For the past two weeks, we’ve been dealing with how we can live up to all that we are in Christ without letting the world pull us down to its level. We’re looking at this question from the text of Revelation chapter 2.
Many years ago, we had a cocker spaniel dog at our home. When we were training him as a puppy, we would test his level of discipline from time to time. One of the things we would do is hold a treat right up against his nose and make him wait to take it from our hand until we said, “Take it!”
I found it interesting that in order to resist the temptation to grab it, his eyes were constantly on us. He would occasionally glance at the food, but only for an instant. He just kept looking at his master, focusing on the one who was in control.
I think we can learn a lot from that dog. We can’t always help what flashes in front of our eyes and enters our thoughts, but we can help what we do with it. We must make a conscious decision to only glance past the temptations that come before us and choose to focus on Jesus, our Master. And, by the way, we need to make that decision now, not wait until it happens.
Hebrews chapter 13, verses 1 through 3, says we must “throw off everything that hinders us and the sin which so easily entangles us ... let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith” (NIV).
Just like a video camera, when you adjust the focus on one thing, everything else gets out of focus and blurry. So, when we keep our focus on Christ and what He’s done for us, everything the world offers “will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace!” The enemy knows where we are weakest. All of us have an area where we are vulnerable to being “entangled” in sin.
What is it that easily entangles you? What area of sin are you tempted by on a regular basis? Let me encourage you, my friends — there is always a way out of it. God’s word tells us “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But, when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV).
When God gives you and escape route from temptation, take it. In fact, run through it.Get out of there, now. Many of us try to walk just as close to the temptation as possible and then wonder why we fell prey to the enemy again. Listen, if you have a weakness with pornography, don’t even walk anywhere near a magazine rack. If you struggle with alcohol, don’t eat lunch at a bar. If you’re tempted with lust, look the other way immediately.
It is not maturity which says, “I can handle it” — it’s stupidity. It’s the mature person who says, “I know I’m weak in this area and susceptible to falling, so I’m out of here.” Here’s a good word from Psalm 101, verse 3: “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes!” Put it on your TV. Put it on your desk or tool box at work. If we’re going to get through this life in a way that pleases God and honors our families, we must constantly be asking ourselves, “Is this thought or action consistent with who I am in Christ? Am I thinking and acting like what I’ve become in Christ?”
In verse 13 or our original text, Revelation chapter 2, Jesus declares that Satan had a “foothold” in this church at Pergamum. Does he have a foothold in our churches and in our lives as well? In Ephesians 4, verse 27, we read, “Don’t give the devil an opportunity (some translations say “foothold”)!”
How can we prevent the enemy from digging in and setting up camp in our lives and churches? Read the verses following the verse we just read (and I‘m paraphrasing): “Stop lying ... stop stealing ... stop the
bitterness ... stop the anger ... stop feeding your selfish appetites ... stop seeking wrong relationships ... stop looking for satisfaction in the wrong places!” In other words, just stop it, now.
When we take that step of obedience, even a tiny baby step, God’s grace meets us there to provide the power to overcome the temptation. You can trust Him to do it. So, step out in faith and live like God intended. And remember to keep your eyes focused on your Master.