For a friend who’s battling temptation. (From the archives) Continue reading
Read John 8:31-36.
Last post from the book of John we saw Jesus speaking to the crowd and right at the end of that passage, Jesus talks about being lifted up, a reference to his being lifted up on the cross. It’s then that many believed in him. (See previous post: Suicide And Living Forever)
Free From What? Continue reading
Things I Heard In Church: A sermon on sex (in the dark).
During that sermon, the pastor said these words: Continue reading
Read Genesis 39:6-23
In our last post on Genesis, we looked at Joseph’s seduction in light of Joseph’s fidelity — to God. (See previous post on Joseph’s Seduction) Today we’ll look at the same story, but we’ll focus on the 5 steps Joseph took to avoid temptation.
(The paraphrase of Genesis 39:6-23 is the same as our last post on Genesis. So if you read the last post on Genesis, you might like to skip down to the next section.)
I don’t know what Joseph’s early responsibilities were when he first began at Potiphar’s house, but they may have been intensely physical, because Joseph was ripped (“well built” verse six tells us). He was also a good looking guy. And because of this, Joseph’s master’s wife notices him, and begins to proposition him, without much in the way of subtlety either.
“Come to bed with me!” she says to him.
But Joseph consistently refuses her. He says, Hey look, my master has such trust in me that he doesn’t concern himself with anything in the house; he’s put everything he owns in my care. I’m the top guy here. He’s kept nothing of his from me, except for you, because you’re his wife. So, with all that in mind, how could I possibly do such a terrible thing, and sin against God?
But in spite of his refusals, she persists. Day, after day, after day she continues to proposition him. But Joseph continues to refuse to go to bed with her, or even to be with her.
One day though, he goes into the house to do his work, and the place is empty. None of the other servants are around. Potiphar’s wife is the only one there. She grabs him by his cloak and says (for the one thousandth time), “Come to bed with me!” But he escapes out of his cloak, leaving it in her hand, and runs out of the house.
When she realizes Joseph left his cloak in her hand when he fled, she calls in her servants and says, Look! This Hebrew is making a joke of us! He came in here to have his way with me, but I screamed. When he heard me scream, he left his cloak laying here beside me and ran.
She keeps his cloak next to her until Potiphar comes home, and she tells him her story: That Hebrew slave guy you brought us came into my room to force himself on me. But fortunately, I screamed, and as soon as I did he left his cloak beside me and ran. This is how your slave has treated me!
After Potiphar hears the story he’s outraged. He takes Joseph and has him locked up where the king’s prisoners are kept.
But, while Joseph’s in the king’s prison, the Lord is with him again! God shows him kindness and grants Joseph favor with the warden. Eventually his situation is the same or similar to when he was with Potiphar. The warden puts Joseph in charge of all the prisoners and gives him the job of running the place. And like Potiphar, the warden trusts him completely, he pays no attention to anything Joseph’s responsible for, because the Lord is with Joseph, and gives him success in everything he puts his hand to.
Joseph’s 5 Steps to Avoid Temptation
Joseph, a young man, in the prime of his life and possessing all the desires young men in the prime of their life possess, somehow avoids this temptation from Potiphar’s wife.
How’d he do that?
We see from our story, he took 5 steps.
1) Responsibility — Take It
We see in verse 9, Joseph says the words, “How then could I do such a…”
“How then could I…” Joseph said. He took responsibility for his own behavior. How many might have said, “Well what could I do? I’m just a slave and she’s the boss’s wife. I mean, really, I couldn’t refuse now could I?” Or, “Come on, give me a break, this was a situation where an older woman took advantage of a young man. What would you expect someone my age to do, with hormones raging? How could I help it?”
No, Joseph didn’t go there. He took responsibility for his own actions.
2) Recognize Sin
We see in verse 9, Joseph recognizes what Potiphar’s wife wants as something wicked and terrible. Joseph sees it for what it is: sin. The Bible is God’s word for humanity. He loves us enough to define sin in His scriptures and to warn us away from it. He does so not because he’s against pleasure, but because He knows in the long run, sin is disastrous for you. He’s trying to spare you from heartache and pain you’ll experience in the end, though you may experience pleasure in the short term. Today there’s a huge push in our culture to discount what the Bible says about sin as old fashioned and irrelevant. Right now there’s actually a website author offering 1 million dollars for Tim Tebow’s virginity. This person’s stated goal is to bring our culture to the point where adultery is viewed as inconsequential. (see Washington Post article by Esther Fleece) I know that might seem unlikely right now, but many sins that were previously recognized as bad behavior have already been brought a long way toward a perception they’re trivial, or even a perception those who commit a given sin are victims.
Joseph didn’t discount what Potiphar’s wife asked him to do. He saw it for what it was. So should you and I.
3) Respond to God
We see in the last part of verse 9 how Joseph recognizes, if he gratifies his desires, he will sin against God. Joseph has a depth of relationship with God such that it would grieve Joseph to sin against Him. He can’t bear to sin because he can’t bear to disappoint the God he loves. Yes he’s loyal to his earthly master Potiphar, but in the end, it’s God who Joseph is most concerned about. Living your life loving God, and concerned about God and what He thinks is one of the great keys to living the abundant life God has in mind for you. (John 15:11) “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,’” Jesus said in Matthew 22:37. (See previous post: How to Love Like Jesus — God First)
4) Refuse to be Present
We see in verse 10 he not only refused to go to bed with Potiphar’s wife, but he refused to even be with her. I wonder how many marriages would still be intact if both the husband and the wife decided to simply avoid putting themselves in situations that might lead to temptation. I’m talking about not friending the old high school flame on Facebook. I’m talking about staying out of bars. I’m talking about never allowing yourself to be alone with another person of the opposite sex, ever.
What a small price to pay if it results in you keeping your family intact.
And what a heavy price to pay if you break your family apart.
Today divorce is so acceptable, our culture has endorsed it so strongly, most are so nonchalant about it, you never hear much concerning its consequences. But five years after divorce more than 1/3 of children experience depression. Kids from divorced families are less successful in life than children from intact families, especially in their careers and their relationships. And the great majority of children from divorced families say they want their original family back together.
After a divorce, custody usually goes to the mother. And about half of all single mothers live below the poverty line — on average for six years. For African American single mothers it’s even worse: 2/3 are still single and in poverty 10 years after their divorce. (The Atlantic, McLanahan-Garfinkel)
No one talks about these things. You never see these findings in the news.
Joseph was a slave and didn’t have control of his own life to the degree you do. Yet he did his best to avoid putting himself in situations where he might be tempted. You can do the same.
We see in verse 12, when he was unavoidably confronted with temptation, he fled. He left. He split immediately.
When she grabbed his robe, he didn’t stop and use the moment to teach Potiphar’s wife about his faith. He didn’t hesitate and share with her that he’s flattered but must decline, or how it’s nothing personal, or how it might be different, under different circumstances. He didn’t spend one moment on one word of conversation. And he didn’t go back for his coat. He bailed, he beat it, he bounced out of there — right away.
Again, how many marriages might still be intact if this were how people responded to sexual temptation.
Next time you’re confronted with temptation: leave, immediately.
The 6th Step (Two failures, and two outcomes: Why David recovered and Samson did not)
As an important aside, there’s one way in which Joseph was a major anomaly, he was able to avoid temptation without support from believing friends. This is profoundly rare. We can see the more usual pattern for humanity in scripture, when we look at two other men of God who experienced temptation. Both Samson and David fell into temptation but only one of them recovered from its consequences. And here’s the reason why.
More was written about Samson than most other men in the Bible yet not one friend is named in all the pages devoted to Samson’s life. He was a loner. In contrast, David’s list of friends is a long one. And we see that he had certain friends like Jonathan who were especially close. (1 Samuel 18:1-5) And we see David was open to being held accountable, for instance when he subjected himself to correction by his friend Nathan. (2 Samuel 12:1-14)
So here’s the deal: To rid yourself of a temptation, like porn or alcohol or some other selfish pursuit, do whatever you have to do to find friends–men who have overcome the same temptation you’re battling against. Sit down with each of these men one at a time and tell them your story without pretense. If you become open and vulnerable, you’ll be surprised at how many friends you attract.
Going it alone as Samson did will almost certainly produce the same result that Samson experienced. You’ll become a prisoner. You’ll find yourself living life blindly walking in circles.
Instead invest in friends the way David did. Develop close friendships the way David did. And become a man who is wide open to being held accountable–the way David did. Invest in friends the same way David did and you’ll find the same results that David did. He confessed his sin. He repented. And he never fell into sexual temptation again.
Joseph was an anomaly, an outlier. The first five steps are only the beginning steps to avoid temptation. The sixth step, that’s actually the biggest and most important step for us all.
Of course Potiphar’s wife had no integrity when it came to her marriage, and we see she had no integrity when she gave her account of what happened either. She lied and told her husband the Hebrew tried to rape her, using Joseph’s coat as a false proof of her deception. Interestingly, Joseph’s coat was also central to his brother’s deception before Jacob concerning his death.
We live in a fallen world. You can do everything according to God’s word and still wind up in a dungeon.
But Potiphar’s response is interesting because the punishment for attempted rape was death. And even though Joseph, a slave, was (wrongly) found to have attempted rape against the wife of a powerful official, Joseph is not put to death but put in prison. Verse 19 says Potiphar was angry but doesn’t say who he was angry with. Perhaps he recognized Joseph’s innocence but was forced to do something because of his wife’s insistence. Perhaps he even gave instruction for the warden to show Joseph favor.
Whether it came through Potiphar or not, God was the reason Joseph found favor in prison.
Even in the dungeon God was with Joseph.
Nothing can separate us from His love.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Read Genesis 19:30-38
In verse thirty we read that Lot became afraid to stay in the little town of Zoar. Perhaps he thought that because Zoar was in the plain it would meet the same demise as Sodom and Gomorrah. Or perhaps he found Zoar to be just as debauch as Sodom. Or perhaps he simply came to the realization that he had insisted upon his own plan instead of following the instruction given him by God’s messengers, which is always a losing proposition. Whatever the reason, Lot took his daughters out of Zoar and took up residence in a cave in the mountains.
In 1 Kings, another one of God’s men found himself in a cave. After Elijah had called down fire from heaven, after Elijah had defeated the prophets of Baal, in fear for his life he fled from Jezebel to a cave in the side of a mountain. Elijah found himself in the cave of depression.
When the Lord asked, “What are you doing here Elijah?”
Elijah responded, “The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left…”
The Lord answered by letting Elijah know how far from reality he was. God said, in effect, Hey, you’re not the only one left. There are still 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal. So snap out of it. I have things for you to do. (1 Kings 19)
In Lot’s cave his two daughters decide that Lot is the only man left on earth with whom they might have sex with to carry on their family name.
Both Elijah and Lot’s family were dwelling in the cave of depression where reality becomes distorted. In Elijah’s case, Elijah wasn’t the only one left. In Lot’s daughter’s case, Lot wasn’t the only man left. It’s helpful to remember that when you’re in the cave of depression, everything seems 7,000 times worse than it really is.
So Lot’s daughters, so accustomed to the lascivious culture of Sodom, so polluted by the culture they grew up in, decide that their only hope for having a family is to engage their father in an incestuous relationship. They concoct a plan to make Lot drunk with wine and then to have sex with him while he’s so out of it that he doesn’t know what’s happening.
Eldest daughter enacts the plan the first night.
Youngest daughter takes the next night.
And they both become pregnant.
Here we see again the influence of Sodom on Lot and his family. Lot becomes drunk. Lot’s daughters, rather than seeking the Lord for a solution to their problem, come up with their own plan involving incest. And the result is that the eldest daughter gave birth to Moab, Lot’s son and grandson simultaneously, and the father of the Moabites. And Lot’s second daughter gave birth to Ben-Ammi, father of the Ammonites. Of course both the Moabites and the Ammonites would become enemies of Israel making war against them and killing Israelis. The wages of sin is death, literal physical death, in this case.
Incest is an obvious sin, as is drunkenness. But there’s another mistake that Lot made here in chapter 19. One that’s easily overlooked. Lot, there in his cave on the side of the mountain, living in relative isolation, allowed himself to fall asleep, so to speak. With the influences of Sodom no longer around him, Lot fell into perhaps the most subtle and dangerous trap that a believer can fall into. Lot became sleepy, he lost his edge, he lost his spark, he let his guard down. Lot relaxed.
In Acts chapter twenty we find the story of a young man named Eutychus who was listening to the Apostle Paul teach late into the night. The young man was seated on the sill of a third story window. As the night wore on he became sleepier and sleepier until finally, he fell completely asleep and fell out of the window, plummeting to the ground from three stories up.
Falling asleep is so easy to do for you and for me in today’s culture. If you think about it, even those of us with modest means live much better today than did the kings and queens throughout most of human history. We have air conditioning, and central heat, and grocery stores, and fast food, and two hundred channels, and a thousand news outlets, and video games, and e-books, and the list goes on and on. The creature comforts we have today are amazing. There has never been a time in history when so many were so comfortable. We’re far more comfortable than Eutychus was while he was sitting on that window sill.
And that’s the problem, like Lot when we’re comfortable we’re prone to drift off course.
“Not this morning, the game’s on TV.”
“I’m supposed to play a video game with a friend I met online.”
“We’re going out to eat later.”
“I just need to stay home and relax. I just need to sleep in.”
It’s so easy to get sleepy. Perhaps easier today than at any other time in history. And when you get sleepy bad things happen. You fall out of the third story window, or you fall into sin as Lot did, or you become a body at rest that tends to remain at rest. You become a lukewarm Christian, filling your life with secular things, comfortable things, things that cause you to drift away from your Lord.
I remember a time when I felt completely in my comfort zone. Things were going well at work, I was playing basketball and golf on my days off. I spent quite a bit of time playing video games and watching TV.
“So what’s the problem?” You might be saying.
“There’s no sin in that,” you might be thinking.
Nothing that I was doing was a problem or sinful in and of itself. The problem was that I wasn’t engaged in my relationship with Jesus Christ. I was living for pleasure. Other than a short prayer in the morning when I woke up, I wasn’t doing anything that would draw me closer to Him! I was on cruise control and asleep at the wheel. I was having zero influence on anyone for God’s kingdom. Nada. Nothing. I wasn’t praying for people. I wasn’t praying for the Holy Spirit and consequently I didn’t have much in the way of love for others. I was lukewarm. All Christians have their ups and downs but I believe that had I continued that way, I would have crashed and burned, eventually. During that time in my life I was the one who Jesus said in Revelation 3:16-19 He would spit out of His mouth.
If you, dear reader, are in such a comfortable place, please, wake up! Don’t remain lukewarm. Don’t risk getting spit out. It’s not too late. After Eutychus fell three stories, Paul ran to him, embraced him, and revived him.
Run to Christ, run to church, run to your Bible, run to your prayer closet and ask God to do whatever it takes to make your relationship with Him everything He wants it to be!
He loves you. Leave the comfortable sleepy place you’re in and go to Him because of Jesus’ words:
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave. One day the older daughter said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man around here to give us children—as is the custom all over the earth. Let’s get our father to drink wine and then sleep with him and preserve our family line through our father.”
That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and slept with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.
The next day the older daughter said to the younger, “Last night I slept with my father. Let’s get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and sleep with him so we can preserve our family line through our father.” So they got their father to drink wine that night also, and the younger daughter went in and slept with him. Again he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.
So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father. The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today. The younger daughter also had a son, and she named him Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the Ammonites of today.
[Image via Linda N – Creative Commons]