- Opening – Suppose I put a cup on the table and I ask God to keep the cup from falling off the table. I pray for God’s help, but at the same time I keep pushing the cup toward the edge. As the cup gets close to the edge, I warn God that it’s getting close to falling off. Finally, the cup falls off the table and I ask, “God, where were you?”
Ridiculous example? Do we blame God when we have problems?
We pray to God to lead us not in temptation’s way. “Lord, help me overcome my lust.” But I continue to watch the most carnal TV shows and movies, read the same magazines, hang around with the same friends that drag me away from God and I ask God “Why aren’t you helping me overcome my sin?”
We refuse the counsel of God’s word, we refuse the comfort and encouragement we get by meeting together with other Christians, we refuse the privilege of prayer—to bring our burdens and cares before God’s throne and ask His help. We refuse the grace that Christ offers as the sinless high priest in our time of need. All the while we’re pushing the cup closer to the edge of the table. Instead, we take comfort in those things that feed our sinful nature, rather than the spiritual nature. We allow ourselves to be dragged away from God and when we see the death of our dreams and hopes, we ask God why he has allowed this to happen.
James 1:13-15: “Let no one say when he is tempted ‘I am tempted by God.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone. Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”
- James 1:13-15 — 3 generations
a. Evil desires
Asthma triggers – People who suffer from asthma are told to learn what the triggers are for their asthma. A trigger is something that causes them to have an asthma attack. One person’s asthma might be triggered by animal hair. Another person’s asthma might be triggered by pollen, or by exercising and becoming short of breath. These people are encouraged to either avoid these triggers or at least minimize encounters with the triggers and be ready for an asthma attack when they encounter a trigger, have their inhaler or any medication ready, in order to minimize the effects of an asthma attack. In the same way, we should be aware of our triggers that lead us to sin. A Christian should be learning his or her weaknesses well enough to know the situations where the evil desires crop up that drag them away and eventually lead them to sin. These situations should, if possible, be avoided or approached with preparedness, with prayer and accountability…
I know one of my triggers has been when I don’t have my kids and I have some free time. I know that if I’m not careful, I could just sit down and watch TV and allow my mind to be dragged away by evil desires and enticed. While I can’t always avoid these situations, there is a lot that I can do to be prepared for them. Instead of watching TV, I can pray, read, call a family member, call a fellow Christian, work on a project around the house. Plan, be ready….
b. Sin — desire conceives and gives birth to sin
Mt. 5:21, 22 — murder/anger
Mt. 5:27, 28 — lust/adultery
Jesus: We need to stop the sin before it gets to be a sinful act. Stop it in the heart.
c. Death (came into the world because of sin, also spiritual death, death of a relationship, death of dreams, etc.) — when sin is full grown, gives birth to death.
James’s point — these things don’t just happen to us, we play a big role in bringing them about and we can play a role in keeping them from happening.
A lot is at stake in keeping them from happening: prevent death, if we keep on sinning, the result will be death (relationship, lost job, marriage).
- Why fight sin?
a. Rom. 6:23 — wages of sin is death, gift of God is eternal life, choose life
b. Gen. 4:7 — to Cain: you must master it.
d. Can we be victorious over sin? Jesus said “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33).
- How to fight sin
a. Paul writes of this struggle in Rom. 7 and 8.
Rom. 7:21-25 — inside we wanted to keep the cup on the table, but the sinful nature kept pushing it off.
Rom. 8:5 — those who live according to the sinful nature – selfish, carnal.
Those who live according to the Spirit.
Rom. 8:5 — Am I living according to the sinful nature? How can I tell? Is my mind set on what the sinful nature desires?
Am I seeking to please myself? Am I making sacrifices for God and for others? Are the television programs that I watch, the books and magazines that I read the type that build me up in the faith, or take me further down the road of carnal thoughts? What kind of fruit is my life bearing?
Second half of 8:5:
Or am I living according to the Spirit? How can I tell? Is my mind set on what the Spirit desires?
What does the Spirit desire? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. This is the fruit of the Spirit as given in Gal. 5:22, 23. Are these things becoming more and more abundant in our lives and are the fruits of selfishness becoming less in our lives? This is not a matter of following rules that don’t really change us, but a matter of yielding to the Spirit, feeding the Spirit’s influence in our lives, acting on what the Spirit would have us to do? In fact, Paul says in Gal. 5:24 that “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.”
This is where our real strength comes from….
Gal. 6:7,8 — feeding the flesh or the Spirit?
Gal. 5:22 — fruit.
With this background, how do I keep the cup in the center of the table? Let’s not take an example too far physically. When I talk about moving away from the edge of the table, I’m not talking about physically retreating from the world and huddling in a corner in the fetal position. (we’re to be in the world, but not of the world). I’m still in the world, but my heart and mind should be in the center of God’s will. I should be seeking God and his Spirit, and that will ultimately impact how I interact with the world. So, how do I do that? How do I seek to be stronger in the Spirit?
Bob’s sermon (Finding Strength in God’s family) two weeks ago— we’re not selfish seagulls (in Finding Nemo), we’re like geese flying in formation
Three services of the church . Wed. night, study is great, fellowship is even better
fellowship gatherings, game nights, etc.
Do you work or go to school with any Christians? Encourage one another?
Heb. 10:24,25 — encourage one another
c. Word of God
Ps. 119:105 –—“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”
1 Thess. 2:13 — “at work in you.”
1 Peter 1:22-25 — “ purifies, produces imperishable seed, stands forever.”
Heb. 4:12 – sharper than a two-edged sword, searches the heart (use on ourselves, not on others)
B. Shelburne (comparing to food) — God’s word at first can be like a dry cereal, soon like the main course, next like the dessert that you can hardly wait for. But you must start.
God wants to bless you; you have to believe that.
Pray for transformation (from seeker of flesh to seeker of Spirit) and pray for and with your loved ones — two sisters who call each other and pray every day
Other people who gather to pray regularly with one another.
e. Service –—back to fellowship
I’m afraid our culture has reduced Christianity to just another segment of our personal entertainment. If we want to be fulfilled, we have to give of ourselves….to the community of God’s people (church)…to the needy in the larger community that we live in.
James said …pure religion, visit the widows & orphans
Paul said he was being poured out like a drink offering, he held nothing back, but gave of himself freely in service.
Do you see how these things can transform us from being a person who seeks to please the flesh, to become one who seeks to please the Spirit? God wants to change us from the person who is always struggling with being dragged away and enticed by our desires and dragged away to sin to be the victorious overcomer.
- A street less traveled, shortest book (borrowed from a sermon I heard).
Ch. 1: I walked down a street. I fell into a hole. It was not my fault.
Ch. 2: I walked down the same street. I fell into the same hole. I couldn’t believe that I was in the same hole again, but I couldn’t do anything about it.
Ch. 3: I walked down the same street. I fell into the same hole. I cried out to God to help me.
Ch. 4: I walked down the same street. I saw the hole. I walked around it.
Ch 5: I walked down a different street.
Progression as we mature…
We must accept responsibility
Know you’ll falter at times, but know that God is gracious. He wants to pick you up and help you.
We are overcomers, through Jesus — John 16:33, 1 Jn 2:13-14; 4:4; 5:4.
—Chuck Huffine, 4-17-05, a.m.