Jericho Ridge Community Church (Archived)

Get Out and Stay Out!

 “Get Out, Stay Out!” // James 1:12-15

Sunday, May 26, 2013 @ Jericho Ridge Community Church

New Series: Stuck


Good morning everyone!  My name is Brad Sumner, I’m part of the teaching and leadership team here at Jericho Ridge and I want to invite you to come in and take you seats.  I thought I’d play that little clip from VeggieTales to introduce our topic for this morning: how can we identify, get out and stay out temptation in various areas of our lives.  If you are new or visiting with us, today we are happy to have you with us this morning as we continue in our teaching series called STUCK which is based around the answers you gave to the question “In what area(s) of your life do you feel stuck?”  In our opening weekend, we addressed those of us who feel stuck in the rut of knowing what we should be doing, but we just can’t seem to muster up the resolve and the initiative necessary to start moving toward being unstuck.  Then in week two we addressed one of the biggest things you identified you were stuck in: a cycle of busyness, so Pastor Keith reminded us of the gift of Sabbath rest.  Then last weekend, Meg and I talked about being stuck and feeling dry or contrived in relating to God and invited you to consider nine different spiritual pathways that may be helpful to getting unstuck.  


And today we’ll continue looking at the topics that you proposed and looking into the Scriptures to hopefully give you a sense of what God might want to say and do in your life to help you get some traction in the area of temptation.  Identifying it.  Avoiding it and with the strength and power of the Holy Spirit, overcoming it.  Let’s pray as we look into God’s Word.    


This past week, Meg and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary and little the little old couple that we are becoming, we have recently taken up a new hobby together…  Nightly games of Scrabble on her tablet computer.  And I have to admit that as hard as I try for all the big point words and triple letters, Meg is doing an exceptional job of thrashing me these days.  And so one night, not so long ago, Meg was winning (as per usual), and I went off downstairs to the kitchen mid-game to get a snack.  And as I passed the desktop computer in the family room, a thought entered my mind.  I wondered as I wandered if perhaps there were any Scrabble help-sites online.  The house was quiet and dark so I slid into the chair, opened an incognito browser window so she wouldn’t be able to find the same site, typed quietly so no one could hear and I entered in my 7 letters.  Turns out there were 3 or 4 sites and they were more than happy to meet my secretive needs.  My eyes lingered on each one, I carefully memorized each word and pictured the board in my imagination and where I could lay down my perfect word.  I closed up the browser, careful to put everything back on the desk as it was before so no one would know I was there, and I sauntered back upstairs with my snack in hand and my dirty little secret words as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.  I casually picked up the tablet, pretended to fumble with my letters and then laid down a 72 point word as if I had thought of it right there myself. 


The challenge, however, is that I’m not that smart and so Meg suspected that something was up.  She probed a little and then confronted me directly about how I had acquired my word.  I was defensive and dismissive at first, but I knew the game was up.  I had been caught red-lettered in a web of scrabble secrecy and lies.  I’m thinking of starting an online support and recovery group now – “Hello, my name is Brad, and I cheat at Scrabble.”  Now, when I have the tablet too long or go downstairs for a legitimate reason, Meg is suspicious that my mind, my eyes and my fingers will wander and I will fall into temptation again.


Now, this seems all very innocent and innocuous but if that description felt a little bit too familiar, you’ll know like I do that this kind of cycle can repeat itself in almost any area of our lives.  Sometimes temptation comes to us in very simple forms – should I give in to the desire to push the button or to eat the forbidden apple – but sometimes, and for some of us, the cycle is much more sophisticated and much more sinister.  More entrenched.  It has a hold of us in ways that we are not even aware of sometimes and the consequences of it are much more devastating and far reaching than we may have ever considered.  We’re stuck in a cycle of temptation.     


In the book of James, in the first chapter, the writer speaks to this very cycle of temptation.  If you have your Bibles, turn there with me or go there on your smartphone and Youversion.com.  I’ll be reading verses 12-15 from the New Living Translation.  [2 Slides - James 1:12-13 // 1:14-15.] 


One of the things that strikes me about this text is not the negative side of the cycle, but the promise of blessing for those who endure and who are able, in the strength that God provides, to resist temptation.  This says to me that no matter how deeply entrenched you are in your hurt, habit or hang-up, it is possible for you to move toward freedom this morning.  But in order to understand what that might look like, we have to explore what got you and I stuck in the first place and what that repetitive and deadly temptation cycle looks like. 


The first thing that the Bible is clear on is the source of temptation.  Temptation exists in your life and mine not because God is trying to set up some kind of cosmic pass-fail test…  He hasn’t put you in a room with a giant button on the wall and told you not to push it and He’s just waiting to see how long your will power holds out.  James 1:14 reminds us that the cycle of temptation begins not “out there” somewhere… It begins in here (my head & my heart).  It begins with our own desires.  It begins not when I sit down at the computer to find my secret scrabble letters. It begins with my unhealthy pre-occupation with winning.  My desire to be smart and used big words and been seen as a thoughtfully articulate and well-educated person.  In this first step in the cycle of temptation, those desires which live deep in our hearts and spirits are dancing with opportunity, sometimes in healthy ways and sometimes in unhealthy ways.  Some of the desires of my heart are good and wholesome and right and should be nurtured.  Some of them are dark and twisted and maligned and they need to be managed, controlled and rejected. 


But this brings up an interesting question for us to wrestle with: is it a sin to be tempted?  When do you cross the line so to speak?  I think here it is helpful to think of two Biblical case studies.  The first one is way back at the start of the Scriptures and image that is so often used to portray temptation: the apple or forbidden fruit.  This account is from Genesis 3, where, you may remember, the shrewd serpent engages in a conversation with Eve trying to move her along in the cycle of temptation.  And if you read carefully you notice that what he does masterfully is that he awakens her desires.  Genesis 3:6 says “the woman was convinced… she wanted the wisdom that it would give her”.  But there’s a step described before this where she still hasn’t sinned: she sees the tree.  Temptation exists; she just hasn’t allowed it to take up mental real estate.  The second case study is Jesus, whom the Bible describes as pure and without sin.  But if you look in Matthew 4, we see that Jesus was tempted.  And what you notice in that text is that the devil is trying to do the exact same thing: awaken desire in Jesus that will lead him to actions that would cause Him to sin.  So what we learn from these two case studies is that it is not a sin to be tempted…  But when something or someone is trying to awaken or stoke the furnace of desire in my life, I need to beware because the cycle is about to begin.  Marketers know this.  I can’t sin in the area of greed if they don’t awaken my desire for more.  We’ll talk more about breaking this cycle in a few minutes because arresting it right here is critical – alerting myself and others to the shadow sides of my desires.  James 1:14: “temptations come from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away”. 


We’re now into the second phase of the cycle…  Deception.  In stage 1, I’m moving from something simply coming to my attention and as I hit that arrow, I’m moving into pre-occupation (I’m nurturing my thinking about it), and enticement.  Only my mind is involved at this point but if I think on it long enough I begin to work on ways to justify it and I begin to plan how I might act it out.  I’m moving from opportunity to conception.  Deception.  Psychologists tell us that at this stage, we are beginning to engage in what is known as ritualization.  Let me give you an example from a friend of mine.  He struggles with sexual addiction and in this still early stage of the temptation cycle, one of his rituals is to look through the Sunday papers at the ads and for the flyers.  Because he knows that it’s likely that they will advertise underwear.  And you can’t sell underwear, apparently, unless you show people wearing underwear.  And for my friend, his ritual begins there.  He lodges that image in his mind, even if it’s a brief glance, in his mind and be begins to nurture it.  He begins to let that awaken his desires and he begins to plan how and where he might masturbate next.  You see there are two types of addictions: Substance addictions (alcohol, drugs, abuse of medication).  These we seem to understand: that it requires more and more of the substance in order to maintain a buzz.  But there is also a second kind of addition: a process addition. With a process addition, you are looking for the rush of endorphins and dopamine that is released into your body.  But the challenge is that just like substance addictions, process addictions also progress and we end up risking more and more in order to get the same rush.  The gambler needs to risk more in order to get the same rush.  The angry person’s outbursts become more public and more personal. The debt-ridden chronic over-spender needs to come home with a few more shopping bags this time than the last in order to feel the same.  We have been deceived, and enticed and are beginning to be dragged away further into the cycle of temptation. 


We’re now into stage 3 from James 1:15 – From Desire, to deception to disobedience.  We’re doing the deed.  We’re acting out.  Desires give birth to sinful actions.  And then when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.  And here James isn’t talking necessarily or primarily about physical death.  He’s describing the isolation and alienation that sinful actions bring into our lives.  The shame that accompanies our choices.  The self-loathing and frustration of finding ourselves here in this place again.  After we promised God and each other that it would never happen again.  After we prayed and prayed for strength and then we fell.  After we told ourselves that we would be strong and resist temptation.  But now we find ourselves yet again wracked with guilt and shame.  Guilt means I feel bad about what I have done.  But shame is much deeper.  It means I feel bad about who I am and the challenge is that the longer shame persists, the deeper the cycle progresses.  When sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. 


So if that’s the bad news, what’s the good news?  Well, I think that the good news is that identifying this cycle can help us to begin to break it in our lives and the lives of those around us.  So let’s look at how you break the cycle of temptation


The first thing is to go back to stage 1 – desire – and to work hard at identifying and guarding our desires.  In 2 Tim. 2:22, 23, Paul is giving advice to a young man and he says to Timothy: “flee youthful lusts… avoid foolish and ignorant disputes knowing that they generate strife.”  If you know you are prone to argumentative word wars where you will sin, Paul says – Timothy, don’t even get into the discussion.  If you know you are prone to sexual temptation, don’t put yourself willingly and knowing into situations where lust will be awakened.  In other words, whenever possible, GET OUT! Of those places that will awaken desires that you know will fire up the temptation cycle.  If you are prone to drink to the point of drunkenness and a loss of control, don’t go hang out with your buddies at the pub after the game.  If you can’t control your materialism and the desire to keep up with society, don’t buy the home décor magazine. If you struggle with sexual addiction, don’t pay for a TV subscription to HBO and don’t put Showcase in your cable package.  Limit your opportunities to be tempted


This is what Jesus is getting at in the phrase in the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6:13 where we are invited to pray “lead us not into temptation”  We don’t pray this because God is going to lead me into a place of temptation if we don’t.  James 1:13 is quite clear that God does not tempt us.  What we are doing when we pray this is saying “God, I need your help and strength not to yield to temptation and I know myself… if I am in places where temptation is present, I’m not that strong and I just may give into the cycle.  So can you please assist & strengthen me.”  Because here’s the take home from this section and I want you to write this down: ““You can’t always control your desires, but you can work hard to control the opportunities you encounter.” (Author Bill Perkins)

This is a quote from Bill Perkins in his excellent book “When Good Men are Tempted” – he spoke at the Iron Sharpens Iron Men’s Conference last fall at North Langley and I am indebted to his writing and thinking on this topic.  You can’t always control your desires, but you can work hard on controlling the opportunities. 


The second action point to break the cycle of temptation is to Get Out, but also to

  1. Get HELP!

I want to make an observation about Christian community here that may or may not be fair.  It seems to me that the church often creates an ideal environment for addictions and secrecy because they make all kinds of stuff taboo and forbid discussion about it.  But I wonder sometimes if the more taboo you make something, the more addictive or alluring it’s potential.  One of our core values here at Jericho is authentic community, and what that means to us is that this is a safe place to discuss things openly.  Including your struggles. 


So I want to bring the microphone over to Jamie Gleitman. 


Question 1 - So, Jamie, thanks for being vulnerable and being willing to share a bit of your story with us. What area of your life were you stuck in?


Q2 - When did you realize that this was unmanageable and that you weren't going to break out of this cycle without help? 


Q3 - What would you say to those who are currently struggling with a hurt, habit or hang-up that seems to keep coming up over and over?          


But in order for that hurt, habit or hang-up to begin to lose its power over you, you have to begin to bring it out into the light.  Talk about it.  This is where A.A. and other groups have it right.  You get started when you are willing to admit that you are powerless.  You quit wanting to or working hard to hide it and you put it out on the table and say I need help. 


Whatever your particular issue may be, I want to suggest to you this morning that you are not going to beat it alone.  You are going to need the help of people around you who love you and who have your best interests at heart.  James 4:7 invites us to submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you.  In a similar invitation in I Peter 5:5 invites us to be submitted to one another and be clothed with humility because God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  If you want to break the cycle of temptation, be humble and honest enough to Submit to Regular & Ruthless Accountability

I know my own heart too well.  If left to myself, I will fall into one of my primary areas of temptation.  So I know that I need to meet with my accountability partner every other week and I need to give him full access to every area of my life.  This is the level of support that I need in order to stay out of the weeds.      

  • What kinds of support do you need? 

I know that I am one choice away from the first bad choice in a series of choices that could lead to my downfall.  So I don’t fool around and I don’t kid myself that somehow I will ever rise above temptation.  I love how I Cor. 10 puts this

“If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. 13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure”   This is incredibly good news!  That Jesus came to bring hope to the hopeless, freedom and liberty to those held captive to their own desires.  God is faithful, friends.  He is here this morning and wants to meet you and show you that way out so that you can endure and experience freedom.  In a few minutes, we’ll be responding in worship in song and there will be opportunity for you to pray with our prayer teams at the sides.  And as those people go for prayer ministry, I want those of you in your seats to resist the temptation to think “wow – they must be really screwed up to need that kind of support!”  I want you to say to yourself “you know what, my temptations are no different than theirs.  My life is no different than their life.” And this might be the time for you when you open up for the first time and begin to receive the help and healing that Jesus offers to you.  Perhaps for you, you have never taken that step of submitting to God.  Your ultimate destiny hangs in the balance friend, I admonish you to take that step.  Don’t let pride keep you from making the best decision you’ll ever make.  Go to the prayer team and they’ll walk with you as you open your heart up to God. 


As we conclude the teaching time, we’ve talked about getting out, getting  help but in order to

  1. 3.    Stay OUT! , you and I need to

Deal with the root cause, not just behavior

We need to do our homework and find out what is driving those desires. 

  • What is causing shame & guilt?

That I am feeding and nurturing in unhealthy ways that is then manifesting itself in maladaptive behaviors.  I don’t’ want you to leave here today friend, without some long-term tools, and one of the best ones I know is

  • Recommendation: Freedom Sessions

We had lined up for you to meet the directors of the program from our sister church, North Langley, but they had a commitment that came up yesterday and so are unable to be with us this morning.  But they did come by and drop off brochures at the welcome centre and we’ll have them back as we move into the fall.  The next series of Wed nights starts up in Sept.  

  • When you are strong, prepare for when you are weak

Now is that time…  We’re going to respond in song and prayer.  These songs speak to our weakness & failure but God’s grace and His strength.  Declare them as a prayer & come for prayer to confess or to celebrate.

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