Victory in the Battle with Temptation

Good Morning and Welcome to Journey.  My name is Phil Human and I’m one of the pastor’s here at Journey and it’s always a great privilege of mine to open God’s word with you and learn what it has to teach us.

This might be your first time at Journey – and it might be the first time you’ve ever been to church.  And you might be surprised to see us opening a service with an R. Kelly song, especially one who’s chorus says, “I don’t see anything wrong with a little bump and grind.”  To tell you the truth, I’m a little surprised myself.

But the truth is that the bible never shies away from real issues in real life.  It’s God’s desire to offer an alternative narrative to R. Kelly’s philosophy he expounds in this song – which is an effort to tempt a woman to cheat on her spouse with him.  He is trying to convince her to give into temptation.

Well today I am going to try to help you fight temptation. This story we are reading today to help us is almost 4000 years old.  And yet, it feels like it was ripped from yesterday’ headlines, or it could be the plot-line from last nights television show.

It’s the story of a man named Joseph – and it is found in the very first book of the bible.  We are in week four of a five week study, and if you’ve been here you will discover that we jumped the timeline a bit – last week we talked about the 40 year old Joseph, this week we are going backward to when Joseph was a young 20 year old.  And the reason is, that this is the first week the youngsters are back in Sunday School, and this talk has some PG-13 elements to it, and we didn’t want to put you in the position of explaining to your 7 year old what seduction means.  But it’s game on this week – and so you’ve been warned.

We have much to talk about so let’s get rolling.

When Joseph was sold by his brothers to Ishmaelite traders who then took him to Egypt, where he was purchased by a man names Potiphar, an Egyptian officer. Potiphar was captain of the guard in Egypt, which is, by the way, something that is akin to commander of the armed forces.  And by the way, if you read 2 Kings 25 you will read about the Captain of the guard from Babylon who basically burns Jerusalem to the ground.  The Captain of the Guard was a powerful man.

 39 They sold Joseph to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. Potiphar was captain of the palace guard.

2 The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did as he served in the home of his Egyptian master. 3 Potiphar noticed this and realized that the Lord was with Joseph, giving him success in everything he did. 4 This pleased Potiphar, so he soon made Joseph his personal attendant. He put him in charge of his entire household and everything he owned. 5 From the day Joseph was put in charge of his master’s household and property, the Lord began to bless Potiphar’s household for Joseph’s sake. All his household affairs ran smoothly, and his crops and livestock flourished. 6 So Potiphar gave Joseph complete administrative responsibility over everything he owned. With Joseph there, he didn’t worry about a thing—except what kind of food to eat!

Everything’s great!  He’s on top of the world!  What could go wrong?

Joseph was a very handsome and well-built young man, and Potiphar’s wife soon began to look at him lustfully. “Come and sleep with me,” she demanded.

But Joseph refused. “Look,” he told her, “my master trusts me with everything in his entire household. No one here has more authority than I do. He has held back nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God.”

10 She kept putting pressure on Joseph day after day, but he refused to sleep with her, and he kept out of her way as much as possible. 11 One day, however, no one else was around when he went in to do his work. 12 She came and grabbed him by his cloak, demanding, “Come on, sleep with me!” Joseph tore himself away, but he left his cloak in her hand as he ran from the house.

Today we are talking about how Joseph dealt with temptation.

You know what’s interesting about this story?  If you were to begin reading the book of Genesis, about the third chapter you will see another temptation story.  The story of Adam and Eve in the garden.  And it’s interesting to note the similarities between the two.

For instance – Adam and Eve were given free range over all creation – there was only one thing they were forbidden to do.  There was one tree – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  And God said – you can eat the fruit of any other tree – leave this tree alone.

Joseph has been given complete freedom to run Potiphar’s house.  What did Joseph say?  “My master trusts me with everything in his entire household.  He has held back nothing from me except you.”

Adam and Eve fail their temptation and it brings about death – Joseph passes his tests and the result is, he saves Egypt by interpreting Pharoah’s dreams and preparing for the drought.

Sometimes people tend to want to look at the Bible as this collection of old stories with no rhyme or reason, but the Bible has structure and it is written with skill.

Now let’s take a closer look at Joseph  – and what I would propose to you this morning is that there are actually three temptations in this story.  And if you didn’t see them, don’t feel bad, I hadn’t either until I researched this story this week.  And it was author Timothy Keller who pointed this out, and I felt was too good not to pass along today.  So I am indebted to him for pointing these three temptations.

The first temptation deals with power.  In particular – how is Joseph going to use his power?  He is in charge of everything in Potiphar’s household.  And the question is how will Joseph use that power.

And within the Kingdom of Heaven there are only two ways to use power.  You will use it to bless yourself, or you will use power to bless others.  That’s it.

How does Joseph use his power?  Well the text says that through Joseph, God blessed Potiphar and Potiphar’s entire household.  He used power to bless people.

Let me insert your name in there.  Do you know God’s plan is to bless the world through you?  Through you, God is blessing your co-workers.  Your neighborhood.  Your family.  Power – is used to bless others, or it is used on ourselves.

Now let me show you how subtle this temptation is.   There are some people in this room who are thinking to themselves, “I guess I don’t have to worry about this temptation, because I don’t have any power at all!”

Ah but you are wrong.  Your time – your money – your talents – are all extensions of your power. Your time.  Your money.  Your talents.  Are all things in your control – they are your power.

You can use your time, your money, and your talents to bless others – or you can use them for your own personal gain.

Let’s talk about money for a moment, because, well if we are going to be talking about sex, we might as well talk about money at the same time, because most people don’t want to hear about either one of those two things in a sermon.  So let’s take them both on at once and save some time later.

We exert power when we spend our money.  Are we spending it all on myself or am I blessing others.

Some of you are like, aha!  The only people I’m blessing with my money is Discover card and Citibank!  Well, I think one of the things Financial Peace does is work to recover the power you have given over to debt, so that you can be in a position to bless others down the road.

How are we using our power?  To bless others or to bless myself?

So how did Joseph fight off this temptation?  Joseph recognized that the only reason he had any power is due to God’s wise governance of his life.  He knew that it belonged to God in the first place.  He knew he didn’t have to hoard his power, because God had his back.

Now the second temptation.  We can rest assured that the enemy will not rest with one temptation. Others are sure to follow as our enemy seeks out ways to knock us of track in our pursuit of God.  And now we see a temptation that has devastated many a good person.  And that is Sexual temptation.

Here is Joseph.  A good looking guy.  Unmarried.  Twenty years old – away from home.  As far as Joseph knew, he would never be re-united with his family.  No one would ever know – And he works in a home with a woman who is as bluntly as is possible trying to seduce him.  “Come sleep with me, now!”

And verse 10 says that it was daily pressure.  What would you do if you were in Joseph’s shoes?  What would you do if you felt virtually certain that no one would ever find out?  This was Joseph’s temptation.  Oh, but Joseph knew that One would knows.

Now a few things to note before we continue.  First – note that it is not a sin to be tempted.  Jesus himself was tempted.  In fact Hebrews 4 tells us that Jesus was tempted in every way known to man.  But was without sin.

You are going to face temptation – and certainly in this area.  I heard one guy say that there are really only two religions in America.  Christianity and Sex.  And anything else is a distant third.

And who can really argue that?  I’m not sure who’s winning.  Because we live in a world where 50 shades of gray earned its makers 200 million dollars.  And that’s tame compared to the degrading stuff that is a click away on just about every kid with a web browser on their phone.

I think the temptation with sex is a bit like the power temptation-  for Joseph:  How is Joseph going to use his sexuality?  Is he going to be selfish?  Or is he going to bless his future wife with it. 

See God’s plan for your sexuality would be that it be used to bless your spouse.  And only your spouse, or future spouse.   We live in a culture that is trying it’s best to convince you that your sexuality belongs to you and you alone.  You can do with it whatever you want to do with it.

No!  The Bible says, your sexuality is meant for your husband or wife.  Two people become one.  When you get married you are saying, I’m giving myself to you completely – I am completely vulnerable to you.  All I have is yours, all I am is yours.

Sex outside of marriage says, I want part of you but I’m not that interested in the rest of you.   And it says, I’m willing to share my sex with you, but I’m not willing to share my heart, my soul, my life with you.

Which is why I always say that living together before marriage is a bad idea.  It’s fake oneness.  It’s I’m kind of yours.  But that’s my couch, just to be clear.  It actually works against two becoming one.  It teaches two staying two but co-mingling a few things, like maybe utensils and body parts.

Now maybe you are living together with someone right now and you are thinking, Phil, You are just trying to make me feel bad.  No, I’m trying to embarrass you.  I’m trying to get you to think differently.

Listen to me when I tell you that whether you are living with someone right now or not, God’s love for you is unrelenting.  There’s nothing you can do to make God stop living you.  What he wants, is for you to think highly enough of Him to trust him.  To believe that He knows what’s best for you.

I’m not trying to call anyone out or make anyone feel weird.  Heck, I remember when I was in High School, I barely knew anything about God, right?  And the pastors wife was teaching our high school Sunday School and she said that God’s desire is for sex to be saved until marriage.  And I’ll never forget, I raised my hand and said, “That’s the craziest thing I ever heard.”  And then I said, You wouldn’t buy a new car without taking it for a test spin, would you?  You gotta see what’s under the hood! Am I right?”  Crickets.

And all the church kids jaws were like – And Lynn, she was so gracious, she just said something like, “You know your wife isn’t a car, right?”

I laugh, but Lynn Malone – she was the first person to ever challenge the way I thought, and it worked.  You deserve to have your opinions challenged.

Lynn Malone is right.  Don’t treat your future spouse like a used car.  I want you to treat your future spouse and yourself with the same kind of dignity and respect that God reserves for you.

The bottom line is that Joseph made a decision to honor God, to honor his future spouse, to honor Potiphar, and ultimately to honor Potiphar’s wife by refusing to use his sexuality for selfish gain.

So Joseph doesn’t give into to the temptation.  He is victorious, right?  Well, yeah, but sometimes you can do everything right and the world still blows up in your face.

13 When she saw that she was holding his cloak and he had fled, 14 she called out to her servants. Soon all the men came running. “Look!” she said. “My husband has brought this Hebrew slave here to make fools of us! He came into my room to rape me, but I screamed. 

19 Potiphar was furious when he heard his wife’s story about how Joseph had treated her. 20 So he took Joseph and threw him into the prison where the king’s prisoners were held, and there he remained.

Sometimes you do everything right, but Blam!  The world explodes anyway.

And this is the third temptation: the temptation to despair.

Joseph does everything right and he is thrown into jail.  And that stinks!  Who would have blamed him is he had just sunk into a pit of despair.

In fact, I think that this temptation to despair might have been the most difficult to fight off.  At least when fighting sexual temptation you know that God is there and can help you, but despair wants to make you doubt God knows you are there at all.  Despair wants to rob you of the comfort of the good shepherd.  It wants to make you feel helpless and alone.

Oh, but here’s the point of the story of Joseph.  In the first part of the book of Genesis – God is very audible and visual – but by the end of Genesis – he seems to be invisible.  No voice.  No miracles.  And the point?  Just because God is silent doesn’t mean he isn’t there.  Just because things seem tough doesn’t mean that God’s not still working.  God is always at work and we can trust his wise governance of our lives.

And that’s the truth that Joseph figured out to help him overcome this temptation as well.   Whether in good time or in bad – at the high of being in charge of Potiphar’s house, or in the prison, Joseph understood that in high or low, God was with him.

Notice he the writer bookends this chapter of Joseph’s life?  How does the chapter begin? The Lord was with Joseph.   And how does the chapter end?  The last verse in the the chapter – The Lord was with him.  In the palace and in the prison.

So let’s talk about what we can learn from Joseph to help us overcome our own temptations.  How to deal with Temptation.

  1. Find the source of the Temptation.

Ask yourself why this is a temptation, (whatever this is.)  Why does my soul feel it must have it?  Why is it landing in my heart or mind?  Is it because I don’t really trust Him to provide for me?  Or that I feel I am owed this – and if God won’t give it to me I’ll just take it, thanks?

Ask the Holy Spirit to help guide you into the truth you need to hear.  Now sometimes – by the way -a gifted counselor can help you discover the “why” to the temptation.  Especially if it’s a temptation that seems to continually trip you up.  A counselor can help you develop the tools you need in order fight a good fight against temptation.

We can help you get set up with a counselor from Spence or Cunningham counseling.  And we will make it happen for $25 a session with or without insurance.  Just email us at info@journeychurchne.org.  or write it on your card.

  1. Follow where the path leads.

Sometimes temptation will grab you by the face and say – look at me – it doesn’t want you looking past the temptation to where the temptation will lead you.  For instance, sexual temptation promises gratification, “You need this, it’ll be great, just do it.” – but it fails to mention the guilt or shame that often comes afterward.

Where does your temptation want to lead you?  Force yourself to look beyond it.  Back to the book of James again – 14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

What is James trying to do?  Get us to look past the temptation and see where it’s taking us.  Which is often destruction.

Ask yourself – How much could yielding to this temptation cost?  My integrity? My family?  Is it really worth it?  Where is this going to end up?  How much will this cost me?

Once we see, in the light of day, where these temptations want to lead us, we would say – I don’t want to go there.  No way!  Follow where the path goes that Temptation wants to lead us down.

  1. Fight back!

You are not a helpless victim.  Whoa is me.  No!  Paul likens the christian faith to a fight.  Fight the good fight.

Sometimes people get it in their head – that somehow I’ll never win this fight.  I’ll never see victory.  And they might even go to a verse like Romans 7, where Paul writes, But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?

And they just drag their sorry selves around , “What a miserable wretch I am.  Who will free me.  Well, there’s another verse, you know.

25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. Don’t you dare give up!  In the immortal words of Adrienne, Win, Rocky, Win!  You can do it!  Battle!  Fight!  You might look like Rocky at the end of the fight, but imagine being able to throw your hands up in the air in victory!  You can do it!

  1. Flee

Joseph ran out of the house.  Sometimes you have to get out of situations that you know will lead you into bad places.  Especially when it comes to sexual temptation.

Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace.  2 Timothy 2:22

I pray that you are becoming the kind of person who can have the wisdom to know when it’s time to get out of situations that are enticing you to do wrong.  Maybe you are in a relationship with someone right now that has turned unhealthy.  Maybe you work in an environment where you find yourself wanting to flirt with a co-worker.  Maybe you already are and are entertaining an affair.  Get out.  Run!  Make something happen to change it.

  1. Fix your eyes on Jesus.

Hebrews 12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.

I ran across this little video – we started with a video – I found this one that looks like it was made by a good mom and dad trying to teach their kids about how to deal with temptation.  And I thought it’s a good one to end on.

You can do it!  Don’t you dare give it to despair that you can’t defeat that temptation that easily ensnares you.  Yes you can!

 

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