The soldiers in this regiment—all volunteers—went through rigorous battle drills and ruthless physical training. They suffered under the command of an officer who was extremely strict and unrelenting in pushing their bodies and minds…
They then proceeded to jump school, where they learned procedures for jumping properly out of an open plane with a parachute into their targeted drop zone.
They rehearsed battle sequences and maneuvers, beating their bodies into submission for 2 years until they were slotted to be dropped into France in June 1944. But nothing could have ever prepared them for that jump:
As they flew into enemy territory, they came under heavy fire from anti-aircraft artillery.
C-47 planes around them, filled with fellow soldiers, were shot down as they flew into enemy airspace. Some soldiers had to jump out of planes which had received fatal hits.
The planes were flying too fast, further endangering their bodies as they bore the impact of leaping out of the aircraft.
Most of the men had stored equipment and supplies in a bag attached to the leg; but many of these bags detached and flew into oblivion due to the impact of jumping out of the flying planes.
Those who survived and made it safely to the ground ended up miles from their intended drop zone and separated from the rest of their company.
In other words, when it came to the real deal, all the bets were off.
Now, here's the question: Did everything going wrong invalidate the training they received? Did the adverse circumstances nullify their preparation?
No. That's what battle actually looks like. Their preparation was vital, but there's only so much you can do to prepare for real war.
We so often think we have to feel just right; that the stars have to be aligned, that conditions have to be perfect before we can really obey God. But God has not called you to an easy life. He has called us to fight against sin. He's called us to battle.
And in real battle, nothing is ideal. But God has called us to fight sin in the midst of adverse circumstances.
We’re going to spend 2 sermons looking at Jesus and how He dealt with temptation, so let's look at Matthew 4:1–11:
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." But He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'"
Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, 'He will command His angels concerning You'; and 'On their hands they will bear You up, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.'"
Jesus said to him, "On the other hand, it is written, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'"
Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, "All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me." Then Jesus said to him, "Go, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.'" Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him.
1. Christ Fulfilled the Law
What we have in this account is a snapshot of Christ’s life. His entire life was one of righteous submission to God's Law, but right here we see this crucial aspect of His obedience—that He didn’t just come and live an easy life of obedience; He did it in the face of the worst circumstances:
Think about it. He's out in the wilderness, vulnerable and alone and weak. He's hungry and probably faint from having fasted for 40 days! This is the Creator of the universe, and He has the power of the universe at His fingertips; it was in His power to turn rocks into bread; it was in His power to command angels. Oftentimes we are restrained from sinful actions by lack of opportunity or lack of ability. This was not the case with Jesus; He had the opportunity and the ability to fulfill any desire, had He been desirous of disobeying the Lord.
And so here we have the epitome of Christ conquering sin and all temptation and defeating Satan. He lives righteously and turns Satan away, so that He might take this actual, lived righteousness, and apply it to us through His death on the cross—we who are unable to keep the Law.
And so this passage is foundational to the Gospel. This is Jesus Christ defeating sin and its power, and Satan and his power—in real life—it actually happening, in the midst of human temptation and weakness.
2. Christ Teaches Us How to Obey
This time we’re going to focus on just one aspect of a successful fight against sin, and it's this:
In order to effectively fight sin, you must…
Know Your Circumstances
In the same way, we must know and understand our surroundings in our battle against sin.
Must study and know our enemy and his tactics. It would be utter foolishness to go into battle with no knowledge of how our enemy moves and works. But many of us are completely naive when it comes to our sin. And we're willfully naive when it comes to understanding our own tendencies and unique positions.
We’re going to focus on 2 categories tonight, which we must labor to study and understand if we’re going to effectively fight against sin:
1. Know Your Surroundings
Think about location for a moment. Each of Satan's temptations was specific to Jesus' location. When Jesus was out in the wilderness, where He had deliberately gone to fast, which is to forsake food for a time, Satan tempted Jesus to use His power to provide food for Himself in a way outside of God's will.
It wouldn't have made sense for Satan to tempt Jesus with all the nations of the world when Jesus was out in the desert and couldn't see anything. No, Satan saved that temptation for when Christ was up on a high mountain and could look on all the nations of the world. Satan is cunning, and his temptations are tailored to our circumstances, even location.
Because of this, you ought to know what places you are more tempted to give yourself to sin. Are there certain stores you shouldn't go into? Are there certain aisles in the store you must beware of? Are there parts of campus where you need to have your guard up? Have you thought about these things? Think shrewdly about how to fight your sin. Know your location and how it affects your spiritual battles.
We must also labor to understand how the people around us affect our temptations. If you're a Christian, you probably understand this to be true when you're hanging out with non-Christians. You may be tempted to speak in act in a sinful way when you are in the company of those who do not obey the Gospel. But when you go to church to worship with God's people, there aren't any temptations, right?
Of course there are! All sorts of temptations come our way when we come into fellowship with the people of God. In fact, Satan becomes more intense and cunning when we seek to honor God with our corporate worship and fellowship, because he is under attack when we gather together to sing and pray and hear the preaching of the Word. In the presence of Christians you will feel all sorts of temptations to lust and jealousy and envy and strife and pride and dissension—just read any of the Apostle Paul's letters, and you'll see this reality at work within the churches of his day; and it is still true today.
Thirdly, another circumstance of surrounding to be aware of is time. Know what times of day you're more tempted to give in to your flesh. Do you find yourself falling into sin at night? What about time of year? I know a very godly man who has a tendency to fall into depression at particular times of the year. Over decades he has come to realize this and he takes deliberate measures to combat this tendency.
For myself, I know I'm often tempted to give myself over to laziness during break times. When there's no set schedule driving my days and hours, it is very easy for me to slip into old habits of self-indulgence and love of pleasure.
Know what's going on around you so you can be ready to fight sin.
2. Know Yourself
Listen to what the Apostle Paul writes to Timothy, a pastor, about what sorts of men to look for to be elders in his church:
The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after. (1 Timothy 5:24)
Others of us, because of our personalities, are more quiet and reserved. We're obviously holier than those loud-mouthed sinners who make fools of themselves. Not. Those of us who are quiet and withdrawn have our own, less visible sins to fight: pride, bitterness, jealousy—all things that can go unnoticed, and will only be revealed on Judgment Day.
We must labor to understand our strengths and weaknesses so we can be prepared for temptation and seek help from other members of the body.
There are some who are naturally open-handed with their things. They possess a gift of generosity. There are some who are naturally prudent and careful with everything they have. Both of these are good things, and both can go too far. The one who is naturally open-handed will tend towards naivety and the unwise support of fools. The careful men will tend towards stinginess and greed. You should know which you are, and learn from those who are not like you.
These are just a couple of examples. You could think of many more, but we must ask the question:
Why is it important for us to know all these things about ourselves and our circumstances?
Do I need to know my surroundings so that I can avoid all occasions of sin? If I figure out everywhere I'm tempted to sin, I can then avoid those places? Sometimes this might be helpful; but of course the reality is that you could lock yourself alone in a dark room for the rest of your life and it would not protect you from sin, because sin's root is in your heart. We learn about our surroundings so that we might be more ready and equipped for battle.
What about knowing ourselves? Why do we need to know ourselves?
It's so that when I'm tired, I can know it's okay to be passive-aggressive with my wife, right?
I need to know my circumstances so that I can just resign myself to anxiety and isolation when there's a big test or project or meeting coming up, right?
I'm just a loud and direct person, so I can't help belittling others and bullying them, right?
I need to know I'm an…INTROVERT…so that I can explain to people why I'm so timid and withdrawn and unloving toward others, right?
This last one is a shtick that my wife has. I asked her about it, and it took her about 30 seconds to find something in the blogosphere that sounded something like this blog post entitled "10 Ways to Love an Introverted Mom." You ready?
I'm an introverted momma, a personality trait that is misunderstood by most of the world.
Like most introverts, I need time alone each day to organize my thoughts and replenish myself. As much as I love my kiddos and husband, having time to myself each day allows me to renew my store of patience and optimism. Make me go without my "me time" and I can go a little "mommy dearest" on everyone. Also, I'm not the type to take cookies over to the new neighbors and create a relationship out of thin air. In fact, forming meaningful relationships takes years for me. I don't give away my trust easily, and I find shallow relationships draining. [all you extroverts and your shallow relationships
I desperately need my friends support, and even more importantly, I need them to understand how I receive support.
1. Help me out in a meaningful way.…
2. Text, message, or e-mail me. I need time to prepare myself for social interaction, including phone calls. Texting is the best invention in the world for introverts—it allows us to be social while still having time to organize our thoughts. Email and social networks give me the same opportunity. The phone, however, stresses me out. I can't see your body language, and I have no time to plan out my responses. Don't be offended, but when I'm really stressed out, I even screen my calls. Leave me a message, and I'll get back to you when I'm feeling prepared.
6. Engage me deeply. Small talk bores me, but I love talking about the big things…
8. Celebrate me. I like it when you make a big deal over my birthday or major milestone, but people sometimes forget me because I'm not always super loud about what's going on in my life. Some introverts, including me, resent some extroverts for sucking up all the attention. A text or a treat to let me know you're thinking about me will pretty much make my year.
9. Warn me before adding people to the party. If you invite me over for a play date, I will mentally prepare myself for you and your family. Before you invite over half the neighborhood, let me know so that I can readjust my expectations. I'm all about the expectations, and when my reality doesn't line up with the picture in my head, I can get kind of cranky.
The Real Reason to Know Your Circumstances
In the same way, you must know and understand your circumstances and your tendencies not so that you can make excuses for sin, but so that you can more effectively defeat sin.
God has called you to fight sin in the midst of adverse, non-ideal circumstances. That’s what it means to live in a depraved world full of sinners.
Everything is against us. The circumstances aren’t right: we’re not in the right place, people don't act the right way; we're tired, we're hungry, we're lonely…
God knows all of these things. Jesus knows. In fact, that's why Jesus came to the earth and suffered what He did. He suffered our bodily weaknesses and humility. He suffered other people attacking Him and sinning against Him, to the greatest extent. He suffered being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He suffered Satan’s most cunning and most powerful temptations to sin. And, finally, He suffered the greatest consequence for sin—death. He understands our weakness, and He sympathizes.
But He didn't just suffer all of those things; He suffered our weakness and yet remained without sin. And because of that, He gained victory over the power of sin and temptation. And He did that so that He might also secure our victory over sin and temptation by the power of His Holy Spirit, when we trust in Him. He grants us power to overcome circumstances and walk in righteousness.
Remember God's promise:
God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)