Our Need for Others to Show Us the Way of Escape: Because Mufasas Become Maneaters

Way of Escape

Our struggles - much like a cute tiger cub - can seem harmless at first. But will eventually grow to control us without friends in our lives to point out the problem. Moreover, there is no silver bullet for dealing with our sin, and that the things that tempt us are not unique but "common to man." Realizing this is key to experiencing victory over the things we struggle with.

Todd WagnerJun 28, 20091 Corinthians 10:13; 1 Corinthians 10:1-12; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Timothy 4:1-8

We're in the middle of this little series called Way of Escape, and we're talking about temptation. We're talking about how there are lies all around us. There is the carrot before us, if you were here last week; there is the stick behind us that beats us and makes us think this world is cruel and there must be no kind master; and then there is the donkey, or to use the words of Francis of Assisi, the ass itself, which often is stubborn and longs after courses of action which lead to death.

What we have to learn in order to find the life God wants for us as a loving Father is to say, "Amen. Let it be. Your way, not my way." That's really what we're talking about. Let me remind you that what we've done with this little series is I've tried to give you seven different statements. I'll finish all seven today. I'm going to add an eighth as a major point of application, but all of these little statements to help you understand truths about temptation start with the same words. They start with there is no.

As you remember, the very first week, I spent the entire week talking about there is no secret about what's coming or who it's coming from. There is an Enemy. He does hate you. He does want to lie to you. He is the Father of Lies, and it's going to come. He's going to appeal to your flesh. He's going to appeal to your eyes. He's going to appeal to your pride. He's going to tell you that obedience is bad and disobedience is fun. He is going to tell you that the consequences of rebellion against God are not that severe. He is a liar. There is no surprise, there is no secret about what's coming or who it's coming from.

Secondly, we talked about the fact that there is no shame or sin in being tempted. That seems like a crazy point to make, but I get sick and tired of walking into communities of faith where everybody there is acting like they aren't significantly tempted by sin. Because of that, there's a lack of authenticity. It's like where all of the beautiful people go. Well, really, there is no such thing. We have a beautiful Savior. We don't worship anybody other than Jesus.

All of us are capable of blowing it, and all of us are easily seduced by the carrot, by the lie that is out there promising us if we chase it, it will be life to us. We are discouraged by the beating of death and of evil and of terror that's in this world, and our flesh itself longs for things that aren't good for it. So, one of the points I wanted to make and one of the reasons we try so hard here to live honestly with each other is because if you don't believe it's okay to talk about your struggles, you're going to struggle alone, and that is the beginning of the end for you. All of us are tempted.

I was just thinking this week… In fact, I was with my friend Joy Kupp who works with us in our pastoral care, helping lead others to be effective and ministering to others in pastoral care and now works with us in re|engage. Joy had really struggled a lot through her 30s with alcoholism. She had seven car wrecks related to that, a couple of free nights' stay here, courtesy of the city of Dallas, as a result of that, and some other major painful issues in her life because of her alcoholism.

She had built up some sobriety and was being effective in many ways, and when we talked to her about joining us on our staff, one of the questions that was asked of her was, "Hey, Joy, we've got a question for you. Have you had your last drink?" I loved her response. Her response was, "If I tell you yes, please don't hire me." What she's saying is, "I want you to know I will to not sin, and therefore (as I said last week), I will not sin."

That was her way of saying, "I am in a struggle, and by the grace of God there's some sobriety there, but what I want you to know is that it's a battle. I hope I've had my last drink, but the day I tell you for sure I have and I can let my guard down, I'm in trouble. I am tempted by sin." I asked Joy this week as we were together, "Hey, when was the last time you really almost reached for a bottle?" She has been on our staff for years, and it hasn't been years. It has been weeks and months.

If somebody asked me, "Todd, when was the last time you were really tempted to go somewhere stupid that would hurt your wife, hurt your children, that would hurt your Lord, that would hurt your friends?" it wouldn't be weeks; it'd be days. That's why I have to be around a group of individuals to whom I can say, "Encourage me. Reprove me. Rebuke me. Instruct me. Call me back to truth. Tell me that carrot is a lie. Remind me my donkey is foolish and the beating of obedience isn't a beating; it's life."

So there is no shame or sin in being tempted. We said last week, there's no such thing as a faithful man who surrenders to temptation. We talked about how we do battle so we can be faithful even in the midst of that longing for a drink, that longing to express my flesh's passions and desires. We talked about that extensively last week. We also talked about the fact that we need to be well aware that there is no such thing as a saint who is beyond falling.

Every one of us, not only are we tempted; we are easily individuals who step over the line of being tempted to let our lusts drive us, and all of a sudden, now we are on the path of death as sin begins to be a practice in our lives. We have to all realize that we are capable of that. Let me show you the Scripture that primarily informs that. It's in 1 Corinthians, chapter 10.

First Corinthians 10 deals with this little truth right here. I want to walk you through it rather quickly, because the main point of what it is that I want to make out of this is toward the end of this passage. Let me just say this, gang. There are a number of different ways to learn. You can learn through reading. You can learn through instruction. That's a great way to learn.

You can also learn through observation. You can watch others behave specific ways and the blessing that comes from that behavior or the burden that comes from that behavior, and you can learn by watching others, observing destruction or blessing in a person's life. Modeling is a very powerful way to learn.

There is a third way to learn, and it is an excellent way to learn. It is, however, a very painful way to learn. Experience is a great teacher; it is just a very expensive one. Many of us have learned powerful lessons, and we have the scars to prove it. Well, this point I am trying to make right here is the one Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 10. Learn. No matter who you are, how long you've been in the game and around, you are vulnerable.

In fact, there was a study done by a friend of mine down at Dallas seminary, Dr. Howard Hendricks, in the 1980s, where he went and looked at over 200 guys who do what I do for a living who fell into sexual immorality. They studied these guys to see if they could find out if there were any common characteristics, and they found out, in fact, there were some common traits upon guys who did what I do who made a decision to surrender to temptation and behave in a way that was dishonoring to God and destructive to their family and their Lord.

First (and this is not a surprise) is they lost intimacy with Christ. Do you remember what I said about how folks are looking for this specific thing that will all of a sudden allow them to not be vulnerable anymore? Some guys think, "If I go into ministry, then that'll help me deal with my tendency to wander, my propensity to choose self." The Scripture makes it very clear that meditation, obedience, Bible study, community, repentance, confession, not marginalizing sin, not justifying sin, not rationalizing compromise, journaling, praying, pleading, authenticity…

Those are the disciplines that lead to a life that is able to, in a sustained way, honor Christ. All of these guys said, "I became stale in my relationship with the Lord. I didn't faithfully meditate on God's Word. I wasn't careful to do according to all that was written in it. I knew the information; I just didn't cling to it." Secondly, they began to counsel the opposite sex. They put themselves in a situation where, out of a natural form of compassion and empathy, they related to somebody else.

They identified with somebody else's pain, often somebody who was in a broken relationship themselves, and wittingly or not, they wooed that heart, and they were affirmed in their wisdom, and the respect they always longed for began to come from this person who told them, "Man, my husband is nothing like you. I wish my husband was like you. You have insight. You're so kind. You're so compassionate." They began to all of a sudden nurture, and it moved into a place that got them in real trouble.

The third thing they found was that all of these guys said, "I would have told you you were crazy if 5 or 10 years ago you would have told me this would happen to me. I never would have thought it would happen to me." I have to tell you something. I believe it can happen to me, and that is why I am running scared. That is why I am running to Christ. That is why I am in his Word. That's why I'm in community. That's why I have guys who are very in touch with my sin struggles.

That's why I don't rationalize and marginalize and justify issues that are in my life. That's why I don't nurse little coping strategies that seem life-giving but I know in the end are the way of death. That's why I don't lean on my own understanding. That's why I journal and I pray and I plead and I walk and I confess and I repent: because I know it can happen to me. This is what Scripture says: "I don't want you to be unaware…" In other words, this is easy to look over.

"For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea…" All this is talking about is "Listen. I want you to remember from somebody else. Let them model for you that this could happen to you."

He's referring back to the exodus, back when Israel was brought out of bondage and darkness and was being delivered into a place of blessing and promise. What he's saying is that God led them. They had the physical manifestation of God. How great it would be if we said, "God, be thou my vision," and all of a sudden, there was a pillar of cloud that led you by day and at night there was a pillar of fire. You'd go, "All right, Lord! That's awesome. I'll follow that pillar of cloud."

By the way, God has given us something much more certain and much more sure than any kind of experience like that. He has given us his Word that all of us can have it and all of us can follow him, a lamp to our feet and a light unto our path. It's even better than what they had, but they had these physical experiences. They saw the sea part. They identified with that which delivered Israel. So that's what it's talking about. They saw this.

It says they ate the same spiritual food, in reference to the fact that God provided for them supernaturally in the desert. It says they drank the same spiritual drink, when God brought water in the desert from a rock. Then in verse 5, it says, "Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness." The wages of sin is death. What you earn by separating yourself from God, by giving yourself away to the temptation of following self or the world or the Enemy, is death.

It says, "Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved." Then verse 7: "Do not be idolaters…" Don't hold something up as life-giving that is not life-giving at all. Only God is life-giving. This is the reason those folks struggled. It says they "sat down to eat and drink and stood up to play." That is what characterized their lives. As a result of that, they did not meditate on God's Word. They did not pay attention to its teachings.

They did not continue to assemble together and encourage each other day after day. They did not repent. They did not listen. All they did was go, "Hey, let's sit down and be comfortable. Hey, let's eat. Let's feed our flesh and do what seems fun to us. Hey, let's stand up and give ourselves away to licentiousness. Let's play. Let's not discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness." What he's saying is these folks did not say, "Amen." They did not say, "Not my will but thy will be done." As a result of that, they went their own way.

Then it says, "They acted in a way that led to death." They acted immorally. "So don't let us do that, and let's not have us die," is what it goes on to say. "Let's not grumble as some of them did. Let's not rebel as some of them did." Verse 11: "Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall."

Gang, if you're here and you don't think you can destroy your marriage, if you don't think you can make a dumb decision, if you don't think you can be sucked into North Dallas materialism, guess what: you are on that road. I would just tell you, if you don't run scared, as my illustration last week with Dr. Graham, and with me… I think every day, "Wake up, Todd. You're at war. Be afraid. Be very, very afraid, and learn from others."

That's why I don't counsel women here. I offend women all the time. "I want to get together with you." I go, "Well, you're not going to do it." "Why not? You're a pervert?" I go, "Yeah. If you want to call me that, yep, I'm a pervert. Next question. Go get yourself with a woman, and if she needs a male perspective, they'll invite me or somebody else in." I am skittish about that. I don't like to get on an elevator alone with somebody. Call me crazy.

Here we go. This next verse is really what sets up the staging for the last three weeks. My next point flows right out of this little teaching in 1 Corinthians 10:1-12. Verse 13 says, "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man…" It means it happens to everybody. "…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."

Here's my next point. Are you ready? There is no special case. What do I mean by that? I can't tell you how many times I run into folks who go, "Well, you don't know my story, man. You don't know my past. Okay, yeah, you think you struggle with porn. You think you struggle with anger. You think you struggle with materialism. Man, you don't know what it's like to be strung like I'm strung. You don't know what it's like to crave like I crave. You don't know what it's like to live with what I live with."

What you're doing is saying, "I'm a special case, and it practically is acceptable for me to be a wretch. You wouldn't love your wife as Christ loved the church either if you were married to what I was married to. You wouldn't be faithful. If you had the opportunity to feather your bed the way I have the opportunity, you'd give yourself away to materialism like I do." Or, "Hey, man, I don't know. You think you have testosterone? I mean, look. Barry Bonds used to call me and ask me for hits. I've got testosterone. I am all in on sin. You don't know what it's like to crave like I crave."

When you start to believe that lie, you start to give yourself permission. I have a real problem with folks who counsel folks this way. "Come here. Just tell me your life story. Tell me what's going on with you. Tell me how bad mommy was. Tell me about your daddy. Oh, no wonder. Well, of course you do that. I'm just surprised you don't do so much more. You're really, compared to what you should be… Oh, come here. It's okay. I see why you do that. I see why you're destroying yourself that way."

Let me tell you something. Bad parents are a fact; they are never an excuse. I know in this body that some of you have been physically and sexually abused, have been abandoned by people that God put into your life to love you and care for you and nurture you. It is a tragedy, and God has not missed it, but I want to tell you something. They are gone now, and for you to continue to abuse yourself makes no sense. Do you hate the abuse that happened to you at the hands of wicked men? So does God. Why then continue to give yourself over to that?

Gang, there is no special case. One of my favorite cartoons… I have it someplace I look at regularly. It's two guys who are the classic drunk. They're lying there on the street together kind of disheveled. They have brown bags next to them, clearly bottles of whiskey. The one guy says, "Okay, man. So, enough about me. Tell me, where did your parents screw up?" Like, "That's why I'm here."

I want to tell you something. I'm not blind like Jenny is, but somehow, she has to struggle the same way I have to struggle to say, "Amen." She has to fight the same way I have to fight for God to be her vision, because she'll want to justify. "Hey, look, Lord. I deserve a few outs here and there." I don't care what your story is. There is a way of escape for you, just like there's a way of escape for me. It is common.

That's not my idea. That's not me being insensitive. That's not me being somebody who has never been married to a woman like you've been married to. That's the Scripture. You know what? If you mock it, if you tell me I'm crazy, it's not me you're arguing with. You are buying a lie. I want to tell you something. I know you have a tough history. I want to almost contradict myself here. I believe your sin struggle is unique. I believe it is uniquely overpowering to you.

I believe your family history is uniquely debilitating. I believe your cravings after things which appear life-giving but are not life-giving at all is unique and overwhelming to you. They are unique, just like every other person's history and craving and rebellion is unique to them. So we all have to do the same thing. There is no simple answer here. I'm not going to give you tips and techniques. We all need to trust and obey. We have to stop sitting down to eat and drink and standing up to play. We are at war, and there is a way of escape. There is a way to armor yourself so you are not a casualty in this war.

Now here's my next "There is no…" There is no silver bullet. I told you, I'm going to come back in August and deal with the exorcisms in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and the ecstatic experience in the book of Acts. I'm going to talk about the special cases. I'm going to talk about what was going on there with the casting out and why that is not the practice of today and why it's a danger for you to believe it's the practice of today.

The scriptural command from Romans through Revelation… Just as quickly as they showed up in Matthew, having been absent in the Old Testament, they disappeared just as quickly in Acts in terms of dealing with those specific expressions of evil for purposes that I will go into in August. The issue today for us in how we are successful against sin and spiritual warfare is trust and obey.

It is not, "Come and hear this conference and let me do this. Hear this prophet speak, and you will be once and for all delivered from this oppression, from this possession, from this family history." That is not the biblical model, and you are setting yourself up for great pain when you believe there is a silver bullet.

The word fad comes from the word faddle, which means to just play with. It means, specifically, a temporary fashion or code of conduct that moves quickly when we're done playing with it because it doesn't work. There is a reason there are many fad diets. There's a reason we've gone through South Beach, gone through Atkins, gone through the Zone, gone through the grapefruit, gone through the cabbage: because they don't work. You need to adjust your lifestyle.

The reason some of them have a sustaining effect is because you begin to go, "I'm not going to do this for a season and then go back to what I was doing. All I'm going to do is put on more fat." The truth is I need to eat less and exercise more. I don't need to cleanse my colon for 10 days to get rid of the 10 pounds of red meat that is stuck in the normal male intestine. Eat some fiber, for goodness' sake!

If you think you're going to do this and look great on the beach, I have news for you. Eat less; exercise more. Trifle with the lie less; focus on truth more. Isolate less; be authentic with community more. There is no silver bullet. You can't kill the werewolf of temptation and sin. That roaring lion cannot be bound. He is roaring, seeking whom he might devour, and it is up to you to go, "I'm not going to buy that lie. I'm not going to believe that these seven steps will lead me to spiritual freedom and take me out of bondage…this conference, this book, having this guy pray over me."

No. It is being a person who reads God's Word, obeys God's Word, meditates on God's Word, confesses sin, prays, and listens to the Spirit of God, lives authentically, doesn't marginalize, rationalize, or justify compromise in their life, doesn't trifle with little playful sins, runs from them, resists, stands firm, girds himself with truth, meditates on the hope of salvation, walks in righteousness. That's the person who has the way of escape figured out.

Gang, there is no silver bullet. By the way, Paul, at the end of his life… Don't you think if there was something he could have given Timothy to say, "Timothy, this is the secret to ministry," he would have done it? Well, at the very end of Paul's life in 2 Timothy, chapter 4, guess what: he basically does that, but what you're going to find out is it's not a weekend conference. It's not "Touch my cloth."

This is it: "I solemnly charge you, Timothy, as you shepherd other people, in the presence of God and of Jesus Christ, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and by his kingdom, here's what you need to do: preach the Word." Jesus said it this way. Jesus had the acorn, and Paul grew the oak of truth out of it. Jesus said, "You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Free from what? Free from the lie. Paul is saying, "Timothy, God has given us something better than a cloud and a pillar of fire. He has given us the Word of God. Preach it."

"…be ready in season and out of season…" That is a poetical way of saying all the time. "…reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ear from the truth and will turn aside to myths."

"Hey, read this book and you'll no longer struggle. Hey, do this and we can deal with that generational sin in your life. Hey, go here, and through this ecstatic experience you'll be set free." Myths. Lies. The word for fad is also the word for crazes, like, "That's crazy if you think that's going to help you." The Scriptures don't give tips and techniques. It says, "Trust and obey." Reprove, rebuke, exhort, instruct with patience.

But that doesn't sell. It doesn't sell books, it doesn't typically fill up conferences, because everybody is looking for the fad diet that is going to make them look great with no transformed life. That's not a silver bullet; that's setting you up to die. Now, here's what I want to do. I want to take you to the last one. I've left myself some time for this one. It is because it is the thing which absolutely sets some people apart at Watermark.

There are people who agree with the first six things I've said, but they don't do this seventh one. We have an exponential difference in the spiritual vitality, maturity, and usefulness of individuals who come to Watermark who do this seventh thing from folks who don't. By your own testimony and by our consistent observation, this is one of the most neglected truths, and we have gone hard on this. We are going all in on this. We are doing another conference in the fall on this, where we're taking away leaders to go build into them for a weekend and remind you that this is it.

This is where personal devotion, personal meditation, personal pleading in prayer is reinforced and doubled down. Weight Watchers will tell you if you use their food you will lose weight. Why? Because you're eating less. But they will tell you if you join a Weight Watchers group, you will lose 25 to 33 percent more weight than those who just eat the food. Why? Because God wired you to need and to be quickened by community. He gave you a major means of grace called community.

There is no sense in going at it alone. There are many reasons for this. In fact, the Scriptures say that the person who separates himself seeks his own desire; he quarrels against all sound wisdom. We've heard it all. "I just can't find somebody to connect with. Community is a hassle." It is a hassle. I had no fewer than three people this week tell me, "Hey, man, this community thing? It is a beating!

Because I have one of two things. I have guys who are just living crazy lives, and it seems to not really be hurting them. I'm tired of chasing after them, and frankly, they're starting to convince me that maybe disobedience is fun. Then I have these other guys who are over here, and their life isn't good. It's a disaster, and they're miserable, but they won't change, and I don't know what to do. It's wearing me out."

I had a sweet young gal who was in a great church, a church that is renowned for preaching the Word. She grew up in that church, and she told me this week when I was with her, "Hey, Todd, I have to tell you something. This community thing is killing me. It is messing with me like nothing has ever messed with me, and I have to tell you, I am a different person."

What she meant was, "The old self is being dealt with like never before, because I'm not just hearing Bible teaching and then rationalizing, marginalizing, and justifying that nobody else is really dealing with it. I have friends who are asking me to really put this into play in my life, and they're loving me and showing me where it maybe isn't, and it's wearing me out. I've heard the Word preached faithfully, but for the first time in my life, I have others saying, 'Hey, we're not executing on that Word.' So I have reproof and rebuke and exhortation and instruction coming at me like never before." It leads to change. There is no sense in going at it alone.

I'm going to tell you one other major reason you should not go at this alone. This is one I can identify with absolutely and exponentially in my own life. I'm going to take you through a couple of cycles of this, and here's the first one. I'm going to do it rather quickly. I grew up in St. Louis, and just like kids in Texas eventually make a pilgrimage down to the Alamo, in St. Louis you make a pilgrimage up to Hannibal, Missouri. That's the home of Mark Twain.

You just go up north on the Mississippi, and you go through Tom Sawyer's cave. I mean, I fell in love as a kid with Huckleberry Finn. I wanted to be Huckleberry Finn. I wanted to live footloose and fancy free. I wanted to get out into the wilderness. I wanted to have daring adventures. My other favorite book as a kid was My Side of the Mountain. I always dreamed about having a falcon that would hunt for me and would be my friend and would sit on my shoulder and help me pick up chicks. I mean, whatever it would do. (Did I say that out loud? I think I did.)

And just how cool it would be to have that bird and carve out the side of a tree and live there and find maybe a baby cougar and raise him. He could hunt for me, and then I'd eventually walk to the park with him and mingle and meet people and I'd get some attention. It'd be awesome. I really did. I dreamed about having a baby racoon. That was the first thing I really started wearing my parents out for. Some kids ask for a horse. I said, "Give me a baby racoon. That's what I want for Christmas."

I'd call him Bandit and love him and just grow with him and just hang around like Huck Finn would have. Here's the thing about little racoons. They go through this little change at about 18 months that makes them not-so-safe. I did. I moved quickly. The raccoon thing never happened, but in St. Louis there's also a zoo. I used to go down to the children's zoo. I got to know some of the guys who took care of the animals down at the children's zoo, and they showed me some things they do to build relationships with the animals.

There was a baby orangutan named Allen. I could take my friends to the zoo, and when I would show up, Allen would respond to me. I knew what to tap on the glass where the trainers did, and I did this enough, because I would go there, that Allen would know me, and he'd come up and press both hands… There would be people there all day long, and when I would show up, I'd do this. I'd go down underneath the drain and do this, and he would look up, he'd see me, and he would come press both hands on the glass and put his face up there like he was kissing me.

It was impressive. I had a hard time driving my 9-year-old girlfriends down there to have it pay off, but I was impressed. I wanted a chimp. The St. Louis zoo, one of the most famous zoos in the world, had a great live chimpanzee show. I wanted a chimp. I thought, "Okay, Allen and I are relating." I wanted a chimp. Here are some great cute pictures of chimps. Look at this. Isn't that great? I'd dress him up. We'd play putt-putt together. He could just hang around, and we'd have all kinds of fun.

Here's the thing about little chimps. Have you been watching the news lately? Isn't that great? "Come out of the jungle and that awful environment. Come live with Uncle Todd." Let me show you another picture of a chimp. That's a chimp. About two months ago up in Connecticut, a sweet young lady who had raised a chimp… Travis. Not a chimp; this is Travis. Travis used to ride around in her Corvette with her. Travis used to be her friend. She took Travis and made him her son and raised Travis like her own son.

At one point, Travis, who grew to be 200 pounds, did not want to go into his cage, so she called her friend. Her friend had watched Travis grow up. She said, "Will you come over and help me get Travis in his cage?" and she said, "Sure." So she came over. Travis was not in the mood to be put in his cage, so all of a sudden, this dear friend literally had her face chewed off. I have the recording of the 911 call and the pictures taken around that, and it is gruesome. It is too gruesome to show here.

It would make you sick, just like you hear Travis' mom, panicked, literally throw up as she watched what Travis was doing to her friend. She took a butcher knife and tried to kill Travis, and Travis started chasing her as she locked herself in a car. That cute little chimp wasn't so cute anymore. One of the reasons we have to have friends in our lives is because we think, "That's my Mr. Bonkers. He's my little baby chimp." Well, Mr. Bonkers grows up to be a 200-pound wild animal that no longer is cute. He can devour you.

Now, I always wanted a pet tiger. I really did. I moved from the chimp, and I wanted a pet tiger or a pet lion, because those things were really cute. I thought, "Okay. I can raise this thing, and he and I will be friends. This will be my little Simba, and Simba and I will be buddies, and when Simba becomes a full lion with a wild mane, he and I will be able to get along and do fine. It'll really impress people." If you think tapping on the glass with an orangutan, walk through the park with a lion. If you think your little Labrador puppy works, guys, try a lion.

Let me show you something. What I have is a sweet little 4-week-old white Siberian tiger. Calypso is 4 weeks old, and you guys are suckers, because Calypso that made you just go, "Awww!" is a tiger. Calypso, in less than a year, will weigh 200 pounds. Calypso in three years will weigh 600 pounds. Calypso didn't, but my friend John Reinke, who works up at G.W. Exotic Animal Park, who was kind enough to bring Calypso down to me today…

He has a lion that lives with him that's now 16 weeks old, four months. His name is Bonedigger. What I wanted to show you is how cute Calypso is at 4 weeks, and then I wanted to show you what happens in just 12 more weeks, so he was going to bring Bonedigger down. Bonedigger didn't want to come down today. John told me this morning, "Look. One of us was going to get hurt if I kept trying to get him in the crate, and it probably wasn't going to be me," is what he said.

Isn't that cute? That's no roar; that's just a sweet little kitten. Can you imagine? My kids have already said, "Daddy, can we have him?" I go, "I've always wanted one too. Sure. Let's take him home." I'll tell you what's going to happen. Everybody wants to be at the Wagner house because he's cute, and everybody wants to be around us. We get a lot of attention, and it's just awesome. Nobody has a tiger, and the tiger works for me.

Listen. Some of you guys have sweet little coping strategies that are working out for you when you first introduce them. Your problems really did go away when you started drinking, just for a little bit, didn't they? And you kind of control when you can do it. Hey, guess what. We do this with each other. We all go, "Aww."

You start to purge. You start to eat and binge, and everybody goes, "Man, you're losing weight; you look good," and you go, "Hey, this cub is working out for me." You work a lot of hours. You buy a new car. You upgrade to a new zip code. You buy a lake house, and everybody goes, "Man, you've got it going on. Way to go. You're something else." And we feed that little cub of finding life. Awww! This is a tiger. It will grow, and it will eat you.

You get so much affirmation. You get so much encouragement. I'm going to tell you, man. I know my junior high friends are in here. You guys are starting to dabble now with porn. It will devour you. I have hundreds of men in this body who are saying, "I wish I never would have introduced that cub to my mouse." That little conversation you had with your secretary that's making you feel like a man again? It will destroy you.

That little lust for just one more thing will become your god, and you'll go, "How did I get here with all of these storehouses and at this time of judgment? My life is hurting and empty and wanting before Christ." I'll tell you how. Because when you got it, it was your little Calypso. "Calypso wouldn't hurt me." I told you I was going to bring Bonedigger out here. Bonedigger has already eaten, in 16 weeks, two couches, every pillow in his house, and almost every shoe they left out.

I asked John, "How long are you going to keep him?" and John said, "Well, about a year in the house, maybe a little longer. I'm his daddy." He's right over there. I'm not talking behind his back. I go, "Well, then what?" He goes, "Well, about a year and a half, I won't go in the cage. Well, maybe a year and three-quarter, two years, I won't go in the cage anymore." I go, "John, do you hear yourself?" He goes, "But I'm his daddy. I'll tell you what. You couldn't pick up Bonedigger. He'd bite you. But I can pick him up."

A year ago, my buddy John was moving a tiger that was less than a year old, weighed 100 pounds. They had two chains on him, just like they're supposed to. They'd been around this tiger, and something happened where that tiger got startled, and all of a sudden, that tiger decided it didn't like either of the guys that were with it and literally ripped John's leg off. Less than 100 pounds.

Now, I have some good news, bad news. The good news is that John has one artificial leg and one bad leg, and the good news is the tiger had picked the artificial leg to go after through the jeans. But just grabbed it, and off went his limb. His buddy, who the tiger went after next, got a helicopter ride. I will tell you, guys, what happens is when these little coping strategies, these sins grow, they may not eat you right away, but it's no longer your choice. It's no longer your sin.

That sin owns you, and you have to have friends who come around and go, "I don't care what you call that…Simba, Bandit, Mr. Bonkers. That is a wild animal, and it will devour you. I'm not attached to it. If you won't put a bullet through its head, I will. If you won't put it in a cage and separate it from you, I will, or I will then just turn you over and let you suffer, because this is not safe." You need friends who will tell you, "Hey, I know you think this is good…"

The other thing is we have to stop going, "Awww!" to each other when we start to see ourselves play with things that the Scripture says, "Careful." Now, I've done this analogy before, just talking about it, and this time I said, "I want to bring it to you." I'm telling you, guys. I want to keep this thing, and I'm a fool. God says, "Flee. Resist. Know what it is, and if you name it and coddle it and get 'Awws' and affection and attention from it, you'd better have others around you who say, 'That, my friend, is a wild animal, and it will kill you.'"

Hebrews 3:13: "…encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called 'Today,' lest any of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." Lock in with me on this. Part of the deceitfulness of sin is that we all think we can manage it. "I can toy with it, and it won't get me." Let me tell you what happens to tigers when you care for them and play with them for a lot of years and you think they're not going to get you. Watch this.


Elizabeth Vargas: After years of excruciating rehab, Roy is back with Siegfried at the 100-acre compound in Las Vegas known as Little Bavaria. Roy spends much of his time feeding and caring for the animals that now surround his home. He believes this helps in his rehabilitation.

Roy Horn: What's good for me is good for them.

Elizabeth: So, every morning and every night you make this walk around the grounds.

Roy: Yeah. This is how I condition myself.

Elizabeth: Shall I take your arm?

Roy: No.

Elizabeth: No? You've got it.

[New scene]

Elizabeth (voiceover): On the night he was injured, many people in the audience said Roy was attacked by his tiger and dragged offstage, but Roy believes he fell onstage after suffering a small stroke and that Montecore was trying to help him, not hurt him.

Elizabeth: So, you think that he picked you up, as tigers do with their cubs…

Roy: With their cubs, yeah.

Elizabeth: And was bringing you to safety at the side of the stage.

Roy: Right.

Elizabeth: And that he saved your life because you think you were already having a stroke.

Roy: Yeah.

Elizabeth: Even though doctors aren't sure if the stroke happened before or after, you are sure it happened before?

Roy: Yeah.

Elizabeth: Did you feel pain when that was happening?

Roy: No.

Elizabeth: You felt nothing?

Roy: No. He was very gentle.

[Scene change]

Elizabeth (voiceover): The experience did not change Roy's love of animals, even Montecore, and while the animals that today share his home are less intimidating than the lions and tigers that once roamed free here, Roy says that is by necessity and not choice.

Elizabeth: When we had visited with you many years ago, we had this incredible footage of you wrestling with the tigers, playing with the tigers, swimming with the tigers, putting your arm in their mouth, kissing them. Has any of that changed? Do you feel any less comfortable today having that kind of physical, intimate relationship, that intimacy, that closeness to them?

Roy: Well, yeah, there's a little bit of a setback now because of my condition. I'm not as quick as I used to be.

Elizabeth: Were you ever, for a moment even, afraid or less at ease?

Roy: No.

Elizabeth: That didn't change at all?

Roy: No. They're literally like your own kids.

Elizabeth: It would be human nature after an incident like the one you experienced to have a moment where you might feel a little differently or might feel a little anxious about being around them, and you've never had that?

Roy: I would love to go swimming again with them. That would be kind of difficult with my legs the way they are. But I imagine it will come to that again.

Elizabeth: You think you guys will be back in that pool again.

Roy: Yeah.

[End of video]

There you have it. He had a stroke as well after that tremendous loss of blood. He thinks he had a stroke first. He thinks the tiger was trying to save him. "I'll get back in a pool with him. I'll play with him again. I'm not as quick as I used to be, but I still think I'm in control when I'm with those cats." Part of the deceitfulness of sin is I think I can manage it, especially early on when I'm getting a lot of affection, a lot of attention, a lot of even affirmation because of my pet tiger.

Gang, you need others who can say, "Hey, bro, that conversation, that little feeling you're chasing…that is a lion. It will devour you. Kill it now." Don't tell me you can control that emotional liaison. Don't jump back on Facebook with those old girlfriends, old boyfriends from college and cultivate it like that. It is a lion. Flee immorality. Don't toy with an idolatrous idea of life through body image, through comfort. Get others around you, and look them in the eye.

My friends know what my pet tigers are, what I love. Just like I'd keep that one if I didn't have a little bit more accountability, I have sin struggles like that. I always want to go, "This one is okay, isn't it? That show? That meditation? That idea? That reading? That thought life? That lifestyle? That's okay, isn't it?" Reprove, rebuke, exhort, instruct with great patience.

I want to close with this one point. This is the eighth one I'm sticking in, because I want to tell you this. There is no such thing as a sinner who has given himself away to temptation for so long and gone so far that they're beyond help from a loving Father who wants to forgive them. I would just hate to do this message and not add that point. If you are out there and you're somebody whose life has been devastated by this little thing you've cultivated over time, which you can't believe has ruined you…

People ask all the time, "How did I get here?" The answer: a little at a time. That's the same way you come back. You're forgiven completely all at once when you trust Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, and then you learn to walk in freedom a little at a time as you surround yourself with others, as you re-train your mind, and as you are transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you can prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and right, and not consistently giving yourself away.

If you're here this morning and you've never been forgiven, I don't care where you've been. I don't care how mauled you are. Your Father wants to make you whole again. He wants to forgive you. He wants to restore you, and he wants to make you walk in freedom. Let me pray for you, and then Jenny is going to play a song as we go out. I encourage you to leave quietly and listen to it.

It's a song that just says, "Lord, I'm going to walk however you want me to walk, wherever you want me to go, because I want you to be my King, and if that's what you want for me, that's what I want. So any valley of discipline, any valley of trial, any valley of truth, if that's where you want me, then I'll go there if you want me to." Let me pray for you.

Father, I thank you for a chance this morning to have a very live illustration. We are all drawn to that little cub. It is so stinkin' cute. You know what? The Enemy is just like that. He doesn't throw lions at us who race at us and roar. We're all smart enough to shut the door on that and run away, but we have all been fooled by cubs that we have coddled and we have loved and we have named and we have nurtured.

You tell us from the very beginning that we are sowing a seed of destruction, but we thought we knew better, that we could control that weed, that it wouldn't spread, that we could contain it, that we could somehow take poison and make it life-giving. We just confess, Lord, that we are fools and we are rebels and we have the scars to prove it.

So I thank you for little illustrations like this that maybe move our "Awws" to "Amens" and help us start to run to others who can come around and say, "That, my friend… The next time it won't be your couch. It won't be your artificial leg; it'll be you."

I pray, Lord, that we would deal wisely with whatever it is we are nursing in our lives, that we wouldn't look for some silver bullet, that we wouldn't believe it couldn't happen to us, that we would walk humbly before the Lord, that we would draw near to you, knowing that you would draw near to us, and that we would go where you want us to.

I pray for friends who are here who don't know a Savior, that today would be the day they come with all of their scars and all of their mauled limbs, all their oppression and fear, and they would say, "Lord, will you kill this lion? Will you deal with my scars? Will you make me whole again? Will you be my Father and train me in truth?" Lord, would you not let them leave until they have that conversation? In Christ's name, amen.