(Illustration) It was a frigid February in Anchorage, Alaska where I had been invited to conduct a church revival. One afternoon I stood on a balcony that overlooked a parking lot and saw two boys stealing a purse from a vehicle. I hurried outside and ran down the street, but I quickly discovered that running on ice was different than running on pavement. The purse-snatchers had captured their haul and I was left lying on my backside!
Paul suggests this kind of scene in our text when he said, “if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” Paul wasn’t literally thinking of falling on ice, but he was thinking of falling to temptation.
In our text, Paul focuses his warning on Christians that are over-confident about their relationship with Christ. He’s sending a word of caution to people who believe they are nearly impervious to temptation, even when it crouches right before them, and that they will remain unaffected. It is true that God wants us strong in the faith and secure in our relationship with Him, but He also wants us to know that our reliance upon Him at all times is our chief source resistance against temptation.
Sometimes we hear well meaning Christians assert their will to resist evil in an almost eternally secure manner:
Perhaps some teenagers have said they would never take drugs or get drunk or steal or break the law. I’d love for that to be the proclamation of every young person here, but it’s not just your resistance against evil that protects you; it’s Christ’s grace that protects you too!
There may be some that have said you would never cheat on your taxes or engage in unethical business practices. You’ve made it your goal to never even take a paperclip from your employer without authorization. Again, it is Biblical that your moral convictions run deep and strong against sin. But Paul also teaches that a posture of humility in Christ is vastly superior to the self-centered boast that we overcome sin and temptation by our fleshly resolve. Otherwise, we could fall!
Perhaps some of you have told yourself you would never look at pornography.
And there are plenty more temptations to include: gambling, slander, revenge, greed, materialism, or a critical attitude.
While we should strongly oppose these vices, we need the humility that understands our primary ability to conquer evil comes through Christ and the Holy Spirit! Jesus Christ is our Conqueror; He’s our deliverer; He’s our champion; He furnishes us with the grace and power to master sin and conquer temptation.
Psalm 16:1 says: “Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge. (2) I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”
(Example) There are very few people in Scripture that illustrate self-confidence better than Simon Peter. Peter’s life is chronicled like nobody else in Scripture. On one hand, he’s memorialized as a church pillar. On the other hand, he’s a straw reed that twists and bends in the wind of adversity.
It’s astonishing that somebody like Simon could fall when you consider his courage and the degree to which Christ used him.
On one occasion Jesus empowered Peter to heal the sick and exorcise devils, and when he obeyed Jesus said He saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning.
At Caesarea Philippi Peter proclaimed the confession of the ages when he said to Jesus: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
During a sea storm Peter walked on water . . . while the rest of the disciples cheered from the boat.
When a detachment of Roman soldiers came to arrest Christ, Peter stepped forward, drew his sword, and hacked off the enemy’s ear.
Occasionally Peter’s denial of Christ is remembered with much more injustice than is necessary. Remember, until the night before Christ’s death Peter’s career had been one of remarkable courage. Commonsense would have instructed him to lay low for the evening, but not Peter, he walked straight to the Judgment Hall of Christ’s trial! That’s the last place most disciples would have been, but here was Peter, cocky, confident, and certain he wouldn’t fail. And before the evening ended, he not only denied Christ, he denied Him with curses!
Do you know one reason I believe Peter lurked at the Judgment Hall that night? I think he held a faint suspicion that Jesus would once again elude His enemies. And Peter wanted to be there when it happened. But it didn’t pan out that way and before the rooster crowed twice Peter had denied Christ three times.
Folks, Satan knows your weakest point. And it could be something you may not even know! There are evil spirits, commissioned to overthrow your soul, which have thoroughly investigated your life and have pinpointed your weakest link. And everybody here has a weak link—a spot that’s susceptible to temptation. And like Simon Peter your weakness could be a place where you think you’re strong. I don’t believe Peter initially perceived his overconfidence, but Satan knew all about it.
(Illustration) In 1991 something amazing happened on the other side of our globe. To the shock of millions the Soviet Union disintegrated. And it collapsed where its political leaders assumed it was strongest—at the heart of Communism. For seventy years Soviet leaders told their citizens there was no God. Communism taught the Soviets to look to the State for their supply and support. Everything contrary to what Scripture teaches about God’s provision and man’s frailty. God alone is our Jehovah-Jireh, not man.
I’ve twice traveled to Moscow, Russia holding evangelistic crusades and today the Russians are some of the most consenting converts to Christianity on earth. That’s because after decades of atheism they discovered its utter failure to meet their needs. Now they are eager to hear the Gospel message.
Ask yourself something saints of God. Is there an area of your life you feel is beyond temptation? Is there an area you sense is so secure Satan could never trap you? Understand one fact. Jesus is your strength and power to resist that evil!
(Transition) Not only are we vulnerable when we’re self-confident we are vulnerable when we live carelessly.
(Definition) Carelessness is defined as being: “Inattentive; negligent. 2. Marked by . . . lack of thought. 4. Unconcerned; unmindful. 5. Unstudied.”
Carelessness is the cause of all sorts of mishaps—especially automobile accidents. Wrecks occur when drivers are distracted with text messaging and fiddling with their phone when they should be concentrating on the road. And all states have road laws that restrict, not just reckless driving, but careless driving. Here’s the traffic code from Wichita, Kansas:
(a) No person shall operate or halt any vehicle in such a manner as to indicate a careless or heedless disregard for the rights or safety of others, or in such a manner as to endanger, or be likely to endanger, any person or property. (b) No driver while driving shall engage in any other activity which interferes with the safe control of his vehicle. (Section 11.38.170, Careless driving.)
In recent years America has emphasized public safety in all walks of life:
The US Department of Transportation warns, “Don’t drink and drive.”
Years ago the Forestry department initiated a campaign against forest fires.
The Food and Drug Administration has most packaged food marked with the amount of calories, fat grams, and vitamins. In other words, the FDA shows you the amount of body pollution you’re going to consume!
Cigarette wrappers are labeled with a warning from the Surgeon General.
The workplace is especially filled with signs of caution: “Beware,” “Warning, Hazardous Material,” “Hard-hat Area Only,” “Poisonous Chemicals in Use.”
Even playgrounds and amusement parks have posted signs of caution. “You must be this tall for this ride.” (Didn’t you hate that sign when you were small and desperately wanted to jump on a ride?)
Why does society warn us like this? Because an unguarded, undisciplined, breakneck lifestyle is dangerous! Disregarding certain laws imperils our welfare. The difference between following God’s commands and not following them is the difference between running on cement and running on ice. You are going to fall if you run long enough on ice!
God has laid down laws in this Book that serve to protect and bless us; not to endanger and suppress us. God’s laws are not meant to make us miserable. He loves us enough to warn us of sin’s consequences! And when we ignore His warnings or get careless with them, we jeopardize ourselves.
Folks, there are lures and come-ons in the world that appear attractive, but they are unsuspecting ruinous traps! We need to be thoroughly acquainted with the Bible’s commands or we will be trapped before we know it!
Do you know what the secret is for the perfect trap? Disguising it! Traps are beautifully baited, but they’re camouflaged! And we take the bait when we live complacently and unaware of the enemy’s intent.
(Illustration) I have a longtime friend with whom I’ve spent hours studying the Scriptures. When my friend refers to the devil, he doesn’t address him as “Satan,” he calls him “the enemy.” I like that—“the enemy”! My friend understands Satan is our destructive foe! Jesus wasn’t joking when he said: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”
I want you to consider something. When is the last time you asked yourself: How is “the enemy” trying to trip me? What part of my life could Satan have set a trap?
His trap could be centered on your thought life—negative, hostile, selfish, depressive thoughts.
Analyze your vision for life. What plans are you making? Are they spiritual and do they glorify the Lord?
What are your affections? What’s going on in your heart?
How about your time-management? What consumes the bulk of your time?
Who are you associating with that could hinder your relationship with Christ?
(Spurgeon’s Rebuke) Listen to what C.H. Spurgeon said about a complacent Christian:
A friend told me that, the other night, as she sat in this Tabernacle, there spoke with her a person who is a regular frequenter of this house of prayer, and who said she was without sin, that she did not know that anything preached here at all suited her, and that she believed that I was well aware that she did not require any admonitions or exhortations. She was glad to hear me earnest about sinners; but she was not a sinner, she had not been a sinner a long time, and any exhortations that were directed at sleepy saints, she felt were very proper, but they did not belong to her; in fact, she only came because it was a proper thing to come, but she did not expect to get anything for herself out of the services, she had advanced far beyond that point. Well, I do not know where you are, my good sister, but you are the very person to whom I am now speaking. You superlatively good people who think you do not need any warning, are the identical people I am most anxious to warn.
I cannot emphasize enough the impending danger for those that neglect spiritual vigilance. For those that live like God is not taking account of their words or actions. Remember what Galatians 6:7 says: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. (8) The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”
(Transition) Here’s how to guard against vulnerability.
We can guard against temptation in some basic, fundamental ways. Several keys to overcoming temptation include: consistently studying the Bible, praying regularly, living humbly before God, repenting of sin whenever necessary, and actively engaging in ministry. If you can keep those five areas renewed you will be strong in Christ. And above all, keep Jesus as the centerpiece of life. The key to overcoming temptation is to spend time with God. It takes time to pray; to study God’s Word, to worship Him, and work for Him. We take time for other important issues why not take time for your soul?
Jesus told His disciples that prayer was one of the surest ways to guard against vulnerability. When He taught the Apostles how to pray in Matthew 6:13 He said: “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Imagine it, prayer actually helps circumvent temptations! That’s what Jesus said!
(Illustration) I read the story of a youngster named Alexander that was struggling to save money for a baseball bat. One night his mother overheard him saying his prayers: “Lord, help me save my money for a baseball bat. And, God, please don’t let the ice cream man come down this street!”  That boy was wiser than most grownups—he prayed away the temptation!
And if temptation can’t be staved from your street then you better stay off temptation’s street because every inch surrendered to Satan is one less inch God possesses and one more inch Satan has to strike.
I want us to conclude by praying the Lord’s Prayer:
“Our Father, who is in Heaven, hallowed be Your Name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our sins as we forgive those that sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen.
 American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Houghton, Mifflin Company.
 Charles Spurgeon, THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE PULPIT, Pilgrim Pub., Volume 12, page 532, 1976.
. Paul Tan, 7,700 Illustrations, Assurance Publishers, #6523).
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