning God's Word. No tips and techniques; trust and obey. They're learning to struggle well.

Thirdly, not only is there no shame or sin in being tempted; there is no such thing as a faithful man who surrenders to temptation. Jesus didn't tap. My friends in MMA who have their little gig out there… If you don't know about cage fighting, you put the boy in the ring and fight until you are either unable to fight because you are out and unconscious in front of your foe or until it hurts so badly you tap out and say, "I submit. I am your boy."

There is a little phrase inside that world: "Real men don't tap." Well, I want to tell you something. You get an arm bar on any man and he's going to tap, but I will also tell you that what a lot of believers have done is they've realized in the face of intense temptation and suffering and the flesh feeling as if it was dying and, in fact, even at the very face of death and crucifixion, Jesus did not tap. Faithful men do not stand down.

Now look. You might get flipped, you might get your jaw jacked, but get up. Fight. The word that is used primarily to stand firm in Scripture is the word resist. In fact, the word stand is the antecedent to the actual compound word which means resist. Anthistemi is the word for resist. Anti, you guys know, is the Greek word which means against. If I am anti-racism, I am against racism.

The word stand in Ephesians 6, the word stand in 2 Timothy 2 is changed to anthistemi, which means to stand against. We use that word as resist. So here is the truth: there is no such thing as a faithful man who stands down and says, "I'm resisting no more. The battle is too hard. It is too difficult to love this woman. It is too difficult to resist this temptation. It is too hard to overcome this history." No. You are a child of the King, and you have been given every spiritual blessing.

You are lacking nothing pertaining to life and godliness, and real men don't tap. Real men struggle. Real men fail. Real men keep asking for forgiveness. Real men confess their sins to one another. Real men recommit. Real men repent. Real men reorder their lives. Real men fight smarter. Real men fight biblically, but real men and women fight, and they don't surrender.

Look at what it says in James, chapter 4. "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?" Let me ask you this: Is that the carrot, is that the stick, or is that the ass he's talking about right there? He's saying it is your very being, and it is the corruption of your flesh that you want to go and follow it.

Look at what he says. "You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask." It means not that you do not have the things you lust for because you don't ask for them. What he's saying is you don't have the truth to overcome the lie because you are not asking God to testify against the lie that is within you, before you, and behind you. That's what he's saying.

In fact, let me just stop right here where this is going and insert James, chapter 3, and look at this. Verse 13: "Who among you is wise and understanding?" I want you to see that what James is doing is all throughout his book, he's telling you how to deal with temptation, but the temptation in James is the temptation of flesh and self. The temptation Paul focuses on is the temptation of lies. The temptation of Peter, in 1 Peter anyway, is the temptation of the world and the abuses around you. In 2 Peter, Peter focuses on false prophets that appeal to your flesh.

All that to be said, James is talking here. Watch. "Who among you is wise and understanding?" Do you know what we should say? "None of us." We are futile in our understanding. All our wisdom will lead to death. "Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom." If you're wise, does your life produce wisdom and gentleness?

"But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth." The truth is that arrogance and selfish ambition and jealousy lead to death. "This wisdom is not that which comes down from above…" The wisdom to find life by being selfishly ambitious, bitter, jealous, and arrogant. That is not what God said is where life is. "…but is earthly, natural, demonic."

You don't cast out the demon of selfish ambition; you don't become like the demonic lie that selfish ambition leads to life. "For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy."

What is James doing here? He's saying to the dispersed Jews, "How's it going for you?" "It's miserable." James is saying, "If you like what you've got, then keep doing what you're doing, but if you don't like what you've got, if the way that seems right to you is leading to death and quarrels among you, how about listening to your Father, because that will turn out differently for you."

I was talking to my sweet friend Joy Kupp who is a recovering alcoholic. She leads us in the re|engage ministry with Chip and others. I said, "Joy, what do you do with people who come to A.A. meetings, and they're there and they want to be actively engaged, but they go and get their drunk on the next day, and they come right back to that A.A. meeting and act like they don't want to be a drunk again?"

She goes, "We don't let them talk. We don't let them participate. They're welcome to come in, but we don't tell them that they're in A.A., because they've surrendered. They're not struggling well. So they can be there, but they cannot fill up the room with their self-loathing and hate and then be a drunk again. What we tell them is, 'Go get your drunk on until you're tired of being tired, and then come struggle with us. Pray you don't die before you get to that point.'"

Do you know where A.A. came from? In its origins, the Scripture. It moved on in certain areas from that, but in the Scripture. That is Matthew 18, where it says, "We love you. We're going to tell you what you're doing is going to lead to death." By the way, this is exactly what the Scripture means when it says we're going to turn them over to the Devil, that they might be destroyed but they themselves might be saved.

If they know Christ, then they may need to go, and if they're not going to really walk with Christ and struggle, then you tell them, "You go get you some, big boy, but don't call yourself a follower of Jesus, because you're confusing everybody." Followers of Jesus follow Jesus. They stand firm. They resist. It doesn't say, "Make a declaration about their salvation." It just says, "Let them go." Let them have the Devil, and it might be a sin which leads to death, that the body might be destroyed but that the individual would be saved, we pray.

There is no such thing as a faithful man who gives in and doesn't keep wrestling with truth and community and prayer. They stay at war. I want to just say this. Not only is there no surprise about what's coming and who it's coming from, not only is there no sin in being tempted, not only is there no such thing as a faithful man who surrenders to temptation. You need to know, there is no saint who is beyond falling. None. None!

I will to not sin. I will to not embarrass you. I can embarrass you, and I could hurt the name of Christ, but I have to will to not give in to the carrot, the beating, and the ass by trusting and obeying. That is why I have a fellowship with believers who know me well. I seek to be authentic with them. I stay in God's Word. I stay on my knees. I meditate on truth. I confess. "Hey, guys, I'm playing with a marshmallow, and it's just a matter of time before it goes in my mouth if I don't do something. Get it out of my presence. Remove it from me."

When they asked Billy Graham one of the reasons he thinks he has been successful, do you know what Billy Graham said? His quote: "I run scared." When Billy Graham goes into a hotel room, he won't stay there unless they pull the TV out of the room. Why? Because Billy Graham knows left alone in a room with a remote, he's going to smell the marshmallow, so he wisely sees evil and hides himself.

There is no such thing as an elder, a pastor, a woman of God, a saint of God who is not capable of falling. Beware, you who think you stand, lest you fall. That is why when you start to say, "Oh, I'm not tempted. I've overcome that. I've dealt with that demon. He has been ekballō'dfrom me, cast out from me…" You cannot resist that which you do not believe exists. You are a sinner saved by grace. You are a saint of God, but until you are home, you are in war, and you'd better not stand down.

A buddy of mine who's a comedian who used to warm up for Seinfeld and Frasier and all that different stuff before they'd actually do it… A few years back, when we did our volunteer appreciation, he came, and he does this walk through the Bible by doing impersonations of different characters in the Scripture. He uses voices to impersonate certain characters all throughout.

When I first heard him do this, we were together in LA. I was speaking, and he was the entertainment. He got to David, and when he got to David… He doesn't tell you what he's doing. He just does it, and if you know your Bible, it's hilarious. I'll never forget what he did with David. He got done with Saul, and then he moved over to David, and he said, "O Father, Maker of heaven and earth, giver of all good things, my sun and shield, I will worship you from the rising of the sun in the morning until its setting in the… Who is that woman taking a bath?"

That's exactly what I did. I fell over. I go, "That's me! That is me!" If you look at what David does in the Psalms, that is standing firm. The Bathsheba moment? Not so much. But he dealt with it correctly. He confessed it. Well, he covered it up with a little murder and a few other shenanigans, but he got there eventually. Praise God. Guess what he found: a loving Father who was for him, who wanted to forgive him and wanted to make him useful again.

Let me show you this real quick. I told you we'd get there. It's not long. I don't have to break this verse all the way down. There is no such thing as a faithful man who surrenders, and there's no such thing as a saint of God who cannot fall, so run scared or run to Jesus. Stay in his Word. Stay in community. Get in community. Be authentic in community.

Say, "Hey, guess what? I have been sucked into Dallas materialism." "Really? Thanks for getting naked with us." Yet how many of us say that? Go ahead. Show them the checkbook. Show them how much of it is committed to Brother Ass. You have to start being honest or you're just saying, "I'm surrendering this part of my life" and you're not at war.

Ephesians 6:10-18. Let's not overcomplicate this. "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might." In other words, remember who God is. Love him. He is good. "Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil." Not the agents of the Devil, not the demons of the Devil…the schemes. The word means the crafts, the trickery, the lies of the Devil.

"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." Who…guess what…choreograph the world's abuses, hold out lies, and have corrupted our flesh.

Paul is going to use a metaphor. He's going to use an analogy. "Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist [stand against the Devil and his schemes, so that you might] stand firm. Stand firm…" There it is again. Wow! Truth. Let's not overcomplicate this. "What is the belt of truth?" What do you think it is? Look, gang. All he's saying is you'd better gird yourself. You'd better make sure you hold your trousers up with truth.

There's a reason in Proverbs 2, Proverbs 5, Proverbs 6, Proverbs 7, Proverbs 22, Proverbs 23 we're told about the lie of the adulterous woman: because it's an area we're going to be tempted in. So you'd better make sure there's a lot of teaching on that. And we're told to flee. What he's saying right here is, "In all areas, you have to make sure the very center of your garb, you are standing in truth." That's all he's saying. That you put on the breastplate of righteousness, that you walk rightly. That's all he's saying.

This is how you stand firm against the Devil. You are informed by truth. You walk in truth. Your feet are shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. What does that mean? That you know that God is good, that he delivers you from the kingdom of darkness. I do believe in one deliverance in the Scripture. It is being delivered from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. I no longer am operating by my own flesh; I'm operating by the Spirit of God, a nature that is holy, and when I give myself to that Spirit, I walk in that.

So he says, "Remember the good news, the peace you have with God, the ability now to walk with God again." "…in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." When a lie comes at you, say, "I know that this is true." Attack the lies by confronting it with truth. The helmet of salvation, which is to say, remind yourself.

That which covers your head is the truth of the character and nature of God.He is good. He loves you. He died to bring you out of that kingdom of darkness and into light. All of these things revolve around trusting and obeying the character and nature of God. Trust and obey, not tips and techniques, not once and done. Every day, all the time, in community, with humility, clinging to your Leader who has resourced you perfectly. Amen?

Father, help us to know and believe that you are more than enough, that you're all we need. We confess that there are carrots hanging every which direction in front of our eyes. We love to look at them. They are pleasing to us, they appeal to our flesh, and they are a promise to give us things. May we, though, Father, not live according to what we see or feel or are promised by liars. May we trust in you. May we follow you, not carrots.

Father, when the world beats us and threatens us and mocks us because we believe that you are coming, may we not become like the world to fight the world, but may we trust in your sovereignty, that you're using even these persecutions to conform us into the image of your Son, and may we remain faithful and persevere in the midst of trial.

Lord, when our flesh screams that we must obey it, may we remember that we have crucified our flesh with you by faith, and it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and delivered himself up for me. You are good. You are God. You are great. You are gracious. You give glory. May I not be sucked into the lie.

I pray for this body. May this be an authentic group of people. Can we look at sinners in the world and go, "I get it. I understand. I, too, see why that is tempting, but I also know, by the grace of God, that it leads to death. Will you consider life and this Father who comes to offer it abundantly with me?" May that be our worship and our testimony this week, for your glory and our good, I pray, amen. They need you, Dad.

Go have a great week of worship. We'll see you.